“What a waste of time / Precious little time / I’ll waste some of yours, babe / If you waste some of mine,” Eliza sings over lovely piano as the first song on her sophomore album, In Your Hands, begins. While the piano continues throughout the track, the beat — produced by Paloma Faith hitmaker Steve Robinson — is more in the R&B vein than the piano ballad vein, but that’s just fine, as it suits Eliza’s oh-so-soulful voice perfectly. As the song nears its end, she overflows with emotion — in a beautiful way — as she begs, “So baby please don’t leave me / Baby please don’t leave me.” It’s a gorgeous, flawless song; even the rap part is great.
Since her debut, Eliza has surely experienced heartache firsthand, having had a romance with Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden that supposedly started off splendidly and ultimately ended badly, most likely leaving Eliza with a broken heart. Regardless, the relationship surely informed some of the lyrics on In Your Hands, which feel much more personal than those on her self-titled 2010 debut. That said, the album doesn’t quite feel like a break-up album. Not entirely anyway. It’s as much about the good times one has in a relationship as it is about a devastating break-up. To that end, it’s more like Lily Allen meets Duffy than, say, Amy Winehouse or Adele. However, it does not sound as though Eliza is trying to be the new Lily Allen or Duffy or Adele or anyone else here. Where her first album occasionally felt like she was trying too hard to mimic the style of those artists, here it sounds like she’s just being herself, letting the words flow out naturally, resulting in some fabulous soul-pop that often feels effortless (in the good sense).
“Leave your ego at the front door / I don’t really care for it / ‘Cause it’s all bullshit,” she sings during the chorus of “Hush,” a super fun tune with infectious, punchy beats. It also has a hypnotic synth part that runs throughout the track, meanwhile a guy keeps saying “hit it” every so many seconds, rendering the song even more mesmerizing.
Another fun song is the catchy pop number “Back Packing,” which has a seductive bass line and persistent beats with lyrics about how a real woman keeps her secrets in her back pack. Then there’s “Make Up Sex,” a truly amusing song with heavy, thumping bass about how she’s not going to let a guy fool her again. “Now there’s barely nothing left / So don’t stick around for the make up sex,” she sings. The only way the song could’ve been more entertaining would be if she was actually endorsing make up sex. But her witty lyrics are spot on and quite humorous.
The album has plenty of gut-wrenching gems, too. Take the uber-emotional ballad “In Your Hands,” for example. “I’m in love with you / There’s nothing I can do / I’m in love with the good and the bad,” she sings while delivering her most soulful vocal performance on the album. Musically, the beats are like R&B but slowed down and rather dark, calling to mind The Weeknd.
“There’s nothing really I can do / If you’re gonna say it’s over now / I’m not used to taking it from you / And bringing it back to me somehow,” she sings during the soulful ballad “Team Player,” which would seem to be about her relationship with Madden as she sings, “From California to London town / I will hold it down / I promise / So baby please don’t go.” The chorus has a hopeful, somewhat optimistic vibe, but the verses are gut-wrenching, broken-hearted stuff.
When critics and audiences were discussing Eliza’s first album they constantly compared her to other artists, just as I’ve mentioned a few above. But this isn’t an album by an artist who’s still trying to find herself or her style. She sounds confident and cool on this album, having found her own voice both literally and figuratively. Her first album might have been about her trying to imitate this star or that star, but there’s none of that here. Now it’s time for people to start comparing newer singers to her, as she proves to be an original and a force to be reckoned with on this album.