Keeping the World Waiting

Review of Alisan Porter’s new single, “Deep Water”

Sam Bodnar

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Alisan Porter has finally released music, almost a year after winning season 10 of “The Voice.” “Deep Water” is beautiful song, but not beautiful enough,

Nearly a year since being crowned champion, and she is just now releasing music. “Deep Water” is merely a droplet in the great ocean of the music industry. Expectations were high, and she didn’t dive deep enough.

Based on fantastic performances during “The Voice,” I expected more from the season 10 winner. Alisan Porter has separated from Republic Records and has produced absolutely no music in almost a year. To give this more perspective, Season Nine winner, Jordan Smith, has sold over 7 million albums in just over a year since he won the reality competition. Plus, he took only three months before releasing a full album. On top of that, Season 10’s runner-up, Adam Wakefield, has released three songs onto iTunes and another four on Sound Cloud. Hannah Huston, the third place recipient, released her first single four months ago.

While I cannot possibly conceive this major delay in Porter’s work, I can appreciate that she has at last produced something. I am pleased to see Porter complete “Deep Water,” but it does not match her vocal capabilities. The lyrics are meaningful and the musical arrangement is superb, but the vocals themselves are not up to par with what this power vocalist is capable of.

Her single commences with a soft piano melody to introduce the subject of feeling isolated without a lover. Lyrics, “Here in the night/ We found the light/ When you, baby, put your hand in mine,” signify Porter’s fear of being alone, and her reliance on a man who is also trying to find his way. This softer side of the single soon transitions into a chorus that steadily becomes more emotional and louder.

The increase in energy from Porter is well balanced by a decrease in sound from the grand piano behind her. In this moment, listeners hear Porter begin to stretch her vocal register as she delivers a plea to avoid being trapped in deep waters. As the piano increases in passionate energy, the second verse comes around, with background vocals and an organ to give “Deep Water” an increase in tempo and feeling. Together, these arrangements and Porter’s stripped down vocals give the song momentum and a plethora of options to expand in all directions.

As expected, the second chorus was birthed with a heightened sense of emotional urgency and musical complexity. Supported by the occasional drums and cymbals, lyrics, “Don’t let me go, let’s walk the unknown/ Won’t you, baby, keep your hand in mine,” set up some of Porter’s higher notes of the song. Additionally, the added drums provide an extra sense of classical pop and soul that complement the rhythm behind her.

While her singing sounds elegant and methodical, it fails to match up to her strength that she has displayed numerous times before. Not only that, but the background chorus behind her slowly drowns her out with its high volume and similar notes to Porter’s. Had she incorporated some harmonies to differentiate her from the chorus, the single would have different elements and more vocal diversity to it.

During the final minute, her arrangement abruptly slows down to isolate Porter’s voice and prep her for the final, short chorus. The piano takes a few measures on its own before resting to allow the drums to quickly start up. The chorus then stays on the melody as Porter hits a major high note while harmonizing with her fellow singers. This harmony created that unique layer of sound that I was waiting for the entire time. It was also the only glimmer of her true power throughout the entire song.

From the harmony, Porter cascades into the lower end of her singing spectrum and ends the single, once again, isolated by the grand piano and the echoing of the organ.

Despite the expressive message and unique instrumentals of “Deep Water,” Porter did not dive deep enough with her single. After taking nearly an entire year to write three and a half minutes of music, I expected so much more from her.