Like the title suggests, Bea Miller’s debut album, Not An Apology, is not interested in bowing down to anyone. If the artist’s name is familiar, Miller was featured during season two of the U.S. incarnation of “The X Factor,” where she placed ninth. Following the release of an EP in 2014, Not An Apology takes that material and expands it into a full-length LP best described as young pop/rock empowerment.
This is an empowering record, particularly for the generation of young adults Miller represents. Opener “Young Blood” tackles the struggle and the strength of youth: “When the sun don’t shine we lose our minds, but I swear we can get there. We’ve got young blood.” “I Dare You” speaks to the search for self and straight to women in particular, “A high-heeled wrecking ball,” “I’m picking up my sword to shatter all the pieces from before, because I’m worth fighting for.”
“Fire N Gold,” which already has a place on Pandora’s “Today’s Hits” station, could easily become the theme song for listeners drawn to its pop/rock sensibilities and successful builds into loud, driving choruses, shouting from the rooftops, “Our time to own it.” Really, this same structure and similar-themed variety of song permeates the album. Miller relies on many classic pop cliches, ready-made hit makers because they have a way of getting under the skin of those looking for a musical power boost.
Musically, Not An Apology isn’t terribly innovative. Vocal, guitar and drums do the heavy lifting. Drum rhythms don’t stray far from four-on-the-floor on-the-beat slugging and rhythm guitars create a sonic wall on which to hang Miller’s vocals. Synths fill in when other sounds are desired, such as some sort of electronic manifestation of an Eastern groove and raucous harpsichord punctuation in “Dracula.” Only balladesque “Force of Nature” features an extensive amount of acoustic guitar. The production sounds a bit tinny and manufactured, but none of this hampers the ability to hammer the message home: Miller is not a “Paper Doll.”
The themes of searching for self, breaking out into the world on your own and finding empowerment through catchy pop/rock packaging are the strength of Bea Miller’s Not An Apology, though some may find the similarities in theme and sound from track to track a bit much. But no apologies needed on this record; Miller has a fabulous, singular singing voice, it’s accessible and aptly positioned to become a fun record-length anthem for countless underdogs who are “taking over now.”