Lately, there has been a notably large influx of Canadians making their mark on the music industry: from Drake and Justin Bieber, to Alessia Cara, the Weeknd and even Shawn Mendes.
The latest entry? Alberta native Ruth B. was discovered after she grew a huge following on the social media platform Vine (just like Shawn Mendes), she broke into the radio waves last spring with her song “Lost Boy.” Following the surprise success of that single, Ruth B. released her debut album May 12.
Entitled “Safe Haven” the album serves as a strong, first full-length, offering to the world from the 21-year-old singer-songwriter.
Many debut albums strive to give listeners a sense of who the artist is. With younger artists, the message often ends up getting cluttered as they try to define too many parts of themselves. This is not the case with Ruth B.
The album presents a cohesive identity: soulful, reflective and honest. The cohesive production is likely a product of her using only one producer: Joel Little. He best known for producing Lorde’s debut album “Pure Heroine.”
In a music landscape that is currently dominated by synths, samples and long lists of songwriters, this album is refreshing. Ruth Berhe, known by her stage name Ruth B., has written all 12 of these songs by herself and they all center around the piano. Her sound is like a stripped down combination of Sara Bareilles and Alicia Keys.
The first song, “Mixed Signals,” introduces the listener to some consistent elements in the album. First is the simple instrumentation featured on most of the songs second is the expressive and musing vocals and third is the complicated love that many of the songs are written about.
As Ruth B. unpacks her feelings and processes them in song, she writes about similar situations from different angles. For example, the songs “Unrighteous” and “Superficial Love” are back to back on the album. The former details a relationship where neither actually loves the other.
Knowing they started because it was fun and knowing there’s nowhere for it to lead, she sings “No chance we’re going to make it/ But baby can we fake it?” This is immediately contrasted in “Superficial Love,” where she sings “I want authentic, not just for fun.” This juxtaposition creates an interesting statement within the album.
“World War 3” is a dark pop song ripping apart a tragic breakup. The grim metaphor and the production make this song really standout among the others. It seems like a bit of an outlier when looking at the project as a whole. “If By Chance” is probably the most heartbreaking track. It’s directed at an ex that has moved onto a new relationship. It runs a similar story to “Happier” by Ed Sheeran, but she selfishly still wants him back.
Though most of the songs talk about love and relationships, there are some notable departures. The first is the aforementioned “Lost Boy” which was inspired by the show “Once Upon a Time.” The second is an ode to youth simply titled “Young.”
This song is probably the most pop-oriented song on the album. It stands out among the others because the beat really keeps the song driving forward, where as on most of the others the beat comes almost as an afterthought. The title track is a ballad about the person that makes you feel like everything is alright when nothing is going right.
“Dandelions” and “If This is Love” are the strongest songs on the album. “Dandelions” is a mature take on the classic “He loves me, he loves me not” flower trick. “If This is Love” is a soaring plea to fix a relationship. She is not sure she is ready to walk away but the relationship hurts her too much to stay.
Overall, the album is a strong debut from a young artist. Her voice is at the forefront of the album, but her songwriting really backs up her artistry. She’s come a long way since her start on Vine.