by Jonathan Keefe Music Rooted & Restless

Cassadee Pope | Stages

March 3, 2019

Cassadee Pope fared slightly better than many of the countless would-be country stars Blake Shelton’s endorsed duringh his tenure on The Voice in that she’s actually scored a hit single: “Wasting All These Tears” cracked the Country Radio Top 10 back in 2013. Pope’s fortunes quickly turned, however, when none of her subsequent singles made much of an impact. Six years later, she returns with Stages, an album that seems ill-poised to recapture much of any commercial momentum. The material on Pope’s debut sounded far more like that of Paramore — or, less charitably, Avril Lavigne — than the output of any country artist, and that’s equally true of the songs on Stages. Whatever country signifiers might be present on songs like “One More Red Light” and “Distracted,” these are subsumed in mixes that foreground a middle-of-the-road pop aesthetic.

Pope and her co-writers can structure a decent hook; had she been marketed to Adult Top 40 from the get-go, the slick, singalong chorus of this album’s “FYI” wouldn’t sound out-of-place sequenced between Shawn Mendes and Pink. And while Pope remains a competent vocalist, she’s also an unremarkable one, rarely imposing a distinct personality on to a collection of songs that also fail to establish any coherent artistic identity. Pope’s attachment to country music was always tenuous at best, but Stages doesn’t ultimately tether her to much of anything else either.

Published as part of Rooted & Restless  | Issue 1