MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 59: VANESSA AMOROSI

Think about life for a moment in all it’s ebbs and flows. It’s ups and downs, ins and outs, valleys and peaks. It’s not that hard to do now, when we see what’s happening with the world, with COVID-19 wreaking havoc around the world. We look at our lives and think and wonder. What are the constants in our lives when everything around us seems be less certain? And then hopefully we start to think, and we can then write them all down. Our friends and family. Check. Our relationship with God. Check. Our endless supply of DVD’s and movies, the streaming services of Stan, Foxtel, Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV and Disney +. Check. Well…then again, maybe streaming services isn’t as constant in our lives as we ourselves initially think. But you get the picture. And then last but not least, something in our lives that has been constant for forever, in ways that maybe we ourselves don’t even know it, is in fact music. Music, just like film and TV, has the power to delve deep into our souls, and minister to our very core of our humanity, hopefully bringing to light, issues that maybe we ourselves need to work on, while also highlighting our very relationships with our friends, family and God Himself, in the whole process of us enjoying a song and reflecting on its meaningful lyrics. For me, music has always been a staple in my life for as long as I can remember- I started listening to children’s music like The Donut Man and Psalty the Singing Songbook when I was younger, and as time went on, my musical tastes continued to expand. Artists like Delirious?, Carman, Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin, Newsboys, Tim Hughes and Rebecca St. James were all artists I thoroughly listened to throughout my primary and high school years, while my university days were impacted by a lot of CCM- artists like the ones aforementioned, alongside others- Third Day, Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Nichole Nordeman, Natalie Grant, Bebo Norman, Kerrie Roberts, Paul Baloche, Phil Wickham, Matthew West, Kari Jobe, Britt Nicole, BarlowGirl, Hawk Nelson, Sanctus Real, Building 429, David Crowder*Band, and Jason Gray (to name a few of the many, many artists we- my twin brother and I, branched out into). Now here I am in 2020, one year and a half into my blog series, and my musical tastes have continued to grow and expand even further. Yes, this blog series (which you can read more about here) has been daunting and at times, uncertain, but on a holistic level, has also been rewarding, as I felt the Lord’s presence and Him speaking to me through a lot of music that one wouldn’t necessarily call ‘Christian’. And that was my own conundrum that I was working through- and am still working through. I’ve concluded that mainstream music isn’t ‘bad’, as a lot of fundamentalist Christians believe. And maybe I believed that statement too, even though I didn’t grow up in such a fundamentalist environment.

But what I’ve understood now, is that music, be it Christian or mainstream, can still be used by God to bring people closer to Himself, and that if we start putting limits on what we believe God can and can’t use for His glory and our good, we start to minimise Him and start to believe that He isn’t as big as we really know Him to be. And as 2019 rolled on and 2020 came around, we saw in life and society, that music, to people who are believers and non-believers alike, has been a constant in a time of upheaval and worry. As COVID-19 stuck us all unaware, music became the source of hope, strength, courage and motivation. As I undertook this blog series, I started opening up the envelope and listening to other inspirational and uplifting artists, artists that I didn’t necessarily grow up listening to, but artists nonetheless that I firmly believe God was using (and is still using) to change my own preconceptions on what life-changing music really looks like and sounds like. Delta Goodrem, Sara Bareilles, Switchfoot, Andrew Peterson, DC Talk, Josh Groban, U2, The McClymonts, Lady A, Lecrae, Guy Sebastian, Colbie Caillat, Tina Arena, Train, Skillet, OneRepublic, The Corrs, Mandy Moore, Hanson, John Mayer and Alicia Keys, are just a handful of artists I explored throughout this year and a half, that have reminded me that God uses artists that we may not even think, to bring about changes in people and a new way of thinking about life, love, and everything else in between. Music, as subjective as it is, should be doing this one thing- to challenge ourselves to become the best versions of who we can be, and to look at other people’s plights, concerns and difficulties with compassion- hopefully our hearts stirring for us to help in any way we can, or we at least can change our own lives somehow and be a beacon of positive change in the communities that we are in. Music that doesn’t serve the purpose of placing someone else’s need above our own isn’t necessarily music that I want to listen to, nor is it music that I believe is edifying or even life-changing. And though some people may like self-centred music, I’ve realised through this impactful ‘social and musical experiment’, that the music I’ve been drawn to is inspirational- be it inspirational CCM, pop, country, rock, indie or folk, to name a few of the many, many genres out there. As I’ve listened to artists week after week after week, sometimes artists I’m familiar with, sometime artists that I’m not, I’ve discovered that more often than not, it has been the music where I’ve come in not really knowing much, where I’ve been impacted the most. In a good way. Now as I embark on this new artist (new in that I haven’t really listened to them on a regular basis before this week), I am impressed at how grounded this artist has become in their musical craft, despite being injected into the music industry at a younger age.

