Have you ever stopped to wonder about influence, impact, popularity, determination, poise, grace, just a general sense of identity, self, command, authority, and how you carry yourself? I reckon it all comes down to confidence, and sometimes acting like you’re successful even if you’re not. But more often than not recently, the thought has indeed crossed my mind of ‘when’ is it in life that we become aware of these big important things that we need to talk about, and ‘when’ is it in life that we start acting as if we do have the ability to change the world in whatever way we’re called to do? The other week I wrote about how in this time of global pandemic and how we as humans are stuck at home quarantining, staying safe and healthy- about how we should try to see the good, the glory in the grind; this past week my thoughts drove back to that Louie Giglio sermon- which by the way I reckon is one of the most relevant sermons you could ever watch this year!- and to the point of when is it that we realise that we ourselves can make a difference in this world, no matter how big or small we are, and no matter how little we think of ourselves?
See while we are in quarantine the bulk of us may be drawn to Neltflix, Disney +, Amazon, Apple TV and other streaming services so that we can binge watch our favourite TV shows, and escape into a fabricated reality that fuels our escapism and our dreaming and just generally fuels our inability to connect on a soul level with real life human beings. Sad to say- but that’s what TV is at the moment if I were to describe it bluntly. Yet during quarantine I guess all rules about how we as people should act are thrown out the window- and if you want to binge on a particular show that you haven’t caught up on…well fine- you can definitely act that way. It’s a free country, it’s a free world, and by no means will I stop you from conducting in anything that you have your heart set to- just know that there are indeed consequences to your actions. Still some of us are the outdoors-y type, and can’t stand being cooped up in the house. Maybe we would want to just put on a mask and gloves, and go jogging (keeping our distance of course!), lost in our thoughts as we over-analyse and over-plan our future to the minute detail. And that’s ok too. A hedonistic lifestyle, though normally frowned upon in society, is quite permissible under these extenuating and unprecedented circumstances, yet so is a more proactive, future-looking type of lifestyle, full of planning and organising down to every second of every day.
When the very fabric and foundation of what we build our lives upon (and I do mean human connection and the ability to connect on a soul level with other people face to face) is taken away from us…well people do crazy and out-of-the-ordinary things. I don’t blame them. Some would say that one could act like a crazy person in this time, and I’d agree with you. I totally don’t understand why people would flock to the beach or the shopping centre once restrictions are lifted a bit- with no regard for social distancing- particularly when there’s no readily available human-tested vaccine for COVID-19 at the moment; but in one sense, if I am to believe that these guys are shopping fanatics and beach gurus, then I totally get wanting to go back to ‘normal’, to gain some control of the situation, and to feel like the world hasn’t just been flipped on its head, upended and turned inside out, even though it has. If I were these people I’d do anything in my power to make life as bearable as it can be, and if I’m not a homebody, if I’m an extrovert and craving the touch or presence of another- of course I’d try to be as close to someone as I could. If that means rushing to the beach or the shops just to feel like the world is back to the way that it was- well I’d do that.
But as Louie was saying the other week, there is a reason why we’re in these times- and as much as we want to rush out of the tunnel and back out there into the light, into community, and back to our mundane lives, we need to ask this question. We need to ask our Maker and our Father if the purpose of us being in the pit, of us being in the valley, is fulfilled and recognised. We’re an impatient bunch, us humans, aren’t we? We long for things to be finished, delivered, solutions recognised at the click of our finger- and when things take longer than expected, we seem to lash out. Not because we are angry at the other person who seemingly was in control of the situation- but we are indeed angry that the situation that we’re in is taking longer than our expected. And in effect we’re not even angry or frustrated at the time delay. We’re more concerned about our plan being derailed and not able to be ‘back on track’. I know I am frustrated sometimes, maybe when I planned to post a review one day, and then the internet is down, or I don’t get to it for whatever reason. And I’m sure you are frustrated and angry too- given that you may have plans involving going outside to have dinner or to hang out with your friends or whatever else- and because of COVID-19 they’re derailed, possible for forever. Blame and anger rise up, and while some hate and finger pointing gets put onto the government, some is placed onto God. Yep, the big man in the sky- He shoulders the blame when things go wrong, but hardly receives the praise when things go right. However- and I really believe that you should watch the sermon from Louie from a few weeks ago, as I’m really paraphrasing here and Louie’s a phenomenal speaker!- instead of being angry and confused and asking God why doesn’t He do something to help us get back to normal; maybe we should ask him something like this.
