Ingrid Michaelson: Lights Out

Less a record than a highly calculated means to a bigger end, Lights Out is an attenuated statement of purpose to further develop the Michaelson brand.

Ingrid Michaelson

Lights Out

Label: Mom + Pop
US Release Date: 2014-04-15
UK Release Date: 2014-04-15

Beginning with her 2010 single "Parachute", Ingrid Michaelson began the transformation from singer/songwriter to pop chanteuse. Over the course of her carefully choreographed career, Michaelson went from MySpace discovery to ukulele-wielding kewpie doll and piano balladeer. With every step, Michaelson's commercial appeal has benefited from lucrative placements ranging from an Old Navy ad ("The Way I Am") to TV soundtracks (Grey's Anatomy, Parenthood, Ugly Betty) and a cross-promotion with retailer Anthropologie for the release of her 2012 album, Human Again. An independent artist in the sense that she remains unsigned, Michaelson continues to front her own career, releasing music on her own label under the guidance of the management team who discovered her in 2006.

Her fifth studio album, Lights Out, finds Michaelson looking to increase her market position with minimal risk. In a marked departure for the solo artist, Michaelson worked with a team of ten different songsmiths including Nashville's Trent Dabbs and Barry Dean, singer-songwriter Katie Herzig, and writer/producer Busbee (Pink, Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum) to craft the album's 14 songs. Listing six producers and as many duets, the inclusive creative process was a necessary one to help Michaelson "get the darkness out and help turn it into light" after medical issues sidelined her writing in 2013.

Preceding the release of Lights Out, the infectious single "Girls Chase Boys", co-written with Dabbs and Dean, was released in February. Citing the song as a "bridge" by which to respect "what people want, but showing them what I can do", the single was packaged with a purloined video send up of Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible" by way of Shania Twain's 1999 gender-reversing "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!", to generate buzz and monitor online impressions for the marketing campaign. The focus of Lights Out is similar pop radio fare, from the synth-laden "Time Machine" and clapping "Warpath" to the affirmations of "One Night Town", a duet with Mat Kearney that's ready-made for Nashville (or Nashville) crossover success.

The strength of Lights Out remains the artist's own material. It cannot be denied Michaelson is deftly capable of crafting and delivering a pop song, no matter how transparent the lyrics. Cooing opener "Home" hints at the darkness Michaelson hoped to expel. No matter how cloying, "Wonderful Unknown" deserves to soundtrack tender, televised moments while the quasi-religious atmospherics of "Handsome Hands" highlights Michaelson's dynamic vocal range. Sadly, in the bloated context of Lights Out, these quieter moments are obscured by the pop veneer and multiple voices elbowing for attention.

To deny Michaelson's talent would be to discount her success. Totaling sales of more than one million albums and five million singles from her first four albums, Lights Out will undoubtedly add to her tally of digital downloads and YouTube views. Less a record than a highly calculated means to a bigger end, Lights Out is an attenuated statement of purpose to further develop the Michaelson brand. From a critical standpoint, Lights Out is long on songs and contributing credits but falls short of measurable artistic growth; from a commercial standpoint, the success of Lights Out will be determined not only by units sold but by how well it converts partitioned ones and zeroes into dollar signs by saturating any and all possible media outlets. License, rinse, repeat.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.