Coming back from a 10 year (or so) sabbatical from anything music-related (to then create a powerful 2019 album full of hope and poignancy), Vanessa Amorosi has been an Australian music icon since her debut album release, The Power in 2000. Five more albums at 20 years later, Vanessa’s songs, that have focused on her powerful voice, while also delivering powerful vocals that pierce to the heart; have been thought-provoking and challenging enough for her to be here in this top 100 Influential Artists’ blog. And even though this artist isn’t necessarily the most popular, or even the most vocally impactful (Aussies like Tina Arena, Natalie Imbruglia and Delta Goodrem have been artists that I reckon have a bigger vocal range); her passion to deliver songs that mean something to people, who’s presence in the musical industry has challenged the way people saw Aussie music, is enough for her place here in this very, very subjective influential-artists’ list. From the standout earlier song ‘Absolutely Everybody’, to the decade-defining (2000s) tracks ‘Perfect’, ‘The Simple Things (Something Emotional)’, ‘This Is Who I Am’, ‘Shine’, and ‘Amazing’; Vanessa’s impact in the Australian music scene cannot be denied. And even though a lot of people around the world may not have heard of her (or her music), maybe that’s ok, for it is when you listen to artists under the radar and singing from a place of hope, heart, vulnerability and rawness that you can understand that popular and influential aren’t the same, nor should they be. Vanessa’s music is influential, impacting a generation of kids and teenagers in the 2000s, more than I reckon a lot of Aussie artists at that time too (maybe second to Delta Goodrem, of course!). But by current society standards, her popularity leaves much to be desired…and maybe that’s ok. Vanessa’s songs have continued to challenge us all in themes and elements of encouragement, hope, love, loss, and the rest of it, and it has been her 2019 album Back to Love and her 2020 album The Blacklisted Collection that have furthered my own assertion, that her inclusion in such a list as this, as subjective as it currently is, is nevertheless reminding of us all that you need not be popular to be impactful and influential. Andrew Peterson fits the category very well. So are artists like Mandy Moore, Lifehouse, Five For Fighting, and to some extent Train. Enter Vanessa Amorosi into that category as well!

I was aware of Vanessa’s music in the 2000s, just like how I was aware of other artists’ music, like Delta Goodrem and Natalie Imbruglia. I’d hear it on the radio from time to time, but nothing really else. But as I embarked on hearing Vanessa and her music over the last few days, there have been a few surprises- of how much music of hers I have actually heard and enjoyed over the years. ‘Absolutely Everybody’, arguably Vanessa’s greatest powerful radio hit, was created in 2000 for her debut album The Power, and while this song is perhaps one of the most danceable songs she has ever created, the song itself doesn’t lose any flair, enjoyment and replay value, not then when it was created 20 years ago, and not now in 2020 when I heard the song again after a long, long time. And though when I heard the track on the radio when I was a young teenager, I wasn’t really aware of the lyrical content (only that it had a good bouncy beat), as I reflect upon the song now, years later; I realise what a powerful track this really is. ‘Absolutely Everybody’ is a call to action, to remind us all that everybody longs to be loved and accepted, to want respect and in turn, hopefully reciprocated back. Vanessa’s emotive but equally danceable track challenges us all to give respect where it is deserved and earned, to give encouragement and hope to people who may need it, especially during this moment in time in 2020. While at times the music can actually drown out the lyrics with an over-produced production, ‘Absolutely Everybody’ itself with its message of unity and everyone having the same feelings as the other, is certainly needed, especially now. Who would’ve thought that a song created in 2000 can have special meaning in 2020, in a time where unity across races, religions, ethnicities and socio-economic classes, is required to bring a sense of togetherness and camaraderie to impact the world during such a time as COVID-19. But ‘Absolutely Everybody’ is a song that has just as much poignancy and heart, if not more now, than before. Hearing the song again, and really hearing it, I am able to commend Vanessa with this track- one of her most famous, but also one that is indeed needed and relevant, for such a time as this.

