Skylar Grey

Don't Look Down

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After nearly a decade of toiling away on the margins of the music industry, the former Holly Brook became Skylar Grey and scored a massive hit as a songwriter with Eminem and Rihanna's duet "Love the Way You Lie." On that song, Grey's melodies functioned like Dido's did on "Stan," but after spending years and years as a sensitive singer/songwriter, Skylar Grey takes great pains to signify as tough on her 2013 debut, Don't Look Down. Heavy on stylish accouterments -- everything from echoed pianos and tightly rolling loops to cameos from Angel Haze and Big Sean -- Don't Look Down deliberately trades in bad-girl glamour, with Grey singing innuendoes and explicit profanities with ease, luxuriating in minor-key melodies and haunting, immaculately textured productions. Grey is clever enough to allow herself some measure of silliness -- there is absolutely no other way to describe the Queen-quoting "C'mon Let Me Ride" -- a move that reveals the seams in her goth-princess persona and makes a good chunk of Don't Look Down come across as nothing more than bubblegum Lana Del Rey. What saves Skylar Grey is what brought her fame: her finely honed songcraft, how she knows how to sculpt a melody so it cuts through the clutter and sinks into the subconscious. Try as she may to distract with her strut and style as Skylar Grey, what resonates is the same kind of melodic turn of phrase that was apparent back when she was calling herself Holly Brook.

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