Confidence, in a studio recording specifically, starts and ends with presence, and if there’s one thing that singer Harper Starling has going for her in spades this autumn it’s presence when she’s belting out a verse. Her new single, the enchanting and danceable “No More What If,” challenges us to keep up with her fleeting melodies and the groove that frames them, but above all else, it showcases the personality that this player has whenever she has a role to play. Hers is quite the stylish sound, and it’s presented so authentically that even skeptical pop critics have to give it a second look.
Starling’s vocal is tonally communicative in addition to giving us some really thoughtful lyrics, and it’s good that she isn’t reliant on one over the other when building up a mood in her music. Singularity, especially in terms of expressiveness, has become all too common in the majority of pop music I’ve been reviewing in the last two years, but it’s nothing something we find in the whole of “No More What If.” This singer/songwriter has too much she wants to share to limit her avenue of reaching the audience, which is more than I can say for some of her contemporaries on both coastlines this year.
The hook in “No More What If” is a bit more complicated than it needs to be, but this is telling me that Starling is ready for bigger and better compositional structures that demand a little more out of her than simple, groove-based pieces would. Her amazing handling of this track says a lot, and if this is just a preview of what her next endeavor is going to sound like, I have a feeling that the buzz she’s attracting at the moment will pale in comparison to what’s about to come next.
Harper Starling has a lot to look forward to in her career, and between the captivating tonal charms of this single and the wickedly satisfying conceptualism in the music video for “No More What If,” I think the consensus will be that she’s well on her way to the big leagues. She’s got the beats, the sonic brawn, and the emotive melodicism to do some impactful things inside and outside of the studio, and in “No More What If,” she’s pushing the envelope just enough to make it next to impossible for even the naysayers to deny her God-given ability.
David Lee Marshall