Momentous Mondays: Influential artists of the next 5-10 years – Week 35: Julia Michaels

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.  He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.”

Exodus 4: 10-17

Now when the Lord spoke to Moses in Egypt, He said to him, “I am the Lord. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you.”

But Moses said to the Lord, “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.

Exodus 6:28 – 7:7

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate [a robe] for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Genesis 37: 3-11

Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

1 Samuel 17: 1-16, 38-50

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.

2 Kings 22: 1-2

Isn’t it interesting the people God uses, and chooses to be His vessel? The people He uses to make His point, to draw us all closer to Him, to impact, change, influence the world around us. Most of the time we’d think that he’d use the eloquent, the affluent, the highly trained, the confident, the person who has it all together… whatever ‘it’ is! We’d think that God would use those who have their life in order, we’d think that God would use, and maybe would only use, those who are wholly committed to Him and have never wavered once in their life. Some of us would even go so far to even suggest that even because of the very thought that we all could even think such sinful thoughts of murder, lust, profanity, coveting and so on and so forth; that God wouldn’t waste His energy on us as a disciple or as someone to bring positivity and light and love and comfort and inspiration to the world. For sometimes we think that there’s an ‘in’ club, and there’s an ‘out’ club. That’s the way we’ve subtly been taught, however that’s not the way that it should be. And maybe it seems that way because when we’re young, we hear stories about the evangelist or the preacher or the singer or the actor, who found God when they were a very young age, and hence never looked back, always faithfully following in God’s footsteps, no matter where He led. Have we ever heard the story of the person who was down in the dumps and was lost, in more ways than one, for the better part of most of their life, only for God to turn their life around a 180 degree turn, and hence bring about change for the better?

Maybe there’s someone like that, but do people these days really want to hear about good news stories like that? Kids these days are all about the drama- and when people leave the faith (like Marty Sampson, Joshua Harris or Jon Steingard), that’s when news stories go global and these people are championed. All the while we see in the Bible and in true stories today, that God does indeed use the sinner, and does indeed use the broken- to make His name famous and to further His kingdom, and to bring a smile to people’s faces. And sometimes He even uses people who do not profess to be Christians! Why don’t we wrap our head around that for a moment! But before we go any further- think about the Bible for a second. I’ve inserted some passages verbatim from Bible Gateway above- about stories about Joseph, David, Josiah, and Moses. There are certainly more people God has moved through and has worked alongside with since the dawn of time, but these four stick out to me. Moses was a murderer and a stutterer, and if The Prince Of Egypt in 1998 is to be believed, had a close brotherly relationship with Rameses, the Pharaoh who was enslaving the Israelites in Egypt. Joseph was despised by his brothers, and after declaring to them that he had dreams about them, that they were bowing to him; found himself kidnapped by aforementioned 11 brothers, and sold to slavery. But he worked for the Pharaoh and later became his right hand man, with the brothers later on in life reuniting and reconciling with him. Josiah was king when he was 8 years old and never wavered and never faltered, while David was a simple shepherd boy who slayed the giant- prompting him to be presented with the title of king- hence he was in the spotlight more times than you all can ever imagine, and later on he slept with a married woman and had he husband killed… but them he was also the writer of the whole book of Psalms, the most praiseworthy and worshipful verses in the Bible. See there are flawed people doing God’s work, and there are broken people doing His work.

There are people doing God’s work who aren’t the most graceful or presentable nor articulate nor fluent nor persuasive. There are people unknowingly sharing the gospel, while they themselves don’t believe it, or are living a lie. Think about Carl Lentz, Jerry Fallwell Jr, Ravi Zacharias, and others who have stumbled, lost their way, and have dragged others down with them- was God not using their words at one time or another to bring people closer to Him and to lead people closer to the truth of Jesus Christ. That’s not to make light of the situation that we all find ourselves in- how do we reconcile someone’s fall from grace and the horrible crimes committed with the truth of Jesus, and that indeed is for another post, or maybe no post at all- I’ll just defer to the experts! But let me say that God is not limited to who He speaks through. Not in the slightest. If you think He is… well I don’t know what to say. Seriously, I don’t! But back to what I was saying before- all through this blog series we’ve been speaking about influential artists and future influential artists and what constitutes an influential artist and what doesn’t, and all throughout this blog series we’ve been figuring out whether success or influence or burgeoning influence is dependent on sales or awards or accolades or social media likes and followers, or a combination of many factors. Or whether it’s dependent on the lyrics or the subject matter- whether a song resonates with a people group or not. And with me in the middle of blog number 35 out of 50 for my series on ‘up-and-coming’ influential artists; what I have found is that current and future influence is dependent on many, many things.

