Momentous Mondays: Influential artists of the next 5-10 years – Week 4: Alessia Cara

If you were to travel anywhere in the world, either to live or just to travel for a holiday, and the place in question wasn’t in the country you grew up in, or lived in most of your life; where would it be? Would it be somewhere like Africa where you could help the orphans and the poor by giving out food and basic needs? Or would it be in the U.S.A, simply because of the theme parks and the famous people you could meet everyday? I know I haven’t been the most well-versed traveller over the years- my current job as a café owner prevents extended travel plans- however recently I’ve been intrigued by the concept of travelling to Canada for a holiday. Probably not before the U.S. though, but sometime in my lifetime. Of course the main reason why anyone would want to go to Canada is to see Niagara Falls (and for other places which I don’t remember off by heart, you can check out a list of places to visit in Canada here!), while I personally would want to check out quite a lot of the places where they filmed TV shows in Vancouver. But first and foremost, one of the main reasons why Canada appeals to me is that I am certain about the sincerity and genuineness of many people there. Considering many music artists, celebrities and actors alike such as Celine Dion, Michael J. Fox, Downhere, Dan Aykroyd, Donald Sutherland, Hawk Nelson, Ryan Reynolds, Justin Bieber, Rachel McAdams, Seth Rogen, Manic Drive, Avril Lavigne, Keifer Sutherland, Keanu Reeves, The City Harmonic, Michael Buble, Shania Twain, Shawn Mendes, Thousand Foot Krutch and Dwayne Johnson are all from Canada- either born and raised or now considered a citizen of Canada; it makes sense to make that extrapolation that all Canadians are just overall nice people.

Well…just over the past few weeks’ though, another reason presented itself as to why I should make time in my life to travel to Canada. Singer/songwriter and upcoming ‘influential artist’ Alessia Cara hails from Canada (which is ‘confirmation’ that all Canadians are happy and cheerful!). And after listening to her debut project Know-It-All and her sophomore project The Pains Of Growing, I am sure all Canadians would be proud of what she has achieved, and proud to be a Canadian. I mean, if I wasn’t proud to be an Australian (of which I am indeed proud to be an Aussie!), I’d change allegiances to Canada just to say that Alessia Cara was a homegrown talent. Is this how influential Alessia is even now, and is poised to be in the coming weeks and months and years? No doubt, Alessia is a star whom we all need to take notice of, and ensure she stays grounded in her own values and morals in the coming years, as opposed to the music industry swallowing her up and sucking away her independence; but if you aren’t as convinced as I am by her sudden rise to fame, popularity and hopefully future influence; then read on as I delve into probably one of the most vulnerable, emotional and honest artists of this generation.

From what I have read and seen online, in the form of video interviews and written interviews, it seems to be that Alessia, while on the surface portrays herself to be socially awkward and introverted, is quite articulate in her vocabulary and also having a strong sense of self and identity. At still such a young age of having just turned 23 last month; I personally reckon it’s very remarkable and commendable for Alessia to have achieved so much already in terms of her music- and it goes to show you that with determination you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Sure, others can say that your dreams won’t come to pass, but I guess if you want it bad enough, are willing to put in the hard work, and are willing to work on your flaws until they become your strengths… then sky’s the limit! In whatever field, not just music. So for Alessia, I guess you could say that her being thrust into the spotlight and onto the world stage while still a teenager, played a factor in her overly bubbly expressive nature- because she needed to be as the world was watching; while her interviews bring forth the open, real and candid nature that Alessia has decided that the world was going to see.

Back in the day of no social media in the 80’s and 90’s, bands and solo artists could probably separate their art from their music and have their fans not know and be ignorant of what is going on behind the scenes. Back then, you could sing a song about happiness and love and contentment, and behind closed doors be as depressed as anything, and people would be none the wiser. You’d be able to pull it off (would you want to though?) but within the past few years, with Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media platforms all at our grasp with the click of a button; you could choose to be a jerk offline, but it’d be career suicide for celebrities, whereby the public is watching your every move, and like it or not- judging you. I’d like to hope that Alessia’s openness and her authenticity in keeping her private life and public life pretty much similar and open for all of us, is a result of her wanting to structure her social media and her videos like that; and not that the label was instructing her how to act against her wishes. Either way, it’s refreshing to see an artist act like they love what they do, and that they’re the same on camera and off screen. It’s also very encouraging and reinvigorating to hear artists break into the pop industry…and then sing pop in terms of music genre, but about deeper material lyrically. Is this move good for business and for the career financially in terms of the ease one could receive awards and other accolades? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is for certain- that Alessia Cara’s music breaks the mould as to what pop music should sound like. She has recorded hit after hit after hit, all the while staying humble and true to her own morals and values. It’s a commendable effort to not be consumed by whatever promises the music industry brings- and for that Alessia needs to be congratulated many times over.

