Taylor Momsen can belt it with the best of them

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By Kristen Cloyed, Contributor

Countless actresses have tried and failed to make it in the music industry, but Taylor Momsen is not one of them. Armed with a raspy, gritty growl, the 17-year-old “Gossip Girl” star fearlessly fronts her hard rock band, The Pretty Reckless. With the release of the band’s first full-length album “Light Me Up,” Momsen is ready to rock – and she has the pipes to prove it.

“Light Me Up” is brazenly blunt. “My Medicine” kicks things off like a garage band gig, complete with the sounds of hooking up guitars to amps and Momsen clearing her throat. After a few crooning lines, she roars into the bridge backed by heavy guitars. 

Momsen is no stranger to the stage. She formed The Pretty Reckless in 2009, only to fire her band mates and quickly reform with lead guitarist Ben Phillips, bassist Mark Damon and drummer Jamie Perkins. Prior to the release of “Light Me Up,” The Pretty Reckless opened for The Veronicas in early 2009 and played in Warped Tour 2010 through its entirety. 

“Since You’re Gone” is another of the album’s highlights. Momsen wails through the bass-driven track with lyrics of revenge: “Since you been gone/My life has moved along quite nicely actually/I’ve got a lot more friends and I don’t have to pretend/Since you’re gone.” 

Momsen co-wrote all 11 songs with Phillips and producer Kato Khandwala (Paramore, Breaking Benjamin). The album’s first single, “Make Me Wanna Die,” is an anthem of heartbreak. The matching music video shows a fiery Momsen decked out in skimpy clothing and her trademark raccoon makeup.

Relationships seem to inspire Momsen’s songwriting. The guitar-driven “Goin’ Down” is an exaggeration of revenge. In the song, Momsen is heard confessing her sins after she killed an ex-boyfriend. “Nothing Left To Lose” and “Just Tonight” both slow down the tempo with lyrics of lost love.

In “You,” Momsen is backed only by a string section and an acoustic guitar as she pleads with a love interest: “You don’t want me, no/You don’t need me/Like I want you, oh/Like I need you/And I want you in my life/And I need you in my life.”

Several songs showcase Momsen’s love of girl power. “Light Me Up,” the album’s title track, is all about staying true to yourself. Momsen oozes confidence as she sings, “I don’t think I can be anything other than me.”

In “Zombie,” Momsen unabashedly confronts those who want her to fail. She cleverly uses the undead monster idea to illustrate her unwillingness to back down: “To all of you who’ve wronged me/I am, I am a zombie/Again, again you want me to fall on my head.”

Momsen snarls her way through “Miss Nothing,” an upbeat track with heavy guitars and a metallic bass line. The track’s music video takes a biblical perspective, recreating Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” Momsen takes on the role of Mary Magdalene, crawling over the table and knocking food and drinks everywhere.

“Factory Girl,” an upbeat song about partying with friends, brings the album to a close. Momsen snarls through the last track like a veteran. Her vocals sound mature for her age, reminiscent of Joan Jett or Courtney Love. She seems eager to prove her rock star potential. 

The Pretty Reckless kicks off its North American tour next week. Supporting acts include Runner Runner and A Thousand Horses.

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