Social media followers is a factor, if we’re just going by statistics. But the ability of an artist to pierce into a person’s soul, and to tell a story through their songs, to create a narrative based on truth and experience, in order to inform, persuade and encourage to be active in whatever they’re advocating… if an artist is doing that, and not just singing about drugs, money, sex, having a good time, or even not singing about materialistic gain at all; then that is what is great artist, a timeless artist is. When there’s one song that stands the test of time that makes someone think deeply, when there’s one thing that that artist will be remembered for, when there are plenty of awards won and lost- that’s when you know that you’re staring in the face of somebody special. And because we all can glorify God in our own way- whether we know it or not, and we all can point our life to Him by the way that we live; most times it is in our actions that God is evident to the people around us. By this standard, this next artist of Julia Michaels– song writing extraordinaire- deserves a mention, as he material points to God… even if she may not know it!

Performing will get better the more I do it, but right now it terrifies me. I still get really panicky every time I see a stage. I guess the only time when I feel… not confident, but comfortable, is when I’m writing.

I definitely took some coaxing from people [to be in the spotlight]. I needed a lot of convincing. I tend to be pretty introverted and I’m not really great with attention. I’ve never wanted to be famous. That wasn’t the goal. I just want to be creative and feel connected to people who are like me.

I think, for the most part, songwriters are content. They like the fact that they can go home at 7pm and relax and not have to worry about all the other things that come with being an artist… [but] most of the songwriters I know are my age. Some are younger and are doing really well…

…[as a songwriter] I’m like a therapist. I just like to talk to people and figure out what’s going on in their lives. A lot of the time they’ll just talk and I’ll pull things out from what they say…

Songwriters are a rare breed. They put in the hard yards, think about the lyrical rhymes, the different ways in which a theme can be conveyed. Usually they do not receive as much credit as the artists. More often than not, artists aren’t songwriters and vice versa. If you’re Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift though, you’re excelling at both songwriting and singing, and hardly have any co-writes on most, if not all of your songs. But these artists are one in a million or one in a billion, and so for the rest of the population who are trying to make it big- most of them rely on songwriters- people to do the ‘dirty work’. Artists like Newsboys or Michael Buble- I’ve found they hardly write their own songs- much to my surprise; and I’ve also found that songwriters like Ryan Tedder, Jason Ingram, David Garcia, Dianne Warren, and songwriting duo Justin Paul and Benji Pasek (of Greatest Showman fame!)… are all in high demand, to name a few. Being a songwriter is an honour- as the buck stops with you as you try to make the song better than it what was once before. There’s nothing wrong with being just a songwriter. If you take a look at Julia’s career as a songwriter, you can see that she’s written some big hits and with some big artists- Gwen Stefani, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber, Brittany Spears, Little Mix, Hailee Steinfeld, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Fifth Harmony, Maroon 5, Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, Keith Urban, Shawn Mendes, Dua Lipa, Kelsea Ballerini… the list goes on. She even co-wrote Linkin Park’s “Heavy”- the final single before Chester Bennington’s death in July 2017. So just being in the room with these aforementioned artists alone would be an honour for anyone. If you or I were in Julia’s position of writing with and for these living pop stars and soon to be legends and icons… well I’d be ecstatic! Wouldn’t you? Plus, as a songwriter, Julia has had 2 Billboard Hot 100 no. 1 songs (Friends by Justin Bieber, Lose You To Love Me by Selena Gomez)- isn’t that mind-blowing? Don’t you reckon?