I like privacy but music is the only way I can express myself. I think I was meant to do music but I don’t know if I could handle fame on a grand level. I look at Instagram and social media and I see the images being thrown at people, and the expectations. We feed into it, a lot of celebrities and a lot of people that we’ve made famous, I just don’t agree with the things they place importance on. It’s unfortunate that young kids have to look up to that. What happened to being smart? Why is it so much about how we look and being fake and this weird world that doesn’t actually exist? Even people displaying it don’t actually live that way.

If I was in Alessia’s shoes, I’d definitely wouldn’t be keen to upload videos at 13 years of age into the aether of the internet, to be critiqued and potentially torn apart by strangers. You’d need a thick skin for that, because of course rejection is part and parcel of the music business; but having tenacity and resolve like that at a young age is…well I don’t really know how to describe it, except that Alessia has more guts that I do. And with Alessia embarking on her music career with synaesthesia and keratosis pilaris (of which this combination of having both is probably quite rare!); this unbelievable fact actually makes every track and every note all the more special. Music-wise Alessia’s tracks are one of a kind. It’s pop, but not really. It’s acoustic, but not really. It’s about deep and meaningful lyrics, but the music sound so pop. There’s a dichotomy (or is it trichotomy?) that keeps us wanting more and more- and while it’s true that pop these days is about nothing music-wise (and probably about nothing lyric-wise too!); Alessia’s music is so unique that I’d call it the ‘thinking man’s pop’. Pop like Sara Bareilles or Ronan Keating, with lyrics akin to Andrew Peterson or Jason Gray. Alessia music isn’t of her generation, but that’s definitely a good thing.

Something that I reckon is interesting about Alessia’s music is that while the debut project Know-It-All in 2015 reached no 9 on Billboard 200 charts (outstanding for a 19-year-old’s debut!), and The Pains Of Growing reached no. 1 on US iTunes pop charts just under 2 hours after release- but overall reached number 71 on billboard charts, which was way less than the first album, enough to call it a relative ‘sophomore slump’; it’s evident that sales numbers don’t reflect the lyrical goodness hidden within each and every track. Using pop as a backdrop in her first album, every track is littered with synth and electronics, but Alessia’s vibrant passion and unbridled fearlessness keeps this album quite fresh. Lyrically though, Alessia doesn’t hold back any punches, singing about how she longs to turn back time to when things were simpler (“Seventeen”), wanting to be away from people during a party and be antisocial (“Here”), and delivering a stirring power anthem about defying rules and living life on our own terms (“Wild Things”)- all of these topics probably near and dear to the hearts of many young people right here and now. “I’m Yours”, “Outlaws” “Overdose”, and “Stars” are all relationship style songs, with Alessia’s commanding and strong vocals keeping these songs interesting and relevant, while “Scars To Your Beautiful”, probably the most successful and relevant song Alessia has ever recorded, having hit number 8 on Billboard hot 100 in 2016; rounds out all of my own personal highlights for me.

The first album was so directed to the audience, I never went too deep into me. Now I’m saying “I” in my songs a lot more and I’m really opening up in a way that I haven’t before. [It’s] kind of scary because people all of a sudden know what’s in your brain and what you think about at night, which is a very naked thing to feel. I think it’s important and it’s necessary for me, and also for anyone else who is going through those things. Because if an artist doesn’t really talk about what they’re really going through and the truth, then people might feel like they’re crazy or they’re alone. Maybe it’s not until I say it that someone can click with me and be like, “There’s someone in the world that is thinking those things, too”. That’s why I do it. That’s why I open up and that’s why I put these songs out, because I could easily just write them and never put them out. Then it would be cathartic for me, but it would be of no use to anyone else.

