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CD Reviews: Hillary Johnson
Hillary Johnson: Is It Normal
October 2005
By: Marco Nieves
album cover of Hillary Johnson's Is It Normal

At sixteen I was too busy procrastinating on homework and counting the days until I was old enough to, as any teenage rebel with too much pride will do, get all the disgusting beer that I absolutely hated to taste. On the other hand we have Hillary Johnson, who at only sixteen, is embarking on the amazing road towards stardom. Refusing to be bludgeoned by the pressure of people thinking she has too much to say for being so young, she's demanding people's complete attention towards her music and the messages within and between the lines. In fact, she has been doing just that since she was merely twelve years old. Precocious or prodigy, Hillary has grown up fostering her talents and now has bestowed upon us a tremendously beautiful album, Is It Normal, that is paving her way onto the respectable platform with the likes of fellow young singer/songwriters such as Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton. This platform lets art speak for itself and gives the singer the freedom of never fearing having too much to say no matter how many New Year's Days they have celebrated.

While listening to Is It Normal, there is no way that her striking maturity, lyrically and musically, will dissatisfy those that are looking for good music amidst the current lukewarm trends that are receiving radio airplay. The first track, Beautiful Day, is catchy and sanguine, uplifting and hopeful. Paradise, a song about disappointment and heartfelt letdown, is notable for the ability it has to make you bob your head in charged agreement as you uncontrollably sing along. Is It Normal, the title track, is an entrancing song about self-observation and finding your own identity without any fears of uncovering your scars. Empty Face and Quicksand are sonically prepossessing, reminiscent of her influences (Coldplay, Billy Joel) and interminably magnetic. The last track is One Day (Part 1), a serene song that seals this album as a disarming display of emotion and elegant poetry.

Evidently, this prodigy bloomed poised, powerful and captivating. It's refreshing and intriguing to find someone that taps into that concealed area in which one gets to understand that music is essentially always running through us, in the pulsing beats of a heart, intertwined with the steady breaks in our breathing, under the constant rhythm of our footsteps. We are all a walking symphony. Hillary Johnson understands these compositions and she wants to let us know so.