But God obviously had bigger and better plans for Julia beyond just songwriting. Julia’s story as a singer was just beginning, and it all started with her track “Issues”. “Issues”, the lead single from Julia’s debut EP Nervous System in 2017, was one track which many artists’ fought for, but was reserved for herself at last minute, as mentioned by Julia that “…I thought, ‘This song is too much my story to give to someone else’, maybe this is a sign. Maybe I want something different…”. And with that a singer was born. With the debut single being a slower-tempo acoustic type track driven by keys, Julia effortlessly and earnestly cries out with vulnerability and honesty- the fact that she has issues and her boyfriend has issues, and asking him to ‘…give ’em all to me and I’ll give mine to you, bask in the glory of all our problems, ’cause we got the kind of love it takes to solve ’em, yeah, I got issues, and one of them is how bad I need ya…’. It’s a weird track lyrically to be certified platinum on many charts and associations (ARIA, BEA, BPI, and others!) and to have peaked at no 11 at Billboard Hot 100, as well as certified triple platinum by RIAA), considering how mellow and overly honest it is for a first single; but there’s something refreshing here about letting people know your faults and your flaws and your issues upfront, and declaring that everything is ok because we’re all in the same boat anyway. And as Julia has mentioned in a previous interview that “…I am a very jealous person. My lows are really f—ing low, and my highs are high. I’m very defensive. If you judge me, I’m going to be like, “Oh, well! You too!” That’s just who I am. I mean I can go on and on. I could fill a dictionary full of problems that I have within my mind. I’m a very non-confrontational person. I tend to be pretty passive aggressive. Which, makes for great lyrical content, I guess, because I don’t say anything to anybody and then there’s a song…”; we are met with a track from a singer/songwriter that wears her heart on her sleeve and has decided to be real and authentic and truthful to the world- as best as she can. “Issues” basically relays to us that we can be honest and we don’t have to be fake and putting up a mask- and can we expect anything less than confronting and healing from this underrated artist? I mean, there’s certainly no party songs from Julia, that’s for sure!

Julia doesn’t have the biggest discography (3 EP’s and a host of stand-alone singles and collaborations!), but what she lacks up for in quantity she more than makes up for it in enthusiasm and brutal honesty- something which is rare in singers these days. The electronic mid tempo ballad “Uh Uh” is Julia’s second single, also from Nervous System, and despite a few explicit words in the track, nonetheless packs a punch; as Julia fervently relays that she is at war with herself- trying to decide whether to make the move before the guy or not, just before the start of a relationship. And though I am single, I understand the tension in wanting to know whether feelings are reciprocated before you dive deep down into something where people can be hurt. Jumping into something new, whether it be a relationship or buying a house or starting a new job- all of these big life deciisons and changes; it’s scary. It’s like the end of one chapter and the start of something new. And hence we can’t rush into something, but at the same time we need to go at a quick pace because….body clock and how time stops for no man, that kind of thing, am I right? “Uh Uh” may be about the start of a possible relationship, but the fact of the matter is that Julia maybe, quite possibly, or most likely subconsciously wrote the song about a broader range of topics- about the scary unknown future that we all face, and how we deal with not knowing what’s ahead and jumping in anyway. Timing is everything, and this track reminds us that sometimes we get it wrong, but that’s ok, because that’s part of life. “Worst In Me”, the final single from Nervous System; delves deep into the tension between loving someone and hating them, as this heartfelt and haunting piano ballad paints a brutal picture of the reality of broken relationships. Whether a relationship is salvageable depends on many factors, and Julia powerfully delivers in my opinion one of the most relevant songs of her career, as we look inwards to take stock of which relationships bring out the worst in us and which bring out the best in us. The synth and keys led 80’s influenced “Just Do It” is equally as heartbreaking, as Julia instructs her romantic partner to break up with her because things just aren’t working (and is a song that is needed sometimes in situations where a relationship does go nowhere and needs a catalyst for change!); while Nervous System ends with the honest and personal “Don’t Wanna Think”, as Julia tearfully and emotionally relays her complicated feelings towards her ex- she doesn’t love him anymore but can’t stop thinking about him. And as such is the case with many of us in life- break ups are a messy part of it. Even if we haven’t had a relationship before (like myself), we can see the effects a broken one can have on those around us. as Julia has created an EP full of break up songs- which has by and large succeeded in the pop space… what does that tell us? that human beings are still longing for connection and closeness and human interaction, and any track or album that delivers that in an authentic way instead of songs about partying in the present… is a plus in my opinion. Even if Julia’s material is super reflective and not upbeat at all- these songs are needed in a society where humans are maybe even more so glued to our phones and social media instead of cherishing the face to face relationships with everyone around us.

