Birdy’s “Fire Within” Showcases Refreshing Originality

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Album artwork for Birdy’s “Fire Within”

Jamie Ferguson

Album artwork for Birdy's "Fire Within"
Album artwork for Birdy’s “Fire Within”

When a 14 year old girl released a Bon Iver cover on YouTube in 2011, nobody could have predicted the success that soon followed her. In a world where the internet has the ability to bury musicians under thousands of people just like them, few are able to make names for themselves in the growing online music industry. But for Jasmine van den Bogaerde, better known by her stage name Birdy, the viral nature of the internet catapulted her into stardom, garnering her first video nearly 50 million views. After winning the UK’s talent competition Open Mic UK at the age of 12,  she debuted her rendition of  “Skinny Love” as her first single. Beginning her career with a cover was a risky move, but her piano-driven spin on a well loved song gave her the momentum she needed to kick start her career.

However, despite being a songwriter, all but one song on her first self-titled album were covers. In an industry dominated by songwriters such as Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, not writing one’s own music can lead to a loss of credibility as an artist. And because her album contained almost entirely covers, critics questioned whether or not she could find success as an original artist. With her sophomore release Fire Within, the now 17-year-old Birdy proves that she has serious talent as a musician and, perhaps more importantly, a songwriter.

Unlike on her first release Birdy, every song on Fire Within is written or co-written by Birdy, an admirable feat for the young musician. The album generally follows her trademark piano stylings, with each track dripping with haunting vocals and long notes. “Wings,” the opening song, is one of the strongest songs on the album due to its power and anthem-like chorus that is often missing from her sad, quiet ballads. It is followed by the equally strong “Heart of Gold.” “Light Me Up” is a jazzy, upbeat, but ultimately forgettable number that is admirably unlike any other song on the album. And the peppy “Maybe” provides a uniquely lighthearted acoustic track on a predominantly piano driven, ballad heavy album. “Standing in the Way of the Light” shows off Birdy’s vocal talent that is well beyond her 17 years, and builds from a soft piano melody to a sweeping climax. The album concludes with “Shine,” a pretty and somber ballad that highlights not only her voice, but her impressive songwriting skills. At times, the slow piano songs get repetitive, so a handful of songs such as “No Angel” and “All You Never Say” get buried under stronger, more unique tracks. But as a whole, the album is surprisingly strong for Birdy’s first original album.

For even the most established artists, sophomore albums are tricky–not only should the album be different from the previous one, but it should also maintain what made the first album so special. With Fire Within, Birdy manages to do both. The 17 year old has already accomplished more than almost anyone her age, and the strength of her second release proves she will be here to stay.