Few can capture the emotional nuance of loneliness in song quite like Australian singer-songwriter Amy Shark. The singer succeeded through her honest and hyper-aware lyrics along with her relatable world view on life, love and the rise and fall of relationships. Shark’s full-length debut, Love Monster, was a poignant look at self-doubt, loneliness and the loss of identity in the wake of a broken love. That’s not to say that she doesn’t delve into some of those same themes on her follow-up, Cry Forever, but she does so with an expansive new breadth of musical confidence.
Already a formidable songwriter, Amy Shark has stepped up her game in just about every avenue—from writing to delivery and arrangement. The opening track, “The Wolves,” comes out of the gate brooding and somber, with a deep orchestral build-up. “I lay under the smoke and the fallen debris/ You know you animals come take a bite out of me,” she sings in a hushed tone. The song opens up to a heavy loop and rolling synths into a full-on alt-pop affair.
The first single, the anthemic “Everybody Rise,” is actually a bit of a grower. The song takes some structural left turns that take it in an unexpected direction. With each successive listen you find a new layer. One of Shark’s musical strengths is writing about heavy topics like depression while managing to not feel like a downer. Case in point, “Worst Day of My Life.” It takes on sadness with almost a pop-punk persona, in a lyrical sense, despite sounding nothing like that genre. Speaking of pop-punk, Amy Shark teams up with one of her idols–Blink-182’s Travis Barker–on the beat-heavy bop “C’mon.”
On the flip side, “All the Lies About Me” is more of a direct tug on the heartstrings. She sings of broken confidence, self-doubt and believing other’s false narratives. The song feels like an anthem for those who have become the victim of gaslighting in a relationship gone wrong.
Things take a turn on “Love Songs Ain’t For Us,” a track brimming with talent. She cowrote the song with Ed Sheeran, while fellow Aussie Keith Urban joins for some vocal accompaniment. While Urban’s warm harmonies elevate the track, she’s doing the heavy lifting. In many ways, it’s a very fitting love song within the context of Amy Shark; a love song for those still in the unconfident early days of a relationship.
“Miss You” channels a little bit of Taylor Swift, but with more of a subdued pop subtlety. The song is quiet and sullen, sultry and smooth, and surprises as one of the best on Cry Forever.
Shark begins to slow things down toward the end, beginning with “I’ll Be Yours,” which is the most traditional love ballad—lyrically—that she’s released. “I may not live for forever/ But the time I spend here I’ll be yours,” she sings. The words are simple yet direct and effective.
She then gets a little more tongue-in-cheek about her own self-doubt on the pairing of “Baby Steps” and “That Girl.” The guitar riff initially harkens back to Heart’s “Barracuda” before transforming into a Mumford-&-Sons-inspired romp. The album closes out with the deeply heartfelt “Amy Shark,” an autobiographical tale of the singer’s rise to prominence, abandonment and yearning for family in her youngest years. It’s both a somber and beautiful ending note. Cry Forever serves notice to the pop world that—if there was any doubt—Amy Shark has arrived.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.