When I write for myself it’s usually very personal. It’s more about my perspective versus when I write for, or with, other people, it’s sort of a blending of perspectives. It’s theirs and mine and whomever else is in the room. I think that writing for other people for so long has helped me be in touch with all different walks of emotions, which in turn has made me be able to be in touch with mine. So, if anything, I feel like writing for other people has helped me write for myself more than the reverse.

I see [Inner Monologue 1 and 2] as one whole album. I don’t think there’ll be a part three, but I might put out a couple more songs and really make it an album. I haven’t decided yet. But yeah, originally I was going to do all love songs [on Part One], and then all heartbreak songs [on Part Two], like a where I am versus where I was. Then I got my heart broken again, so I was just like, “F— it,” and I scrambled them all up. Now it is what it is. It’s a mixture of just love and heartbreak and, again, self-image and mental health, and all of the things that I think and feel on a daily basis.

Of course [I’m scared about putting this EP out there]. You’re spilling your emotions to the entire world, and if people don’t like it, then they’re sort of saying they don’t like a part of you. That can be really scary, but I’m really grateful to have fans that are like-minded and feel a lot of the same things in the same way that I feel [them]. I want to be authentically myself and I don’t want to hide anything, you know? If I don’t like who I am, then I don’t like who I am, and I’m going to write about it. If my anxiety is really f—ing bad one day, I’m going to write about it. If I’m in love, I’m going to write about it. I just want everyone to be a part of my life as much as I can.

And I know my music is an acquired taste, not everybody is going to like it. It’s really wordy, and it could sometimes be a bit overwhelming lyrically for people, but this is who I am. I’m overwhelming and I’m crazy and I just want people to listen to it and feel whatever they feel and connect to it however they do. That’s enough for me.

An inner monologue, at face value, can be described, as a conversation that one has with their thoughts or their conscience. Talking to oneself can be therapeutic, or just analysing why you are the way you are and why you do the things you do. It takes courage to dive deep and examine parts of yourself that you never knew existed, and parts of yourself that you have probably buried underneath, afraid for the world to see, but deeming it necessary to reveal to the world who you really are, and how you’ve come to be where you are at this very moment. Analysing yourself is I reckon a messy process, and I commend Julia for breaking down the walls and revealing the inner most parts of herself on Inner Monologue. With Julia releasing 2 EP’s totalling 14 tracks, we are met with a woman unafraid of rocking the boat, and willing to rid the world of assumptions. We are met with a woman who has decided that the world needs to see her inner most parts of herself, and a woman who strives to be authentic as much as she can. And as this is a predominately Christian site, let me be the first to say that there is a heavy amount of intense profanity on this record- for me I try to listen to clean versions as much as possible, but here it was unavoidable. And yet for me these words didn’t completely turn me off Julia’s songs. And these words do not mean that Julia shouldn’t be listened to. No, not at all.

As we hear swearing all the time in Hollywood movies- maybe kids these days are exposed to way more sensitive stuff at a way younger age, more than myself when I was a teenager- when it comes to music, often times we act weird when we hear it in song come out of our heroes ‘ mouths. However with Julia’s songs, there’s kind of like a more vulnerable and honest moment when you hear the swearing… if you know what I mean? Like the kind of atmosphere of ‘whoa, this is real, this is what she feels, if there’s no other way to say this than this taboo word, well, obviously this word was chosen for this effect, which means it’s valid and necessary in that extent and in that instance’. Understand what you mean? I hope you do, because in no way do I condone swearing- yet for Julia’s material, let me just point out that as a mainstream singer and a presumed non-believer (I haven’t read anything to the contrary!), the rules of swearing and not glorifying God, do not apply to her. Now if she was an active believer, that would be a different story. So now that I got all that out there, let me say that Inner Monologue is one of the most confronting albums I’ve heard in recent memory- yet if you feel that me saying that doesn’t make me a Christian… well I’d say you’re looking at a secondary issue and what matters is whether I believe in the core beliefs and tenants of Christianity (Jesus lived, died, rose again three days later and has saved me from hell and has brought me as a son into His kingdom). Other than that, well, I’d say listening or not listening to Inner Monologue is your choice, and your decision- and I will not knock you or judge you either way.

