*Featured Image Courtesy: justjared.com
(Album Review: “Nervous System” by Julia Michaels)
My major life issue before was that my Mother almost got me registered at birth as “Julia” since I was born in July, but she did not. She instead, chose a really awful first name, which she got by asking for her delivery nurse’s suggestion. The nurse, wherever the heck he is now, gave the name of his girlfriend. My Mom, who was probably groggy from birth pain, and morphine or whatever they gave her that day, took the name.
I never say it out loud, that drug-laced first name of mine, unless a police or immigration officer is the one asking for it. But I got over it when I finally reached the age when I can pick my own nickname. I got my nickname when my friends accidentally shuffled off four letters from my drugged first name. The result worked to my advantage, and that was enough to make up for the unfortunate name suggestion incident.
The anecdote has almost nothing to do with this blog entry, except that I’m reminded of my earliest life issue each time the pretty name “Julia” comes up. So here is American singer/songwriter Julia Michaels with a song called “Issues”— probably the most covered song within my hearing range these days. I kept hearing cover versions of it that I suddenly found myself looking up the original song, that’s how I got introduced to Julia who was songwriter first to a number of famous singers before becoming a singer herself who launched an extended play last week called, “Nervous System”.
I don’t know about the music climate from where Julia is, but if I were writing for an actual music magazine, I would’ve of course interviewed and asked her why she launched an EP instead of a full-length album. But that’s the obvious next move after releasing the breakout hit, “Issues”. Whatever her management’s reasons were, she still launched a 7-track EP worth your listening time, which should start right now as I take you through each song if you haven’t by yourself, yet.
Her first track is that hit song, no less. I trust that I’m hearing her vocals here stripped off of auto-tuning and other voice-enhancing technology, add-in playful piano, and there you have, ‘Issues’! It sounds that simple but this song which she claims as “very me” is really her talking to the beau after a fight they had which made them realize they really love each other blah blah blah…
“’Cause I got issues, but you got ’em too
So give ’em all to me and I’ll give mine to you
Bask in the glory, of all our problems
‘Cause we got the kind of love it takes to solve ’em
Yeah, I got issues
And one of them is how bad I need you.”
Julia said in an interview that she fought hard for this song to be hers as other singers wanted it for their respective albums. Due to its very personal tone, she couldn’t imagine it being sung by other artists. So here she is in Kesha or Sia fashion, a songwriter performing tracks that could have gone to the studios of Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Fifth Harmony, or even Justin Bieber. Oh well, good call there, Julia.
The next track, “Uh Huh” is a lot more playful than “Issues” though not necessarily a better song but it moves the listening experience forward if you’re listening to the EP in sequence. I could be wrong, but I believe she has Fiona Apple influence in her, especially with the songwriting style. She could be Fiona poetic, just not as mad or upset:
“It’s electric how symmetric
We both get when you lay beside me
It’s phonetic how our mouths grip
Almost too tight to the words we’re sayin’
We’re in deep now, should we slow down?
Should we slow down now?”
“Worst In Me” is my personal favorite from this bunch. I like how briefly the lyrics were able to say something about certain relationships that don’t work out or progress because the people involved are both scared of taking a chance at an actual thing which is already in front of them, and their stupidity just ruins the thing. Now, they’re left with the should-woulda-coulda’s and it’s the worst thing ever, right? Right.
This EP is actually a relationship package for you, and for an EP, she almost got everything covered, like she has a song for every emotional state, including an apology song (Make It Up To You) and a break-up invitation song (Just Do It) both in the guise of a semi-danceable track. She even wrote a song about her genitalia (Pink), and then she closes sad emotional stripped down with piano, with “Don’t Wanna Think”.
“Now I’m not really one for drinking songs but
Fuck it, here it comes, uh
Heartbreak is annoying
And I feel it in the morning
Swallow it down like a bitter pill
At least it’ll taste better than this feeling will
And I don’t like myself when I’m just standing still”
Based on Youtube videos, Julia is quite a nervous live performer but there’s charm to it, and her honesty connects to her audience somehow. This EP could just be a prelude to a full-length album that should come out soon, and I just might lend an ear to her other issues. ###