Review: Sara Bareilles Shines On Honest & Rich ‘Amidst The Chaos’

It’s been six long years since Sara Bareilles released her last pop album, The Blessed Unrest. After gracing the world with songs like “Brave” and “I Choose You,” Sara took an unexpected turn into books and theater. In October 2015, Sara released a memoir, Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song. She also wrote all the music for a new musical called Waitress, and in November 2015, a selection of those new songs appeared on Sara’s themed album, What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress. Since then, Sara has acted in musicals (including Waitress), hosted awards shows, and released a handful of songs for films and musicals. But her pop return was overdue, and last summer, she began recording what would become Amidst The Chaos. It was a long and busy wait, but so worth it.

In contrast to the electronically charged The Blessed Unrest, Sara’s new album moves in the opposite direction, pulling together acoustic guitar, piano, and strings to form a sound that is organic and layered. Sara promised a “rootsy” vibe last summer, and producer T Bone Burnett has ensured the songs are as real and rich as they can be.

Throughout Amidst The Chaos, earlier influences are evident in their impact on Sara’s updated sound. Much of the music here would fit right in on a record from the 1960s or ’70s. This is in part due to the background vocals filling out the sound. On some songs, those backing vocals come courtesy of singer-songwriter Emily King. Lush strings also lend the album a fuller and richer presence reminiscent of those past decades.

Amidst The Chaos offers up a diverse array of styles, too. Songs like “Fire” and “Eyes On You” veer the farthest into folksy territory, complete with acoustic strumming and jangling beats. Other tunes are upbeat and more comparable to Sara’s past albums; tracks like “Wicked Love” and “Poetry By Dead Men” will instantly capture listeners’ attention. Many of the other songs, however, deliver Sara’s softer and more contemplative side. Ballads like “Orpheus” and “Someone Who Loves Me” balance out Amidst The Chaos, and ultimately may be the songs that offer the most layers to uncover.

Lyrically, Sara explores a lot of new themes. Of course, we have some excellent love songs and breakup songs. Sara also snuck in a few tracks dedicated to the Obamas – though on the surface, these songs would easily pass as being about romantic relationships. Perhaps the most overtly political song is album closer “A Safe Place To Land,” which features John Legend. The duo open their hearts to refugees and encourage listeners to do the same, but from a place of love more than politics.

Sara turns inward in the face of so much social and political turmoil on meditative tracks like “Eyes On You” and “Orpheus”. But ultimately, she finds fierce strength in the woman’s empowerment song, “Armor,” which was the timely lead single last fall. In spite of all that’s wrong with the world, Amidst The Chaos offers light and hope.

Amidst The Chaos is an enchanting yet earthy album, and the most immediately enjoyable record Sara has released so far. It’s a gorgeous addition to her repertoire, and poised to be one of our favorite albums of 2019.

Track by Track

“Fire”Amidst The Chaos opens with mysterious humming which is quickly offset by guitar and mandolin. It has a folky energy that grows into a huge chorus, which in turn ends with cascades of “Fire”. Sara sings about a short-lived relationship that was doomed from the start. But where that relationship failed, it also helped her understand what she wanted in a future lover. “Fire” was the second single from the album, and though it’s one of the most unexpected sounds for Sara, it also quickly grows on you.

“No Such Thing” – After the big opening, Amidst The Chaos takes it down a notch for “No Such Thing,” a promo song fans first heard last month. The track starts low and murky, but soon high, tinkling piano and fluttering harp join in to give it a dreamy, romantic sound. Its lightness is reminiscent of “I Choose You,” but taken down a sadder path. “No Such Thing” is a delicate song that seems to describe an unwanted breakup. Close enough: Sara actually wrote it about the Obamas after their 8-year presidency drew to an unfortunate end. Sara co-wrote this song with Justin Tranter.