One of the tracks from Inner Monologue which I reckon is a must for I guess all of us to listen to, is the powerful and confronting piano ballad “Anxiety”. A duet with pop singer Selena Gomez, Julia peels back the layer of her feeling of depression and her mental health issues, relaying that ‘…all my friends, they don’t know what it’s like, what it’s like, they don’t understand why I can’t sleep through the night, and I thought that I could take something to fix it…I wish it, I wish it was that simple…’, reminding us that feeding our soul and becoming whole and changing your mindset and taking care of your mind and your mental health… all of that is a lifelong process that we may not even get to. But the point of this song is that everyone we see could have some form of mental health issue. It could be as extreme as John Nash in A Beautiful Mind or like Monk in Monk. Or anything in between. We’re all on the spectrum, in my opinion, and as Julia and Selena effortlessly relay, it’s ok to not feel ok sometimes- and just knowing that your working on your stuff and that everyday you’re becoming a better person than before… well that’s a great takeaway from this song- that we can rely on people to help us get us through the day, and that relationships, romantic or platonic, are key. We need people to survive and to thrive, and Julia demonstrates this in my opinion the crowning achievement of her career thus far.

“What A Time”, the next and only single after “Anxiety” on Inner Monologue 1 features Niall Horan and is an epic power-pop anthem that joyously recounts the best moments in a relationship that has ended (one of the rare ‘happy’ songs from Julia!); while “Apple” speaks about wanting to recapture the best moments of a relationship and wanting to live in a fantasy rather than living in the reality, which may or may not be different, but certainly more challenging and less satisfying (reminding us all that we all long to live in a utopia where nothing bad happens!). “Happy” is a real tear jerker- as Julia cries out with brutal emotion about how she longs to be truly happy, while “Deep”, a track where swearing is really unnecessary here, depicts Julia’s rollercoaster of emotions and highlights her feelings of contentment and satisfaction, that her new lover appreciates her in all the ways her old one didn’t. I actually don’t know why people swear in songs for effect- but this is one of those moments. Anybody have any answers for me? “Hurt Again”, the one and only single from Inner Monologue 2, is an acoustic guitar driven melody, and again dives deep into Julia’s psyche, whereby Julia passionately relays that she’d rather go through the motions of being in an unfulfilled relationship and be hurt again, than being alone. It’s a concept that many of us can relate to, either we’ve been the ones in relationships that do not work, or we’ve seen friends go through that… however it’s a destructive pattern of hurting and never quite healing before the cycle repeats itself- and this track reminds us of the cyclical nature of something we need to stop. Julia has indirectly said that we cannot be in abusive relationships that aren’t sustainable in every aspect… and for this reason of the song being a warning, she should be congratulated for encouraging us to break away from the norm of being in a relationship just because. Maybe it is better to be single for a time? “17”, a rare pop song from Julia, is another highlight, and a companion piece to “Apple”, as Julia longs to relive a moment in her past ‘…where we never get angry or bitter or lonely, can we stay in this dream like we are 17?…’– with the song being a warning for us to not be caught up too much in the moments of happiness gone before. Yes, sentimentality and nostalgia and reminiscing are great, but when it takes over your life and paralyses you and keeps you from living your life to the fullest… well that’s when it’s a problem and when there’s an ugly side. While “Body”, another slower type track (are all Julia’s songs introspective? Quite possibly!), reflects on the nature of self-worth and loving your own body- and is an unorthodox conversation between the many sides of yourself.

