Fire Within

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Birdy, the stage name of British artist Jasmine van der Bogaerde, had the difficult task of not only releasing her second album, but of releasing her first full album of original material. Two years after her 2011 self-titled debut -- which featured covers from the likes of Postal Service and Fleet Foxes -- Birdy has undertaken the majority of the songwriting credits on Fire Within, with assistance from an assortment of talented songwriters, including Dan Wilson (Adele), Rich Costey (Muse, Arctic Monkeys), and Mumford & Sons pianist Ben Lovett. This melting pot of production and songwriting talent has obviously been beneficial to Birdy's development, and she's had time to mature and develop her own songwriting strengths. There is, however, a feeling throughout that some of her rawness has been lost with the introduction of various writers, who have lent a more expansive, polished, full-band sound to the proceedings as can be heard on the opener "Wings," featuring lush strings and booming drums that are unrecognizable from the poignant cover of Bon Iver's "Skinny Love" on her debut. She seems most comfortable in the moments that her commanding vocals and emotive piano playing take center stage, with ballads "Standing in the Way of the Light" and "Words As Weapons" allowed to swell gently and elegantly, while "Strange Birds" takes inspiration from Adele's epic, string-laden sound. But the surprising shift to uplifting, acoustic-strummed numbers "Maybe" and "All About You" provides some wonderful pop melodies in a welcome change of pace from the rest of the material. While the songs on Fire Within display vocal maturity beyond her young years, Birdy's lyrics don't stray far from the same emotions as every other 17-year-old -- love, broken hearts, confusion -- and this honesty feels natural and sincere without becoming cliché. With a flurry of teen internet sensations -- singers such as Gabrielle Aplin and Lauren Aquilina have both made dents in the U.K. charts -- Birdy's second release is a testament to her confidence in her own songwriting talent, and of course, to the fragility and intensity of her pure, unblemished vocals.

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