The recent release of the Skylar Grey iTunes Session has sparked a series of articles in Ms. Grey’s home town of Madison, Wisconsin. The articles were all written by Rick Tvedt, and have been published in Madison Magazine, as well as Local Sounds Magazine. They focus on the iTunes Session, Ms. Grey’s DON’T LOOK DOWN album debut, and the most recent on Ms. Grey herself.

Check out excerpts from each of the three article below, and click their above titles to access their respective full-length versions on each publication’s official website!

Madison Area’s Biggest Star Returns | Madison Magazine ::
“….let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a newspaper published in Madison called Rick’s Café. Remarkably, this newspaper focused one hundred percent on local music and arts. Its owner and publisher was a crazy guy who shall go unnamed, but he gave it his best shot, ultimately transitioning the newspaper to an Internet publication while blogging for another prominent magazine that wanted to expand its music coverage. Anyway, this crazy guy thought there should be a focus on female artists in every issue of Rick’s Café. Aware of a youngster who was hanging out with Leo Sidran and starting to make a few waves, said crazy guy went to little ol’ Mazomanie, Wisconsin, where he sat in a living room with a very, very shy sixteen-year-old who talked about her life so far. Turns out she had been singing at the age of three and performing with her mother in a folk duo called Generations. Holly Brook was the feature story in that first issue of Rick’s Café back in January of 2003.

Fast forward a few years. Holly Brook decides to break out and suddenly picks up and moves to Los Angeles. Gutsy? You’re damn right….

Brook gets into a management deal—a decision that she, like many, many artists over the course of history, would later regret. But, as is the case with almost every major musical artist of our time, perseverance would be the key and bad luck is either a killer or a motivator.

It seems that bad luck was almost a killer in Brook’s case, as she bottomed out for an extended period of time. To know Holly, however, is to know that there would be no denying her the success she so earnestly sought. She re-emerged, remade as Skylar Grey, a name she chose largely because of the color grey, which could mean bleakness to some or possibility to others, such as herself. She wrote “Love the Way You Lie, which was picked up by Eminem, recorded for his 2010 album Recovery and became a smash hit. The collaboration between Grey and producer Alex Da Kid on “Love the Way You Lie” continued, and he played a major role on the production of Skylar Grey’s album Don’t Look Down, released earlier this year….”

SKYLAR GREY – Don’t Look Down | Local Sounds Magazine ::
“….“I never thought that you and I would ever meet again.” That’s the lead-off lyric on the lead-off track to the powerful new “debut” album from one Skylar Grey. Her fans may have been uttering the same sentence in anticipation of this release but, then again, there is no denying this immense talent…. Grey is none other than Holly Brook (real name Holly Brook Hafermann) who grew up in Mazomanie, has been singing since the age of three, appeared on recordings with her mother Candace Krietlow in a folk duo called Generations and released several recordings under the name Holly Brook…. She’s also made television appearances with Fort Minor (to name one), and co-written songs for Eminem who executive produced this recording…. Not bad for a youngster who grew up covering Joni Mitchell songs and liked to skate on the lake near her Mazomanie home.

Don’t Look Down at first blush might sound like a plethora of pop artists out there who have mediocre talent but are buoyed by a sea of corporate investors and hot-shot producers. Granted, Don’t Look Down has a slew of co-writing credits and the production (by Alex Da Kid and Jonathan Rotem) is absolutely top-notch. But underneath all the sheen you can hear Grey’s singular voice and imagine how these songs evolved from a single instrument as is no doubt the case. To question Grey’s veracity would be a gross miscalculation. This music is explicit, edgy as hell, and Holly Brook Hafermann has lived every inch of it.

There are some stunning hooks throughout the album and every track is a winner with the vocals being the absolute center of attention. The enormously talented supporting musicians never get in the way of this while infusing the songs with smart hipness. Grey is not one to sugarcoat her feelings and the album drops a lot of f-bombs so buyer beware if you’re listening to the explicit version. Even if you are offended by that maybe you should put aside your pussyness and take a taste of real life….

“Wear Me Out” may or may not be directed at her mother but it’s a powerful statement of individuality. “C’mon Let Me Ride” may be the most questionable track, going to the pop extreme. But it’s also a parody of pop and few seem to have gotten the joke. The song features a pretty hilarious machochismo rap by none other than Eminem. “Shit, Man” features Angel Haze and tells the story of an unexpected pregnancy. “White Suburban” stands out as the album closer. It shuns all the heavy production and plays like a torch balled. Grey laments the memory of her first love, mourning that “The first won’t happen twice.”

If you want further proof that these songs can stand up in a solo performance check out Grey’s follow-up EP iTunes Session where she performs several of these tracks in an unplugged setting….simply mesmerizing.

Rolling Stone recently demonstrated their hypocrisy (once again!) by dissing Grey in a review. While they glamorize more flagrantly offensive music by 50 Cent and, yes, Eminem, they write Grey off as a “potty mouth.” That was a mistake but may be a blessing in disguise for Grey who will no doubt use that review as fuel for her fire. To understand her is to understand the utter tenacity with which she has lived her life thus far – a few years yet short of thirty. The sheer guts, courage and perseverance she displays on Don’t Look Down are staggering. Like the magazine’s dismissal of Led Zeppelin on arrival, they are sure to live this one down, too….”

SKYLAR GREY – iTunes Session | Local Sounds Magazine ::
“….they say the measure of a good song is that, no matter how it was recorded, no matter how much production went into it or how many overdubs went on it, it can sound just as great with one voice and one instrument. Skylar Grey proves that in spades with her new iTunes Session release.

If you’ve heard her “debut” album Don’t Look Down (and you absolutely should –it’s killer….), you probably think along the lines of it just being another churned-out corporate product. There are heaps of production on that recording and too many co-writing credits that usually spell trouble. But underneath you can hear that one lone voice, aching in the night somewhere in a bleak inner city and accompanied by a singular guitar. In Grey’s case, these days it is more often a piano.

Take a listen to her cover of Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want. This is Skylar Grey’s roots when she went by her first two names Holly Brook….growing up in the most unlikely of places: Mazomanie, Wisconsin. And she nails it – gorgeously. She was schooled on Joni Mitchell…. She’s been through a lot of living since then and a lot of hell.

If you think Grey is just another mediocre pop singer propped up by industry money and shadowy music industrialists, these nine performance will prove you wrong and you simply would not grasp the tenacity with which this woman has lived her life….

The crown jewel in Skylar Grey’s talents is that she is able to flutter from blatant pop to haunted confessionals to torch songs and this is the mark of a great vocalist. “White Suburban” closes out the Don’t Look Down album and here it is rendered in even darker tones, conveying the longing memory of that first love and how “the first won’t happen twice.”

iTunes Session features a version of “Room for Happiness” a track by electronic artist Kaskade with Grey on vocals…. Contrasting the two versions reveals the golden nugget of individuality that churns beneath the surface of hard beats and heavy synths, Grey giving it a soft, intense rendering with just acoustic guitars….

The haunting and bitter “Back from the Dead, the irrepressible independence of “Wear Me Out, and the life-affirming declaration of “Sunshine” are every bit as powerful as the album versions. “C’mon Let Me Ride” is still a pop-song parody although few actually get the joke.

One has to remember just how young Grey is – still in her twenties…. The depth of experience that lies beneath these songs is staggering and recording iTunes Session was a brilliant move to bring her personality to the fore….”

——-       ——-       ——-

Follow @SkylarGrey on Twitter