by Stella Landry
Nervous System is songwriter Julia Michaels debut mini-album. We have been hearing about Michaels for much longer than we realize, but in the capacity of songwriter to the stars. She has worked with and penned smash hits for everyone from Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” to Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself” and “Rock Bottom,” Selena Gomez’s “Hands to Myself,” Britney Spears’ “Slumber Part” and “Good For You” to Gwen Stefani’s “Used to Love You.” The vibrant 23-year-old teamed up with her songwriting “song husband,” Justin Tranter, to release the seven tracks on Nervous System.
The lead single and opening track is “Issues.” Backed by a string ensemble playing a staccato pattern in pizzicato and not until the first chorus do we get the booming bass and high rhythmic vocal harmony to fill the sound out. This simple orchestration goes a long way in musically conveying and matching the mood and message of the melody and lyrics. Michaels beautiful breathy voice is front and center to carry the song and her adept vocal instrument does this with ease. The song develops until the end where Michaels vocal harmonies provide even more of a pad for her to convey her messaging. This is obviously a very personal song and Michaels delivery is remarkable. It has been reported that several “A-listers” wanted “Issues,” but Michaels kept it for herself, she is perceptive enough to know that it would be a hit.
“Uh Huh” is based on a pop-rock feel that displays Michaels wide vocal range and witty lyricism. The acoustic guitar is a nice touch and Michaels playful background vocal parts are fun and add to the energy of the song. Michaels has a knack to lure you into to her storytelling, whether serious or playful, her singing masterfully navigates the mood and delivery of the story.
“Worst in Me” is a pop medium-tempo number that has a steady four-pulse. Michaels’ lyrics are “real life,” and are easy to relate to, which further exhibits why she has been so successful in her songwriting endeavors, she has an innate ability to connect with the listener. Again, her background harmonies add a lot to the track and the strings are backed with Arco this time around. The key to Michaels lyrics is her honesty and everyone needs that relatability. At 23, she is well ahead of the curve in understanding herself and the honesty music can afford.
Stepping out from behind the comfortable, behind the sense curation into the spotlight is a big step for Michaels. Nervous System demonstrates that she has the vocal prowess and delivery to withstand the bright intensity of being out front. The quiet life of working out the perfect lyrics for that emotion will now have to be shared with performances, interviews, and countless talk shows. Is she up for it? I think so at least. It seems her ability to connect with people through her music, is already truly powerful and that combined with getting to know the real Julia Michaels, will be her staying power.
Tracks to sample first: “Issues,” “Uh Huh,” and “Worst in Me.” The song to take a chance on is “Don’t Wanna Think.”