The world knows Leighton Meester mostly as the rich, love-crazed and often manipulative Blair from the CW’s hit show, Gossip Girl. It looks like the world has to add “songstress” to her identity as well. Her debut album Heartstrings proves that acting is not her only talent. In fact, acting is not her best talent by a long shot. It may be a surprise to find that she’s not all that new to music. Leighton has featured on many pop favorites, most notably, “Good Girls Go Bad” by Cobra Starship. She has also sung on many of the soundtracks for her various television and film features. But with her new album, Leighton shows that she is a feature artist no more.
As soon as Leighton began singing in the title track “Heartstrings,” I felt like I was ten-years-old in my bedroom, with hot pink walls and blow up furniture, listening to Mandy Moore. Similar to careers of new-millennium pop stars like Mandy, Leighton is a jack of all trades. Her folk-pop tune was soothing and the lyrics superb. Unlike many of today’s pop artists, Leighton Meester is solely responsible for the writing and composing on this album. All I can say is look out Colbie and Taylor.
In “Run Away” the folk-pop sound remains, but with a little country coating. Leighton’s Texas roots poke out of the dirt in this song, with lyrics that express a desire to go back to where the love began: home. The lyrics say, “Runaway / Home with me / Runaway into our past / Runaway / Let’s figure out / All we’ve had and lost / All we’ve had and lost.” The song told a story and was wholesome like a country ballad, but with the melodic sound patterns of a pop song.
The wholesome feeling was short lived, as Leighton gets sassy in “Good for One Thing.” It’s a song about a man who’s hot, and well…that’s about it. Leighton’s personality shines through in the song. While the man’s talking her ear off about himself, she’s thinking about ways to make him “shut up.” Not only in the song sassy, but Leighton gets a little frisky as well.
“Sweet” is a refreshing song that like the first two tracks, is very folk-like. The lyrics in this song are particularly poetic, stating, “My heart is bursting / My head is on overload / My lines are twisting / And I want more.” It’s a song about longing for love, even if it tortures you.
The upbeat percussion and electric guitar work perfectly with Leighton’s cheerful vocals in “On My Side.” The melody of the chorus is well composed, and it stuck in my head long after the song ended. The song contains a decent guitar solo which leads into Leighton’s beautiful stripped-down vamp. What a voice!
“O la la,” never sounded as good as it does in the background of Leighton’s “L.A.” The song had a bit of a Caribbean feel, making for a relaxing listening experience. It went well with the idea of a laid back California lifestyle. In the song, Leighton sings “I’m living in L.A., won’t you come sometime.” After hearing this song, I might make a visit.
Meester gets deep in “Dreaming.” Describing a love that haunts you and causes you to crave it even though it’s tainted or unrequited, the melodic tune made emotions surface in me. I still felt like I was on the island, but now it’s night time and I’ve had time to fall in love with someone. The vibe continues to the end, leading into a “Blue Afternoon.”
Beginning with lyrics that state “Open your eyes in the crashing wave / Baby I’m your slave, you said so,” the “Blue Afternoon” gets a little hot and a lot strange. But since love is one of those things people just can’t figure out, the song makes perfect sense. In the middle of the song, the tempo gets quicker and symbolizes a kind of wake up call. She explains that she doesn’t care about the time that’s passing, as long as she with her lover. The album ends with a mid-tempo song with a quaint melody that helped me to stamp this album as beautifully understated.
I learned something while listening to this album, and though I’m sure Leighton didn’t expect to teach me a lesson, I always strive to exceed people’s expectations. While “Good for One Thing” was playing, I had flashbacks of Blair and Chuck’s steamy roles in Gossip Girl. Then for all the other songs about love, I pictured their roller-coaster of a relationship. What I learned was, iconic roles can never be lived down. Even after putting the teenage roles behind her and getting married in her own life, Leighton will always be Blair to us. An iconic album may have blurred the image a little, but this one doesn’t quite meet the title requirements. Still, it was a great first album and a big surprise.