After shaking up Broadway with her carefully crafted lyricism of “Waitress,” Sara Bareilles is back to her roots. And she has some things to say.
Bareilles’ sixth album — Amidst the Chaos — is a wonder in a tumultuous political world. This album is her call to action acting as a promise that silenced voices are worthy of being heard. Each melody is mature and refined, brought out by her infamous piano and subtle jazz tones.
The origins of the album document Bareilles’ response to the 2016 Presidential Election of Donald Trump. By this time, her hands were deep in the melancholy sweetness of “Waitress” — a musical that she composed and later starred in as the lead.
Bareilles’ style remains true to the talent we know and love, but the tone is angrier, refined and unrelenting. She has a voice, and it’s not a little voice. She is brave and hopeful, but mad as hell. Within the first few beats of her lead “Armor,” you can hear all three.
Her response to the Me Too movement is a powerful battle cry that stems from religious allegories and memories of powerful womxn of the past, present and future. She released the song early in lieu of watching the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, telling Billboard that “this song felt like it wanted to belong to this moment in time.”
A true replication of the song’s lyricism, the music video glimmers with psychedelic images of Bareilles standing among a crowd of ballet dancers interlaced with recordings of protestors marching, including Bareilles herself.
Maya Angelou’s words introduce Bareilles’ visual exploration of gender fluidity and freedom. While she remains the centerpiece, the talented womxn dancing in the background as an inclusive promise of unity in the feminist movement.
The opening number “Fire” falls into a similar vein of freedom as two romantic partners reach a point of separation when their love for one another has lost its spark.The dancing pair spend the video embracing in the loving memories of their past while pulling away in search of their individual paths.
The song itself begins with Bareilles’ looped hum which sets the tone of this power anthem for people searching for their way out of an emotionally or sexually lacking relationship. Bareilles’ yearns for passionate love, a longing carried by her calming harmonies and rhythmic drums.
While on the surface, the songs “No Such Thing” and “If I Can’t Have You” seem like the heart learning to recover from a lost love, they are truly odes to Barack Obama as he left behind his executive seat to another. They are melancholy and saddening, since each day is a constant reminder of the leader Bareilles’ — and many other Americans — lost in January 2017.
One of the best songs on the record — ”Miss Simone” — shares the familiarity of Norah Jones in an ode to the High Priestess of Soul herself, Nina Simone. While the song is not truly an original form, the visceral emotion of Bareilles’ sentimental lyrics linger in the air. The song replays sensual memories of a couple falling in love to Simone’s bluesy ballad, “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl.”
This song is a slow dance with a glass of wine underneath the midnight sky — I find myself swaying to this imaginary picturesque landscape everytime it comes on.
“Saint Honesty” shares a similar sound to “Miss Simone” — its natural pacing, simple piano riffs and Bareilles’ smooth mezzo-soprano vocals. Bareilles’ introspection is threaded through illusive guitar notes and transparent honesty. The poignant moments of sacredness and healing are found through the use of natural imagery, seeking rain to be the guide in revealing true vulnerability.
Reminiscent of a musician and poet in Greek myth, “Orpheus” tells the tale of optimistic and supportive love. It peels back the layers of ignorance to learn that there is a chance for love. Gentle guitar strums melodically and Bareilles’ soothing prose tether one another in a hopeful four minute journey.
In one of the more upbeat and catchy songs on the album, “Poetry by Dead Men” shares the early uncertainty of Bareilles’ affection for her current boyfriend, Broadway actor Joe Tippett. She called this “an open-hearted snapshot of where [her] musicality lives right now,” in the Apple Music editors’ notes.
The final song, “A Soft Place to Land,” features her “Jesus Christ Superstar” costar John Legend. The hopeful ballad is a response to the immigrant family separations at the US-Mexico in 2018. Their emotion is deeply embedded with the social justice advocacy in their lyrics.
Amidst the Chaos is a reflection of Bareilles’ personal growth and maturity. The album carries an honest message of the ongoing battle of crafting identity in a deeply divided political climate — finding solace in the chaos.
Listen to the album on Spotify:
Robyn Cawley is the college editor for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.