It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense Review— Ingrid Michaelson
A master of songwriting and beholder of a wonderfully soothing voice, Ingrid Michaelson has been my favorite musician for the last few years. Her latest album, It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense, released this past Friday on August 26, a date I had marked on my calendar with much anticipation. While this release date was initially marred by a mistake made on behalf of Bandcamp (in which I received not a copy of the album but instead an image file of former Subway salesman and confirmed child molester Jared Fogle), I eventually got it sorted out and have been repeatedly playing the album ever since.
The essential question, of course, is whether this newest offering could live up to the hype I placed upon it. Initial impressions were promising, as Ingrid released three of the songs early, and all were solid. But having now listened to the album in its entirety, I can definitely say it succeeds — and, in fact, the greatest success of the album is the way the songs flow into each other to create a cohesive message.
Let me get this out of the way: there is a lot of pain in It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense. Of course, Ingrid’s music is no stranger to heartbreak, and her past tracks have often dealt with loss, in addition to the plethora of breakup songs. However, IDHTMS is ridden with pure grief, and this album feels like it’s half a view of Ingrid’s diary, and half a book on overcoming pain and loss.
The album begins normally enough, as the opening song “Light Me Up” continues the pop sound found on Ingrid’s most recent album, Lights Out. Subsequent songs such as “Whole Lot of Heart” and “Another Life” are haunting melodies, and the latter speaks of love in a way that feels personal, intimate, and calm — in true Ingrid fashion.
In the middle of the album, though, the floodgates open to a pair of laments: “I Remember Her” followed immediately by “Drink You Gone.” These two tracks feel less like separate songs, and more like a continuing flow of Ingrid’s loss and sadness. “I Remember Her,” a simple piano melody, is a love letter to Ingrid’s late mother, who passed away due to illness in 2014. It carries a nostalgia as it reflects on childhood memories of “Christmas and birthdays in December,” of sharing a “tiny bed” with her mother as she sang “lullabies.” As it concludes, it grieves: “things they fade, things turn to grey, as much as I try to save them. […] But I love it still.” Listening to this song makes it easy to feel Ingrid’s pain surrounding this passing, and it’s truly remarkable that she was able to record the track without bawling nonstop.
The second song of grief follows immediately, continuing on piano. In “Drink You Gone,” Ingrid expresses the pain of lost love — quite possibly that of her ex-husband, Greg Laswell, with whom she split in 2015. This song is refreshing because it presents a more nuanced view of a broken heart, lamenting lost time and promises of “forever” unkept. It feels incredibly honest, and again hits hard emotionally.
Thankfully the back half of the album provides an emotional reprieve, emphasizing much more upbeat melodies. “Hell No,” the lead single off the album, is probably the catchiest of the bunch. It has plenty of Ingrid’s spunk, and rivals “Girls Chase Boys” from Lights Out as her greatest earworm. Likewise, “Still The One” has the rhythmic clapping and joyful vocals of one of Ingrid’s earlier albums like Everybody or Be OK. “Celebrate” follows a similar vein, featuring a heavy emphasis on acoustic guitar and being a perfect — as the song puts it — “window-down, summertime, turn-it-up sing-along.”
The finishing touch to the album, “Old Days” returns to a softer style as Ingrid deals with the passing of time and the changes it brings, stating, “Guess that’s what life’s about, what you remember” as strings back Ingrid’s voice. It’s a great note to end the album on.
It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense is an excellent look at the emotional rollercoaster that life takes us on — of love lost and found, of memories to tightly grasp. It’s a wonderful reminder that grief is complicated and confusing, but that self-expression can help us find layers of good within the bad.