That humming noise you hear in the background is the buzz that's surrounding the latest "next big thing," ZZ Ward. There's been a helluva lot of hype leading up to her debut album's release, but what separates Ward from an artist like Lana Del Rey is that Ward backs up the hype with 13 tracks of gritty, bluesy rock 'n' soul. While Del Rey was billed as the next Adele, Ward might be the answer to "What if Adele played guitar and rode to her gigs on a Harley?"
Ward has the chops to get the job done — belting out notes without showing off, expressing a solid vocal range — amidst a backdrop of music that combines soulful emotion with rock's toughness while offering hooky choruses that are sure to get remixed in dance clubs — see the drum-and-clap-driven "Blue Eyes Blind." The sultry "Cryin Wolf" gets some help from Kendrick Lamar, who spits a verse at the end of the song, as the track rolls into Fugees territory with its cushioned beats, acoustic riffs and rhythmic lyricism. "Lil Darlin," with its sparkling piano lilts, takes the slow and soulful approach, giving the song a retro speakeasy vibe that would fit in on Boardwalk Empire.
Unfortunately, some of the songs sound a bit too familiar. The stuttered clap of "Move Like U Stole It" sounds enough like "Rolling in the Deep" that you might start singing the wrong words. "Save My Life" could have been on Amy Winehouse's Back to Black. It leaves Ward teetering between a familiar, commercial-friendly sound and blazing her own signature path to success. It's a solid introduction, but only time will tell if she has the longevity and drive to truly define her own sound.