Dia Frampton’s “Red,” An Album Review
Living up to the album’s name, Dia Frampton has titled her upcoming debut album “Red” in remembrance of a time she used to complain about no one noticing her at school, and her mom simply saying, “Wear red. Everyone notices it.” With this album, Dia is sure to get some noteworthy attention from her listeners–both old and new.
Now, it usually is my tradition to give my own little insight and “review” into what I think and feel about an upcoming album from both Frampton sisters. But, for the first time, I am reviewing this album without the album and lyric sheet in my actual two hands. I should have known my pre-ordered album would be mailed to me ahead of time before I left college (just like “Here, Here And Here” was given me a couple weeks before release date!). And so, my album is patiently awaiting me back at home, yet, this doesn’t mean I’m going to break tradition!
The album opens with Dia’s second-released single “Don’t Kick The Chair (Feat. Kid Cudi)”. As the track slowly opens up with faint sounds of thunder, rain, wind, and a rocking chair, electronic drumbeats, incomprehensible over-dubbed syllables, and soft chiming bells give way to the anticipation of Dia saying, “Have you ever felt like everybody’s watching, waiting for you to lose? Have you ever felt like you’re living in a spotlight searching for the real you?” With a song written so deeply reflective and internal, the upbeat nature of the song serves as sort of a “lift” from a heavy burden weighing one down. By telling listeners to “don’t kick the chair, it’s gonna get better, don’t kick the chair, it can only get better”, Dia chimes in on the listener’s heartstrings and gently pulls them in. Surprisingly, Dia’s voice does well on this more upbeat, poppy commercial track, although, Kid Cudi’s harsh break in the middle of the song can serve as a setback, as it’s not only something not familiar to old Frampton fans, but it doesn’t tend to flow well with Dia’s drifting, lullaby-like vocals. Nonetheless, this song is extremely catchy and is still something to love as she grabs the attention of her listeners to hear what comes next.
The next track is the upbeat, country-pop driven song “Isabella”, immediately giving insight into how the rest of the album will run. Accompanied with a lightly-plucked banjo and guitar, the lyrics so aptly match the song, as the momentum of the song’s fast-paced drums build up to Dia’s telling a so-called Isabella to “run away” for it’s “never too late”. It gives a few breaks in-between to sweetly tell the girl to “don’t be afraid”, for Dia herself has prepared for Isabella’s getaway. As the second song in the album, I feel this song acts as a calling to Dia herself during this great change in her own personal life. “Why you hidin’, why you stayin’, maybe you don’t think you have a choice” tells of Isabella’s reluctancy to get outside, however, Dia assures her “don’t you be afraid” for she’s a “sleeping tiger” that needs to “come awake” to the great things that await her life out in the real world, just outside of her own humble little abode.
“The Broken Ones” is a beautiful piano-driven and orchestral-powered ballad that tells listeners that Dia loves “the broken ones who need the most patching up” and “who’ve never been loved”. This deeply passionate and inspiring song from Dia, which has been released as a single and video, charmingly incorporates her sisters and Meg & Dia-bandmates. It definitely is inspiring to see the two most important things in Dia’s life being incorporated in her one single moment to shine as Dia Frampton on her own two feet.
The fourth track on the album, “Good Boy”, is a more lazily-driven pop song with Dia’s natural country-ad-libs giving it a head-nodding, cute and folky feel as she calls out, “Charlie’s such a good boy, good boy. Mama’s crying out, where’s he hiding? Charlie’s such a good boy.” If anything, listening to this song puts such a great smile on my face and warms the insides of my heart, so so much… This song leads to “I Will (Feat. Blake Shelton)”, a slow-tempo and more stripped down song that gives way to reflection, which is needed after the album’s first 4 songs of generally upbeat tracks. What gives this song such a special feeling is Blake Shelton’s presence in the song, as they talk of always being there for each other and “always hav[ing] your back”, which is very much reflected in their own relationship. Sweet lyrics like, “Who’s gonna try to make you laugh? Remind your life ain’t all that bad. I will, I will…” reflect their father-mentor relationship so well. Who can deny the utter sweetness of this song?
“Billy The Kid”, which is the product of Dia’s collaboration with Foster The People, serves an entirely different genre from the entire album. A techno, dance-driven song with a spooky feel, it opens with Dia’s cautious, warning-based storytelling of a boy named Billy and his “gang of thugs”, saying, “Now once upon a time when the West was old…” Initially, I was afraid Dia and the idea of a “dance-pop” song wouldn’t work, but, to no surprise, Dia adds her own taste to the song by giving it a haunting and utterly deep feeling, familiar to old Meg & Dia fans when the girls would write of stories inspired from classic gothic novels. The song builds up in search of Billy The Kid as Dia says, “I’ve got you in my sights … Where did you go? Why did he go? I’ve been around here waiting for so long, so long. And I’ll wait for you.” With airy, reverb-ed vocals and echoes, Dia gives the song an almost Halloween-like feel, closing the song with a spooky laugh that reminds listeners that this is just a story to listeners. If anything, this is definitely one song to remember and serves as one of my favorites on the album.
The next track is accompanied by just Dia and her acoustic guitar in “Daniel”. As an avid fan, I first heard this song as a home-recorded video from her sister Jade, almost a year ago. To hear this song on her album reminds listeners that Dia is still Dia, even before her appearance on “The Voice”. Songs as languid and simple as this is the root of the Frampton sisters’ songwriting. As the singer-songwriter she’s always been, Dia talks of a boy named Daniel, saying, “I didn’t mean a word I said back then, Why’d you let me win?” She then narrates by saying, “You couldn’t follow me to LA, I should’ve never took that job, Now three years have passed and I still feel so wronged … Why Daniel, wish you’d talk me out of it … Why’d you let me walk away, I would’ve stayed … You stood there with your palms out you’re crying with silent… Why’d you let me win?” This song, as thoroughly heart-wrenching as its lyrics can serve, is a wonderful and simply raw and organic “break” throughout the duration of the album. This is Dia’s moment in the album to simply do what she does best.
