Album Review: Olivia Lunny makes headway on her debut record

The indie-pop star’s mainstream debut is largely predictable but occasionally offers striking surprises.

Canadian singer-songwriter Olivia Lunny seems to be on the cusp of breaking through. She inked a deal with Universal Music last year, fresh off her season two win on the competition show ‘The Launch,’ and now boasts millions of streams on Spotify. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter has assembled an impressive collection of songwriters for her debut album, collaborating with renowned writers and producers including Tommy Brown (Ariana Grande, Meghan Trainor), Melanie Fontana (BTS, Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa), Whitney Phillips (Christina Aguilera, Celine Dion), Boi-1da (Rihanna, Lana Del Rey), and YogiTheProducer (Kehlani). As a result, the album’s hooks and songwriting are air-tight, but Lunny’s personality often gets diluted in the process.

At just eight tracks, there isn’t room for filler, and the record does a solid job of only offering quality songs. The most notable slip, however, is the heavy bass banger “Dominoes,” which sounds exactly like what one would expect an Ariana Grande reject to sound like. The trap drum set and excessive “yuh”-ing feel wildly out of place with the rest of the project. Fortunately, the rest feels much less contrived.

The lead single and standout track “Sad To See You Happy” boasts the strongest hook on the record, and notably was created without the assistance of the aforementioned songwriting heavyweights. The staccato spacing in the chorus line proves to be both an irrepressible earworm and confirmation that Lunny is at her best when left to her own devices. It shows the shy and more vulnerable nature of the singer; her whispy voice never to tell a former lover how she feels now.

While her deliveries across the album are clean almost to the point of monotony, Lunny simultaneously never sings out of turn, confidently carrying the melody exactly where it should go without fail. The assurance in her vocals certainly propel the album forward but are too uniform to excite, and subsequently keeps her at arm’s length. It should be expected for a major label debut to feel somewhat impersonal given the personnel and career changes, but no one should rule out a stellar sophomore effort once Lunny gains more of her footing.

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