God Bless My Therapist Records
Release Date: April 28th 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Roar [originally by Katy Perry]
- Team (feat. RUNAGROUND) [originally by Lorde]
- Shake It Off (feat. Alyson Stoner) [originally by Taylor Swift]
- Lips are Movin’ [originally by Meghan Trainor]
- Thinking Out Loud [originally by Ed Sheeran]
- See You Again (feat. Sophi Alexis) [originally by Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth]
- I Was Made For Loving You (feat. DAVIE) [originally by Tori Kelly & Ed Sheeran]
- Should’ve Been Us [originally by Tori Kelly]
- We Don’t Talk Anymore (feat. TJ Brown) [originally by Charlie Puth & Selena Gomez]
- Imagine (feat. Gustavo Guerrero) [originally by John Lennon]
- Castle on the Hill [originally by Ed Sheeran]
- Million Reasons [originally by Lady Gaga]
- Too Far (Original Song)
- Showing Up (Original Song)
‘…after ‘Growing Up’ was released, I realized I wanted to be about something-more than just a cute or bubbly girl with good values and a nice voice. I want to be a leader. This past year, learning about the power of vulnerability and authenticity has changed my personal life and relationships, and I decided they would be a priority in shaping my music career. Vulnerability brings people closer together. Once I stopped hiding behind a mask of perfectionism and started showing my followers my true, authentic self-even when it was difficult-the incredible responses from my fans show that one person taking a stand for authenticity leads others into the same brave space…’ Alex G. No not the Alex G who is a rising star within the mainstream music industry who recently changed his name to (Sandy) Alex G. No not that one. But another one. In fact, Alex G. (full name- Alex Gronlund) has quite possibly been one of the most enthusiastic and passionate voices I’ve heard in quite a while (in both the mainstream and CCM industry…ever since artists like Lauren Daigle, Rachel Platten and Moriah Peters). Starting off her career as being someone who would release youtube videos of covers just to get rid of her stage fright, she quickly arose to fame during her later teen years, culminating into a short EP in 2012, that then resulted in a lot of exposure and collaborations with other artists. Since arising to prominence from 2010 onward, her youtube page has received over 200 million views, along with 1.5 million subscribers to her channel (as of May 2016). She has also in excess of 590K followers across her three platforms of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
But then as quickly as Alex arose to stardom during the early 2010s, she began to shift her focus, both in her personal and professional life. You know when you have an epiphany about your life and the way you should live it, knowing that what you do and say, what you release into the world would have consequences, both intended and unintended, for anyone who hears, listens, watches, or reads whatever you release into the big wide world? That’s what Alex realised in 2014, culminating with a revelation that being vulnerable, honest, real and intentional about living and loving is what is needed to change the world. Alex has grown up from just a bubbly girl who would record youtube covers, to a heartfelt lyricist and singer-songwriter, delivering some of the most emotive and compelling original songs I’ve heard within these last few years, while also allowing us to look and glance inside her own personal life as she releases VLOGS periodically over the years, discussing issues ranging from beauty and love, to success, heartache, breakups and anxiety.
Whenever you watch Alex’s VLOGS, or listen to her music, you can tell that there’s a shift in focus from this girl who’s fast becoming, what I reckon, one of today’s most relevant role models for young women, and not only young women, but young people in general. There is courage and strength when it comes to revealing your true self on the internet- because with it, there’s so much that could go wrong. Trolls being the main issue. But then there’s so much that can go right- with vulnerability and openness can come a sense of freedom, that we don’t have to put on a smile all the time and pretend that everything is ok. The Alex of today certainly isn’t the Alex that started her career all those years ago, and maybe that’s ok. We all evolve and grow, and as Alex recently released her new album My Life on the Internet in late April, full of covers and newly recorded original material, it is a reminder that passion and enthusiasm, alongside a refined purpose to show love without inhibition or condition, is something unique and powerful, which can be seen within not only Alex’s latest album but in much of her previous work as well. In fact, it was her 2015 EP titled Share Your Story that really hit the nail on the hammer for me as both a reviewer and a new-found fan of her music.