Everybody needs a little loving, everybody needs somebody thinking of them
Everybody needs a little respect and whatever it takes, I’m gonna get it
Everybody needs a hand to hold, someone to cling to when the nights are getting cold
I’m no different, I am just the same, a player in the game
Absolutely everybody, everybody, everybody, absolutely everybody in the whole wide world
Absolutely everybody, every boy and every girl, absolutely everybody
Everybody needs a human touch
I can’t live without it, it means too much to me, everybody needs one true friend
Someone who’ll be there till the very end, and absolutely everybody breathes and everybody, everybody bleeds
We’re no different, we’re all the same, players in the game

Absolutely Everybody, from Vanessa Amorosi’s album The Power

While ‘Absolutely Everybody’ is perhaps one of Vanessa’s most popular and standout songs of her The Power album, the song wasn’t the first single from it. ‘Have a Look’ was actually the first single release from the 2000 album, unveiled to us all in the middle of 1999. A song about a persona pleading to their recent ex and asking them to have a look at someone who is changed, realising that the decision they have made is actually the wrong one (and now they want to rectify it as much as they can); ‘Have a Look’ is a catchy song that was a radio hit at the time of release, and it’s good to hear such a song in 2020, to see how music was back 20 years ago and compare it to the current state of songs released now. To look at how music has evolved over this time, and to see how these artists changed their craft over the years to deliver music that was relevant to each time period (but still hold true to their messages and values) is an art, one that Vanessa herself articulates and carries out, with poise, grace and heart. ‘Shine’, perhaps one of the most emotive and poignant songs Vanessa has ever created, one that is very personal to her; is about one of her closest friends she knew at the time, who committed suicide- and this song ‘Shine’ was a result of Vanessa processing her own feelings, and writing a song to this person in light of what has been known about them. While the song can be perceived as being joyful and happy because of the underlying music that creates a pop-radio atmosphere, the lyrics however are very contemplative and compelling, and a timely reminder during this time of social distancing and physical isolation, that the mental aspect of health shouldn’t be negated and neglected in such a time as this. ‘Shine’ is a song about mental health through and through, and with suicide rates increasing due to quarantining procedures these last few months, ‘Shine’ the song can hopefully help us all to realise the potential inside of us, holding onto the hope that whatever we have that we can bring to the world, we can still do and undertake from our own homes, just maybe a little differently than what we have been used to.

‘Pray For Love’, quite possibly the most spiritual song Vanessa has embarked upon for The Power, is a dance song that fits well playing in the background in a club, while the message cannot be more fitting for right now in 2020- a song about praying for love in the most difficult of circumstances, this is a track from Vanessa to remind us all, that sometimes in certain situations, the only thing you can do is pray for love- God’s love to come and wash us all with a sense of forgiveness and unconditional care for our fellow man. ‘Everytime I Close My Eyes’ is a song of lament and if-only’s (and is also a standout ballad on The Power), sung by the persona at the end of a relationship, and commenting on the fact that they see their significant other (or rather, ex), everytime they close their eyes, while ‘I Wanna Be Your Everything’, a song that has the 1990s/2000s music stamp on the track, is one that speaks of a persona who wants to be on the mind of their ‘crush’ or ‘lover’- or whoever their significant other is. As this song relays, they want to be ‘their everything’- implying a sense of desperation in these words. While the song itself fails to recognise that such a song as this seems to be more stalker-ish than endearing, the song nevertheless gives us something to think about- is there a person in our own lives that we want to declare the words ‘I wanna be your everything’ to? And if not, why not? While the song itself isn’t the catchiest (or the most memorable) when looking at Vanessa’s discography as a whole, ‘I Wanna Be Your Everything’ still provides us with a guidance of how to handle relationships- both platonic and romantic, and that is something we all need advice on, no matter how old we are, and no matter the time period we’re in.

