Album Review: Melinda Ortner – I Wanna Be OK
Born in California, Melinda Ortner is a singer-songwriter who has been working the LA music scene for the past five years. A trained vocalist and pianist, Ortner was well-received by critics on her self-assembled Europe/Japan 2011 tour, as well as becoming the grand prize winner of MTV’s Steal The Spotlight Video Contest that same year.
2013 now finds the talented songwriter finally release her dÃ©but album, I Wanna Be OK. Opening with the dark tones of ‘Wait Another Day’, the album’s vibe is set from the get-go. Autobiographical title track ‘I Wanna Be OK’ is up next, and finds Ortner confessing the struggles of following her passion for music: ‘They tell you to dream, they tell you to try / You do and they ask you ‘why?”. As the song reaches its climax and her vocals soar beautifully, you feel Ortner is almost singing it to herself to reassure her of her chosen path, as much as entertaining the listener.
Track three, ‘Caught in the Middle’, is another great song continuing in the same vein laid out by the preceding tracks. Unexpectedly however, next track ‘Jezabella’ opens with a Beach Boys like riff, but segues into a frantic and toe-tapping song which finds Melinda going toe-to-toe with a manipulative woman: ‘Bad tempered, but a face you can’t ignore / Cold-blooded that’ll make you beg for more / She’ll get you when you’re running to the door / You’ll never get to Heaven if she’s standing there’.
After the slightly meandering ‘Another Chance’, the grungy earnest of ‘The Beauty in Me’ hits, taking the listener by surprise – her love for Muse is quite audible on this track. ‘Sweet Little Lies’ follows, her lead single from this album and included on last September’s teaser EP, Strangers, which contained four tracks from this album. It’s a catchy number and it’s not surprising that it was chosen as a single. Ortner had this to say about this particular track:
‘Sweet Little Lies’ is an angsty, poetic statement and inner monologue. [It’s about] the headspin and mind game of getting led on by someone you think is fantastic…and then…nothing…And when you thought this one might be different.
While certainly an excellent track, ‘Sweet Little Lies’ is followed by the even better ‘Somethin’ Sorry’, a track about struggling with libido-driven temptation that you know is wrong but you want anyway, even if it would mean cheating on your other half.
Ortner flexes her upper register on ‘Say Those Things’ with a delicate and pretty delivery; it also curiously features a Game Boy music type intro. Following it is the mid-tempo number ‘When You’ve Got It All’, where Melinda shows she’s clearly also got an ear for a catchy melody. It’s another superb track, which made us think of Sara Bareilles’ fantastic piano-driven pop. The high notes that Ortner delivers on the chorus are particularly wonderful.
Closing the album are ‘Strangers’ and ‘Maybe’, the former also being on the aforementioned EP released at the end of last year and is a brooding and melancholy laced number. Dark synths and a minor key give this track an almost malevolent feel. Again, you can feel the influence of Muse here, one of her favourite artists. ‘Maybe’ closes the 12-track album on a vulnerable and understated note, as Ortner sings to her partner about living and loving in the moment and not thinking about the ifs, buts and maybes of the future.
For a dÃ©but album it’s a very impressive effort. We can’t wait to hear her future work and are pretty sure Ortner will indeed be OK.
Go Get It: ‘Somethin’ Sorry’ / ‘When You’ve Got It All’
Forget It: ‘Another Chance’