On her third album, All of You, Colbie Caillat continues to straddle the fence between her two lucrative personas: bubblegum-country torch singer and breezy, beach-pier romantic. She proves to be far more convincing as the former here, churning out perfectly serviceable, CMT-ready ballads like “All of You” and “Make It Rain” that stick closely to the formula she established with Taylor Swift on their 2008 duet “Breathe.” Ironically, though, the Malibu singer-songwriter stumbles when she’s in beach mode; her delivery is too stilted, her arrangements too tightly wound, and her songwriting too contrived to persuasively convey the easygoing bliss of some summertime oasis.
Opener “Brighter Than the Sun” strains to achieve a Caribbean timbre (producer Ryan Tedder overloads the song with gratuitous tropical signifiers such as vibraphone, cuíca, and conga), and it ends up sounding more like a throwaway track from the Little Mermaid soundtrack. The song’s derivativeness is nearly matched by “Think Good Thoughts,” a painfully awkward flirtation with reggae that’s so innocuous it makes frequent Caillat collaborator Jason Mraz sound like Peter Tosh.
For the most part, All of You is virtually indistinguishable from Caillat’s previous work, though the appearance of Common on “Favorite Song” does threaten to disrupt business as usual. In fact, the harsh strums of electric guitar that preface the rapper’s unexpected guest turn seem obstinately placed there to alert the listener of the ostensibly provocative rap verse to follow. But then Common starts dispensing bars of clumsy, musical-themed innuendo; it becomes clear that the song is just as bland and inoffensive as the rest of the album and those guitars were merely a tease. And the chorus is laughably unsexy: “I want to be your favorite song/You can turn it up, play me all night long.”
In his review of Caillat’s last album, Breakthrough, Slant‘s music editor Sal Cinquemani described the singer’s sound as “so banal and nondescript that even the most lovesick listener will be hard-pressed to feel moved.” Predictably, that assessment rings no less true here, which raises the question: What exactly is Calliat’s favorite song? And more importantly, what elevator was she riding the first time she heard it?