Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Haiz | Hailee Steinfeld



Hazing is frowned upon. Haizing is not.

Nineteen-year-old Hailee Steinfeld has taken the jump from an acting career to a musical one. Earlier this year, she was given a push from iHeart Radio stations through an "On the Verge" promotion with self-service anthem "Love Myself" before embarking on the company's Jingle Ball tour this month. She sat at the bottom of the concert's billing, below names like Calvin Harris, 5 Seconds of Summer, Nick Jonas, and the Weeknd -- but does her debut extended play merit her position among such big names?

Haiz could seem like a manufactured four-track collection thanks to heavy input from the songwriting duo of Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter, who have had hands in this year's projects from Selena Gomez, Fifth Harmony, Demi Lovato, and Justin Bieber, but it isn't as manufactured as it is faceless; while the vocals are strong, they're working at a "business as usual" pace. Both vocally and lyrically, Steinfeld puts on a strong Taylor Swift impersonation ("What are we fighting for? / Seems like we do it just for fun / In this, this stupid war / We play hard with our plastic guns") on "Rock Bottom," and her delivery is simply nondescript on "You're Such A." And while more subtle sonically, "Hell Nos and Headphones" follows an appreciated anti-party schtick, but Steinfeld lacks the earnest approach that makes Alessia Cara's "Here" believable.

So as of right now, she lacks the personality and grit to compete with the big dogs. However, she has potential, especially when "Love Myself" is considered. Nothing here one-ups the high bar set by it, with its driving chorus, side-eyed winks, and double-entendres galore (but the sweeping wall of synths and smooth (Taylor Swiftian) vocals of "Rock Bottom" come the closest). While not overwhelming compelling, the remaining three songs are sufficient and undeniably fun. But with some work on distinctness and a bigger repertoire of songs to display what she can really do, Hailee Steinfeld might just have what it takes.

Haiz is available now under Republic Records.

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