And mind you this is a ‘prayer’ of sorts that Louie himself thought up on the spot, so I’m just paraphrasing here and all credit goes to Louie- ‘God I know that I didn’t choose this situation, but nonetheless I’m in it. I know that for me personally I want to get out of this situation as quickly as possible. God you know that I’ve had enough of these days. I want to get back to as normal as can be in spite of these days. But knowing You God and how your will is for Your glory and my good, I want to know if your will right now is to keep me in ‘these days’ so that ‘these days’ make me into a better person and into Your vessel to do Your will, and to change the world that way’. Sometimes being in the midst of adversity, especially something so intense as a lockdown and an invisible virus, can indeed make us mad and lose sanity. But I’m willing to bet that by the end of this ordeal, we will be stronger people, and God would have instilled a resilience and a tenacity and a determination to rise above such future adversities, than if we had not gone through the worst of the worst and what we thought was avoidable. What if influence, impact, popularity, determination, poise, grace, confidence, just a general sense of identity, self, command, authority, and how you carry yourself; was all forged in adversity and the most challenging of situations like the one we’re in right now? If all we have are the best of times, how can we ever grow into the people that God wants for us to be, and that we want to be in order to change the world? How could we ever be bold, brave, daring, men and women of strength, power and respect- when we’re not willing to walk through the fire and we’re always wanting the easy way out?
Earlier in this blog I posed the question of ‘when’ is it in life that we become aware of these big, reflective and introspective questions- about the important things that we need to talk about, and ‘when’ is it in life that we start acting as if we do have the ability to change the world in whatever way we’re called to do? Maybe it’s right away? Maybe it’s when we’re a toddler and can have coherent thought? Or perhaps it’s when we watch the news, not with disinterest or apathy, but with the strong sense of duty, responsibility, and the awareness that the world needs us. The world needs you. The world needs me. and if one of us were to depart from this earth in a more permanent fashion, the world would feel it, and the world would miss us. I reckon that when the time comes when we can see the news and notice an area we feel so passionate in that is inherently wrong with the world, and wanting so bad to change that area for the better, and wanting to do whatever possible, and maybe even more, to right this social or economic or physical or spiritual injustice; well that’s when I would say that God has given you your calling, which will not rest possibility until the day you die. That’s not saying that you’re bound to do ‘x, y and z’ for the rest of your days- God isn’t limiting you, or controlling you, to only do His bidding and nothing else. You are free, as am I, to have a whole life that is pleasing to the One who created you. However I believe that once we’ve seen what hurts us and what haunts us and what pains us, and once we realise that that area is what we want to fix- if we truly believe that we are made in the image of God, then we can also recognise that what God’s heart breaks for, is what our heart will break for.
Popularity and being hip and having a platform for the sake of it isn’t really using your talents for the greater good in my own opinion. Being on the world stage, or being the centrepoint of a movement, or having people look up to you, following your every move and your every word- well that’s a huge, huge responsibility that I reckon no one should ever take for granted. If we’re ever placed in such a situation, I believe that instead of just living life like no one is watching- and thus drinking or partying or doing stuff just to feel good; we need to act as if we have that responsibility to lead a new generation to do the things that we want to see happen, to emulate us in our own hopes, dreams and plans. Once we realise the enormity of what we’ve grabbed onto, that we’re following a calling of helping this type of people group, or being the hands and feet of Jesus at our local community; we can’t help but be proud when people follow our example- it makes us feel special. Thus if we do want the people we come across to catch our vision and mission and run with it with a passion and fervour equal to or possibly even greater than ours; we first must act like the responsible people God has called us to be. Knowing that the world is watching us can give us great anxiety and a sense of running away from our calling or responsibility. Knowing that in the midst of adversity God could mould us into His agents- can indeed be a scary thing. But also knowing that we’ve heard the call of God and successfully led people into what God wanted to do at the time- well that I reckon will be the feeling that is the most satisfying and freeing feeling we could ever, ever experience.
You can subtly tell that earlier I seemed to be bagging artists and actors and celebrities who don’t seem to have it all together, who use their platform just to make themselves feel good. I’m not in the business of naming people or shaming them, but I’m sure you all have your viewpoint and stance on which artists you believe are using their platform for the greater good, and which artists you believe aren’t. Yet I was reminded from a blog that I wrote a while back about Aussie artist Conrad Sewell- that God can still use the broken and the messed up- and even the people that deliberately defame and blaspheme His name, to draw people closer to Him and to positively effect the world that we live in. We’re all work in progresses, and we all don’t have it all together- and as you read what I’ve written all those months ago that basically relay that our lives can be used by God no matter if they’re messy- well actually especially if they’re messy!- let us remember that you don’t know for sure what happens in a person’s heart. You might think that they’re perfect when they’re not!
I’ve always thought in the past that an artist has to have their life all together, or to be inspiring beyond the stage, for them to be considered as being influential, or becoming influential. I’m not really sure if this thought of mine is valid or not, considering that we ourselves as humans in one way or another do not have our life together as we may think (unless we’re like Jesus, which we’re not!); but let’s quickly take a look at the evidence to support my theory of influence meaning being near-perfect, shall we? If you look at the artists that Jon has written about, and that I have written about in this blog series thus far, I am sure you will find that probably every single artist we’ve posted about thus far; yes have had success when the spotlight is on them, but also have thrived in their personal life and their extra-curricular activities, reminding us all that influence stretches beyond the songs. They’ve supported charities and causes that are worthy and admirable and have also mostly given us food for thought and challenged us immensely with profound and thought-provoking lyrics.