It seems as if Julia has more than enough material to record another album- as there a lot of collaborations and stand-alone singles she has recorded. Thematically and musically they’re not all connected in one thread, yet this doesn’t mean that Julia’s offerings aren’t impacting nor powerful- quite the opposite. “Lie Like This”, Julia’s latest single, ins very, very pop by nature, and delves into Julia’s emotions of a lover, relaying that he’s contradictory in some of this things he’s saying, but she can’t resist him when ‘…we lie like this…’, reminding us all that people can be manipulative, and that sometimes it’s best to leave the situation than be wrapped up in it. “Give It To You”, a song that was from Songland and written by a bunch of songwriters and presented to her, is on the flipside a cautiously optimistic track, whereby Julia recounts that she’s willing to devote her love to someone special, relaying that ‘…I lost my heart in a love fight, but if I had it, I would give it to you, would you follow suit if it felt right? ’cause if I had it, I would give it to you, what you’ve been waitin’ for isn’t even mine anymore, ’cause I lost my heart in a love fight…’. Julia also enhances the Justin Bieber pop anthem “Friends” in the Bloodpop remix, while she has also released a couple of songs from the Fifty Shade Freed soundtrack (“Heaven” and “Are You”). “Carry Me” (Kygo), “Coming Home” (Keith Urban), “Cool Anymore” (Jordan Davis), “Keep Talking” (Rita Ora), “Okay” (LANY), “There’s No Way” (Lauv), “Lie To Me” (5 Seconds Of Summer), “If The World Was Ending” (JP Saxe), “I Miss You” (Clean Bandit), “Help Me Out” (Maroon 5), “Jump” (Trippie Redd), “Hurt Somebody” (Noah Kahan), and “Heartless” (Diplo and Morgan Wallen) round out the other collaborations Julia’s been a part of- too many to delve into in great detail- considering this blog is as long enough as it is!

While the acoustic guitar led “If You Need Me”, inspired by the Facebook Watch TV series Sorry For Your Loss with Elizabeth Olsen, recounts how Julia wants to be there for her friend, that ‘…if you need me, I’ll be right there, when you’re dreaming all your nightmares, I’ll come tackle the monsters, I’ll find where they hide in the night-time, if you need me, I’ll be right there, when you’re happy and when you’re scared, I can still be your shoulder, I’ll be by your side even if I’m not next to you…’; yet the song that really caught my attention, long before I heard of Julia, was “In This Place” from the movie Ralph Breaks The Internet. With the movie being based around computer game characters Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship, and her realisation that she wants to be in a game called Slaughter Race; this song is inspired by the Sarah Silverman sung “A Place Called Slaughter Race”. “In this Place” is moving, haunting, and a reminder that we can carve out our own path without people telling us what to do, and that our contentment and satisfaction is what is most important- while keeping into consideration other people’s feelings of course. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie… “In This Place” may not make sense. However I reckon that without knowing anything about the movie- this song will still impact, as Julia speaks about not wanting to be part of the status quo, and longing to be a part of something different and bigger than the world we live in. dare I say that “In The Place” is speaking about living for a spiritual reason, as in fixing our eyes on Heaven? Seriously… this song is definitely giving me some “Dare You To Move” vibes thematically!

Whether a person is influential or not- not just an artist- is kind of dependent on their life away from the spotlight. I think I’ve mentioned this many, many times… but let me say it again. if you’re a good singer or a good songwriter, of which Julia is on both accounts- and your personal life is a mess; who’d want to look up to you? If your private life is in complete contradiction to what you champion in the spotlight, everyone will think you’re a fake and a hypocrite. Thankfully, Julia’s persona away from the spotlight is just as compelling, just as inspirational as her music. Having performed “Carry Me” with Kygo at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Julia has also received many awards and nominations (take a look at them here!), while she has embarked on many tours- the Inner Monologue Tour in 2019 (headlining); and also as the opening act for Shawn Mendes (Illuminate World Tour in 2017), Niall Horan (Flicker World Tour in 2018), Maroon 5 (Red Pill Blues Tour in 2018), PINK (Beautiful Trauma World Tour in 2018), and Keith Urban (Graffiti U World Tour in 2019). Julia has also released a written piece for Glamour about anxiety and dealing with mental issues- and it is what I will leave you with today. For an artist like Julia Michaels, though not that easy to listen to (her pop songs are few and far between!), she is needed in an industry desperate for a makeover and a redo. With many artists singing these days about drugs and sex and rock and roll; Julia delivers her thoughts about something deeper, something much more meaningful. And as Julia reminds us that you don’t have to be a Christian to have something good to say, and to have God using your talents for His purposes and for His glory and to draw people closer into his presence- I’d say that every Christian needs to listen to at least one Julia Michaels song in their lifetime. Doesn’t matter which one (but preferably “Anxiety” or “Issues”), but just let God speak to you. With no assumptions or preconceived ideas. Do you think that God would never speak through Julia like how he seemingly chose the ‘wrong’ person like David, Joseph or Moses? Something to think about as we dive deep into the analysis of who we are as a person and who God is calling us to be.

