Originally written and published by me for Spectrum Culture.
“I’ve been very high and very low, I’ve been lost and now I’m found,” said English pop singer Anne-Marie announcing her second studio effort, Therapy, on social media. “Since the pandemic I had time to realise I needed some help with my brain [and] I finally found the light.” She explained that seeking therapy during periods of lockdown helped tame her inner demons and that her sophomore album—following 2018’s Speak Your Mind—would be exploring that mental health journey. Unfortunately for everyone, Therapy does nothing of the sort.
It’s not surprising that Anne-Marie would continue making liberal use of Top 40-earworm collaborations with other artists since that is how she made her name in pop in the late 2010s. However, her debut album did include enough solo offerings to make clear that the singer is in fact more interesting on her own, with several tracks that were bold and sassy enough to be memorable. On Therapy, her appeal as a solo artist is completely lost in duets with Little Mix and Niall Horan as well as EDM partnerships with Digital Farm Animals and Nathan Dawes. In fact, the album is so forgettable that it feels as though her collaborators are just there to take advantage of the singer’s platform to generate streams for themselves.
Try as she might, Anne-Marie’s solo tracks on Therapy fall completely flat, recalling nothing of the budding pop powerhouse we met on Speak Your Mind. She attempts to reconcile who she is with the paralyzing beauty standards of the social media age on “Who I Am,” but doesn’t provide enough insight to differentiate it from the work of any number of other present-day pop stars. On “Breathing” or “Unlovable,” the latter yet another collaboration, we hear more of the peace she supposedly made with herself during lockdown, but they too don’t go deep enough. She tries to channel her best Alessia Cara impression by making her scars beautiful on “Beautiful,” but alas: been there, done that.
The album’s strongest track is inarguably “Better Not Together,” which finally reminds of the strong young woman heard on her first record, but she’s gone too soon. The title track is the closer and while normalizing the concept of psychotherapy does remain empowering, especially in the pandemic era, it still can’t help but read as a bit immature and tone-deaf to hear a 30-year-old sing about how she’s just discovered therapy. Not to imply that there is an age limit to discovering and learning tools to better ourselves, but if you’re going to create a youth-oriented pop album that is beyond generic and concerned solely with streaming stats rather than themes of empowerment, we’re once again going to need more than, “It’s not you, it’s me, my personality / I need fixing, please.”
Jeffrey’s favorites from Therapy: “Kiss My (Uh Oh),” “Our Song,” and “Better Not Together”