Yet what happens if an artist is in the midst of overcoming adversity yet still releases heartfelt, personal, emotional, honest, and hard-hitting material? What then? If an artist is addicted to drugs or alcohol or pornography or if they are prideful, or a misogynist? Are they still influential despite their personal life? If their life away from the spotlight is still a work in progress, should we as listeners, critics and fans alike still champion them because of hopeful and encouraging song lyrics? Or shall we wait until they’re the finished product in all facets of life; a hope and dream that may never come? Now I’m sure in the future of this blog series, we will talk about artists whom have released inspiring songs with their own private life being a wreck. But let me start off this instalment of Momentous Mondays by saying that I’ve realised over the past week that you do not have to be perfect or even appear to be, in order for you to have great influence in the area God has placed you in. You just need to be authentic and willing to show the world parts of yourself that are ugly, messy, and unlikeable. If people know that ‘hey, this guy is just as much of a screw-up as me, and if he/she can make it, then so can I’, then the world will be a better place, won’t it?
Within this global pandemic, heroes have risen up out of the ashes. Heroes and role models that I hope will keep acting selflessly and for the greater good and out of the goodness of their own heart- long after COVID-19 has been ended or squashed or lessened or whatever is going to happen. Some heroes are your typical nurses and doctors- essential worker types- however as I am right now somewhat of a current music expert (not that I’m the greatest expert or anything like that, but recently I’ve noticed artists come and go!); I’ve noticed one artist who is using her platform at the moment to bring hope and love and positivity into the world. She is reminding us that we’re not alone, and she is reminding us all that the strength and love and community evident all around us in the people around us is more than enough to weather us through any storm and any adversity. Though I am not one hundred percent sure on her beliefs (her mother was a Christian and her father Jewish- and I’m not sure of their beliefs at the moment!); rising singer and actor Hailee Steinfeld has stood head and shoulders above many of her contemporaries during this season. As we try to look amongst the rubble and try to find positives around us, Hailee in my opinion shines like a beacon and a lighthouse, as one of the young people leading the way into a new world post-COVID-19. Well known for her breakout role in True Grit in 2010 with Jeff Bridges, garnering her 14 award wins, as well as her hit roles in Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2; it is Hailee’s music that has really taken off, as she has shown emotion, honesty and vulnerability, being real in this world of darkness, and giving us all hope in the human spirit and hope that we can make anything if we band together.
“…I’m just trying to keep busy, to stay sane, stay creative…I take it for granted, the ability to sit and listen to an album from start to finish. I think that that’s what artists hope for when they put an album out, that you take the time to sit and listen like that. … It’s so special. I don’t know. The last time I think I listened to an album start-to-finish [before quarantine] was, like, on an airplane. And I probably fell asleep.
“…I used to think that I could do it all, and that it was all great and fine and it was like, ‘I can definitely record that and do this and this and this.’ And then I started losing sleep over it. I’m like, I am too young to be this stressed out…these songs [from Half Written Story represent a time in my life where I think, for the first time, I was really just knocked off my feet in a not-so-great way. We hear this all the time: There are people who come into our lives to teach us something, and sometimes there is someone who comes in that just completely derails you from your path
“…It’s one thing to talk about a character I play, and someone else’s writing, versus my own. As far as acting, I’m always going to be protected by the character that I’m playing — that’s like a safety net. And the more and more I talk about my recent music, I don’t feel that, because I don’t have that. It’s very me…”
Stardom at a very young age can sometimes stifle someone- and if you think about artists like Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato- who each were thrusted into the limelight at a very young age, and were each having to deal with their mental health issues as they became older; Hailee’s time in the spotlight across acting and music has been smooth sailing surprisingly, even though she started younger- 13 years old in True Grit. I’m not sure if her parents were supportive or if she had a great team behind her- but whatever it was and is, I firmly believe that God has been and will continue to bless Hailee and will continue to shine His providence over her, regardless if she acknowledges it or not. We all need optimism and positivity in our lives, as well as a great example of someone who has no fear despite all of the insurmountable odds against her; and given the fluctuating emotions that we all face when faced with limited exposure to people right now, surely some dosage of Hailee’s music will bring a smile to your face. I know that I instantly feel lighter and more hopeful after listening to a Hailee Steinfeld song- so what do you all have to lose guys? Hailee’s stardom is only going to rise- so why not jump on the bandwagon?