“Armor” – Last fall, Sara shared “Armor” as the timely lead single. She wrote it in early 2017 after the Women’s Marches, but after the horrific Kavanaugh hearings of 2018, the message felt all too relevant. Indeed, “Armor” is a feminist anthem that celebrates women and the strength we give each other. The song starts with low piano and a spot-on retelling of Adam and Eve (“how the hell did Eve end up with all the damn blame?”), leading into a fierce, confident message. Sara has described “Armor” as the centerpiece of the record, and she’s not wrong.

“If I Can’t Have You” – Sara co-wrote “If I Can’t Have You” with Aaron Sterling and Emily King; Emily also sings on the track. Of all the songs on Amidst The Chaos, this one sounds the most obviously like an homage to the 1960s. Sara excels in this old-school soulful vibe, and Emily’s backing vocals add to that rich sound. Based on the lyrics, fans would naturally think this is a breakup song meant for someone you still love. But again, fans would be wrong. Sara told an audience last month that it, too, was inspired by the Obamas.

“Eyes On You” – After the 2016 election, Sara was in a dark place (she’s candidly explained that she’s suffered from depression and anxiety for many years now). To get back into a good headspace, Sara enrolled in a meditation class. “Eyes On You” came out of this personal experience. Sara describes real people and their diverse backgrounds in the verses’ lyrics. The lovely pre-choruses feature some of Sara’s lowest vocals, but then it leads to an unexpectedly energetic and folky chorus.

“Miss Simone” – Sara calls out her 1960s muse by name on “Miss Simone,” a song she wrote with Lori McKenna. Over rich guitars and a gentle, lazy soundscape, Sara sings about falling in love with her boyfriend, Joe Tippett, to the soundtrack of Nina Simone. Her vocals glide high and lush strings add a sweet layer to the mix as we hear about dancing on a candlelit rooftop. With full background vocals again, “Miss Simone” harkens back to early soulful music on this gorgeous love song.

“Wicked Love” – Last summer, Sara teased a beautiful clip of her singing, “You said I think too much…” Now fans can finally hear the rest of this song, and after all the hype that’s built up, “Wicked Love” is indeed a standout on the album. Sara revealed that it was one of the last songs she wrote for the album: “I was inspired by a voice memo I found by accident on my phone and it was one of the final additions to the record, written just days before I left for LA to begin recording! Just in time!” Over an infectious beat and soulful chord progressions, Sara describes a man whose love traps her like a firefly. This song is an uptempo bop that brings a bit of fun into the mix.

“Orpheus” – The title track for Amidst The Chaos, “Orpheus” is one of Sara’s favorites. She described it as “my gentle prayer for the world right now”. Indeed, this is a soft song that plays like a reassuring lullaby. Although the world is on fire and many bad things are happening, she’s here to provide some peace and hope. Strings fade in on the second verse, making “Orpheus” richer and sweeter. It’s a beautiful and worthy title track.

“Poetry By Dead Men” – Here’s another clip Sara teased last year. Track #9 starts with twinkling piano and an ominous “By the time you hear this, I’ll be in the rear view mirror.” The song continues to describe an impending breakup, but even so, Sara admits all the dreams she has for their relationship. Sara wrote it about her boyfriend Joe Tippett (luckily, the breakup didn’t actually happen), describing the song as “a daydreamer’s lament about someone who couldn’t in that moment step into love.” Sara co-wrote it with Justin Tranter. “Poetry By Dead Men” has a beautiful, light air about it even as it tackles such honest feelings. It’s another highlight on Amidst The Chaos.

“Someone Who Loves Me” – Sara dives back into the gentle, earthy sounds on “Someone Who Loves Me”. The lyrics described Sara being in a troubled mental space, filled with sorrow and anxiety, but comforted in knowing that a loved one is there to help her through it. As Sara described in an interview with WBUR’s Here & Now, “Someone Who Loves Me” is about her relationship with depression and anxiety and allowing someone else to see her in her darkest hour. That’s an important aspect of love, and she captures it beautifully here.