I started having anxiety for the first time when I was 18. I’d just signed my first publishing deal, and I felt so much pressure to perform that it sent my mind and body down something that felt like a never-ending spiral. I thought I was dying. Most days I couldn’t breathe or leave the fetal position. I would rock back and forth, tapping my feet on the floor because I thought if I stopped, I would pass out. I became afraid of everything. Going out. Eating. Driving. Writing. My life became a string of what-ifs. What if I eat this and I’m allergic to it? What if I’m driving and get in an accident? What happens if I stop moving? I became consumed. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had completely isolated myself—even from the things I loved. This continued heavily for the next few years.

Anxiety feels like an earthquake shaking your entire body and can last for minutes, hours, or sometimes days. It makes you feel like you were just in sunny California and teleported to winter in Chicago. It’s a lot like that friend who says they’re happy for you but secretly roots for you to fail. It’s always waiting to ruin you and make you feel small. It’s like you’re in a prison with yourself, like there are a thousand bricks weighing your body down. What’s really terrifying, though, is when those bricks start to feel comforting.

To people who don’t have it, anxiety can seem so foreign and burdening. I once had a boyfriend who would get mad at me every time I had a panic attack. At first he would try to comfort me, but when I wouldn’t “snap out of it” right away, he would get frustrated. He made me feel even worse than my mind was already making me feel. My dad went through a similar phase with me as well. He would say, “Julia, you’re fine,” to which I would respond, “Please don’t leave.” He didn’t get it until one time we were back in Iowa for the holidays and decided to take a family drive to Illinois. All of a sudden I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I took off my sweater and started screaming. My cousin pulled the car over and opened the minivan doors. It was 40 degrees, and I had stripped myself down to leggings and a bra. My dad had never seen it so severe before. It was the first time he didn’t look at me like I was crazy. That’s what anxiety does: It comes out of nowhere and causes chaos just for fun.

This year I’ve made so much progress with my mental illness. Even seeing videos back from where I started to where I am now, I feel an amazing sense of growth and accomplishment. When you’re stuck in that vicious cycle, it’s easy to think that you may never get out. And when you realize that prison has an escape door, that Chicago winter suddenly starts to feel like summer again.

I believe I stayed a songwriter for so long because of my anxiety. I was scared I wasn’t good enough. Scared I wouldn’t be accepted. I was scared of not hiding anymore. I was scared of reaching a level of potential I had never reached. I was scared of myself. I convinced myself I didn’t want to be a performer. What if it goes horribly wrong? What if it goes right? I tried to weigh out so many pros and cons for something that I can’t control. But once I’ve made up my mind about something, I go all in. So the day I made the decision to become an artist, there was no going back. I wanted this, and it was time to face my fears.

When I see people sing “Issues” with me, it’s the most incredible feeling in the world. When we sing it together, we understand each other. We understand that everyone and everything is flawed, and it’s the thing that connects us the most. When we sing “Issues,” we sing it hundreds of different ways for hundreds of different reasons, but we do it as a whole. We lay all our insecurities out on the table. This is what I’ve always wanted. To be understood, to be heard. To be seen. Just like so many others struggling with mental illness. This year has been a crazy-long journey, and every day I’m learning something new about myself. I’ve always found my power and confidence when I write; now I’m finding it every single day as an artist. I may not know a lot, but I know one thing for sure: This is the most alive and free I’ve ever felt. Pouring out these emotions, facing my fears, and confronting these things I’ve never been able to before is making me stronger every day.

People with anxiety often don’t talk to others because they think they’re are burdening them with their problems. But all it takes is one person to listen. To care. To make you feel like you’re not crazy. I wouldn’t be making these huge strides every day without the incredible people I surround myself with. Without the help of therapy, my friends, my family, my fans, and my colleagues, I wouldn’t be on this journey. And I’m so glad I am.

Does Julia Michaels 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 “Issues”, “Uh Uh”, “Hurt Again”, “Anxiety”, “In This Place” and “If you Need Me”) 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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *