Betty Who switches to ’90s pop mode with “The Valley”

Nate Day

Betty Who’s most recent release, “The Valley,” marks her first full-length album since 2014’s “Take Me When You Go.” That album produced Who’s biggest hit to date, “Somebody Loves You,” but a handful of songs on her latest album might give that one a run for its money. The album takes a turn from Betty Who’s unique alt-rock-pop style and drives right into full-blown Britney-esque pop.

Unfortunately, the album lacks an over-arching direction. Several of the tracks are party-ready, clearly made to be blasted out of speakers in dimly lit basements near a drink-stained dance floor. Others are made for jamming in the car with the windows down in the last weeks before classes resume. The album is overall happy and positive in tone, but that is pretty much the only thing connecting the poppy tracks.

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Right off the bat, the title track features several layers of Who harmonizing with herself for an addicting ballad that is sure to be the fancy of a capella groups for probably a tad too long. Following that track is the tech-infused “Some Kinda Wonderful,” a stark opposite of “The Valley.” This pattern of mismatched tracks sitting next to each other occurs a handful of times on the album, making it hard to listen to sequentially.

The album features Warren G in a skip-worthy rap monologue on “Free to Fly” and half of Pentatonix—a duo known as Superfruit—in an ’80s-influenced empowerment jam called “Beautiful,” which just might be the most fun song on the album.

Despite some of the awkwardness of the album, it is clear throughout that Betty Who is a talented singer and hearing a song of hers on the radio now and again would not be so bad. Despite her talent, however, she still has not cemented herself as a pop staple and, honestly, she probably never will. To her credit, it is difficult to bring to mind anyone that has a similar sound and has stuck around for as long as she has—people that produce this kind of music are often one-hit-wonders, but she just might stick around for a while.

Standout tracks include “The Valley,” “Mama Say” and “Beautiful (feat. Superfruit).” They are absolutely stick-in-in-your-head, bring-a-smile-to-your-face pop jams, but her unimaginative lyrics unfortunately keep these songs from being fantastic. The album, of course, features a few skippers as well, such as “Free to Fly (feat. Warren G).”

The album also includes a cover of Donna Lewis’ 1996 song “I Love You Always Forever.” Who’s version is better than the original, but it also perfectly exemplifies just how much the album relies on production as opposed to great lyrics.

Should you listen to it? Sure.

Betty Who is a good singer and a decent songwriter, so the album is not bad. However, it just did not live up to the expectations placed upon it. Hopes were high for an alternative-style pop-rock and radio-ready jam, but instead, we got the modern version of ’90s pop. While it is catchy and fun, there is higher quality stuff out there.

Collegian reporter Nate Day can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @NateMDay.