In 2021, Maisie Peters captivated audiences with her debut album, You Signed Up For This. A deeply intimate, sprawling collection of songs, the album showcased the essence of growing up. And while this works well for an artist’s debut album, it begs the question: What happens next? What happens when you have grown up? What happens then?
The answer to these questions is The Good Witch. Shedding the innocence of the girl-next-door persona, The Good Witch feels, in many ways, like a grown-up version of You Signed Up For This. From the titular first track, Peters makes sure her listeners know that despite the change in sound and the newfound maturity in her songwriters, she is still the same person. “Still me here, do you think I’ve forgotten about you?” she sings, her voice sincere yet tentative. Set over a twinkling piano melody, it’s a snappy, fun (albeit somewhat cliché) track which sets the listener up for the rest of the album.
Despite being only fifteen tracks long, The Good Witch feels bloated.
However, the rest of the album falls short, with each song dripping in pulsing synth beats and maximalist production. Not only does this make The Good Witch sound like a watered-down version of Taylor Swift’s Midnights (2022) or Lorde’s Melodrama (2017)—both of which Peters has cited as influences—but it also means many of the tracks sound at best, similar, and at worst, forgettable.
Despite being only fifteen tracks long, The Good Witch feels bloated. Most of the songs are takes on a break-up song. This would be fine in and of itself, but their similar production means they all end up merging into one, each with bitter lyrics but with an upbeat melody for contrast. Songs like ‘Coming of Age’, ‘Run’, and ‘There It Goes’ aren’t bad, per se, but they fail to stand out.
But songs merging into one, indistinguishable track isn’t the album’s biggest pitfall. While the appeal of her debut lay in her quirky, witty, and relatable lyrics, the lyrics on her sophomore album make her anything but relatable. ‘BSC’ (short for Bat-Sh*t Crazy) features the hook “I’m actually motherf*cking bat-sh*t crazy”. The excessive synth and electro-pop beats mean the song as a whole already feels like the soundtrack to an advert of some sort, but combined with unnecessarily explicit lyrics, the track feels disjointed. Peters sounds like she is trying to force herself to grow up, but the pop-rock, guitar instrumentals, simple melody, and punchy beat make it feel more akin to commercialised, family-friendly pop.
Moreover, the song’s simple melody is not strong enough to save the song
Another song that falls into a similar category is ‘Run’. If the pre-chorus is “If a man says he wants you in his life forever, run,” the listener can only sympathise with Peters up to a certain point. Rather than coming off as the powerhouse female-led pop moment Peters hoped it would be, it comes across as odd and alienating. Moreover, the song’s simple melody is not strong enough to save the song. Sure, it may have you singing along by the end of the first listen, but this also means its replayability is limited, with my finger jumping to the ‘skip’ button more often than not.
But not every song on the album falls short. ‘Two Weeks Ago’ is a heartwrenching, tear-jerking piano-led ballad about a long-distance relationship. It also serves testament to how sincere and honest the album could have been had Peters stripped back her production a tad and stuck with songs that made her seem more approachable. For this same reason, ‘Wendy’, a piano-led ballad about not wanting to grow up, is another standout. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the song would have worked better had Peters stayed away from voice-distorting effects or excessive, electronic production.
There are a few songs where this poppy, electronic production works well, however. ‘Body Better’, a deceptively upbeat song speculating about whether an ex-lover chose someone else because they had a better body than the narrator, invites listeners to sing along to its chorus. “I can’t help thinking that she’s got a better body, has she got a body better than me?” sings Peters.
Similarly, ‘Lost the Breakup’ puts a positive twist on a standard break-up song. The bridge, where the narrator encounters their ex-lover at a bar and realises they are doing much better without them, is particularly punchy. If anything, songs like ‘Body Better’ and ‘Lost the Breakup’ do well to remind the listener that amongst similar-sounding, unmemorable songs, Maisie Peters can still write a close-to-perfect pop song.
Peters’ influences on this record are at best, noticeable, and at worst, painfully obvious. ‘You’re Just a Boy (And I’m Kinda the Man)’, a sassy, witty break-up song (notice a running theme here?) feels eerily close to a Taylor Swift song. Similarly, ‘The Band and I’, a heartwarming ode to Peters’ band, is conceptually similar to The 1975’s ‘Guys’ and sonically similar to ‘Long Live’ by Taylor Swift. Combined with the album’s production, The Good Witch feel like a cheap copy of another artist’s music rather than a separate project in its own right.
While The Good Witch is disappointing, this will not be an issue for Peters. She has already opened for Ed Sheeran on his +-÷x Tour and is rumoured to open for Taylor Swift on the European leg of her Eras tour. She also has a sizeable fanbase of dedicated fans who will stick with her through thick and thin.
There are standout tracks. But rather than being the play-on-repeat album front-to-back, it could have been, it may be better for fans to cherry-pick the good songs and add them to playlists instead.
Recommended listening: ‘The Band and I’