Vanessa’s second album Turn to Me was unveiled to us all in 2001 (a short turnaround from The Power), and while the album as a whole wasn’t as successful as her first (1 single from the second album- ‘Turn To Me’, as opposed to the 5 from The Power), Turn To Me, in my opinion, shows a lot of maturity, heart, passion and poignancy- as much as the first album, and maybe even more. With only one double-up (‘Everytime I Close My Eyes’)- a song on both Turn To Me and The Power; Vanessa continues to give to us joyous rousing anthemic melodies, while also heartfelt reflective songs of introspection as well. ‘Turn to Me’, the title track, is a dance number that is perfect for clubs or in the background at a party- the song itself is a sobering one- realising emotional and mental manipulation when you see it in a relationship…often that takes guts, determination and courage, because when you’re in such a vulnerable and intimate circumstance, you can get clouded with infatuation and ‘love’ when you can’t see the emotional abuse that is going on- ‘Turn To Me’ can hopefully give people the courage to speak up when you realise that people aren’t as considerate of your and your feelings as you believe they are. ‘Rise Up’, track #2 that follows, alludes to the Bible verse of Isaiah 40:31, of how those who wait on the Lord will rise up on eagles wings, renewed, rejuvenated and refreshed, and though the song doesn’t mention Jesus specifically, it does still mention that we have to rise up and fly like eagles, become majestic in our approach and view at situations that if we didn’t look at things from an aerial viewpoint, we’d assume something about our lives when it really should be something else. ‘Rise Up’ is a motivation song, and an encouragement that in order to rise up and to not be weighed down by our baggage, we need to give our cares and worries away, letting go of our if only’s and seeing life from a perspective like God’s, giving a clearer picture into what can be seen at a certain moment. ‘Take Me As I Am’ is an anthemic song about self-worth and identity, and knowing yourself in a way where you declare to people ‘take me as I am’, not in an egotistical way, but rather, in a way that says ‘I know who I am as a person, people are either going to want to try and change me for the sake of it, or there are people that are going to love me as I am, just because’. It is when we find people that know us in all our flaws and are willing to love us regardless, that is when true friendship (and spouses) are found.

Vanessa also brings to the fore lesser-known songs ‘Tent By the Sea’ and ‘By My Side’- the former a song that presents the unlikely truth, that wherever a loved one is, that is where the persona will be and will be content in being- even if it is in a tent by the sea, and the latter a prayerful declaration to a loved one in need of unconditional love and support; while a song like ‘Heroes Live Forever’, the album ender to this ‘forgotten’ album, presents a track that is written and sung in response to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and as a form of respect, this song was I’m sure created as a form of honouring these athletes that represented our nation strong and with pride that comes from representing a land we all call home. Though overall Turn To Me isn’t as memorable as any other album offering from Vanessa, even now (her popular albums are the ones like The PowerSomewhere in the Real World and more recently her 2019 album Back to Love), for me it’s one of Vanessa’s most inspirational and impactful, as this album is a reminder that songs of the 1990s/2000s period aren’t as cheesy or irrelevant as a lot of people (younger than myself) believe about the 1990s/2000s era. Turn to Me is a great influential album from Vanessa- underrated, definitely; and a moment of understanding that you don’t need radio singles to create an album of encouragement that really stands out amongst the rest!