Having your face in the movies, being the second main actor and winning 14 awards for a movie when you’re barely a teenager- that might send someone running to the hills, giving them a mental breakdown. But it says something solid, firm and unwavering about Hailee’s determination, security and confidence when she didn’t let public opinion and gossip about anything sway her, and she forged ahead. With starring roles in Enders Game, Romeo and Juliet, Begin Again, 3 Days To Kill, Term Life, Barely Lethal, The Keeping Room, Ten Thousand Saints, and Pitch Perfect 2 all before the age of 20- this all could’ve broken her…but it didn’t. Hailee also starred in Pitch Perfect 3 in 2017, as well as in the Transformers prequel Bumblebee in 2018, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse in 2018 also, as well as Dickinson the Apple + TV series, as the titular character in 2019 (and now already renewed for season 2!)- Hailee also executive produced the series as well. So that really is a lot in terms of acting. Seeing as though sometimes kid actors fade into oblivion. Therefore even though right now Hailee is very accomplished at singing (over the year’s she’s released a couple of EP’s and a slew of smash hit feel-good singles!), by recognition the world has seen her, and probably will continue to see her as an actor, simply because she’s had more experience in terms of number of movies; even though she started singing and writing songs at a younger age than when she started acting. Perception is everything, and due to her busy schedule with respect to acting, music has indeed taken a bit of a back seat, and thus the perception amongst fans of the music is that maybe some are thinking ‘oh, she’s that actress girl who can sing a bit!’.
Yet a glance through her discography, albeit very small sample size of songs; shows us a confident young woman walking into situations and totally dominating them musically and lyrics- as we are presented with someone who knows who she is and knows that she doesn’t want to compromise. Usually those who can act and sing in the end fall into one of two camps- the actor who can sing a bit, or the singer who can act a bit. Yet it goes to show you how much Hailee loves both singing and acting, as she has made it clear that it’s her goal and plan to be accomplished and seasoned at both aspects of her working life. That’s really commendable and we all should be proud of Hailee, as we are delivered an ongoing feel-good story that should encourage us to go after our dreams as well, even when we are in this environment. With Hailee featuring as a guest in a non-singing role in both the music videos for “Bad Blood” and “Sing” (from Taylor Swift and Pentatonix respectively!), as well as guesting as a judge on The Voice in season 8, 13; advisor in The Voice season 14, and not to mention hosting the 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards, while also touring as an opening act for Meghan Trainor (Untouchable Tour in 2016), Naill Horan (Flicker World Tour in 2018), Katy Perry (Witness: The Tour in 2018), and Charlie Puth (Voicenotes Tour in 2018); it’s evident that Hailee’s endeavours that somewhat spread her quite thin, but show us that she’s resilient and is up for the challenge, is bound to inspire at least one other person- deeming Hailee’s career important and worth it in my opinion.
But as we have still not spoken about Hailee’s music- let me dive in quickly before you become bored- after all that’s why you’re all here, right? To hear about what Hailee has to say? Debut single “Love Myself” released in 2015, and this EDM dance pop anthem quickly became a hit- reaching platinum, gold or silver in many areas of the world; while I personally found this song to be extremely pop and catchy. With the track being right at home on a dance floor or a club/bar/pub, it is the lyrics that are most controversial here, although I personally reckon that the inspirational meaning and the uplifting meaning is the one that matters most. When dissecting the lyrics, I found them to be incredibly explicit- in a sexual sense- and many comments on YouTube outlined that this song was about female masturbation. Yet a listen to the track without any connotations in my mind revealed a vastly different message that is equally as valid in my opinion- that living life with yourself at the forefront, and just being, without expectations of conforming to what society or other people want you to be; is very freeing and liberating. Essentially an empowerment track (whether it’s directed to females or males is irrelevant), as we remember than we can’t live free if we don’t love ourselves, and we can’t fully love ourselves if we don’t accept ourselves as we are and as God made us”. I’m sure this track wasn’t meant to be analysed so deeply, but in quarantine, your mind wanders to lyrics and tries to make sense of them- and according to Hailee on many separate interviews- “Love Myself” can be viewed on many different levels. And I guess however you see the song one thing is for certain- it is bound to be in rotation on iTunes and Spotify for many of us for a long time yet- and that’s partly in thanks to Hailee’s bubbly and jovial personality shining through the song!
“It is ultimately about taking care of and indulging yourself. Though it’s nice to have someone provide for you – whether that be emotionally, or physically, or with material things – this song really represents the power in providing for yourself.”
There was really no question as to whether [Love Myself] should be anything other than the first single. It has such a bold message and it resonates with me so much because I feel as though I’ve really learned in the last couple of years how important it is to have that kind of self-confidence and self-love and self-empowerment. I’ve always been incredibly moved and inspired by music, so I was excited by the idea of being part of a song that can make people feel something… Honestly, I think most songs are subject to the listeners’ interpretation, and that’s absolutely the case with this song. I think for me the song just has a really strong self-empowerment message, and whether you take that as something physical or not, it basically means the same thing. It’s about being able to provide for yourself and knowing how much power there is in that…”
If you’re not immersed in listening to the pop-mainstream market, then my introduction of Hailee and her song “Love Myself” was probably the first you’ve heard of her. However, that may not be the case, as I am certain that lovers of music, like myself, would have seen the Pitch Perfect trilogy. If you haven’t, then you should, as I firmly believe that these three films are some of the most inspiring and just plain enjoyable music themed movies ever made. And if you have seen Pitch Perfect and its successors, then “Flashlight” from Pitch Perfect 2 would have been on your iTunes/Spotify rotation for a long time. Recorded by Jessie J as a music video, it is Hailee’s version that I’m sure many listeners would have fallen in love with- myself included, as we are met with a powerful song about the importance of friends and relationships. Is the ‘flashlight’ supposed to be a significant other or a platonic friend? Either way, there’s so many feels and emotions embedded in this track, and as Hailee eloquently sings this underrated gem of a song- as well as seamlessly contribute in many songs from Pitch Perfect 3- it’s evident that she was and is having a ball. Singing is in Hailee’s blood, but so is acting- just look at Pitch Perfect 2 and Pitch Perfect 3 when we see the best of both worlds!
