Originally written and published by me for PopMatters.
“There’s a freedom in the freefall,” sings Christina Perri on the opening track to her long-awaited third studio album, A Lighter Shade of Blue. “Wanna scream, but I whisper.” The artist’s musical temperament is one that still lends itself to the female-driven singer-songwriter types of the early to mid aughts, a time when she was once referred to as a depressive Colbie Caillat.
But this time around, Perri’s lyrics reflect the fact that it’s been quite a while since her last official studio effort, and refreshingly, she doesn’t seem to care. “I’m not afraid of loneliness,” she declares. “I’m older now, it’s colder out.” Eight years since 2014’s Head or Heart and well over a decade since “Jar of Hearts” propelled her to fame courtesy of So You Think You Can Dance, the singer has returned with a collection of songs that beautifully articulate the pain and triumphs she’s experienced in her time away from the spotlight.
Although the large success of “Jar of Hearts” and Twilight’s “A Thousand Years” left Perri with more than enough professional triumph for one decade, fans were still constantly begging for more. After marrying and starting a family, the singer’s third LP appeared to be, at least on social media, finally coming to fruition in the final quarter of 2020. Pregnant with her second child during the recording process, Perri expressed nothing but love, gratitude, and excitement towards the new album at the time. Then everything came to a grinding halt when her daughter Rosie was stillborn. Having already recorded a lullaby album for her first daughter Carmella in 2019, she followed up with Songs for Rosie in 2021.
When the devastating loss happened, what would become A Lighter Shade of Blue had already been in the final stages of completion. But Perri needed to press pause. “I really didn’t know how to grieve the loss of Rosie and then go back into being a recording artist. I couldn’t find the bridge,” she said in an Instagram video. “And I thought to myself, ‘I can’t put out an album that’s already written that doesn’t represent Rosie, and I can’t not talk about her, but I also don’t know how to talk about her yet.’” The solution ended up being “Evergone,” released as the album’s lead single in March, a track brought to her by her team. She thought it felt fitting that the song, a moving anthem about grief and growing around the pain, would be the first song shared with the world from A Lighter Shade of Blue, but the last song recorded for the album.
The end result is a body of work that encapsulates Perri’s artistry in a way that reflects her journey in both life and motherhood, while also standing alone as a compelling reflection on grief itself. “It’s the cold that keeps me warm at night,” she sings. “All that I can do is turn a lighter shade of blue.” While Head or Heart experimented more with pop sensibilities of a mid-2010s caliber, A Lighter Shade of Blue takes influence from a refined palette of folk-rock and jazz. Perri has also always been a musician who excels at duets, and the Ben Rector collaboration “Back in Time” is no exception.
But if anything, Perri’s new album takes its largest inspiration from the notion of home being not necessarily just a place but also a feeling. Across “Hurt,” “Home,” “Mothers,” and the penultimate “Time of Our Lives,” the singer who once reminded us that she bleeds when she falls down now sounds like someone who knows the gratitude that accompanies finally feeling at home in your own skin. “Can’t stop wondering where do spirits go when they are gone,” she ponders on the album’s closer. It’s a question that answers itself differently to everyone, but for Perri, she knows that everything she needs is all around her.
Jeffrey’s favorites from A Lighter Shade of Blue: “Surrender,” “Evergone,” “Back in Time,” “Blue,” “Fighter,” “Tiny Victories,” and “Roses in the Rain”