For an artist who has recorded only 2 full length albums, Alessia sure seems like a veteran, both in her music and her lyrics, which makes me respect her all the more. The Pains Of Growing – musically on the polar opposite side to Know-It-All, is such a ground-breaking album I’ve found, in the respect that Alessia covers quite a lot lyrically, and still manages to keep these topics relatable and manageable in terms of our ability to understand our emotions and how our choices affect our day to day life. With Alessia tackling feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness despite success (“Growing Pains”), the dangers of living life like it’s a computer game (“Nintendo Game”), examining our comfortableness in anything, seeing if that’s a flaw or not (“Comfortable”), the acceptance of healing eventually but knowing that right now it’s ok to feel sad and a myriad of other raw emotions (“Not Today”), and even a heated conversation with God (“7 Days”) asking Him about whether He knows what’s happening here on Earth and why things are the way they are; it’s evident that Alessia dug deep into herself for this album, the result being songs of solid gold. The fact that Alessia wrote all of these songs by herself, as a way to prove to herself that she can do an album by herself and own the creativity and the deadlines; gives The Pains Of Growing all the more power and us all the more reason to check out such a unique and diverse album.

While I don’t really want to turn this into a review of sorts (of which you can read my own here!), The Pains Of Growing is indeed one of my favourite albums of 2018, which is somewhat surprising given that Alessia’s music isn’t of a Christian nature. But given that God can inspire and speak through anything He chooses to, perhaps the fact of Alessia’s strong album isn’t that surprising. Not all Christian artists are the best ever (is this heretical?), and not all mainstream artists sing about the devil (again, probably not blasphemous, but other Christians may see it that way!); and Alessia’s latest album is proof of that. With Alessia also being the first Canadian artist to win best new artist at the Grammys (in 2018) (with plenty of controversy!), while also winning the breakthrough artist of the year in the Juno awards in 2016 (and a host of other awards that can be viewed here!); add to that an EP already planned for September called This Summer, as well as Alessia contributing songs for the movie Moana (“How Far I’ll Go”), and artists Logic (“1-800-273-8255”- one of the most relevant songs ever recorded, speaking about the taboo subject of being suicidal!) and Zedd (“Stay”); what’s not to love about this joyful and happy-go-lucky Canadian? And if This Summer is even as half as lyrically poignant as her previous two albums, then boy is her stardom and influence going to rise!

Opening up for Coldplay in 2016 on the A Head Full Of Dreams Tour must’ve been pretty surreal. I’m not sure what’s going through Alessia’s mind, but it’s probably something along the lines of that Alessia is pinching herself, and can’t believe that her dream is happening and it’s real! Well, you better believe it’s real, Alessia- and good things do happen to good people sometimes. Anyway, on a more serious note, I’m sure Alessia would be a great person to get along with in real life- and from these two albums and the amount of work she’s put in, not to mention the fact that lyrically she’s singing about what we’re all probably feeling; I’m definitely a fan. And with Alessia in my opinion being influential with regards to deep lyrics that probably several artists haven’t even recorded that deep in their longer careers; well if you’re not listening to Alessia’s music by now, one is you’re missing out, and two is well you better hop on the bandwagon straight away! So…bring on the third album, Alessia! Or a world tour (I maybe will buy tickets for such a concert in Sydney, Australia!) Either way, I’ll be waiting with probably a host of other fans and listeners.

All the time [I regret music]. Even now, there are days where I’m like, ‘You guys, the universe picked the wrong person. I don’t know why it’s me. I’m not capable. I’m going to collapse. I’m going to fail’.

Because a part of me is cut out for it and I do think I’m meant for this — obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be here — but there’s this other side of me that’s just like, “I’m just meant to be a songwriter and I’m not meant for all this attention. I don’t know if I can handle it”.

It’s just not in my nature. It’s not my personality to be comfortable in front of a crowd. My first song was about that. ‘Here’ was about being at a party I was uncomfortable at – so this whole kind of career sometimes feels like a giant party that I’m uncomfortable in.

It’s not until I make something I’m proud of or I’m on stage singing and feeling so comfortable and looking out and seeing how many people I’m affecting that I realise that I am meant for this and I don’t know if I would want to do anything else.

If you get down to the core of what music is, it’s to help people and to help other people express themselves. If I think about that, it becomes a lot easier and more worth it.

Does Alessia Cara 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 “Here”, “Growing Pains”, “Wild Things”, “7 Days”, “Trust My Lonely” and “Ready”) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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