Emily Wells – Mama – Album Review

Emily Wells: She can play, she’s borderline super talented, she plays multiple instruments, writes her own songs, complete mastery over a very powerful yet very subtle voice—However, I think whether or not you like Wells’ music will definitely depend on your expectations.

Emily Wells has been a Suzuki-method taught violinist. She has grown up as the most talented and most impressive artist that anyone in any of her possible social circles could have known. Any instrument she even glances at, she can master—she can emulate anything the singing voice of the most gifted singers can. She even has, at a very young age, the gift of taste and restraint. In all honesty, she has the world at her fingertips and that might be the problem.


But sometimes early talent and easy likability can get in the way of making really interesting and really important work. Fair or unfair, an artist of Wells’ immense talent has higher expectations than of say, an American Idol winner. She can’t just get away with a catchy record with impressive singing, which is all found in Mama. Every song displays her soulful and stunning vocals. Her voice is a subtle and mature instrument and truly impressive. And perhaps this speaks to our culture more than Miss Wells; we live in a time where people with magnificent singing voices are a dime a dozen.  Trust me, there is some 22-year-old girl over-singing Jeff Buckley’s arrangement of “Hallelujah” at any given moment of the day somewhere in today’s modern media. Talented singing has simply lost its cache in the modern world.

On another note, all Wells’ songs are appealing, wry and clever—and designed to be understood and liked by anyone on the first listen. We now live in a society that has catchy jingles for selling tampons. Jesus, the number one break-out band of the past year are a bunch of advertising agency media planners. Someone has broken the code to how to write catchy songs and most pop songwriters are simply playing a game of musical mad libs.  Here are some specifics of Wells’ tracks:

“Piece of It” is super catchy, it’s professional, it’s well recorded and mixed—but frankly, I’ve heard this all before. It’s that sort of post Deschanel, old-timey singing that always sounds like someone is singing with a ukulele. The song is well orchestrated with clever bells and plucked strings but this style of singing is now so synonymous with TV commercials this might as well be an ad for cake.


“Darlin’” has some clever reverbed vocals and drum-and-bugle type of percussion but every line is a line from an older song. Really. Try Googling every line with quotes around it. I guarantee you will get multiple hits.


I expect great things from great talents. Mama is a good record but a great talent such as Wells should challenge herself. She should realize her talent, step out of familiarity and what is “safe,” and make a record that lesser talents could never make. Lana Del Rey could easily sing this same album and make it sound good, but Lana is nowhere near the same level of talent as Emily Wells. What does that say?

Emily Wells will perform at Largo in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 15. You can purchase tickets here.

Words by Stephe Sykes



Artist:  Emily Wells
Album:  Mama
Label: Partisan Records
Release Date:  April 102012

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