Recording information: EastWest Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Gymnasium Studios; Paramount Recorders, Hollywood, CA; The Synagogue, The Village.
Photographer: Harper Smith.
Rachel Platten's story isn't atypical. After more than a decade toiling away in the trenches of mainstream pop, she finally had her planets align in 2015 and had "Fight Song" -- an inspirational slice of AAA affirmation-pop in the tradition of Sara Bareilles' "Brave" and Katy Perry's "Roar" -- turn into a genuine phenomenon, the result of good timing and hard work. Other stars of the 2010s followed a similar trajectory, including Perry herself, but in Platten's case, it's hard not to focus on the craft behind her 2016 major-label debut, Wildfire. By bouncing between Kelly Clarkson power ballads and Taylor Swift in electrified Max Martin mode, Platten illustrates her diversity but her heart lies in the middle of the road. "Fight Song" indicated as much but Platten doubles down on its melodrama by opening the album with "Stand by You," another dose of inspiration cut from the "Brave"/"Roar" cloth, and much of Wildfire follows this blueprint, whether she's empathizing with the homeless on "Angels in Chelsea" or pondering the vast reaches of the cosmos. She lightens the load on occasion -- notably on "Hey Hey Hallelujah," a not-bad piece of frothy dance-pop -- but Wildfire is the work of a determined singer/songwriter who prizes craft over poetry or introspection. Platten specializes in skyscraping melodies and big, bombastic surfaces and these are the elements that not only fuel Wildfire, they distinguish it from the singer/songwriter's clear antecedents. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine