The title of singer-songwriter Kora Naughton’s second album (her first was Ride or Die, released when she was sixteen) is self-explanatory, or so it seems. She’s nineteen years of age, and we can expect the album to document her experiences as a teenager. You can almost feel the resistance from people who think that a nineteen-year-old won’t have anything to offer them because they’re older and wiser themselves. Except if you’re older and wiser you have been nineteen, and how many artists do you know, in any medium, who have documented the experience of being that age? Taylor Swift is well known for cataloguing her teenage experiences, even once she was well past them, and she has proven that it’s a deep well to draw from. When you’re a teenager the stakes for everything are higher than they will be when you’re older; you have a more visceral, often brighter and sharper take on the world around you and the way people behave. It’s no wonder Swift goes back to that well – and no wonder, also, that Kora Naughton should also choose to go to it.
The last three of Naughton’s own teenage years have involved not just writing, recording and releasing her debut album but having three major surgeries within twelve months and completing her schooling. There are some high stakes right there, and Naughton does them justice with this balanced, astute and insightful collection of songs. Eleven of the album’s thirteen tracks were written by Naughton, and there are two covers which are favourites of hers: ‘Smoking’ and Cryin” by Caroline Watkins and Jackson Odell and the Australian classic ‘What About Me’, by Moving Pictures. Producer Rod Motbey oversaw Naughton’s debut album and was in charge of the bulk of the songs on Nineteen, with Matt Fell producing two tracks and Shane Nicholson one.
A range of experiences are covered – including, appropriately, the frivolous, although that’s likely not just because she’s nineteen (because party songs turn up on the albums of older artists) but has more to do with the genre, which is country pop. Naughton is in very firm command of her style of music. She is a calm and confident singer, and what a voice she has – the sort that could turn any song into a hit. And while this album covers dark and light subjects, overall it is just so much fun to listen to. There is a lot to be said for an album that makes you smile from start to finish – not only do you have a great experience while listening to it but you remain uplifted afterwards, and whenever the songs pop into your head. It’s the sort of music that results from several elements coming together in the right way and with the right amount of professionalism, because a mess of an album is never fun. While one of the lines in ‘What About Me’ is ‘you just take more than you give’, Naughton and her collaborators have given us a lot and asked only for our attention in return. That long-lasting smile you’ll have after listening to this album is a bonus.
Nineteen is out now through Red Rebel Music.