“Saint Honesty” – Sara shared “Saint Honesty” as the last promo single before the album dropped. She’s identified it as her favorite song on the record, and revealed that she and the band recorded the whole track together live in one take – a first for her! Sara co-wrote it with Lori McKenna. “Saint Honesty” paints an image of a house during a storm, open windows allowing the rain to ruin what’s inside. But this metaphor illuminates an important lesson to learn how to be open and honest with a loved one, even if it’s difficult. In the end, it will make the relationship stronger.

“A Safe Place To Land” (feat. John Legend) – Amidst The Chaos closes with a beautiful ballad sung with John Legend. (Sara previously worked with him on Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert last year.) Throwing basic duet conventions out the window, Sara and John trade off vocals and rejoin together fluidly, sounding more natural and honest in so doing. They sing about the immigrant family separation crisis currently happening along the US-Mexico border. Sara and John offer love and a helping hand to these refugees in need. It’s an effort to be light in this time of darkness. It’s a gorgeous song with an important message. “A Safe Place To Land” is a perfect way to close the sweeping, honest album.


Amidst The Chaos Score: 5/5

Highlights on Amidst The Chaos include: “No Such Thing,” “Miss Simone,” “Wicked Love,” “Orpheus,” “Poetry By Dead Men,” and “Someone Who Loves Me.”

You can stream or buy Amidst The Chaos at all the major music providers here.

Sara Bareilles - Amidst The Chaos

Hear Kelly Clarkson’s Song “Broken & Beautiful” From ‘UglyDolls’ Movie

Two days ago, Kelly Clarkson announced that her new song, “Broken & Beautiful,” will serve as the lead single for the UglyDolls soundtrack. While the movie’s soundtrack doesn’t come out until April 26th, you can already hear the uplifting new song. P!nk co-wrote “Broken & Beautiful” with Marshmello, Johnny McDavid, and Steve Mac.

“Broken & Beautiful” marks a return to Kelly’s pop sound after her brilliantly soulful 2017 album. It starts with light percussion and atmospheric space, creating a clean backdrop for Kelly’s vocals. She sings about her strength and independence, her triumphs and flaws, before launching into a huge chorus. She doesn’t need to be fixed – she just wants to be understood and loved for who she is. Kelly is the queen of empowering songs, and “Broken & Beautiful” reaffirms her message. It sounds strikingly like a P!nk song – naturally, since P!nk co-wrote it.

The new single also comes with a bold, colorful lyric video featuring the UglyDolls characters. Learn the words to “Broken & Beautiful” in its lyric video below:

You can stream or download “Broken & Beautiful” at all the major music providers here. It’s the lead single from the upcoming UglyDolls film’s soundtrack album, due out on April 26th.

Kelly sings three of the soundtrack songs alone, while also singing with Janelle Monáe on two tracks. Other songs on the album feature Bebe Rexha, Nick Jonas, Pentatonix, Blake Shelton, Why Don’t we, and Anitta. Check out the full tracklisting below:

  1. Broken & Beautiful – by Kelly Clarkson
  2. Couldn’t Be Better (Pop Version) – by Kelly Clarkson
  3. Today’s the Day – by Kelly Clarkson
  4. Couldn’t Be Better (Movie Version) – by Kelly Clarkson & UglyDolls Cast
  5. Today’s the (Perfect) Day – by UglyDolls Cast
  6. The Ugly Truth – by Nick Jonas
  7. You Make My Dreams – by Pentatonix
  8. The Uglier Truth – by Nick Jonas
  9. All Dolled Up – by Janelle Monáe feat. Kelly Clarkson
  10. Unbreakable – by Janelle Monáe & Kelly Clarkson
  11. The Big Finale – by UglyDolls Cast
  12. Girl in the Mirror – by Bebe Rexha
  13. Ugly (English Version) – by Anitta
  14. Don’t Change – by Why Don’t We
  15. Wallflowers & Weeds – by Blake Shelton
  16. Ugly (Spanish Version) – by Anitta

Kelly doesn’t just sing on the movie’s soundtrack! She also lends her voice to the leading character, Moxy. Kelly previously did voice acting for the 2017 animated Christmas film, The Star, in which she played a horse named Leah. Continuing her voice acting, Kelly will also appear in the 2020 film, Trolls World Tour, a sequel to 2016’s Trolls. As with UglyDolls, Kelly will have an original song featured in the Trolls World Tour soundtrack.

Kelly’s songs and covers have appeared on numerous soundtracks over the years. Her most recent contribution was a cover of “Never Enough” for The Greatest Showman – Reimagined. She also notably covered “It’s Quiet Uptown” for Hamilton Mixtape in 2016.

Kelly Clarkson’s latest album, Meaning Of Life, came out in fall 2017. It launched her singles “Love So Soft,” “I Don’t Think About You,” and “Heat,” as well as promo singles “Move You” and “Meaning Of Life.” Kelly is just finishing her Meaning Of Life Tour, which further cemented her role as a leading live innovator.

More Kelly Clarkson News

In addition to her own music, Kelly is also coaching for the third season in a row on The Voice. She won the first two rounds, so we’ll see if she can continue her winning streak. Combining her music and television sensibilities, Kelly will host the Billboard Music Awards for the second year in a row this May. Her opening medley last year was epic, so we have high hopes for what Kelly will pull off this year! This fall, she’ll also launch her own TV talk show, The Kelly Clarkson Show.

Kelly’s busy schedule doesn’t end there. She’s also reportedly working on a new album. Some uncovered song titles include “Step Up” and “Something New,” though it’s unclear if those will appear on her next record.

Enjoy the new “Broken & Beautiful,” and get ready to hear more Kelly songs once the UglyDolls soundtrack album comes out next month! You pre-order the UglyDolls soundtrack album now; the film will be in theaters on May 3rd. Keep checking back here for all the latest Kelly Clarkson news.

Sara Bareilles Performs “Little Voice,” Theme Song of New Apple TV Show

Last June, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Sara Bareilles would be involved with a new TV series called Little Voice. For fans of the singer, that title was probably more than a little familiar: Little Voice is the name of Sara’s major label debut album, the one that gave us the likes of “Love Song” and “Gravity.” Although the album’s title track didn’t make the cut, it did make it to a new TV project. Today, after introducing the show with JJ Abrams during the Apple Event, Sara graced her audience with a live performance of “Little Voice.”

Listen to Sara’s description of Little Voice and performance of the titular theme song below:

This isn’t the first live performance we’ve heard of “Little Voice” – Sara actually wrote the song in the mid-2000s and performed it back in 2007. The song gave her major label debut album its title, but the song was never officially released. A demo recording of the song leaked a decade ago, and Sara’s new live performance of “Little Voice” matches that original sound.

Sara shared an in-depth description of where “Little Voice” originated 15 years ago and how it fits within the new TV series:

View this post on Instagram

I wrote the seeds of this song when I was 24 and a fledgling singer songwriter. I felt like it said everything I had to say as a new artist and it made me feel like me. I was told that it couldn’t be included on my first record because it wasn’t a strong enough song. So I called my first record “Little Voice” to honor it and tether myself to the sentiment: That my little voice was with me wherever I went, even if it was a whisper. Here I am 15 years later and ten thousand lessons later and it turns out the song WAS strong enough…Strong enough to whisper to me all these years and knock on the door again and accompany a new story of a new songwriter and how she will find HER voice. Here I am premiering the theme song for the new @apple tv show that we are making with @jjabramsofficial at the #appleevent this morning. Sometimes the long walks are worth it. It’s just my little voice that I’ve been missing… #littlevoice

A post shared by Sara Bareilles (@sarabareilles) on

The new Little Voice show centers on a young songwriter navigating New York City and trying to find her own voice. The plot loosely resembles Sara’s own start in the music business, and it’s fitting that the TV show’s theme song also serves as its title track. The half-hour dramedy series, coming this fall, will be available exclusively on Apple TV. The first season will feature 10 episodes.