I got all I need when I got you and I
Cause I look around me, and see a sweet life
I’m stuck in the dark but you’re my flashlight
You’re gettin’ me, gettin’ me through the night
Kickstart my heart when you’re shinin’ in my eyes
Can’t lie, It’s a sweet life
I’m stuck in the dark but you’re my flashlight
You’re gettin’ me, gettin’ me through the night
You’re my flashlight
Apart from “Love Myself” and “Flashlight”, which are the obvious songs that in my opinion alone are reason enough to declare that Hailee is a current star and will continue to be a future influencer (segueing into being a current influencer!); there are others that have been recorded here and there that have propelled her to stardom and reminded me that a future Hailee Steinfeld debut full length album will be pretty enjoyable to listen to. “You’re Such A”, from her 2015 EP HAIZ, delves into the toxicity and negative implications of a friendship or a relationship, as Hailee passionately calls the person in question out on their faults and their bad habits that seemingly are here to stay; while we as people can relate to this song also, as we try to weed out the negative people in our lives (and trust me, there are some parasites and leeches in everyone’s circle from ‘friends’!), however if these are good friends, then maybe simply calling them out and hoping that they’d wake up while still being a critical friend, is the way to go. “Rock Bottom”, a pulsating electronic keys prominent radio friendly melody, highlights a dysfunctional relationship where Hailee relays that ‘…we’re on the right side of rock bottom, and I hope that we keep falling, we’re on the good side of bad karma, cause we keep on coming back for more, we’re on the right side of rock bottom, and to you, I just keep crawling, you’re the best kind of bad something, cause we keep on coming back for more…’, and while we can’t decipher whether Hailee is edifying this relationship, saying that the persona and their loved one should work it out, or if she is relaying that these people should break up and that the relationship is unhealthy; we are nonetheless presented with a multi-layered song that speaks about working on relationships and sticking ion the good times and bad times, while also being realistic and knowing when you’ve done all that you can do and now it’s time to move on. Sure we don’t want to break up…but according to this song, when it is necessary it’ll be the right thing for everyone. “Hell Nos and Headphones”, also from HAIZ, is another highlight from Hailee, as the track inspired by Alessia Cara’s “Here”, eloquently speaks about not getting caught up in the party scene, and not living life for the moment- it’s an anti-party anthem that reminds us to treat our own bodies with respect and not just party because the other kids are.
One of the biggest songs ever that Hailee has ever recorded is “Starving” with Zedd and Grey. Lyrically, I reckon it’s nothing that special, as Hailee confidently relays to us a typical relationship song that ‘…I didn’t know that I was starvin’ ’til I tasted you…’, however musically this track competes with even the poppiest of songs today. Popularity-wise, this is Hailee’s crowning achievement, as Zedd and Grey are highly respectable remixers; however I wasn’t feeling this song as much as others. Just my opinion though, yet what this track does do though is make us examine our lives to see whether there is anyone in our lives that are important to us in any way, and then to see if they know that or not yet. “Let Me Go”, with Alesso (DJ and record producer), Watt (guitarist and record producer) and Florida Georgia Line (country music duo) is one of the bounciest, poppiest songs out there even now, and is also another head-banger musically, as Hailee sings about letting someone go so that they can find someone else who can love them better; and is one of the most vulnerable and emotional songs she’s ever recorded. Though the track could be interpreted as a break up song, the flipside of viewing this is that it’s a pure love song, but also recognising that you’re not able to provide for them in a way that they want or need, so it’s a selfless track that relays to the other person ‘I’m going to let you go so that you can find someone else better than me, so that you can find happiness. Cause if you’re happy, then I’m happy’. A viewpoint like that is very rare and takes guts to voice to the world- though some would say that this track features someone with low self-esteem; however Hailee has said personally that the song is a love song about being realistic and honest to yourself. It isn’t known whether this song is autobiographical or not, but regardless, it’s still beautifully sung and has meaning- which is a plus!
“More than ever in the last couple months in my life, I’ve experienced what it’s like to try and maintain a relationship while working. You realise that when you love someone so much and you can’t give them the time, and the energy that they deserve, it’s heartbreaking. People have said Let Me Go feels like a break-up song but it really is a love song and it’s about loving that person so much that all you want to do is see them happy and see them with somebody that makes them happy.”
