For those of you who watch The Voice, you may recognize Brynn Cartelli as the winner of season 14 (no small feat, to be sure). For those of you who don’t, be prepared to hear her voice everywhere as her debut EP, Based On A True Story, hits the spotlight.
Cartelli did not win the televised singing competition by accident. Her voice is wonderful. It is powerful yet subtle. It is soothing yet empowering. The most important quality, though, is that it is unique. There’s a quality to Cartelli’s voice that makes it stand out ever so slightly among her peers, and it’s mind-boggling that this voice belongs to an eighteen year-old.
The power in and unique nature of her voice is most noticeable on the bookend tracks of her debut EP, Based On A True Story. On “If I Could,” which was co-written by Ben Abraham, Cartelli sings about a one-sided relationship from the viewpoint of an external party. The best moments of the song, however, are in Cartelli’s performance. She switches from chest voice to head voice seamlessly in every chorus, and the melody allows her the space to showcase her range in a way that is not too showy.
On “Jane,” the childlike whimsy in the instrumentation is what gives Cartelli the opportunity to shine. Unlike “If I Could,” there is one voice. No backing vocals exist here, and Cartelli is better off for it. It’s not that having backing vocals is a bad thing. It’s just that Brynn Cartelli has a voice that deserves to be at the front of the mix, and it works better on “Jane” when she is the sole voice over subtle instrumentation. That subtle instrumentation allows her voice to hit harder on its own.
The other songs are just as strong in their own ways. “Long Way Home,” the introductory single, is a good song about teenage romance that is going well (something that has gotten rare for some reason). “Imaginary Stranger” is a conversation with the memory of her grandfather who passed away before she was born. This concept is something that many people do, but for where she is in her career, it’s amazing how comfortable Cartelli sounds executing it. “Love You In My Mind” is a great way to connect the fans to the music, as Cartelli based the song off fans’ stories of finding themselves obsessing over their crushes. Finally, “We Belong” has an interesting beat switch – yes, beat switch – towards the beginning that makes it less of a driving feel and more bouncy.
Overall, this is a solid debut EP from a powerful voice who is being surrounded with the right talent to make it work. Her voice, when paired with the right songs and right engineering, is going to take her where she wants to go. Brynn Cartelli has stated that her goal “is to take tiny moments and make them feel anthemic.” If this is any indication of how she is going to do that, then we’re all in for a great ride.