After making her breakthrough in 2014 with the hit single ‘Hideaway’ and subsequent debut album ‘Sound Of A Woman’, Kiesza was on the path to pop stardom. She wrote songs for Rihanna and Kylie Minogue and collaborated with Diplo and Skrillex. Even Madonna was paying attention to her, having posted a social media clip in which danced to the certified pop smash.
Then, in 2017, Keisza was involved in a car crash that left her with a critical head injury. Doctors told her she might never walk again and she was left unable to, at that time, write or play music.
Three years later, the Canadian pop star is well on the road to recovery and back with her second album, ‘Crave’. No one would blame her if, after the time she’s had, she returned with a record full of frustrated or maudlin songs, capturing the uncertainty that her accident left looming over her life. But this is Kiesza, an artist most at home in the middle of the dancefloor, strobes flashing and beats bouncing.
The first half of ‘Crave’ feels like it’s on a constant climb, bursting with exuberance and joyful defiance as it gets higher and higher. Opener ‘Run Renegade’ is an ‘80s-indebted piece of vibrant synth-pop, coloured by Kiesza’s embrace of even life’s inevitable troughs. “Gotta let my heart make its mistakes,” she sings at one point, focusing on the journey rather than the romantic destination. “I let my love run renegade / No one’s going to lock me in a cage.”
There are moments where Kiesza’s unabashed lust for life gets the better of her – take ‘Dance With Your Best Friend, which features singer Cocanina, rapper Shan Vincent de Paul and London duo Lick Drop. Thanks to the Brits’ drawled vocals, it comes on like a pop-punk cover of a disco song. What’s wrong with that? Well, nothing, in theory – the song is fun, but the joke wears a bit thin.
Much better are the likes of ‘Love Me With Your Lie’, which refines Kiesza’s sound as she finds allure in something quieter. ‘When Boys Cry’, meanwhile, finds the singer encouraging a male character to let their feelings out – or, as she puts it, “Instead of coping / Put it out in the open”. It’s a sweet sentiment set to fragmented guitars and danceable rhythms, and a creative twist on the sound you might expect to accompany such a message.
On her second album, Kiesza has defied the odds and made a solid comeback to the pop world. ‘Crave’ is a very promising – and very fun – hint at even bigger and better things to come.
Release date: August 14
Record label: Zebra Spirit Tribe