"Fight Song" made Rachel Platten's career but its omnipresence in 2016 -- it was everywhere, playing starring roles in ads for Ford and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign -- put the singer/songwriter in an inspirational box. Platten attempts to break out of such well-meaning constrictions on Waves, a glitzy, stylized attempt to please every conceivable modern pop audience. While "Fight Song" echoes through Waves -- it's heard within the theme of the aspirational anthem "Broken Glass" and in the melody of "Loose Ends" -- Platten is intent on proving that she's not just a winsome singer/songwriter. She'll deliver a stately ballad when she needs to -- the austere "Hands" and the solemn closer "Grace" -- but spends more time ratcheting up EDM rhythms and sliding into neon-streaked club tunes. The emphasis on the latter -- the album opens up with the de facto Madonna tribute "Perfect for You" and peaks with "Shivers," a dead ringer for Ellie Goulding -- winds up illustrating how Platten is a malleable vocal presence, adaptable to many different styles without quite imprinting the sounds with her own personality. That's not really a detriment, as such producers as Ryan Tedder and Stargate put her inherent flexibility to good use. Everybody involved is determined to give the album a steely, professional sheen and they succeed, turning Waves into a record that provides a definitive break from "Fight Song."
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine