Courtesy of Epic Records

April 9, 2019

TEST SPIN | Sara Bareilles —  ‘Amidst the Chaos’

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I’ve always loved Sara Bareilles because her work embodies female empowerment. She sings authentically and for herself — something to which people can relate. Her new album, Amidst the Chaos, is nothing short of fantastic. Bareilles has come a long way since the release of her pop hit “Love Song” in 2007. Since returning to her singer-songwriter position after playing a role in the Broadway musical Waitress (in which she was also a composer and lyricist), her new album shows growth and maturity but maintains her style of vulnerability.

Amidst the Chaos showcases Bareilles’ beautiful voice in 12 moving and soulful songs, one of which features John Legend. The album starts off strong with “Fire” where Bareilles realizes she wants deeper love and a better connection as she ends one relationship. Bareilles recognizes what she wants in life and acknowledges that she will get it. Her strength and power only become more salient as the album continues.

In her third song, “Armor,” Bareilles addresses gender inequality. She sings about how women often get blamed and are made to feel insignificant and asserts that she stands with all women. She looks to them as her source of strength and protection — her armor. As long as Bareilles stands with women beside her, she is ready to take on the patriarchy and gender disparity. “Armor” was released as a single this past October and the music video features a diverse group of women holding up signs with her lyrics on them. Bareilles features these women as a representation of the love and support that we have for each other — she takes a stand for women, with women.

Sara Bareilles writes and sings music as a way to connect and relate to people. She emphasizes the importance of recognizing what is going on in the world in an interview in which she said, “Division and identity and hate and fear and love — all these things that are so alive in our social climate. I want songwriters to speak to that and not pretend they are not a very big part of what our community at large is experiencing.” Her music feels personal, which in turn leaves the listener with a sense of trust, safety and understanding.

“Wicked Love” is fun and upbeat yet acts as a declaration: Bareilles is telling her lover to “stay out” because she feels trapped, like a firefly caught in a jar. Bareilles realizes that she doesn’t need this person anymore because she constantly feels stifled. I love this piece because it is such a transformation from her 2007 hit, “Love Song,” where she, albeit confidently, lets her partner leave. Over a decade later, she recognizes the issues and takes action herself, as she is the one to leave a bad situation. Bareilles takes more control and makes more decisions in her own life as she gets older.

To further show this strong, confident side of herself, Bareilles sings “Poetry by Dead Men” which is a really beautiful song to the man that she decides is no longer worth waiting for because he is not yet ready to be in a relationship. She claims that she wanted, and even still wants, to be his girl and yearns to listen to him read her poetry written by dead men. Bareilles word choice of “dead men” to refer to the poets is shocking in a song that is so melodious and peaceful. It makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, which I think is her point as she calls out this man who she has decided to move on from.

The last song on the album, “A Safe Place to Land” featuring John Legend, is full of soul and emotion. I get goosebumps listening. Their duet is incredible. This was the perfect song to end with because it leaves the listener with hope; hope that even when “holding your breath is safer than breathing” or when “the boat beneath you is sinking,” that someone will be there to help you. In turn, Bareilles and Legend suggest that we should be there for others when they need us, too. This song proposes that we should have faith in humanity and that in the end, we will be there to help each other.

Yet again, Sara Bareilles has created an inspiring work with Amidst the Chaos. While the five songs mentioned above are my favorites on the album, I absolutely recommend the whole album. I have enjoyed seeing Bareilles’ transformation throughout her work to get to where she is now. Her music has always been a source of strength in my life. Hopefully, it will now be a part of yours.


Rachel Mattessich is a junior in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected].