Sara Bareilles – “Amidst the Chaos” Album Review

posted April 11, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Scott Perdue

Sara Bareilles is back with her sixth studio album “Amidst the Chaos.” Inspired by the cruel realities of the Trump presidency, Bareilles felt a need to return to the studio to provide listeners with her perspective on the dark sides of the recent election.

Arguably best known for her hits “King of Anything,” “Love Song” and “Brave,” Bareilles has had a fairly consistent grasp upon the pop mainstream across her career. Recently, however, she had taken a step back from her music career to write and bring to the stage her exceptionally successful musical “Waitress.” Although she hasn’t released a studio album since 2013, outside of her work from “Waitress,” Bareilles almost effortlessly reasserts her presence within the pop mainstream with this latest release.

Opening in a somewhat lackluster fashion with the track “Fire,” the album has an unfortunately slow, yet eventually rewarding rise in energy. “Fire” feels just a tad too manufactured to really give Bareilles a proper stage to showcase her tremendous talent. As if she was told by her label to provide them with a mainstream pop hit, which just ended up being too sterile to express the genuine Bareilles’ passion she is known for.

The album is hindered by its somewhat slow crawl to reaching an interesting and personal energy, nearly resigning it to the outskirts of becoming a middle-of-the-road pop album. While Bareilles does provide a slew of engaging pieces of commentary, the album’s opening tracks just aren’t able to invoke the same power that the album’s later tracks are able to achieve.

Oddly playing it safe while tackling controversial and significant topics, Bareilles has a few misses before really getting a grasp of her album’s direction. The track “Armor,” for instance, speaks to the strength of women and the optimistic pursuits of the women’s march. While the song definitely has an interesting and respectively poignant message, it suffers from a somewhat heavy-handed and forced feel.

Bareilles does, however, really hit her stride with the reflective and pleasant “If I Can’t Have You,” in which she sings about a partner she has lost touch with, but who she is glad she shared her time with. The latter half of the album proves to give Bareilles a chance to breathe and gives her a platform to allow her listeners to have an inside look on some of her insecurities.

The track “Wicked Love” in particular, beautifully presents the perspective of an individual trapped within an abusive relationship, who eventually defeats the toxic words that held them down. The track’s intimacy is particularly noteworthy and oddly comforting, even though the subject matter is particularly grim and bleak.

Another noteworthy track is the tender “Miss Simone,” Bareilles’ nod to Nina Simone, a fellow passionate activist and strong female figure. Bareilles once again, effectively captivates her listeners through her intimate singing style and light breezy presence.

“Amidst the Chaos” successfully maintains its energy and traction all the way until its closing track “A Safe Place to Land.” Featuring an effective collaboration with John Legend, this blissful and uplifting song speaks to the uncertainty and fears of those caught within the immigration family separation crisis. Providing a guiding light to those who are lost, the album finishes with resounding presence and strength.

Although the album takes its time to reach a consistent flow, the potency of Bareilles’ songwriting and commentary is particularly unique. A truly impressive exhibition of Bareilles’ talent, “Amidst the Chaos” is an exciting entry into Bareilles’ remarkable discography. Hopefully on a future release, Bareilles will be able to cut back on some of her overproducing tendencies and really just allow herself to present more of her engaging and pleasantly surprising intimate interactions with her listeners.

Rating: 7/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Track: “Wicked Love”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Track: “Fire”

 

 

Scott Perdue is a sophomore majoring in film/video. To contact him, email rsp5246@psu.edu.