The 2000s was actually a pretty good decade in Australian music. Australian Idol was in full form, and artists like Guy Sebastian, Shannon Noll, Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Delta Goodrem, Tina Arena, Casey Donovan, Anthony Callea, Damien Leith, Natalie Imbruglia, Jessica Mauboy, Ricki Lee Coulter and Stan Walker, have all been prominent, relevant, and relatable throughout the 2000s. And yet you have the artist in Vanessa Amorosi, who made a big bang with her album The Power, and then her subsequent just-as-good-but-underrated Turn To Me. But after these first two albums, she took a break a bit- and came back in the later 2000s (2008 for Somewhere in the Real World and 2009 for Hazardous) with comeback albums. Though by then unfortunately, she wasn’t the household name as Vanessa was back in the early 2000s. Delta was experiencing success with her chart-topping debut album Innocent Eyes, while Casey Donovan became the youngest winner of Australian Idol in 2004 (and as of today, is still the youngest winner of the show), and Guy’s popular songs ‘Angels Brought Me Here’, ‘Kryptonite’, ‘Taller, Stronger Better’, ‘Elevator Love’ and ‘Cover on My Heart’ were all circulating radio throughout the decade as well. Anthony Callea’s rendition of ‘The Prayer’ was also hitting all the high notes, while Natalie Bassingthwaighte moved from being the front-woman of The Rogue Traders to being a solo artist, unveiling 1000 Stars with the standout songs ‘Someday Soon’ and ‘1000 Stars’. In all of this popularity of Australian artists during the decade of the 2000s (a much loved decade, and one that showed the world what Aussie music could accomplish and bring to the landscape of music), Vanessa made her comeback, and these two albums in 2008 and 2009 was what eventuated. 2007’s ‘Kiss Your Mama’, is one of the rockiest songs Vanessa has recorded, and declares from the outset, this notion of respecting your parents- and mama in particular (in the song it says ‘kiss’ your mama), that it is out of a love and respect for parents, that a love a respect for spouses/fiances/boy/girlfriends can blossom; while ‘Hazardous’, the title track of the 2009 album, features a persona who knows that the situation they are currently in is destructive for them, but nevertheless they want to be in such a daunting and compelling situation anyway- they love the exhilarating and dangerous feeling it can bring.

‘Somewhere In the Real World’, the title track from Vanessa’s third album, is quite possibly the most broadly-applicable song to people, as this reflective melody, full of piano and a jazz undertone, reminds us all of reality in the many of life’s circumstances expressed in each stanza of the song; while songs like ‘Who Am I’ (a song that maps out feelings that happen post-relationship as the persona asks the question ‘who am I’ without the person in their lives), ‘Perfect’ (a love song giving compliments to the appearance of the other, wanting them to stay as they are because they’re ‘perfect’), ‘Send Me the Manual’ (a song about help in life and wanting someone to ‘send the manual’ of life’s instructions so that life’s shocks and curveballs aren’t as hard-hitting) and ‘The Simple Things (Something Emotional)’ (a challenging song that speaks of focusing time and efforts on things that matter and reminding ourselves that our happiness comes from within rather than outside sources!), are all standout songs from Somewhere in the Real WorldHazardous on the other hand, isn’t as compelling for me, and aside from the title track, as well as songs like ‘This is Who I Am’ (a song about non-conformity and not caring about living up to expectations set for you by people around you) and ‘Holiday’ (a song about escapism and travelling on a holiday to have a break from the mundaneness of life); the rest of the album didn’t feel as enjoyable as her previous efforts. And even though through all of this cherry-picking and analysing that I have just done; Vanessa’s place here in music and society is still needed- as her powerhouse vocal is perhaps second to none here in Australia (I guess maybe only Delta Goodrem exceeded Vanessa in vocal talent and ability, but on the whole, I’d say those two Aussie female artists are neck and neck, and miles above the rest). Vanessa’s ability to deliver music that resonates and impacts people from all walks of life is something that ought to be commended, and though she’s been in the industry for quite some time, she’s still making music and still in a place where she believes her craft can still reach people to this day. After Hazardous, and a few attempts- failed of course, to create her next album (that resulted in singles ‘Gossip’ and ‘Amazing’), she decided to take a break once more from music- and from 2011 till 2019 (when Back to Love was released), her absence from the Australian music industry was felt by her fans, but virtually unnoticed by anyone else. And with her re-emergence into the music industry with back-to-back albums Back to Love and The Blacklisted Collection in 2019 and 2020 respectively, Vanessa’s on a mission to keep creating music that has heart and hope. A rebirth of sorts again, Vanessa continues to wow us with her vocal prowess- Back to Love showcases a lot of her vocal chops, that this 2019 album is by far one of her most technically sound projects she’s ever been on since her debut The Power!

