Sparks Fly, by Miranda Cosgrove
This album is something that fits Cosgrove’s musical career in general in that it is better if you don’t think too hard about it. Although this is by no means as good as the following EP “High Maintenance,” a lot of the same elements present there are present here, with the focus on love and relationships, the dodgy connections with songwriters and producers ranging from Dr. Luke to Rodney Jenkins to Kip Winger to Max Martin to Chantal Kreviazuk and Avril Lavinge (some of whom are repeats that Cosgrove had or would work with again). And this material is not bad material, although it is in most cases not the most distinguished work by the various mostly famous songwriters involved. If Cosgrove is an appealing singer throughout, and clearly gives her all, there is a lot here that could have used a bit more editing, especially the song titles, which are deeply uninspired for the most part. I must admit that this album is not and was not aimed at me as a listener, but it would have been nice to see a bit more effort. Most puzzling here is what this album does not include–Cosgrove’s biggest hit, “About You Now,” which would have added a ninth track to an album that could have used another hit and another worthwhile song to listen to.
This mini-album has eight tracks, and of them only “Kissin’ U” managed to crack the charts and become a minor hit. It is the easy single here and it not surprisingly is the first song, co-written by Dr. Luke and pure wish-fulfillment songwriting at a high level. Other than that, there are only a couple of standout tracks, such as “Bam,” which is an upbeat song about infatuation that masquerades as love, something that the singer’s core audience can likely identify with all too well. “Shakespeare” works well as a song that has Cosgrove urging a partner to slow down on the intimacy until she knows the answers to various questions that are important to her that would show common interests like Shakespeare and kissing in the rain. “Hey You” offers encouragement to someone who thinks badly of themselves but makes things better for others. But after that there is definitely a drop-off to most of the tracks, which are pleasant and hooky filler, but definitely filler. “Disgusting,” is sung in an upbeat fashion but features lyrics that are more than a bit unpleasant, talking about the singer’s “walk of shame.” Similarly, “There Will Be Tears,” is an upbeat approach at a revenge fantasy over a broken relationship, “Oh Oh” is another revenge fantasy about making a guy miss her by being impossibly attractive to others, while “Daydream” features ambiguous lyrics about the narrator’s fantasizing about someone who appears not to be all that good of a guy in reality.
As a listener, the predominant tone of this album and its content inspires in me as a listener the strong urge to polish a weapon. The only question is who the weapon needs to be polished for. On the one hand, the album portrays at least a few different ways that the narrator sings of guys who have done her wrong in one way or another, whether they pretend that they are not looking for a relationship until they find it with someone else, try to push too fast, or engage in unpleasant or even abusive behavior. A young woman should not feel it necessary to sing how it is “disgusting” how much she feels attracted to someone, or how ashamed it makes her. Yet these songs were written and produced by older and definitely more worldly wise and experienced songwriters, who clearly knew what they were doing in trying to portray this material as relatable to its intended audience of young people. And then there is the whole unseemly matter of the people involved in producing this album, which makes it deeply unsettling to listen to, and to realize that even its most appealing aspects come with the far darker realization of what this album and indeed the industry of teen actresses turned singer is wrapped up in.