Little Voice isn’t the only thing happening in the Sara Bareilles world this year! Six years after releasing her last standard album, The Blessed Unrest, Sara is back with a new record in just one week. On April 5th, Sara will release her new album, Amidst The Chaos. We’ve already heard four songs from the album: singles “Armor” and “Fire,” plus promo singles “No Such Thing” and “Saint Honesty.” You can pre-order Amidst The Chaos and get instant downloads of all four singles now.

Amidst The Chaos was produced by T Bone Burnett. Fittingly, the new music has a rootsy sound and will touch on politics, Obama, and love (for Obama, but also for Sara’s boyfriend, Joe Tippett). The imminent album will be Sara’s first in six years.

More Sara Bareilles News

Sara’s last standard studio album, The Blessed Unrest, came out in July 2013. Though it’s been half a decade already, Sara has certainly kept busy with other projects. It started in 2015, when Sara released a book, Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song. That year also launched Sara’s career in musicals.

Sara composed all the songs for a musical called Waitress, which debuted in Boston in summer 2015. That November, a selection of those new songs appeared on Sara’s themed album, What’s Insides: Songs From Waitress. In 2016, Waitress went to Broadway; in 2017 – and again in 2018 – Sara took on the lead role of Jenna. She played Jenna for a third time earlier this year, and just finished her run early last month. And that’s just some of what Sara was up to over the years!

Enjoy the new live performance of “Little Voice,” and get ready for the TV series later this year. In the meantime, look out for Sara’s new album, Amidst The Chaos, out April 5th. As always, keep checking back here for all the latest Sara Bareilles music news.

Kelly Clarkson Announces Lead Single For ‘Ugly Dolls’ Soundtrack

You may have heard that Kelly Clarkson will star in the upcoming animated film, Ugly Dolls. In addition to a leading voice acting role, Kelly also recorded several songs for the movie’s soundtrack. This Wednesday, fans will get to hear the lead single, “Broken & Beautiful,” sung by none other than Kelly Clarkson. The full soundtrack – which features several more songs by Kelly – will be out on April 26th, with the film in theaters May 3rd.

Watch Kelly’s announcement below:

 

Kelly sings three of the soundtrack songs alone, while also singing with Janelle Monáe on two tracks. Other songs on the soundtrack feature Bebe Rexha, Nick Jonas, Pentatonix, Blake Shelton, Why Don’t we, and Anitta. Check out the full tracklisting below:

  1. Broken & Beautiful – by Kelly Clarkson
  2. Couldn’t Be Better (Pop Version) – by Kelly Clarkson
  3. Today’s the Day – by Kelly Clarkson
  4. Couldn’t Be Better (Movie Version) – by Kelly Clarkson & UglyDolls Cast
  5. Today’s the (Perfect) Day – by UglyDolls Cast
  6. The Ugly Truth – by Nick Jonas
  7. You Make My Dreams – by Pentatonix
  8. The Uglier Truth – by Nick Jonas
  9. All Dolled Up – by Janelle Monáe feat. Kelly Clarkson
  10. Unbreakable – by Janelle Monáe & Kelly Clarkson
  11. The Big Finale – by UglyDolls Cast
  12. Girl in the Mirror – by Bebe Rexha
  13. Ugly (English Version) – by Anitta
  14. Don’t Change – by Why Don’t We
  15. Wallflowers & Weeds – by Blake Shelton
  16. Ugly (Spanish Version) – by Anitta

Kelly’s songs and covers have appeared on numerous soundtracks over the years. Her most recent contribution was a cover of “Never Enough” for The Greatest Showman – Reimagined. She also notably covered “It’s Quiet Uptown” for Hamilton Mixtape in 2016.

Kelly Clarkson’s latest album, Meaning Of Life, came out in fall 2017. It launched her singles “Love So Soft,” “I Don’t Think About You,” and “Heat,” as well as promo singles “Move You” and “Meaning Of Life.” Kelly is just finishing her Meaning Of Life Tour, which further cemented her role as a leading live innovator.