‘…around 2011, after I’d finished touring, I went to start writing a record and I just wasn’t inspired I just kinda had nothing to write about. I ended up landing an opportunity to go to the States and work on different types of music over there so I took that. It just took me a long time for the fire to be re-lit and to live a little. So, just recently the last say two years I started writing pop-rock music that I was really excited about and I thought that was the next stage of my career and it was time to go home. It’s crazy how you can’t, you can’t make art a business if that makes sense. like because it’s so unpredictable. Sometimes, you know, you’ll be writing incredible music for two to three years then you have a year where you’re just not writing anything that’s sparking any interest for awhile. I think it does take time to, step out of your comfort zone and go and experience music in different ways, and learn how to crawl to walk again; before that magic is back. That’s what I found with myself…it’s a bizarre thing. Everyone is like, why can’t you just turn out new songs, and, unless you want the exact same song over and over and over again, which is something I don’t want to do. Yeah, it’s just worth taking the time out and experiencing life again, and having something to talk about as a songwriter…[and] I think when you start having normality in your life and routine, because I think that’s really what my husband and my kid have given me they’ve given me reality and what life is really about. It definitely brings, the rest of my stories upfront, it makes me think shit, that was really dysfunctional, some of the stuff that was going on in my life wasn’t correct, wasn’t the way things are. Then your focus changes, so it does make you write different types of songs because now you see life in a different way…

‘…it’s extremely positive for me [my first album], I love those songs. Every time I play them it brings me back to childhood and certain experiences, and the journey I went on with those tracks. I’m super, super proud of them. Obviously over the years I’ve been evolving, because I had ‘Perfect’, I had ‘This Is Who I Am’, and now I’m at that next chapter of my life where it’s just pushing a little bit harder. And this time around, I’m not really rewriting lyrics to play safe, and vocally, I’m just singing how I would want to sing the song, versus coming back and going, ‘It’s a little aggressive,’ ‘It’s a little high.’ Normally you like to stick between a certain range — a certain range just seems to be the protocol. But not with this record. I’ve definitely removed the chains…I’ve evolved a lot, and I’ve worked with incredible people that have really shown me different ways to interpret art, and have given me the confidence to take some risks…’

‘…getting a life was a random thing, because I didn’t think I didn’t have one. But I think love does that — when you fall in love with somebody, you go on this crazy adventure that you can’t control, and it takes you away from music, just a little a bit, and obviously finding my husband, it did that for me, and it really did open my eyes to a total different world. He is not from the music industry, and he is all about fitness and health and positive mindset. I’m from the rock’n’roll industry where we’re up all night, and we eat really bad food and drink coffee 20 times a day. So he really showed me another side of the world that I’d never experienced, and I found a lot of joy in that. And then I also have a little boy who’s now three, and that’s now another side of the world that I’m experiencing that I have no idea about…since my childhood days, I always believed I could walk away [from music] at any point, and that it didn’t rule me. But what I have learnt is that it rules me. It’s the thing that makes me healthy. It’s healthy and it’s unhealthy — it’s like my meditation, it’s like my diary entry, it’s like therapy. So when I leave it for long amounts of time I feel very unstable without it, but also in saying that, being in the music industry, it’s a very unstable industry. So it’s a very hard thing to explain. I’d like to think I could never do music again, but I don’t know, bad habits, die… whatever they say that saying is. ‘Old habits die hard?’ I was going to say ‘young’, but how can they die young?…’