Apart from “Starving” and “Let Me Go”, there are many other collaborations that Hailee has undertaken with several high profile artists, and other lesser known acts- each compelling, powerful, hopeful, inspiring, confronting, comforting and just plain fun. With collaborations including “Stitches” (Shawn Mendes), another version of “Rock Bottom” (DNCE), “Colour” (MNEK), “Ordinary Day” (Logic), “Woke Up Late” (Drax Project), “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (Fifth Harmony, DNCE, Charlie Puth, Rita Ora), “Capital Letters” (BloodPop), “At My Best” (Machine Gun Kelly), “Digital Love” (Digital Farm Animals), “Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home” (Kiera Knightley), and “Dance With Me” (Chic); it seems that Hailee Steinfeld is everywhere at the moment! It’s actually a surprise that she has not recorded a full-length album yet (perhaps that has something to do with her sustained acting opportunities!), however these collaborations remind me that an actual Hailee Steinfeld full-length album would be pretty awesome to listen to.
“Most Girls”, a stand alone single released in 2017, is also proof of Hailee’s super-talented songwriting ability, and an ability to create artistic masterpieces and thought provoking melodies from even the simplest of concepts. With the electro-pop 3 minute tune being Hailee describing the core characteristics and qualities of many different types of girls, then declaring that ‘…I wanna be like most girls…’; we are met with an enthralling and captivating girl-power anthem that celebrates women of every colour, physique and other attributes. Hailee has said time and time again, especially to her writers when composing the song, that sometimes “the way it feels to be compared to the rest of your gender as if its a good thing you’re not like them” makes you feel weird and defensive… and that’s where “Most Girls” was born- an uplifting track that informs us all that it’s not cool to put an entire people group down just to lift up an individual- and the fact that this song isn’t recorded in an angry way is a plus as well, as it’s a track that even I’d listen to over and over even though I’m not in the target demographic.
“Back To Life”, another pop tune, is inspired by Bumblebee, whereby Hailee plays the lead character Charlie, in a film set before the events of 2007’s Transformers. I personally haven’t seen the movie Bumblebee, and according to critics and fans the movie is pretty good, so maybe I’ll give that a watch in the near future; however from what I’ve briefly read about and listened to, the song is about Charlie’s relationship with her father who had passed, and about how his spirit lives on through her relationship with the titular character- the transformer car called Bumblebee. And with the song being another inspiring, hopeful and toe-tapping melody, this song is indeed relevant today in my opinion, as listeners are given the impetus and catalyst to live life to the full- we just might bring someone back to life metaphorically who needs it when we are generous, kind and loving. We might just be the reason that someone is alive in the world today. “Afterlife” is another introspective, reflective, and hopeful melody, as Hailee fervently asks her significant other if they’ll stay faithful to her and will love her until death. Release in conjunction with the TV series Dickinson, Hailee’s inspiration for the track was in fact the show she was starring in, as well as the themes and ideas in many of Emily Dickinson’s literary works, such as death and mortality. And as Hailee has reiterated, “There’s a line in the song that says, ‘Immortality is bliss’ and it’s reminiscent of a lot of Emily’s poems. She lived during a time where women were forbidden from voicing their opinions and restricted in many ways, including how they dressed.” The visuals in the stirring music video of “Afterlife” also signify the meaning of the desperate questioning, as Hailee’s corset is squeezed tighter and tighter by vividly compelling cords emerging from the walls- Haile has since mentioned that this technique was used to show us al “…how Emily in particular felt constricted and stifled…”.
Hailee Steinfeld has definitely taken me by surprise in a very good way. While most fans would know of her extreme talent as an actor in films, I reckon it’s only the die-hard fans (or you readers viewing my blog post!) who would know that acting isn’t her only passion and calling. Music has always been on the forefront of Hailee’s goals and dreams and now it’s time for us to be delivered with Hailee’s second effort Half Written Story– her sophomore EP and her latest collection of 5 tracks, that are impacting, and inspiring in every way. While many current pop artists sing about sex and having a good time, Hailee’s lyrical content is on the whole quite different, as she digs deep into the human condition and the human psyche, singing about topics close to her heart, but relevant to all of us as well. The way that I was introduced to Hailee’s music earlier in the year is a funny story though- and definitely God ordained in my opinion. It was Hailee’s heartfelt and honest new single and new music video “I Love You’s” that indeed circled into my youtube home page one day this year. Perhaps it was because I had been watching music videos in the past of Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato for my blogs, as well as for Little Mix for my upcoming blog at the time! Thus I took a chance, thinking ‘why not?’. The result is probably one of the most hopeful, heartbreaking, confronting, emotional and honest songs I’ve heard all year. Thus I dug deeper through Hailee’s musical discography- I found some gems, and have since been blessed and impressed by everything Hailee has released thus far.