“Walk Away” serves as the perfect follow-up to the previous track, as it’s calm, candid whistling and sway-driven caution to her listeners invite a toe-tapping, simply feel-good track. I often find myself nodding along to this song, as it opens up with a simple whistling-melody and bass-line, much in relation to Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”. Its message definitely stays true to who Dia is as a songwriter as she warns her listener of a “bullet with your name” and “you better run away, run away, run away … either way you’re schooled (?) there’s nothing you can do”. She continues to tell, “She’s telling tales through telephone that make you cry up to the bone” and “she doesn’t understand that love is what you give not giving up”. Dia’s naturally figurative and oftentimes canny songwriting has been rooted even in her Meg & Dia days, as this “caution” song, much like the “you better watch yourself” aspects of Meg & Dia’s “Roses”, is such a comfort to hear.
This is followed by the album’s second-to-last ninth track “Bullseye”, which is a wary-filled song that is accompanied with spooky, maybe dissonant, syllables resonating in the background and an underlying tone that builds up as the song proceeds. This song is almost the definition of “cool” in all of the album’s songs, as I find that this song is one of the few in the second batch of songs that differ drastically from what we first heard in the more poppy and commercial-like songs heard in the beginning of the album. Dia cries out in the beginning, “We’ve gotta run, who will save me… Baby, it’s the chain reaction, you’ll see. It’s a lonely, lonely world at a crazy, crazy speed. And you don’t need no no distractions from me. It’s a lonely, lonely world at a crazy, crazy speed… They’ve got it out for me.” These last few songs, I say, have been my favorite and stay true to what Meg & Dia fans are more familiar to hearing. The deeper and somewhat darker feelings emitted from this song coupled with its hard-hitting lyrics serve as almost a caution for Dia herself; I feel that she’s talking of the music industry having a “chain reaction” on the ‘major’ artists they sign, providing a truly “lonely lonely world” that moves at a “crazy crazy speed”… She warns her possible fans, lovers, and family that “[they] don’t need no no distractions from me” and simply says at the end, “They’ve got it out for me.” They’ve got Dia at the bullseye, and this is Dia’s true reflection on herself.
The album ends with “Trapeze”, which almost serves as Dia’s anthem to what she hopes to accomplish, not only with this album, but at this moment in her life. The song opens with a simple chord progression and leads to a build-up of a soft drumbeat, a second guitar, and then a simple harmonic piano providing its own melody. The characteristics of the song are absolutely beautiful, as Dia speaks that “this world is a whirlwind and I’m holding that trapeze, and I’ll never tell you who I loved.” As orchestra instruments begin to chime in to provide a more dramatic, emotional effect, she says, “But if I could tell you one thing, I would tell you I’m not leaving. If I could show you one thing, I’m my mistakes have shaped me, into who I am. And who I am just wants to make you whole…” This is almost Dia’s personal message to her loved ones, apart from her new change starting in the music industry as a solo artist, or her storytelling of other girl’s and boy’s wary situations, or even her own situations in life… This song lies true to who and how she is, after such a ride of different stories and scenarios throughout the album. This track beautifully ends the album with Dia’s message to the one(s) she loves… She is “not leaving” and her “mistakes have shaped [her]” and just “wants to make you whole”.
Overall, I think this album has its key special trademarks. There’s such a great diversity to this album, but it lies true to no single genre. Dia has created her own genre with this album, as it touches upon country pop to soft ballads to more upbeat, dance songs to the old familiar storytelling and darker songwriting. The album is well-balanced and, although I may be biased, I think this album serves as a great milestone for Dia. By searching back to her roots and home all-throughout the songwriting process of this album, Dia has been able to reflect on all of the situations in her life that have led her to where she is now–and the product of that search is the album “Red”. Much more mature and holding so much more knowledge of the world around her than when she released her first studio album with her sister Meg in 2006, Dia is able to create songs that are true to her; whether they’re sweet, spooky, fun, or just plain make you happy, Dia has captured what she wants in music with this album, but is well aware of the troubles and traps that may lie ahead of her. This is told through her wonderful songwriting and carefully chosen effects in instrumentation. With careful listening, one can easily see the talent that has always bred beneath this small-town Utah girl. Although her earlier songs with Meg & Dia have strictly strayed away from her country roots, Dia is able to incorporate all she’s loved and learned throughout the years, mixing in her country roots with the darker rock of her early years, the poppy ballads she’s obligingly sung on “The Voice”, and the not-too-dancey-yet-still-fun songs that embrace the time she is in now. As Meg & Dia albums have been harder to promote years before due to its more “acquired” taste, I feel this album can easily be heard by anyone, and listeners will find that one or a few of the key songs they enjoy. As Dia has always been one to be both sweet and at-times dark in both her own life and in her songwriting, this album has greatly captured the essence of who Dia is.
Disclaimer: This doesn’t include Dia’s other songs released on iTunes (“Hearts Out To Dry” and “Homeless”) or WalMart’s special bonuses (“Love Can Come From Anywhere” and “Stairway To The Stars”). I will return to those later on but, to note, the iTunes exclusive tracks are absolutely beautiful, with “Hearts Out To Dry” written with and accompanied by her sister Meg. To old Meg & Dia fans, you’ll love this song if you loved their songs from “Cocoon” or on their “Be Careful. I Love You. Stay In Touch. EP” dropcards. The WalMart exclusive’s hold that dance-pop Dia talked so much of early on.
Go buy it in stores now or on iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/album/red/id481761058