Newton Center-raised Rachel Platten had one of 2015’s upstart pop hits with “Fight Song,” a steadily determined self-affirmation that filled the Hot 100’s “inspirational smash sung by a woman” quota for the year. (Previous entrants: “Brave,” “Roar.”) On her first major-label full-length, Platten stays the course: The hooks are painted in Technicolor hues, the lyrics employ broad metaphors, and Platten’s steady soprano ties them together. She shines most brightly when she ditches mid-2010s signifiers (gang-vocal “whoa-oh”s, stuttering vocals, the self-consciously “soulful” Andy Grammer, who shows up on the cutesy “Hey Hey Hallelujah”) for restrained singing and relatively unadorned songcraft. The wounded “Better Place” and soothing “Superman” stand out, showing how Platten’s songwriting skills can be used to tease out emotional subtleties. But too often here she’s battling stuffed-to-the-gills arrangements on tracks like the pulsing “You Don’t Know My Heart” and the barreling “Beating Me Up” with overwrought vocal performances, which causes every lyric to sound like it’s being delivered in all-caps, with bold, italic, and underline all turned on.
ESSENTIAL “Fight Song”
Maura Johnston can be reached at email@example.com.