Despite having a presence in the music industry, Maisie Peters boldly names her debut You Signed Up For This. Like some pop stars before her, they had confidence and a defined identity, further being the extra boost to keep them within our stratosphere. Maisie has released two EPs and a full soundtrack for the AppleTV+ show, Trying, but unless you’re conscious within the depth of the pop world, she isn’t an artist who you’d immediately recognize. However, You Signed Up For This confidently creates a soundscape that blends pop-rock with acoustic and folk undertones. And with Maisie Peters’, sometimes, masterful songwriting, her debut makes us glad we somewhat signed up for this.
Maisie Peters is one of many pop stars today that focus on honing their craft as a storyteller; she just happens to be one of the few to make improvements year after year. Though she still has some ways to go, as Maisie Peters is someone who can crumble a song under the weight of her creativity. You Signed Up For This contains as much originality as any Charlie Kaufman film, but Maisie sometimes gets derivative with trying to recreate something to a different tune.
“Psycho” and “Villain” fit into the mold of two songs that carry similar themes and scenes, with the latter being better. “Psycho” is a glamorous pop ensemble that viscerally combines a myriad of instruments into one of the best-produced pop songs this year; unfortunately, the songwriting isn’t as strong. It teeters on slight mediocrity, despite Maisie Peters delivering some captivating melodies and harmonies. On the contrary, “Villain” isn’t a vibrant pop banger. Instead, it takes a nuanced and meta approach to be on the outside looking in. Maisie takes this approach to her songwriting and allowing her to have a greater reach relative to her experiences.
Maisie Peters’ songwriting focuses on a path toward self-reflection/realization, delivering perspectives through dream-like narratives. Maisie breaks down her emotions and details into beautiful components, which make up the whole, like on “Boy,” “Talking to Strangers,” or “John Hughes Movie.” So whenever Maisie isn’t focusing on personal viewpoints, she lets the pen run loose with thoughts and illusions for a life some people wished they could live. Like “Villain,” “John Hughes Movie” is an extension of the few songs about heartbreak throughout the years. They speak to the idea that Maisie is sometimes writing from the outside looking in. By creating these universally understanding songs, she allows herself to flex her storytelling past the overtly personal.
One example of great storytelling comes from “John Hughes Movie,” which sees Maisie Peters wishing to have a love plotline like the song’s namesake. A John Hughes’ teen film starts with scanty realism until the final moments, where love becomes eternal through a lock of eyes or lips. Like Maisie, I’ve had similar dreams and delusions, and she captures the essence that contrasts the films from everyday life.
Maisie finds a way to infuse the themes into a relative narrative and vibrant production, with the former being her main strength. But this strength only shines when she isn’t trying to deliver a radio hit.
There is a clear division of sound between the slight esoteric folk-pop hybrids and clear pop bangers she aims to create with a song like “Psycho.” There are aspects of “Psycho” that excel, particularly in the production, and her lyrics are not desirably catchy. She changes the script with a song like “Elvis Song,” where the poppy percussion gives Maisie a chance to sing without any vocal modifiers.
You Signed Up For This carries hyperextended guitar chords on more than 75% of the album, but 70% of the time, it intricately blends with the rest of the production. For Maisie Peters, it’s a strength that gives her the comfortability to be different. The chords have a simple frame, allowing the external instruments to form a direction and create depth. Maisie has a refined sound and identity that her creative juices refill themselves after each conception. The contrasting sounds of previously mentioned songs, “Talking to Strangers” and “Boy,” are a few examples of her sonic identity.
“Talking to Strangers” is rooted in acoustic pop with folk-like guitar notes directing Maisie Peters’ vocals toward the limelight. “Boy” follows a similar path with the string arrangement, but the side instruments take hold of the emotions as the percussion gets louder with each empowerment-like phrase by Maisie. Others come across with a variation of the sounds of these songs while subtly keeping the pop overtones in focus. One that comes to mind is “Brooklyn,” which is a beautiful double entendre on viewing herself as the idyllic female for the suitor while speaking in the third person and indicating that they have to travel to Brooklyn to find her. I felt like it would have been the better closer than the slight snooze of “Tough Act.”
You Signed Up For This delivers on impact with some great songs coming from various directions. It ends on a decent note, but as it quickly repeats from song one, I become immediately transfixed all over again. Maisie has a captivating voice and style that makes her a diamond in the rough for pop and having a refined mentor in Ed Sheeran giving her the tools to make the best album she can.