I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. I grew up listening to Britney [Spears,] Mariah Carey, the Eagles, Boyz II Men and the Bangles. Then the acting took off and occupied all my time, but I still work with my same vocal coach to this day. Pitch Perfect 2 popped into my life – a movie in which I could also sing. It couldn’t have been a better time because if I had tried to make music at that level any sooner, I don’t know that I would have been ready. I’ve wanted to get into a consistent rhythm of releasing music as an artist for years, but my acting career takes me out of the game for three to six months at a time. It’s been hard to get writing and recording done at the same time, but we are learning it can be done. It’s tough but I am excited to get into that rhythm. I feel I’m finding my footing as an artist and I’m excited about this project.
I think people now more than ever are getting so creative in the space they are in because it’s really all we’ve got right now. I’m just looking forward to seeing their reactions to the music. I feel like I am paying this forward in the sense that I went through this time in my life that built up a thirst to talk about. And one thing I love is that all my fans will come to me and tell me these records made them feel less alone and hearing them say that and sing these songs and watching them make videos to these songs and do all that makes me feel like if what I went through was good for anything it’s that.
It’s tough for I guess any artist to release an album or even a song in the midst of COVID-19 and us all quarantining in our homes. Yet Hailee’s thoughtful and reflective batch of melodies are produced with professionalism beyond anything we could ever imagine, with these tracks also bringing forth positivity and hope, as we as listeners can’t help but feel joy with every note that Hailee exquisitely belts out, as well as a surety and certainty that together with our friends and family, we can make it in this crazy world called life. “I Love You’s”- the explicit lead single for Half Written Story (there is a clean version recorded as well!)- is Hailee at her best vocally in my own opinion, as she passionately reiterates across vibrant electronics and catchy beats and hooks, that at times she feels like she’s going through the motions in her life at the moment, and highlights that she needs to heal from her wounds and scars in her own time. Needing to take time for herself instead of jumping back into a relationship (because this song is indeed about a breakup!), “I Love You’s” is very applicable for the rest of us who are single, as we remember to set in boundaries so that we can have time for ourselves- and not say ‘yes’ to everyone who thinks they need a piece of us. If we’re stretched too thin, then we can feel like we’re worn or burnt out. Yet as Hailee fervently relays, we need to have the courage to say ‘…no more I love you’s, it’s too easy to say, yeah, no more I love you’s until I’m okay, yeah, I blamed it on the time zones, I blamed it on my eyes closed, I blamed it on the world like it owes me, so stop me before it’s too late…’; and we need to have the courage to let our yes be a yes and our no be a no. and when we’re ready to dive back into the social scene or the relationship scene, when we and the people around us believe that we’re healed enough- it is at that point when it’ll be the right time. And also, it’s ok to notice that we’re blaming us entering into relationships too quickly on so many other things…but once we take ownership and say ‘enough is enough’, then that’s where true living starts.
I like to think of “I Love You’s” as the thesis statement for this project. When I was feeling lost and confused and sad and frustrated and angry—all of the emotions that come with heartbreak—I realized that the only thing that was going to make me feel better was time alone, without the distractions of another relationship. Like for the first time, I realized I needed to focus on myself in order to feel whole again. There were parts of me that were missing. I would look in the mirror and not recognize who I was, and get mad at myself for getting to that point. So I guess finally I just said, “No more I love yous. No more of this s**t until I’m okay.” When I finally heard the song with the sample [from Annie Lennox’s 1995 hit “No More ‘I Love You’s’”], I was floored. It was perfect. I knew it was track one.
note- the track above is explicit, here is the clean version
The rest of the EP carries on from the theme of “I Love You’s” as Hailee delivers plenty of songs about healing in the tough times, and admitting your feelings even if they hurt. “Your Name Hurts” is a heartbreaking and sad song, as Hailee reiterates that the very thought of her ex still hurts her, and she also highlights that though she doesn’t wish any ill on him, at times ‘…I wish I never met you, that your mama never even had you…’, which is indeed cruel, but what Hailee is feeling at the time the song was written. “End This (L.O.V.E.)” is another hard-hitting track, as Hailee ardently lists out all of the things love isn’t, then sings through the eyes of a persona burned by love, and the warped conclusion that ‘love’ is linked with various negative connotations- it’s a clever track that brilliantly uses the melody and basic song structure of Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E”, as we are glimpsed into the exquisite songwriting genius of one of today’s rising music stars. The penultimate track on Half Written Story is “Man Up”, the confrontational yet much needed warning/advice track “Man Up”, as Hailee sings about yet another breakup (or maybe the same one) and tells her ex to grow up in no uncertain terms- telling him that he’s acting childish and that he needs to take responsibility for a lot of things. While the EP closer is the piano led “Wrong Direction” and is the most emotional I’ve ever heard from Hailee. It seems like Hailee is the queen of breakup songs at the moment- “Wrong Direction” is about the disintegration of a relationship yet again, as she this time vividly details about how she and her ex were clearly different and clearly not going to work out- yet she fell in ‘the wrong direction’ anyway- detailing that sometimes the heart makes stupid decisions sometimes based on emotions when sometimes we need to listen to our head and those around us in order to make better ones. Some would say that this person Hailee is singing about is her ex Niall Horan- but Hailee has neither confirmed nor denied this.
