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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘X Factor’ winners release crowd-pleasing debut album

Published: October 24, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

Alex & Sierra, the duo who not only won last year’s season of “The X Factor” but also the hearts of fans nationally, just released their debut album with Columbia Records and Sony Music, “It’s About Us.”

While competing on the third season of “The X Factor,” real-life couple and University of Central Florida students Alex Kinsey and Sierra Deaton surprised judges and viewers alike with their various performances. Their covers of pop group A Great Big World, Christina Aguilera’s “Say Something” and Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity” topped the iTunes chart while they were on the show.

Shortly after their win, the duo announced their debut album. The pair worked with Jason Mraz, Toby Gad, John Legend, Sam Watters and John Shanks. Unlike many singing competition winners, instead of releasing an album within a month of the show’s finale, Alex & Sierra opted to spend months preparing, writing and recording the album. “Rather than striking while the iron’s hot, we would rather put out an album a few months later and have it be something we really believe in and we were a part of. We can stand out here and perform these shows and love every second [instead of] singing songs other people wrote for us that we could have gotten out early,” said Deaton in an interview with The Los Angeles Times.

“It’s About Us” is a relatively romantic and folksy pop record that, while not as commercially successful as Cowell’s other mentee groups (like boyband One Direction), has done relatively well both critically and commercially. Unsurprisingly, the album conceptually and lyrically revolves around Kinsey and Deaton’s romantic relationship. It is obvious that the album hones in on real emotions and events in their relationship.

“Give Me Something” is a mellow song; Deaton’s soft voice, paired with Kinsey’s background vocals and hints of electric instrumentals, create a calm atmosphere. Deaton and Kinsey showcase their impressive abilities to play with their voices. In “Little Do You Know,” Deaton sings of a time in which Kinsey hurt her. Kinsey, in return, promises to not hurt her again. While extremely cheesy, the song still touches upon intense pain and shame. The song, however, has obviously been enhanced by producers, which takes away from its emotional value.

Like any couple, Deaton and Kinsey have thought about what it would be like to cheat on one another. In “Cheating,” they jest about cheating on one another, which is a little weird. The song itself, however, is quirky and somehow displays their playfulness.

“Broken Frame” is a somber song in which Alex & Sierra ponder the hardships of any relationship, evident in lyrics like, “The greatest pretenders forget to remember the lies/We’re falling forever, we’re far from together tonight.” Beautiful and dark, the group succeeds in telling their audience that they have problems just like every couple, despite the media’s attempt to portray them as a happy couple.

Contrary to the songs related to fighting and cheating, there are also happy, romantic songs. “Scarecrow,” the album’s lead single, is upbeat. While not a standout track, the song is by no means a failure. “Just Kids” is an anthem in which the duo proclaims their youthfulness and freedom. “Here We Go” sounds a lot like something that would be released on an “Of Monsters and Men” album.

Personally, the most impressive song is “All For You,” a sultry jazz piece that is reminiscent of their “I Knew You Were Trouble” jazz rendition on “The X-Factor.” The track opens with a saxophone, followed by clever and playful lyrics. The couple croons of how far they would go to support one another, as indicated by lines like, “If you wake up and see me on the news/I did it all for you.” Bongos and pianos are added, adding to the jazzy feel.

“It’s About Us” has done a good job of reassuring fans that Alex & Sierra are capable of making good music. While Kinsey has a relatively normal voice, Deaton has the ability to sound both delicate and strong throughout the album. Some of the songs are extremely pop-influenced, but works like “All For You” and “Cheating” give listeners a glimpse of what Alex & Sierra are capable of.