Australian treasure and songstress Amy Shark wears her heart on her sleeve on new album Cry Forever. She uses her innate knack for illustrative songwriting to create an autobiographical yet universal record. Over 13 tracks, Shark takes us on a rollercoaster ride of love and heartbreak, success and loss.
While Shark stays true to herself, it’s clear she has evolved musically and emotionally since the last record. She was already critically acclaimed by the time her debut full-length Love Monster dropped in 2018. However, you can hear a stark difference as she struggles with the strings attached to success on the sophomore release.
This is immediately noticeable as the record opens with the heavy thrum of ‘Wolves’. She sings of being abandoned by a loved one and left to be devoured alive, so to speak. “What’s left for the wolves, just pick around the bone,” she laments. Then on ‘All The Lies About Me’, she revisits her most broken, confusing and lonely moments in the public eye. “You’re making up shit and you know it. Picking up my heart just to throw it. And I start to believe all the lies,” she croons.
On the debut single ‘Everybody Rise’, she dissects our obsession with social media and false idol worship. Ironically, the dark electro-pop bop sounds like an unrequited love song at first. But her warped vocals tell another story: “We all wonder what it’s like to be with you”. Produced by Joel Little (Lorde, Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes), it’s a pop powerhouse that won Shark an ARIA for Best Pop Release and an APRA Music Awards nomination.
Throughout the record, Shark frequently pairs sombre songwriting with danceable pop beats. She sings “Your love’s all gone, you think I’m fine. Hey, this could be the worst day of my life,” matter-of-factly over a jovial-sounding chorus on ‘Worst Day Of My Life’. She uses a similar technique on ‘Baby Steps’, which harkens back to a time when Shark had truly hit rock bottom. “I feel about as low as I can go,” she admits alongside a galloping guitar riff.
Shark also adds a few more tallies to her already impressive list of collaborations on Cry Forever. In an unlikely but magical trio, she co-wrote the country-pop slow jam ‘Love Songs Ain’t For Us’ with Ed Sheeran and performs it alongside fellow Aussie legend Keith Urban. You can hear the influence of Sheeran in the balladry of the chorus and Urban in the slight twang that she adopts in her delivery. After teaming up with Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus on 2018’s ‘Psycho’, it only makes sense that a collab with Travis Barker would come next. ‘C’MON’ eases in with a pretty piano melody and clean vocals before quickly climbing to a clash of synth and cracking percussion courtesy of Barker.
Compared to Love Monster, Shark really pulls back on production on ‘Cry Forever’. This leaves room for more tender, acoustic moments on the tracklist like ‘You’ll Never Meet Anyone Like Me Again’ and the album’s self-titled closer ‘Amy Shark’. It’s a raw and harmony-heavy track that lures us in with spine-tingling harmonies and lyrics of harrowing childhood memories. We’re then transported to the present day and the sacrifices Amy has made to live her dream.
“Don’t start taking over and asking for favours. Please just don’t start now that I’m Amy Shark,” she pleads on the last line of the record.
Amy Shark is a self-proclaimed perfectionist and ‘Cry Forever’ is a testament to that. Every riff, lyric and feature has a considered and meaningful place on the record. Although Shark was tempted to leave some of the more revealing songs on the cutting room floor, she decided that honesty was the only option. It’s oftentimes confronting and heartbreaking, but her intense confidence shines through the unvarnished and confessional lyrics.