Ever wonder if there could be an artist with the musical energy of Maggie Rogers, the lyrical genius of Lucy Dacus, and the rich harmonies of The Staves? Enter Francesca Blanchard. With her smooth vocals, witty lyricism, and unique folk-pop sound, this French-American songwriter is not one to miss.
Five years after the release of her bilingual folk debut, Deux Visions, Blanchard has dropped another record: Make It Better. In this genre-defying tour de force, Blanchard builds from her folk foundations to create an open, airy space, where synth pads are cut with acoustic guitar, and raw harmonies are woven into the automated voices of technology.
Thematically, Make It Better explores heartache, vulnerability, and self-discovery within the madness of our modern age. Keenly self-aware and at times poking fun at herself, Blanchard observes the discrepancies between her reality and the narratives she has created in her own head.
‘Free,’ the first track on the album, feels reminiscent of a timeless folk song, a hymnal to nature, a breath of fresh mountain air. Yet in its harmonic glory lies a feeling of restlessness. There’s a lovely tension between her desire to escape and her appreciation of life’s little joys – a sentiment that feels particularly pertinent in today’s social climate.
It’s hard to choose, but ‘Ex-Girlfriend’ would have to be a personal favourite. Blending acoustic and electronic sounds, Blanchard mirrors the disparity between people’s real lives and the lives we see curated online. The song opens with the sheepish confession, “I just spent an hour stalking your ex-girlfriend on the internet” (something that, let’s be honest, we’ve all done). In a commentary that is both clever and humorous, Blanchard pinpoints the psychological impact of social media: “When all I do is spy on other people’s lives, I disregard my own / It’s like I’m watching through a screen, romantic scenes from a movie I don’t know.”
On a more somber note, ‘Did It To Myself’ reflects on feelings of self-sabotage in the aftermath of a relationship. Blanchard’s voice wavers as she sings quietly, “Did I misconstrue shadows in the lights for you?” before launching into a passionate chorus: “How do I let go of wanting you so, wanting you so bad? / How do I control needing to hold what I never had?” In a string of questions, Blanchard addresses something we have all felt in our lowest moments: “did I do this to myself?” Echoing this refrain, the song fades out and transitions into ‘Happy for You.’
Stripped, stark, and honest, ‘Happy For You’ is exquisite in its simplicity. The humanity of the lyrics, the shaky vulnerability of Blanchard’s vocals, the cello melody: all of it works to capture the moment when you realize the person you loved has moved on. With lines like “You’re my bottle, my prescription drug – what do I do when I run out of you?” Blanchard captures the essence of this gut-wrenching feeling with stoic resignation and humility.
Throughout the album, Blanchard asks a number of questions that are ultimately left unresolved. In the final track, ‘Make It Better,’ she comes to terms with not having the answers. And that’s okay. No longer searching for resolution from another person, she writes one more love song: this one for herself. The title track ties up the album nicely, and leaves us with a resolution to let go of things we can’t control. All we can do is try to make it better, and this album does exactly that.