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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: Colbie Caillat stays bubbly on "All of You"

Singer and songwriter Colbie Caillat arrives at the 59th Annual BMI Pop Awards in Beverly Hills, California May 17, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Singer and songwriter Colbie Caillat arrives at the 59th Annual BMI Pop Awards in Beverly Hills, California May 17, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

By Chris Willman

Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:58pm EDT

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap) - What's the most improbable duet pairing of all time? Probably Bing Crosby and David Bowie...still. But coming close behind would have to be the sun-drenched songstress Colbie Caillat and the socially conscious rapper Common -- unlikely bedfellows who join forces for "Favorite Song," a frothy tune on Caillat's third album, "All of You."

If Selena Gomez and Mos Def hook up next, we should not be surprised.

Mentioning Gomez in this context is not completely random. Caillat has been marketed as adult-pop, but the boat may have been missed in not making her summery music a staple of the tween- and young-teen-oriented Radio Disney playlist, even if she's a sweet older sister and not peer to that audience.

She's an evangelist for positivity; one number is even titled "Think Good Thoughts," and it's not being ironic. Even when what passes for romantic tragedy strikes, the blues hardly penetrate her SPF15 sunscreen.

On the scale of sunniness, this quintessential Malibu gal makes a fellow beachcomber like Jack Johnson look like Trent Reznor.

"All I want is for my dream life to be my real life," Caillat sings. "How could that be wrong? Oh yeah, this is life -- let's make it be what we want." These are sentiments well positioned for "Camp Rock 3," but instead of anthemic rock, you get the strummed acoustic guitars and double-tracked harmonies that recall the lighter side of the SoCal sound her dad, Ken Caillat, helped forge as Fleetwood Mac's producer in the '70s. When a Lindsey Buckingham-style lead guitar line drifts into the outro of "Shadow," it's a dead giveaway that this is one of the four songs co-produced by father and daughter.

John Shanks, who produced half her previous album, is back again, along with some hitmakers who are joining her for the first time, like One Republic's Ryan Tedder and Toby Gad. The plethora of producers doesn't mean there's much stylistic variation in the album, beyond the Tedder-co-written leadoff track, "Brighter Than the Sun," which has the kind of quickly strummed acoustic guitars and handclaps that suggest somebody's been ingesting some "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard."

Then there's the Common-ality of the reggae-flavored "Favorite Song," where the hip-hop artist either rises or reduces himself—depending on your viewpoint—to her effervescent level, not adding much more than an occasional "Turn it up, y'all." It's a cute enough earwig, like most of the dozen songs, though by her third album, you might be hoping for signs of depth.

You hate to forever define an artist by her breakout song, but Colbie Caillat's eternal "Bubbly"-ness doesn't leave much choice other than to worry about how easily the slightest sharp edge might pop the musical air ball in progress.

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