Hannah Ayrault is here on her own merits. The Detroit native’s debut EP Me Right Now isn’t a product of crass calculation or paint by numbers nonsense. It embraces modern sounds, it tackles common lyrical subjects, and definitely wants to be liked – but never pretends to be anything it isn’t. This is as honest and revealing of a pop debut as you’ll likely hear this year, but Ayrault’s strengths are legion – her talent for memorable melodies, impactful choruses, and unerring instincts for phrasing are enormously significant reasons for the EP’s success. The five songs on Me Right Now go down well, but they are far from bubblegum.
The top shelf approach is apparent from the start. “Me Right Now” begins her career with gently defiant statement of purpose. Ayrault is an introspective mood here, surveying the vast changes accompanying the shift from childhood into adult life and puts it in stark, direct language. There’s immense compassion coming from this track. Ayrault reaffirms herself in some ways, but song’s main thrust comes from her aching desire to share her experiences with the world. Acoustic guitar makes its presence felt on “Mine” and its combined with quasi-hip hop beats that create an interesting dynamic. Ayrault’s voice sparkles over the inventive arrangement. She pursues a similar line in “Stay”, but this is a far closer to a normal “ballad” style than the preceding song approached.
“New York, I Love You” kicks off the EP’s final half in grand style. It’s the first in a concluding duo of piano-driven pieces, but don’t assume that their classical inclinations mean that these are inert, crystalline works. There’s real warmth in this track and much of it emanates from one of Ayrault’s best vocals. The finale, “So Close So Far”, juxtaposes the piano against a much more pronounced quasi-classical background. The use of strings gives their song a much fuller body than the preceding track and her vocal has gut-wrenching, aching authenticity.
Despite great physical beauty, youth, pure pop instincts, and obvious commerciality, there’s never any sense that Me Right Now is a facile affair. Ayrault, at risk of sounding clichéd, fills each of these five tracks with a bit of personal magic and complete commitment. The arrangements are coherent, never overwrought, and spill over with immense musicality. It’s quite uncommon to encounter young musicians who have fleshed out their skill set and evolved into such complete songwriters at relatively tender ages, but Hannah Ayrault is clearly a breed apart from the typical pop songstress. Me Right Now is a fantastic debut from first note to last and likely heralds the beginning of a fantastic recording career.