Lisa Donnelly – We Had a Thing (2009, BT Media)
purchase this album (Amazon)

Open your heart and close your legs
They only want what makes ’em beg
Get hurt and do it again — and laugh at it all

Lisa Donnelly’s We Had a Thing opens with “Laugh,” a perky piano-led pop song with a catchy melody and the sage advice laid out in the lines above, but she isn’t just another Sara Bareilles or Colbie Caillat; as this 10-track effort makes clear, she’s just as comfortable vamping it up, as she does in the funky, fingersnap-laden dance number “Little Devil,” or spinning gauzy webs of atmospheric sound, as on the moody ballad “Julian.”

In the not-too-distant past, Donnelly would have been classified simply as a singer/songwriter, but in these days of microformats and crusted-over lines in the artistic sand, Thing feels like a defiant work of eclecticism. She’s already been accused of “hopscotching,” which is valid, I suppose, but when you’re this good at writing indelibly catchy melodies, the ability to swerve from irresistibly catchy uptempo pop (“Naturally” [download]) to moody, vaguely Fleetwood Mac-ish balladry (“Better”) — and then head into Emmylou Harris territory (“Stuck in a Rut”) — is an asset, not a liability.

Singer/songwriters aren’t exactly in short supply these days, and even keeping track of the ones talented enough to make it is a full-time task — but if she can navigate her way through a crowded marketplace, Lisa Donnelly has the voice, and the material, to carve out a niche among fans of catchy, smartly written pop music. (It also doesn’t hurt that she’s smoking hot, but hey — every artist needs some kind of image “hook” these days, right?) In a fair and just world, Donnelly would reach Katy Perry-sized success before the year is out. (Also, Perry herself would be eaten by bears on live television. But the world isn’t fair.)

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Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Popdose and Dadnabbit, as well as an entertainment writer whose work can be seen at Rotten Tomatoes and a number of other sites. Hey, why not follow him at Twitter while you're at it?

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