Alessia Cara – ‘Know-It-All’ Review

The teenage Canadian exhibits proper pop chops on a banging debut that shows she’s primed for stardom

Like many a nascent YouTube star, Alessia Cara had no idea her hobby could change her life. She began singing into a webcam aged 13, though it was another four years before the music industry came a-knocking when she uploaded her cover of The Neighbourhood’s ‘Sweater Weather’ (its dream-pop morphed into a crisp, latin-influenced acoustic number).

Judging by ‘Four Pink Walls’, one of the most distinctive tracks from her debut album ‘Know-It-All’, the 19-year-old is still coming to terms with pop-star status. Driven by brittle trip-hop percussion, the song pays tribute to her childhood home in Ontario, near Toronto, while she admits to feeling overwhelmed by burgeoning fame: “Waking up in a different bedroom every day/Living up in the clouds, thinking of how it all changed… Amazed by the limelight”.

For all this uncertainty, the record is incredibly assured, with deft touches such as the sound of a DJ scratching that interrupts the otherwise languid ‘Four Pink Walls’ echoing the conflict in Cara’s life. Lead single ‘Here’ expertly exploits a string sample from Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’, its swooning refrain as disorienting as the scene she describes in the lyrics, which find her lost and alone at a party gone bad: “I ask myself – what am I doing here?”. Highlight ‘I’m Yours’ is a stone-cold pop banger that offers an incisive take on the fear of handing yourself over to love and its inherent perils.

Some tracks can feel overladen with production – take the escalating bleeps that crowd ‘Seventeen’, on which she grapples with approaching adulthood. Yet a song as confident as ‘Outlaws’, with its ‘Back To Black’- inspired drumbeat (Cara’s a big fan of Amy Winehouse) and doo-wop vocals, suggests she has this pop-star thing under control.