Absolutely, music has always played such a huge role in my life in general, in my life as an actor and making music has been a dream of mine since as far as back as I can remember. And what most people don’t know is I started making music around the same time I started acting. But the acting is what happened first and music became more of a side project throughout the years until I found myself in the position to cross over into music in a way that makes sense. I made a movie called Pitch Perfect 2 and it was the perfect segue. It was the first time anybody heard me sing, which was awesome because if they know of me they knew me through my films. And so this is a film they were seeing me sing in and that was the perfect segue. And then not to mention coincidentally Republic had done the soundtrack for Pitch Perfect and then later two and three. So all the pieces just fell into place.
As I’ve said before many times, an artist’s life and influence cannot be truly determined by their life on the stage or behind a camera or behind a vocal booth. It’s what’s inside that counts, as well as their life outside of the spotlight that should be the greatest determining factor as to whether their popularity and influence stands the test of time or not. As for Hailee Steinfeld, she has managed to stay grounded and not jaded all this time, while juggling both her acting career and her music career- although her acting slightly more well known by the public- with great professionalism and aplomb. And if she keeps up the brilliant work that we have seen over the years- well then she is set to have an inspiring career in the coming months and years ahead. Having been home-schooled from 2008 to 2015, Hailee endorses a wide variety of charities, such as What’s Your Mission?, No Kid Hungry, WE Movement, The Ryan Secret Foundation, and Make-A-Wish Foundation. While Hailee’s public appearances include, but aren’t limited to the WE Day California 2019, iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2015 tour, and the Breast Cancer Foundations 2014 Hot Pink Party. Having also steadily accumulated numerous awards and wins for several movies, it’s pretty cool to hear that success hasn’t gone to her head- evidenced by several interviews on youtube. And even though 2013’s Romeo and Juliet was universally panned, and became a box office bomb (although probably not as big a bomb as last year’s Cats, I don’t think that it is Hailee’s fault, as you have to remember that she headlined a movie at 16 years old. With no Jeff Bridges and no Matt Damon to help and guide her. Just think about that and dwell on that for a second. Doesn’t this fact blow your mind?
There’s a verse that I have read in the Bible that has struck out to me of late. It’s 1 Timothy 4:12, and it states “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity”. While I’m not entirely sure that Hailee is setting an example for others with her speech, conduct, love, faith and purity (only she herself can answer that with confidence!), the fact that she never let her age be a detriment to the roles she landed or the songs she sung; reminds me that it is Hailee’s grit and determination and tenacity that we all should strive for. and if there is one thing that you all can takeaway from at the end of reading this blog- it is this. That even if you do not connect with Hailee’s songs, it is imperative and necessary for her presence in the music industry and in the acting industry- and hopefully it’s a sustained presence as well. As she reminds us that doing what you love and loving what you do can spark change and spark a revolution in the hearts and minds of the younger people of today. Sure, Hailee’s music isn’t that original. And sure she may not win many awards. Yet her music is vital as she’s not afraid to bare her soul and sing about what she is feeling. Rejection doesn’t faze her, and that’s a big, big thing. We all might be stuck in our homes throughout however long this quarantine lasts for. but let us not go back to normal at the end of it. Being normal is ok. But it’s not what God has planned. God wants us to be extraordinary, and you can see it in Hailee’s parallel careers equally as promising yet also equally as powerful. If Hailee settled for normal in her life, she’d have one career and not the other. But as it is now, God is guiding her, even if Hailee doesn’t know it, and thus I am going to be supporting Hailee from now on, as she reminds me of how we all should act post-COVID-19. Unafraid, bold, purposeful, honest and not shying away from wanting to make the biggest difference that we can in this world. Yes it’s true that we all can change the world. But yes it’s also true that we all can’t be Hailee Steinfeld’s. So what can we do while we admire Hailee as an uplifting person with a genuine heart? The only thing we can. By helping one person at a time, one day at a time. By loving ourselves as God has first loved us. And by saying ‘no more I love yous until I’m ok’!
I just hope people will remember to be more appreciative. And like I was saying before, just the importance of slowing down and being present and taking time. I just either I hope people continue to be compassionate and respectful towards others. I think that, you know, what we’ve all realized here is that one person can be affected by something, the person right next to them can be as well. One thing can affect someone can affect everyone. And we are all equal in this in this situation, and in any situation or should be any way and I hope that people realize that.
Does Hailee Steinfeld make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of the next 5-10 years’ list? Is there any song (other than “Most Girls”, “Love Myself”, “Flashlight”, “I Love Yous”, and “Wrong Direction”) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far, or even your walk with God? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!