More Kelly Clarkson News

In addition to her own music, Kelly is also coaching for the third season in a row on The Voice. She won the first two rounds, so we’ll see if she can continue her winning streak. Combining her music and television sensibilities, Kelly will host the Billboard Music Awards for the second year in a row this May. Her opening medley last year was epic, so we have high hopes for what Kelly will pull off this year! This fall, she’ll also launch her own TV talk show, The Kelly Clarkson Show.

Kelly’s busy schedule doesn’t end there. She’s also reportedly working on a new album. Some uncovered song titles include “Step Up” and “Something New,” though it’s unclear if those will appear on her next record.

Get ready to hear “Broken & Beautiful” in just two days! Once it’s out, you’ll also be able to pre-order the Ugly Dolls soundtrack album, due out on April 26th. Keep checking back here for all the latest Kelly Clarkson news.

Editors Releases New Song “Barricades” With Mesmerizing Music Video

Last month, Editors announced that for this year’s Record Store Day, they’ll be sharing an EP, The Blanck Mass Sessions. The 8-song set includes 7 alternative versions of songs from their 2018 album, Violence, plus one previously unheard track, “Barricades.” Today, Editors released the new song along with a captivating mechanical music video.

“Barricades” opens with a stomping beat, a marching sound set to a 1980s-styled track. Frontman Tom Smith sings an unusual vocal melody, gliding between low and high notes at whim. It makes the song sound a bit unfinished, but in a charming way. The lyrics are a highlight here, as Tom asks, “How long could you wait for someone you love?” He later pleads, “Don’t run away; just barricade now.”

The song’s music video was directed by Hi-Sim and produced by Martin Roker at Black Dog Films. Throughout most of the video, machines tossing marbles work smoothly, narrowly avoiding a mess with perfectly timed movements. It’s a mesmerizing effect until one little mistake throws the whole thing awry. 

Watch the video for “Barricades” below: 

“Barricades” appears on the upcoming limited Record Store Day release, The Blanck Mass Sessions. In addition to “Barricades,” the other 7 songs are alternate versions of tracks heard on Editors’ last album, Violence. All of these songs were recorded during those album sessions. While Violence balanced out the original Oxford recording sessions with more electronic versions mixed by Blanck Mass, the new EP presents the songs as Blanck Mass arranged them. These versions will be more electronic than what fans heard on Violence.

The limited color vinyl is being released on Record Store Day this coming April 13th. Only have 500 copies will be available then, but as it’s an “RSD First” release, fans can rest assured that it will be more widely available later this spring, on May 3rd. You can pre-order The Blanck Mass Sessions now ahead of its May release.

Just one year ago, Editors released their 6th album, Violence. (It was one of our favorites of 2018.) After extensive touring and four singles – “Magazine,” “Hallelujah (So Low),” “Darkness At The Door,” and “Cold” – the band members worked on separate projects for a couple months. Frontman Tom Smith rejoined his other group, Smith & Burrows, to perform a brand new song. “All The Best Moves” is set to appear on their long-awaited second album together. Tom also appeared on a song with UNKLE called “The Other Side” last December, and then on “Crucifixion / A Prophet” earlier this month.

Last month, Editors shocked and delighted fans when they returned to the studio to work on new tunes. A few weeks ago, the band went to Los Angeles to record music with producer Jacknife. Editors notably worked with Jacknife back in 2007, when he produced their sophomore album, An End Has A Start. The band worked on something – a song? – called “Black Gold.”

Is Editors’ 7th album already on the way? At this point, it’s too early to say when we’ll get to hear the new music. While an album could be ready by the end of this year, 2020 may be a safer bet. It’s also unclear if Jacknife will serve as the producer for their next album. He did an excellent job on An End Has A Start, so we’d be happy if he does!

Hopefully “Barricades” and the alternate Violence songs will hold you over until we know more about whatever new music Editors are working on. Enjoy the new song, and get ready for more once The Blanck Mass Sessions drops next month!

Keep checking back here for all the latest Editors music news.