Talent – real, raw talent – can’t be taught; it’s in your blood, uncontrollably flowing throughout your life, work, and, as Shannen Nicole demonstrates, school. For this high school senior from Oregon, her need to encapsulate the people and experiences that only a 17-year-old could accurately portray led to her stunning debut album, Captive (out July 7).
Conjuring songstresses like Adele, Nora Jones, and even a touch of Amy Winehouse, Nicole molds her songs into lush, complex melodies, even if producer Michael Finn pared down the album’s instrumentation to only piano, drums, and strings. More than enough to give Nicole’s voice room to groove. Opening popper “Clueless” quickly gives way to the mysterious “Damsel,” while “Once Upon a Lie” ventures into the realm of ’90s pop with a touch of modern folk, truly speaking to Nicole’s versatility. “Lonely Hearts” channels a hybrid of Natalie Imbruglia and Ellie Goulding, complemented with a thumping upright bass backbeat; first single “She Knows It” vacillates between soulful and anthemic; and closer 2 AM finishes the collection with a gorgeous, simple ballad – the perfect topping to a solid set.
First-time Captive listeners may find it hard to believe that a teenager is behind its complex, mature lyrics and sonic landscape, but it all goes back to pure instinct. There are truly no age restrictions on crafting a great song or album, and Shannen Nicole proves that sometimes following your heart is the best way to hone your skills. “I don’t think before I sing,” she says. “I’m not performing for the sake of performing, I want to inspire others to understand their own passions.”