Throughout 2018, it was impossible to avoid Alice Merton’s “No Roots”. The single quickly solidified the German-Canadian-English singer as a prominent yet burgeoning presence in popular music. Merton is no neophyte, however. She has already gone platinum in six countries while amassing over 261 million global streams. The success of “No Roots” was only an indicator of Merton’s musical alacrity. Her debut album, MINT, is equally rousing and beatific. More than a dance-pop album, Merton uses MINT as a canvas to showcase her talent while engendering a commanding image of empowerment.
Initially released in Europe in 2016, Merton’s first single “No Roots” was the title track to the EP preceding MINT. It took a few years to catch on in the United States, but by 2018, “No Roots” was a mega-hit. A lyric diary, “No Roots” demonstrates the enlightenment and disconnect associated with itinerancy. On MINT, Merton exhibits a penchant for identifying this duality specifically the moments of growth seeded in anguish. She’s formidable in “Lash Out” when she admonishes “I got something to say, might start a riot / Rip that tape from my mouth, I won’t be quiet / ‘Cause everything is nothing / ‘Til you realize it’s something you want.”
Opening MINT are the apt lyrics, “They’ve got fire / Well I’ve got lightning bolts.” Subverting criticism is Merton’s jam, after all, she started her own label, Paper Plane Records Int., to counter censure. Breaking from standards as a means to build self-awareness is central to Merton’s music. As she suggests in “Trouble in Paradise”, she needs “a break from the rules that you make”. In doing so, she positions herself as an empowered and decisive musical artist. Likewise, Merton relies on wailing guitars to express the fullness of her anger in “Speak Your Mind”. She finds power in the embitterment caused by turmoil. She’s acerbic when she sings, “Go and lie in the bed you made / Keep all the words for the ones who play / Cause I’m getting tired of the guessing game.” The acidity is unapologetic and an authentic portrait of a woman’s rage.
Merton’s ability to find hope in the negative was the catalyst for MINT‘s standout track, “Why So Serious“. Written as a response to critics who wrote Merton off as a one-hit-wonder, “Why So Serious” castigates the cynics. As specified in MINT‘s press release, Merton comments, “Music is supposed to be fun! We don’t write songs to be hits, we write songs so we feel good.” More so, the track, as well as the majority of the album, reminds listeners to live in the moment and to unshackle from the negativity. She implores to “get rid of it, the voice inside that tells me that / I’m scared, yeah, scared as shit / But I wanna let go of it now / So someone tell me.” Here she pens an encouraging reminder to embrace joy and fearlessness. Merton believes having fun is badass and MINT flawlessly captures that sentiment.
Concurrently, the album is playful and celebratory with Merton using catchy hooks and danceable beats to engross the listener completely. The opening track “Learn to Live” is a euphoric frolic while “Funny Business” is pure dance-pop. Yet Merton employs wide-ranging musical influences. On “Homesick”, for instance, she elongates the syllabic phrasing on alone when she sings “alone-lone-lone-lone-lone-lone-lone-lone-lone” thereby showing a distinct soul music flair. Her use of crescendos and echoes is enduring on “2 Kids”. Her voice is stunning in its devastation when she utilizes her range to sing “I miss my lover” in “Honeymoon Heartbreak”. Undulating between calm and rampage, Merton uses her voice’s pitch and the music’s tempo to both pacify and rebel. Especially effective are the shouted echoes of “2 Kids” turning the song into a youthful remonstration.
MINT‘s only flaw is the lyrical clichés littering the album. “2 Kids” associates youth with cityscapes and storms as symbols for developing awareness. “Why So Serious”, despite its evident strengths, renders an unfortunate image of Heath Ledger’s Joker. The crux of the track positions Merton lamenting regrets and “not wanting to live in the past”. A tired cliché preventing women from owning their pasts. Finally, “Funny Business” verges on immaturity as Merton uses childish language to communicate trust issues.
Disregarding the clichés, be dazzled by Alice Merton’s MINT. The full-length debut is an electrifying and empowering album. MINT fortifies Merton’s position in popular music while authorizing her strength as an artist and woman.