Until recently, I hadn’t really considered myself an especially huge Lindsey Stirling fan. Sure, I liked her music well enough, but, in all honestly, techno and electronic aren’t exactly my favorite musical genres. When it comes to instrumental, lyric-less music, I generally prefer classical, to which I listen fairly often. My favorite piece by Stirling — prior to the release of Shatter Me — was, hands down, the orchestral remix of Crystalize. The transformation between that and the original is remarkable. For my part, the depth of the music, not to mention Stirling’s mad skills as a musician and violinist — is so much clearer there. As I’ve admitted, though, I’m generally going to prefer symphonic to electronic. Even with Stirling’s YouTube channel, my favorite videos are the ones that feature more tangible instruments, playing in harmony with her violin (the Phantom and Lord of the Rings medleys, Mission Impossible, Assassin’s Creed, etc.) and her duets with vocal performers (John Legend, Peter Hollens, Pentatonix, etc.).
That being said, I was intrigued by Shatter Me and genuinely curious about where it would go. The remix of Crystallize seemed like such a step up; a shift forward in her abilities and, most importantly, something of a risk. Her own “sound,” her trademark is the “dubstep violinist.” So, what other risks might she be taking? And would it pay off?
Short answer: yes. And then some.
I have been listening to Shatter Me every day this week on my morning and evening commutes. I love it. Heads and shoulders above her first one, which, again, I do like, but while I enjoy those songs on their own, the tracks on Shatter Me take more risks and I have a huge amount of respect for each one. Stirling made it clear in her videos and PledgeMusic updates that she dug deep and threw a lot more of herself, her personal experience into these songs — and it shows. The difference in the music is totally evident. She has grown beautifully as an artist and truly stepped up her game for her sophomore effort. I applaud her decision to make the titular track one of the two lyric-filled duets. I find that a very humble thing to do.
There is a sophistication here; the violin stands out over the thumping bass and electronic sounds (Take Flight, Beyond the Veil). While the techno style hasn’t even remotely gone away, I daresay that some of the flair from the three orchestral remixes has seeped into these songs. I love the inclusion of some Celtic influence and, paradoxically, some unquestionable rock and roll (both in Roundtable Revival), and I imagine she’s been working on the likes of Swag for quite some time (which I think could just as have easily been called Funk), to fit her self-proclaimed “hip-hop violinist” title, initiated all the way back on America’s Got Talent.
And that’s what has kept me interested and rooting for Stirling all this time — and so immensely happy for her now. She very often received heavy, undeserved criticism on the show; told, in a myriad of ways that her style and artistry, her je ne sais quois, wouldn’t work, wouldn’t sell, wasn’t good enough. It’s the same advice every artist gets at some point in their career: “you gotta bring it.” Specifically, I think “you have to be a world-class violinist” was good advice. Not to say that she wasn’t or isn’t — to argue that point especially now is outright laughable — but it was a challenge, and though they were hard on her, she didn’t crumble or change everything about herself. She remained authentic to her identity and allowed the criticism to fuel her fire. She persevered and here we are with Shatter Me, which is, I think, a triumph.
Though I think the comparison would make her ill, I am reminded of Lady Gaga and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis; like them, Stirling took control of her own career, compromised none of her artistic style and surrounded herself with producers and a creative team that are willing to follow her lead — or so it seems.
In the end, I celebrate this album, I congratulate Stirling on a job well done and I encourage others to have a listen.
Guess I really am a fan now, huh?
Happy to be here.