The Buried Sessions, by Skylar Grey

45-buriedsessions

Released January 17, 2012

12 min, 3 sec

The Buried Sessions always makes me laugh when I think about it too much, because it’s a b-sides EP for an album that hadn’t come out yet, and that wouldn’t come out for over a year. In many ways, it is the definition of a stopgap album, as Skylar Grey’s resurgence had essentially come to a halt by the end of 2011, with just two singles and no word on an album. Granted, the tracks she’d been featured on were hits – “Coming Home” and “Words I Never Said” – and she, of course, wrote “Love the Way You Lie,” which earned her a Grammy and more recognition than she’d ever had as Skylar Grey. But none of those things are a record, and records are what an artist needs to be relevant in the music industry. She could only trade on her features for so long.

Not that she’d ever intended to just be a featured artist for the rest of her career, of course; she wouldn’t have abandoned Holly Brook for something as low-aiming as that. But the album wasn’t coming together as well or as quickly as it should have, and status updates all throughout 2012 didn’t point to a very stable recording process. The album finally came out in April 2013; we’ll talk about that one in about a month or two.

So, Skylar Grey needed to keep her name in the public eye. The way she went about it, at least, was interesting and novel – The Buried Sessions, as you might have noticed from the track list, consists of the original Skylar Grey tracks that led to each of her three big hits in 2010 – a piano-led version of “Love the Way You Lie,” featuring the exact same lyrics as the Rihanna version, and full versions of the hooks that served as the backbones for “Coming Home” and “Words I Never Said.” “Lie”’s “Pt. III” addendum is a play on the fact that two versions of the song, one with Eminem and one without, were released with Rihanna; “Coming Home”’s “Pt. II” addendum is along the same lines. I don’t know why “Words” has a shortened title and no number attached to it; maybe she felt the need to differentiate it in another way.

These are good songs, very low on production, and quite unlike what would eventually become Don’t Look Down in 2013. “Love the Way You Lie” is noted to be the original demo Grey recorded and sent to Rihanna, and it had been circulating for a while before this release. The original is, of course, incredibly heavy on pop production; Grey’s recording strips out all of that, reducing the song to its incredibly pessimistic core. Eminem’s verses shift the song’s meaning a bit, implying that the relationship described has some sort of redeeming quality; without him, the song is fully negative, forcing the listener to confront Grey’s lyrics and the situation she describes. It’s a good, powerful rendition of the song, even if I was completely sick of it by the time this EP came out.

“Coming Home” has a different feel to it when Grey’s original verses are inserted, as opposed to too many verses of Diddy. However, I can see why the song was adapted only from its chorus; the verses are hilariously generic, and it really feels like Grey’s not actually singing about anything. At least her delivery is superb – her voice is one of her best traits, really.

“Words,” however, comes off fantastic. “Words I Never Said” is very much defined by Lupe Fiasco’s verses, where he launches a vicious attack on American politics and culture, Grey’s hook becoming a political statement in its own right, a call for the American public to speak up. By contrast, “Words” is a completely different song, focusing far more inwards than Fiasco’s music, projecting feelings of having to combat disappointment, and speaking up over it. At the same time, it also feels kind of directionless; the feeling this song and “Coming Home” put forward is that they wouldn’t have worked as full songs, but both had components that could help prop up a different song and make that one a hit instead, which is exactly what happened.

The Buried Sessions works well for what it is – an album to let Skylar Grey fans know that she was still active, still working on her re-debut album, and that there was still something to look forward to. Having it simply be a demo and two rejects, however, may not have been the best idea, and I remember losing hope later in the year, especially considering there isn’t any “new” music on this EP. However, Grey managed to deliver with Don’t Look Down, so I think The Buried Sessions gets a pass in that regard.

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