Cassadee Pope has been on a rollercoaster ride since winning The Voice US back in 2012. She enjoyed a monster hit with her first single after winning, Wasting All These Tears, in 2013 and her debut album Frame By Frame topped the US Country charts. After releasing her Summer EP in 2016, Pope parted ways with her record label in May 2017 and she took a bit of time out to deal with personal issues including the end of long-term relationship. In 2018 Pope returned to the charts with the two singles Take You Home and One More Red Light, and announced her decision to release music independently. Stages, her second album and first independently released, is out today.
When I spoke to Pope last October during Country Music Week, she discussed how it had taken a little time to find her sound and decide the direction to go in. She promised that Stages was going to be a true reflection of who she is as both a person and an artist. After a few listens through Stages, it’s clear that Pope feels free to express herself both musically and lyrically in a way she never has before. Older, wiser and with more life experience under her belt, Stages stands head and shoulders above Frame By Frame.
While the album still leans towards the pop side of Country, this collection of songs is rawer than anything we’ve heard from Pope before. Recent release If My Heart Had a Heart, which features vocals from Dan + Shay’s Shay Mooney, is a gorgeous riff-driven ballad that showcases Pope’s incredible range. The verses use a more hushed and delicate tone before Pope unleashes the power of her voice on the soaring chorus. Lyrically the song deals with a painful breakup that Pope is struggling to get past, and it’s the kind of song most of her fans will be able to relate to.
There’s a lot of variety on Stages. Opener Take You Home celebrates the rush of a new relationship, the uptempo Bring Me Down Town finds Pope coming to a realisation that time has moved on, and FYI is a mid-tempo R&B-tinged track that allows Pope’s voice to shine. Piano instrumental Gavi is a tribute to Pope’s close friend and musician Jason Gaviati, who passed away in 2015. It features him playing a beautiful piano melody and when you know why it was included, it’s a bit of a gut punch.
One of the highlights on the album is the catchy Distracted, which features Pope’s pals and fellow Country musicians RaeLynn, Lauren Alaina and Lindsay Ell. The song has definite commercial potential and would fit well on Country radio right now. The funky vibe with a Country twang is one of the most memorable tracks on the record.
Album close I’ve Been Good is Pope’s most honest moment where she admits to putting on a brave face while going through a tough personal time. It’s a reminder that these artists we admire and hold in such high esteem are really just like us after all. It’s emotive, moving and a stunning end to the album.
Stages is the album that Pope promised fans she was going to deliver. It’s much deeper than Frame By Frame and it allows us past the shine and polish that came with that record. I feel like we’re hearing Pope in a way we never have before and it suggests that Pope is getting to grips with her artistry and paving a promising future for herself. Emotional, catchy and deeply personal, Stages is a beautiful record.
Track list: 1. Take You Home 2. One More Red Light 3. How I Feel Right Now 4. Bring Me Down Town 5. If My Heart Had a Heart 6. FYI 7. Distracted 8. Gavi 9. Don’t Ask Me 10. Still Got It 11. I’ve Been Good Record label: Awake Music Release date: 1st February 2019 Buy Stages