Back to Love is actually one of the first albums I’ve heard from Vanessa in virtually full- I did hear ‘Absolutely Everybody’, ‘The Simple Things’, ‘This is Who I Am’, and all of her earlier hits at various points throughout my own life, but to hear an album in full, my first from Vanessa would be this 2019 one. And as I heard song after song after song, I was continued to become convinced that this artist was a powerhouse of a singer; and was unfortunately not given the number of accolades as she really did. Mind you, the two breaks in music (from 2001 to 2008 and from 2009 till 2019) didn’t really help her cause in terms of her own popularity, either; regardless of her own breaks from the industry as a whole, this new album from Vanessa is one of celebration and vulnerability, of hope and confrontation, of taking back identity and choosing to love in ways that people haven’t experienced before. ‘Hello Me’ is a song about self-empowerment and loving yourself in a way that you take care of your own needs- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, and get them right about yourself, before you can take care of others in a way that you look after them in the way that you look after yourself. For as the song says, often you need to make difficult decisions, and choose yourself over the other person, and be reminded that if you are not in a place where you know you are loved unconditionally, and know your identity, then you can’t be in a place where you can impart that to other people, that  which you may not necessarily feel as if it’s true for your life as well. ‘Hello Me’ is an encouragement for us to look inward and get ourselves right; before we do a righteous thing and help another person with similar instances and pain that we may carry too. ‘Heavy Lies the Head’ is a declaratory anthemic statement that Vanessa herself has been reminding herself of, as this song is presented as a karma-type track. People who aren’t as respectful and forthright in life, people who are sadists, unsavoury characters and the like, will give an account of what they’ve done- and either in this life or the next, justice will indeed be served. This song is a reminder that all that is made right with the world will happen, and that no matter how long it takes, we ought to stand firm that justice will come and make its stamp for the other person. ‘Gimme Your Love’ is a joyous track about new-found love (or the rejuvenation of an old one) and the expression of that through song, while ‘The Truth Will Set You Free’ comes from a place of revealing the real intentions of people that draw other people into bad relationships. ‘Back to Love’, a dance-EDM song, has a heartfelt message of people moving towards the true motivation of love as being the primary reason of why we undertake things, rather than just doing things out of hurt, disappointment or even envy, while songs like ‘Lessons of Love’, ‘Personal’ and ‘BTW’, all present to us themes awkward enough to be unsaid if not for these songs (or some others) that delve deep into what has been expressed in these tracks- ‘Lessons of Love’, the song she sung in order to get her nominated to represent Australia at the 2020 Eurovision Contest, speaks of how every circumstance we find ourselves in, good or bad, are just lessons of love that we learn about ourselves and others, while ‘Personal’ presents a persona who is upset that some personal info was released to the public on a whim, and then was given the excuse ‘it’s not personal’. ‘BTW’ presents a relationship that hasn’t really moved on from the ‘breakup’ stage, as see in the lyrics the phrase ‘btw I’m missing you’. This is a bittersweet song, and one that may have flown under the radar and not be heard by myself, if it wasn’t for actively listening to the album in its entirety for this blog post.

The Blacklisted Collection is an odd release from Vanessa, but at the same time, something that is as inspired as the rest of her albums in the past. Released during the height of the global pandemic and quarantine around the world, since everyone’s lockdown orders around the world, Vanessa and her family went to her place in L.A. on a farm, to bunker down for the foreseeable future. There, she decided to dust off her songs that she wrote and ‘recorded’ over the years, that somehow never made it onto the final cuts of each album, for one reason or another. Coupled with a few newly recorded songs (including songs written especially during this period and because of this period), Vanessa’s new collection of songs has a powerful rock/gospel/indie feel, sort of like an Avril Lavigne meets CeCe Winans, if you can picture it. Vanessa’s vocals are still on point- as powerful and prolific as ever, and a lot of the subject material here on this album is as intense as before- maybe even more so. As Vanessa relays herself, ‘…it’s interesting why they might not have been included. Didn’t the sound work? Were the lyrics too intense? Didn’t it make sense for them to be included on a pop record? [It’s] so liberating for me because I’d been wanting to get these songs out for such a long time. Because I knew they’d be appreciated by other people if given the chance to hear them. So when you’re in isolation, you have the time to create and plan…’ The album as a whole is unlike anything Vanessa has recorded in the past- less poppy, more herself, I reckon; and that is a very, very good thing. A lot of her songs show a sense of maturity and refinement throughout the years of her being in the music business, and even though she’s had two times away in extended breaks, hopefully this 2019/2020 comeback of hers is the only one, as maybe, this quarantining period continues to give her a new lease on writing, recording and releasing albums in the future. ‘Winning’ speaks of this notion of what it really means to win in life, and what really counts as success, not just in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of yourself and what you deem to be important in this life; while ‘The First Step is Letting Go’ speaks of how in moments in life, we have to let go of the past- traumas, things that hold us down and back, even relationships that are actually toxic in the life you lead. Where you want to go in life is only a place where you can go, and most times, 9 out of 10, you’d have the unconditional support and love of your family and good friends. But that’s not always the case for some people, and this song is a reminder of how painful certain decisions have to be in these people’s cases, so that their dreams and potential can be realised. ‘The Last Goodbye’ is an emotional rollercoaster of a song, as Vanessa declares to a past relationship that it is indeed over hence the title of the song, and while the track itself is speaking on face level, about a romantic relationship, the song nevertheless can be translated to any relationship, that is indeed breaking down more than you envisage it to.

