By Allison Stewart
Thanks to the success of her '07 track "Love Song," singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles became known as the queen of the tell-off piano ballad, a field she still has largely to herself. "Love Song" was tart and solid, and Bareilles sang it as if she knew she had a No. 1 hit on her hands (she did). "Kaleidoscope Heart" is the follow-up to "Little Voice," the major-label debut disc that housed "Love Song," and it contains one track, "King of Anything," that can rightfully be considered its heir, which is the exact number it needs.
Grouchy and perky at the same time, "King of Anything" is presumably aimed at record label insiders ("So you dare tell me who to be/Who died/And made you king of anything?"), who haven't been the target of this much piano-ballad-based wrath since the last Fiona Apple album.
Elsewhere, Bareilles channels Carole King as much as she does Apple, though at her best she suggests Ben Folds if he had been an earnest semiotics major. She's a knockout singer with a strong sense of melody and a distaste for the melismas and assorted other fripperies which have hobbled her contemporaries.
"Heart" is as diverse as she can make it, with a smattering of strings ("Uncharted") and rollicking, harmony-heavy pop songs ("Gonna Get Over You"). There's nothing else as punchy as "King of Anything," especially on the disc's draggier second half, which finds Bareilles settling down to the making of conventional sad-girl-type ballads familiar to anyone who has ever attended Lilith Fair.
Recommended tracks: "King of Anything," "Uncharted," "Gonna Get Over You"