Some people still may not know who Skylar Grey is, despite the fact that she just released her third studio album. However, Natural Causes is only her second release under this stage name. Holly Brook was her former name, used during her debut album. She has been recording since 2006. She really hit big in 2010 though, for writing Eminem and Rihanna’s massive hit, “Love The Way You Lie”. Skylar Grey has been keeping busy since her 2013 release (Don’t Look Down), writing for the likes will.i.am, Eminem, Cee-Lo and Moby. She even appeared on the Suicide Squad Soundtrack, with one of the best songs on the album, “Wreak Havoc”. Now she’s taking center stage again with Natural Causes.
As the album cover (her head with roots growing beneath her neck) suggests a darker, more serious tone than her previous work. The album opens with the eerie “Wilderness” (“Everyone’s an animal/But you’re my favorite kind”). “Jump” follows closely behind, with cleverly orchestrated guitar riffs and chants. Skylar Grey sings delicately over the minimalist track in a subdued tone. Eminem offers the only guest feature on the edgy and disturbing, “Kill For You”.
“Straight Shooter” is pure genius and sounds like it could be unreleased track from Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill album sessions. This one is a no brainer for a single. “Off Road” offers a jagged jungle of drum patterns and pleads to get away from Skylar Grey. The album does have a few dimly lit moments (“Come Up For Air” and “Real World”). Thankfully, those road bumps aren’t enough to derail the entire album. The rousing, delicate “Moving Mountains” is easily one of the best ballads of her career. Her maturity as an artist and a songwriter is clearly evident here (“Instead of moving mountains/Let the mountains move you”). “Picture Perfect” has soulful influences, with its smooth production and soothing vocals. She even tries her hand at rapping here and pulls it off very well.
Skylar Grey is an artist who will likely always march to the beat of her own drum. Natural Causes comes off as a message of death of sorts of her former self. Although she doesn’t make it painfully clear how she got to this state, she definitely grew from it. Her evolving artistry mysterious ambiguity is part of what makes her such an interesting voice of today’s music.
Favorite Tracks: “Jump”, “Kill for You”, “Straight Shooter”, “Moving Mountains” and “We Used To Be Bad”