‘Make Love Not War’ is a realisation that a tit-for-tat mentality is only going to get you so far in life, and that a change in mentality of this notion of revenge v forgiveness, needs to be had in a lot of people, in order for hope and healing to take place; while songs like ‘The Light’ and ‘Sweet Mirage’ evoke a more gospel feeling and element on this album, one that Vanessa herself hasn’t branched out in, throughout her whole career…until now of course. With the background of Vanessa being that she grew up in the Catholic faith because of her parents; it’s unknown what her religious affiliation is right now. Nevertheless, these two songs here on The Blacklisted Collection are very poignant and soulful…perhaps these two songs as they are, is why these songs are included on The Blacklisted Collection? ‘The Light’ is a yearning and longing from Vanessa, for a light bigger and greater that herself to be shed onto her life- a prayer of sorts. And for me it is the bridge that is the most heartfelt and poignant, and what continues my assertion that God can use any song, even a song by Vanessa, to bring people close to Himself and to challenge the very notion of what a gospel/CCM/worship song really is- ‘…as I walk through the valley of shadow and death, I will fear no evil for you are with me, Your love, your strength comforts me…’ ‘Sweet Mirage’ also has a gospel music feel to it, and yet its subject matter speaks of something heavy- this issue and notion of trying so hard to get to something real and tangible, only to feel like it has been a mirage the whole time- closing in on something, but watching it disappear with a realisation that what you have been chasing was actually lies wrapped up like truth. A song that reminds us all to always check what we are actually following and longing for (because it can actually be a mirage when we don’t know it!), both ‘Sweet Mirage’ and ‘The Light’ showcase Vanessa’s gospel music training of young, and remind us all that it is often the ‘controversial songs’, the ‘blacklisted’ ones, that impact and challenge us the most- this is certainly the case on The Blacklisted Collection, arguably one of the standout albums from Vanessa, alongside the ‘forgotten’ 2001 album Turn to Me.

Vanessa’s career has been in 3 distinct stages- 2000 – 2002, 2008 – 2010, and 2019 onward. Though very on-and-off, her presence amongst the music industry and her musical relevance even now, need not be denied, and with a lot of songs from The Power having staying power, 20 years later; Vanessa’s place in an industry that’s still seemingly throwing artists by the wayside as quickly as they are picking them up, is something that ought to be commended and respected. Vanessa’s vocal range indeed is out of this world, and while she doesn’t have as much extra-‘curricular’ things outside of music that she has been contributing to over the years, her voice, musical range, and genres she’s been able to step into over the years, makes up more than enough for the lack in things other than music. Vanessa’s heart and drive to create authentic material is what actually led to the two very big hiatuses from music, as we see an artist lead by the example of only releasing music that feels something to someone, rather than to just be like any ol’ artist unveiling songs, left right and centre, and the songs not meaning as much in the moment, because of the quick turnarounds. Vanessa’s songs have stood the test of time, and even though she still isn’t a household name outside of Australia (she’s living in L.A., but I’m still not sure if America has heard of her music yet!), it doesn’t really matter. Vanessa is one of those people that can be deemed as ‘controversial’ and ‘questionable’ in terms of my own inclusion here in this top 100 influential artists list, and that’s ok. What I will say is this- that songs like ‘Perfect’, ‘Something Emotional’, ‘Absolutely Everybody’, ‘Amazing’, and ‘This is Who I Am’ (to name a few) have a lot of staying power and stickability over the years, which is a lot more than I can say about songs from other Australian icons, like Jessica Mauboy or even Shannon Noll. Nevertheless, Vanessa’s ability to move between the genres of pop, rock, indie, and even gospel, is something remarkable…who knows, maybe a full-blown worship album in the future? You never know these days, and maybe, just maybe, in a few years, Vanessa can surprise us all. Here’s just hoping and praying that the next time new material is released, it’s not after a lengthy hiatus as well!

Does Vanessa Amorosi and her music make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘Absolutely Everybody’, ‘Perfect’ or ‘This is Who I Am’, that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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