Sara Bareilles' new album puts a spin on breakup songs

By AMANDA KARP
On April 8, 2019

Photo courtesy of Lunchbox LP, Wikipedia

Sara Bareilles explores a plethora of topics in her latest – and sixth – album, “Amidst the Chaos.” Her the subjects of her new songs are eclectic, ranging from the 2016 election of Donald Trump to breakups, and her struggles with depression.

The album’s release follows a series of successes for Bareilles, such as her Tony Award-winning play “Waitress,” in which she starred in for a brief time as the lead character, Jenna.

The album opens with “Fire,” which is about a love that doesn’t “catch fire” – but Bareilles isn’t broken up about it at all. She accepts that her current relationship isn’t working and that it shows her what to look for in her future relationships: “Someday, I, I won't have to feel the cold, but I do now / So I'll know what it feels like when I feel fire, fire.”

“No Such Thing” is a classic breakup song, according to the notes written by Bareilles, and available on iTunes, but there’s a twist:

“All the breakup songs on this record are about Barack Obama. Truly. When I’m like, ‘Come back,’ it’s about the Obamas. Both of them. I miss them both to the ends of the earth, so I wrote songs about it.”

The lead single, “Armor,” is a song that honors and thanks all women who stand together and empower each other. She sings, “Strength means blessed with an enemy” and “Only the little boys tell you they’re a big man.”

“If I Can’t Have You” is about being thankful for a relationship, even if it doesn’t work out in the long run, and moving on, with these lyrics: “I count the seconds between the thoughts of you / I'm getting better, baby, I'm almost up to two / Oh, you had your reasons, and I know / Some folks are seasons, they got to come and go.”

The eighth song, “Orpheus,” is about spreading hope in times of darkness: “I'll show you good, restore your faith / I’ll try and somehow make a meaning of the poison in this place.”

It is another poignant song written about the 2016 election; the message that comes across is “blink and you’ll miss it,” but for those who know the context of the album will understand its message.

Bareilles said of the song that people “found comfort in the sonic landscape of this record, and that's all I want—to remind people that they're not alone, that they're not crazy for feeling crazy, and that we're all here together.”

The lyrics in “Poetry by Dead Men” could be considered as poking fun at how relationships crumble, but instead it comes across as sincere and reflective of how wistful people become following the end of a relationship.

The penultimate track, “Saint Honesty,” is one of the most beautiful tracks from “Amidst the Chaos.” Bareilles noted that when she creates songs, she wonders if they will be competitive and perform well on the radio, but working with her producer T Bone Burnett, he reminded her of “intensity, tempo and emotion–things that draw you into beautiful music.”

The passion and intensity cultivated by Bareilles pays off. “Saint Honesty” is a refreshing song, a piano ballad with some percussion that focuses on salvation and finding inner strength.

The themes that Bareilles weave through the album make for a cohesive, enjoyable listen as she works through a variety of emotions. As always, pairing Bareilles’ honest words and her piano yields the most satisfying results.

5 stars

 

akarp@ramapo.edu

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