You know what you're about to hear is going to be syrup-sweet when Bareilles opens her debut track off What's Inside: Songs from Waitress, singing "sugar, butter, flour" in layered, honey-thick harmonies. The first verse uses baking as a metaphor as her hands "pluck the things" she knows she needs from the kitchen. "I'll take this sugar and butter from the pantry, I add the flour to begin what I am hoping to start/ and then it's down with the recipe and bake from the heart."
What's Inside: Songs from Waitress is an album full of songs from the stage adaptation of the movie "Waitress," that Bareilles was asked to write. The musical produced by the American Repertory Theater opened this past August and she enjoyed the songs so much that she wanted to release them herself, with her own sound. This album may have more a personal delivery for Bareilles, but her pristine and polished vocals still scream "Broadway," and this is a sound she does all too well.
The lyrics were written from the perspective of the main character of the musical, Jenna, a diner waitress trapped in an unhealthy marriage with a talent for baking creative pies.
The kitchen symbolizes the mess within herself for living and thinking the way she does, "My whole life is in here, in this kitchen, baking/ oh what a mess I'm making." The minute-long opening track introduces us to the album, and it's written to transcend and build up into the next track "Opening Up," a song about settling into the life she's made for herself despite her boredom. It seems she knows she is destined for a different life but is complacent and almost fearful of what that life could be. "Hey, no good in the outside world/ because I feel too much and it usually hurts," encompasses the trapped feeling Jenna has in her life. "Door Number Three" follows "Opening Up," a song that reveals that Jenna is on the cusp of change, anxious to see what's next for her. "When He Sees Me," is when Bareilles strays as furthest away as she'll get from the theatrical sound, but it is still the overall style of the song. "Soft Place To Land," is the only track off the album that I believe could have been written by Bareilles, for Bareilles, unlike the rest of the album that is clearly written for Jenna the waitress. The only element of "Soft Place To Land," that keeps it woven into the story is the return to the lyrics "sugar, butter, flour" that were crucial in introducing the album. Perhaps that's why Bareilles made sure she found a place for those words in a song that doesn't sound as strictly designed for the musical.
Every song has a sweetness to it, and a pop essence that it seems many theatrical songs require. "Bad Idea" and "You Matter To Me" are both featuring Jason Mraz, the two complimenting each other's voices beautifully. "You Matter To Me," shows the duality of Bareilles's songwriting, veering away from that pop-theater essence with a ballad layered in crooning violins. The duality descends into the track immediately following "You Matter To Me," another soothing piano song where her voices is simply illuminating, and yet another song that I believe applies to both Jenna the waitress and Bareilles herself.
The album takes you on the personal journey Jenna embarks upon in Waitress, but Bareilles has a knack for personalizing it for her, and for her audiences. It's hard to believe that Bareilles hasn't always been a writer for theater, but she sure proves that she could be with What's Inside: Songs from Waitress.