Julia Michaels’ “Inner Monologue Part 1” deviates from radio-hit formula and calls out for vulnerability.
Songwriting is poetry based on vulnerability and personal experience. When done right, it spills raw emotion into the world and allows everyone inside the heart of the writer. Many artists mask this quality of character to separate internal authenticity from the rest of society –– but not Julia Michaels.
Michaels released a new EP called “Inner Monologue Part 1” on Jan. 24. The compilation of six songs depicts the title perfectly and discusses raw, real human feeling from anxious thoughts to lack of happiness to desires of wanting to relive the past. The music industry is filled with radio-pleasers and concealed emotion, but this EP allows for a look into Michaels’ life and show us who we need to be –– a generation of vulnerability seekers.
The first song, “Anxiety,” opens up with an acoustic guitar paired with low, raspy vocals accompanied by Selena Gomez, who sings the second verse and background vocals. More importantly, it reveals Michaels’ dispositions as an individual. Some of the first lyrics her audience hear include “I’m holding hands with my depression” and “Right when I think I’ve overcome it, anxiety starts kicking in … ”
Talking about mental health is not part of the radio-hit formula, yet Michaels is taking her listeners on a journey of relatability and struggle. She’s showing the public that celebrities are not emitted from the dark parts of life; in fact, they are haunted by them just the same.
Michaels touched on this revealing factor once before with her single, “Issues.” The song that spoke life into the commonality of not having it all together peaked at number eleven on Billboard’s Hot 100. With the song’s success, it is evident that we need honest truth more than ever. Bethany Murillo, a sophomore film major, depicts the pertinence in Michaels’ songwriting abilities.
“The idea of being authentic is so intimidating that we often choose to avoid it,” Murillo said. “Moments of true authenticity are so rare that they make it hard to identify. That’s why music like this is important. They remind us that being ourselves isn’t as scary as it feels.”
Michaels made a good decision by continuing in this divergent take on music. The layering of storytelling and song are what craft a true artist. It can be simple to create loose-fitting lyrics and share them with the world, but when those lyrics showcase an unforgiving side of the human sector, utter talent emerges. This differentiates Michaels from the rest of the crowd and provides a space all can find value in.
One of my favorites off the EP, “Happy,” may be misconstrued when referencing solely the title, but it’s quite the opposite. While it has a lighter feel than “Anxiety,” the heavy bass and plea for help create a song that is just as heartbreaking. Michaels sings about a past relationship she can’t seem to get past, and in turn, is left desperate and longing for happiness. The purposefully strained vocals in the pre-chorus paint the illusion that she is begging for support and guidance. While emotional, the track is also frank and direct, which provides an unorthodox contrast.
If anything, Michaels’ capability to successfully pair contradictory levels of feeling is enough to give this EP a listen. To produce not just a single song, but an entire EP that can be played at a social gathering to a melancholic night is sheer genius.
Another track, “Deep,” highlights Michaels’ eccentric voice and the harmonies tell the greatness behind the musical composition. Overwhelming bass surround the listener to fade away into a high note until there is almost complete silence. The melodic track encompasses a spunky electric piano, a groovy bass guitar, continuous symbols and perfectly timed ad libs. This track is musically one of the best off the EP. On top of it’s masterfully crafted instrumentals, the song depicts another side of Michaels –– being helplessly in love. One can imagine the butterflies in her stomach and the revival she is experiencing after someone had previously “left her empty.”
Each song on the EP is unpredictable. Her range, tracks and emotional appeal continue to differ as one listens song after song, but the real hook is in the human element.
Michaels doesn’t create the illusion that all is well. She doesn’t showcase a life of perfection or magnificence. She gives her listeners a real review of her life –– the good, the bad and the ugly.
“These are things that I think and feel on a daily basis. I’m either talking to myself or I’m talking to somebody else. So it’s like my deepest thoughts and feelings that I just want to let out into the universe and not keep inside,” Michaels said in an interview with Billboard.
From the album title to song lyrics to meaning, this EP illustrates who we are called to be as a people. We are a generation that needs to learn how to feel and not be ashamed of emotion. All feelings are valid and all feelings deserve to be acknowledged. Michaels is preaching this message one song at a time. While she may be singing and writing about her own experiences, she is relating to multitudes and is opening up a space for authenticity to emerge.
Michaels is more than a great singer-songwriter, but someone who pushes boundaries when it comes to her art. She sees bravery in being open, and I can only wait as I cling to the thought of Michaels’ second EP “Inner Monologue Part 2.”