Sara Bareilles Amidst the Chaos Review
By Bea Willis
Sara Bareilles could never be accused of sitting on her laurels as an artist. Hard work, perseverance and commitment have always been a driving thrust from Bareilles. She achieved mainstream success in 2007 with the hit single “Love Song,” reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This catapulted Bareilles into the public eye. To date Bareilles has sold over one million albums and over nine million singles and downloads in the United States alone and has earned seven Grammy Award nominations, including one Album of the Year nomination for her album The Blessed Unrest. If that is not impressive enough, her memoir, Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song, was published in 2015; The New York Times listed it as a bestseller. She composed music and wrote lyrics for the Broadway musical Waitress, for which she earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Original Score in 2016, and a Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theatre Album. In April 2018, Bareilles received acclaim for her portrayal of Mary Magdalene in NBC’s adaptation of a classic Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, for which she was nominated for the 2018 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.
Bareilles latest album Amidst the Chaos is a collection of thoughts and a response to several socially relevant subjects ongoing in our country. In an interview with Forbes, Bareilles stated that the 2016 American Presidential Election was the catalyst for her beginning to write the album, with the title being a reference to the presidency of Donald Trump. The songs “No Such Thing” and “If I Can’t Have You” were written as odes to president Barack Obama, while “Armor” was written in response to the #MeToo Movement and released early, considering the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“Fire,” which was written by Bareilles, has a vocal harmony part that serves as an accompaniment to Bareilles melody. Percussive sounds come from the guitar and mandolin. Bareilles blues influenced melody is rich with her full vocals and deep lyrics. The chorus opens up as the full band enters with strumming guitars, a moving bass line and drums. The second time through the chorus has wonderful variations that continue to build the track. Bareilles delivery is soulful and passionate. The bridge is interesting and builds to a wonderful falsetto part by Bareilles that is dramatic and moving.
The album closes with a duet with John Legend, “A Safe Place to Land.” Bareilles co-wrote the song with Lori McKenna and the lyrics are about the immigrant family separation crisis along the US–Mexico border in 2018. A beautiful piano accompanies, filled in with strings, as Bareilles sings the first verse with power and emotion. Legend takes the second verse, with his trademark soulful embellishments and deep sense of time. The two vocalists sing wonderfully together in the chorus. Each pass through the stanzas are powerful, both singers display a wide vocal range, outstanding coloring of their timbre and emotional accents. The music supporting the two is always rich, but never gets in the way. This track shows how both Bareilles and Legend are both amazing interpreters of melodies, they pull out every emotion from the lyrics. This is a beautiful ending to a wonderful album.
Bareilles takes her artistry and uses it to convey her emotional story of the times. Her brilliance in lyric writing is matchless and her songs portray the turbulent divide of the times. She sheds light on some of the most important messages of this era in a relatable and listenable fashion carrying her artistry to the next level. The album is chalk full of outstanding performances and masterful songcraft. A highly recommended listen throughout!
Release Date: April 5, 2019