Elisa has been one of my favorite artists for over a decade now. In Italy, she’s a superstar, a veritable household name. In a perfect world she’d be just as popular here in the States, which she really should be when you consider that 95% of her music is in English. To that end, she’s released entire albums without a single Italian song on them.
Elisa’s last album was 2012’s Steppin’ on Water. It was released digitally and physically Stateside via Decca Crossover and received much critical acclaim. So far her new album, ON, has only been released in the States digitally and for streaming, this courtesy of her own label, Sugar Music. (I suppose it doesn’t matter a whole lot that it hasn’t been released on CD here, considering how few people buy them now. A vinyl release would be wonderful though.) You can check it out right here:
Steppin’ on Water was a very different album for Elisa, a rather stripped-down, acoustic affair. With ON, she returns to her pop roots, although her rock side is certainly present as well.
ON begins with “Bad Habits,” which starts off with the sound of a baby laughing before we hear some light organ music and Elisa begins singing, “Thought it was a thick wall I was leaning on / Thought I found the right war worth fighting for.” The song is about breaking habits and if I’m interpreting it correctly, the habits she’s breaking are actually people. Toxic people that have held her down, the sort that you carry around like baggage but one day, hopefully, you realize what sludge they are and ditch them. The chorus is potent both in terms of the vibrant music and the powerful lyrics: “Miles and miles beneath the ground / Lies the feeling that I’ve found / Love that pushed me out the door / Love I’ve never seen before / Once it laid down next to me / I saw all I couldn’t see / Everything they took from me / Gotta break bad habits.”
“Rain Over My Head” follows and is about ditching the skeletons in your closet and finding the one. It has massive beats that are in the pop vein, pumping along like a great big dance track. They sound like electronic music beats, but the song largely consists of live instruments, like guitars, bass and piano. A true wall of sound that would likely please Phil Spector himself. Elisa produced the album herself, which is clearly the one of the reasons why it feels so focused and driven.
“If love is a kinda war / It’s cutting like a blade / The scars never show but they go so deep / And they never fade,” begins “Love as a Kinda War.” I especially like the lyrics here, which are obviously rather melancholic, but at the same time the music is upbeat, providing a nice contrast that keeps the song from being too depressing.
“Waste Your Time on Me” might sound like a downcast title, but the song is a rather sweet ballad. It features Jack Savoretti, who duets with Elisa here. “I’m not leaving without you / You are my destination,” they sing like a couple of kids in love. “Waste your time on me / Watch the hours fly by like they do in dreams.” To that end, the song provides a dreamscape that will have you imagining you and your soulmate riding off into the sunset. To my ears, it sounds like something Sia might write for Christina Aguilera, which is a good thing. Suffice to say it’s quite powerful number.
The album features another collaborative track, which is also a ballad. It’s called “Sorrido già,” which Google translates as: “I Smile Now” and it’s the final track on the album, the second of two Italian-language songs. Emma and Giuliano Sangiorgi are the guests and help make the song the inspiring number that it is.
ON is a triumph in every way that an album can be. Elisa’s vocals are bursting with power and energy, her lyrics vivid and emotive, and her production is sharp as can be, taking the songs and knocking them out of the park. If you’re already a fan of Elisa you’ll find ON to be a perfect new addition to her catalog and if you’ve never heard Elisa’s music before, it would serve as a perfect introduction. Should you like it, there’s lots more where it came from, being that it’s Elisa’s ninth studio album already. If you’d like to hear her doing songs more in the pop vein, check out Asile’s World. Should you want to hear her truly rock out, check out Pearl Days. No matter which album you go to next, though, you’re sure to be impressed because she’s never released a bad one.