“Stranger” by Michelle Shafer

With a smooth groove, simple percussion, a gilded lead vocal, and a sense of confidence that permeates with the melodies terrifically, it’s pretty clear from the start that “Stranger” by Michelle Shafer is going to be a baroque pop anthem for anyone keen on the genre.

What isn’t initially clear is how strong a performance Shafer can give when she’s ripping through the rhythm with surgical precision; by the time we get to the latter half of “Stranger,” it’s certainly unclear whether the drums are controlling the beat or she is through the cadence of her verses. There’s a commanding feeling to every lyric she lets go of, but she stops well short of ever sounding like a dominating force of decadence in the grander scheme of things as a lot of her anti-minimalist pop contemporaries have in the past couple of years.

The cut-and-dry themes of the mainstream baroque movement aren’t to be found in this single – in their place, there’s a buxom beat and striding vocals that immerse us in emotionality and evocative affection from beginning to end here, which is more than you’re likely to find in a lot of other tracks hitting record store shelves this May.

Michelle Shafer’s voice doesn’t just require a little extra in the mix to sound profound; it straight-up demands space to grow into, and thanks to a lean front end, she gets exactly what she needs to sound like a superstar. There is an argument to be made that the arrangement here favors the groove a little more than it does the vocal, but she doesn’t have any trouble keeping up with the pacing of the music. Contrarily, she’s got such a fiery hunger for the harmonies that she sounds like she’s ready to burst out of the speakers and chase after the hook in “Stranger” on foot if that’s what it takes to hit the mark. Her magnetizing melodic depth makes even the simpler verses in this track sound pretty, full-bodied, and as fresh as non-club music gets on its own, and in a live setting, I can only imagine her sounding all the more inviting.

There’s charisma to be found in a lot more than the cosmetic elements of this performance alone – from her singing to how she gets the beat to sound like an extension of her own heart, Shafer is someone to be respected and reckoned with in “Stranger.” She’s got an energetic approach to this material that makes me curious to know what other speeds she’s able to move at without sounding like she’s out of her league, and if I were in her position, I think trying out something even more balladic for her next release might be the best decision she could make. Michelle Shafer has a lot of versatility just waiting to be exposed, and if fostered in the right way, it’s going to make her into a certifiable star sooner than her competitors will even break the underground barrier. Looking forward to the release of her CD!

Nicole Killian

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Nicole loves to go cross country skiing, swimming, reading and critiquing books, listening and critiquing music, some culinary arts, pottery, spending time with my daughter, cheesy horror films.

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