Julia Michaels is what the future of pop music looks like; raw, honest and experimental. The 25 year old singer-songwriter has written some of the biggest pop songs of the past five years with the likes of Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, Shawn Mendes and Christina Aguilera. Along with fellow collaborator Justin Tranter they’ve encouraged an honest new take on songwriting that has encouraged a giant movement. Any musician or industry person alike are talking about how talented and game changing they have been. With the success of her breakthrough solo single ‘Issues’, Michaels moved from the shadows and into the spotlight to start the next phase of her very promising career. After the release of her debut EP ‘Nervous System’ and supporting the likes of Shawn Mendes, Maroon 5 and Niall Horan on tour she’s finally ready to deliver her debut album. Well, almost. Instead of releasing it all at once she’s giving it to us in parts and ‘Inner Monologue Part 1’ is a very promising collection. Forget what you already know about Michaels sonically and go into this EP blind because you will walk away even more impressed. This is a giant step away from the polished pop she’s used to spinning out and instead is a little more raw and DIY with it’s delivery. But don’t fret, the lyrics are as raw and honest as ever as she dives even darker and gets even more open about anxiety and heartbreak.
Opening the 6 track EP with ‘Anxiety’, she teams up with Selena Gomez to detail her experiences with mental health and anxiety. It’s a very open, vulnerable and relatable song that could truly become the anthem of a whole new generation. Mental health is something that is still so heavily stigmatised and we need more artists like Michaels using the platforms they have to tell their experiences and spread awareness and understanding. And that’s what this song perfectly does. It gives an unfiltered look into her inner thoughts and processes as she tries to understand why she feels the way she does. “My friends, they wanna take me to the movies. I tell ’em to fuck off, I’m holding hands with my depression. And right when I think I’ve overcome it, anxiety starts kicking in to teach that shit a lesson”. Beginning with the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar she adds in light keys and production that creates an almost campfire moment. The quirky ad-libs from both Michaels and Gomez makes this song feel playful whilst also being very serious and important. From there she steps into heartbreak territory on ‘Into You’ where she confesses she really doesn’t want to run into her ex and will do anything to make sure it doesn’t happen. “So many birthdays that I missed, so I don’t run into you”. The production is a little more anthemic and is reminiscent of Hailee Steinfeld and Imagine Dragons. But it’s the epic ‘Happy’ where she just lets the world have a piece of her mind and confusion in a big way. She confesses, “And sometimes I think I kill relationships for art. I start up all this shit to watch em fall apart” before pleading “Oh, I just wanna be fucking happy”. The song takes a more experiential approach which rolls into the Rachel Platten reminiscent ‘Deep’. What I loved about this love song the most was it’s non-conforming structure which takes you on an unexacting production roller coaster which is fun and exciting. “Somebody left me feeling empty and somebody ripped me at the seams. But you’re bringing back all my feelings”
‘Apple’ was the only song that I was unsure about on this collection. Compared to the other tracks it just didn’t feel as captivating or memorable with it’s stripped down production and it’s summertime love story. But she perfectly wraps up Part 1 with the Niall Horan duet ‘What A Time’. Reminiscing on past lovers, the good times and the “truths” they were fed which they once believed. “I think of the night in the park, it was getting dark and we stayed up for hours. What a time, what a time, what a time”. With it’s simple guitar delivery that eventually adds strings it has a really beautiful and full circle energy surrounding it. Which also perfectly captures the overall emotions of this EP. She reflects on some dark and vulnerable moments in her life but showcases a positive light and a sense of growth and self-worth through her empowering storytelling. She’s certainly a songwriter of the future but she’s also an artist with giant and exciting potential.