Now if Share Your Story was released in 2017, I would’ve definitely reviewed it, and I would’ve rated it 5/5 without question- that’s how convinced I am about the power of this project (in fact, from my recollection from one of her recent videos she uploaded to facebook, her forthcoming EP releasing later this year are also based off the SHARE YOUR STORY campaign, just like her 2015 EP). What happened in 2015 was this- out of 1300 stories that were submitted to Alex from fans, detailing life experiences and stories from their own lives about issues and circumstances personal to them, Alex decided to write 5 personal songs based off of 5 fans- giving the 5 tracks the name of the person who inspired it- on Share Your Story EP, the five tracks are called ‘Charlotte’, ‘Muriel’, ‘Ben’, ‘Alana’ and ‘Royston’. Reminding me so much of what CCM artist Matthew West has started to undertake from 2010 onward, allowing himself to create projects based off of peoples submitted personal stories (which has led to 3 successful albums in The Story of Your Life, Into the Light and Live Forever in 2010, 2012 and 2015 respectively), Alex has decided to do the same in her 2015 EP, and most likely in her forthcoming one as well. What it means is this- it gives the listeners a voice. It breaks down the divide between artist and fan/listener. It reminds us all that all trials, tribulations, issues and circumstances are not as trivial as what we may often make them out to be, and that what we say ought to matter to whomever listens. Even if we think we may be the only ones going through such issues, what can result in a song being so personal is its mark and reachability- that one personal track can encourage millions of people with the fact that they are not alone in whatever plight they are travelling with…but then I have to be reminded, even this long into this review, that this isn’t a review of Share Your Story, nor a blog about Alex G in general. I mean, all these things are good, but what this piece of writing really is about, is a review, of My Life on the Internet– so, let’s get down to it.
Standing at 14 tracks, Alex has decided to deliver what you would call a best-of project full of covers (as well as 2 newly recorded original new songs) to bring it to 14 tracks. Spanning over a few years (her earliest recorded track on the album, ‘Roar’, released as a single in 2013, while ‘Showing Up’ is, I reckon, one of the most underrated songs by a mainstream indie artist in 2016), we are presented with a smorgasbord of melodies and songs, each with different styles and each presenting us with different messages and themes. From empowerment and encouraging people to have a voice (‘Roar’- Katy Perry) and ridding ourselves of our troubles just by ‘shaking’ them off (‘Shake It Off’- Taylor Swift)- what I personally think is actually very simplistic and trivial, but nevertheless something that can bring about discussion about difficulties and what we as a society ought to do to rid ourselves of them; to lamenting about a relationship and wishing about the should’ve been and what if’s (‘Should’ve Been Us- Tori Kelly), and pondering a utopia where everyone could live without all the wars, division and calamity we face in society today (‘Imagine’- John Lennon); there is indeed a wide variety of songs from today’s most popular artists (alongside ¼ of The Beatles, who I reckon, alongside U2, shaped music to what it is today!). While I wish I could talk about each track individually and write my own thoughts about what I reckon each song is saying, what I do know is this- most, if not everyone who listens to radio nowadays, should know most, if not all of these covers recorded by Alex G on My Life on the Internet. Even I, who normally listens to CCM and stations like K-Love and Air1, knows quite a number of these songs on this album even before hearing them. And what I will say is this- Alex performed beautifully on each song…to the point where I reckon most, if not all of them, are in their own way, better than the original recordings. I know that is a bold claim to make, but then again, it’s not really. One listen to Alex G and her renditions of already famous songs and you can maybe even make the same assessment as me!
So I won’t talk about the covers and Alex’s renditions of songs that have been already imprinted in people’s minds. You can probably google the songs and hear both versions of them, and decide for yourself with rendition you enjoy better. But what I will delve into in this review are the 2 newly recorded original songs- ‘Too Far’, written and recorded in 2015, and ‘Showing Up’ in 2016. While these songs are padded on the end of the album as track 13 and 14 (people could immediately assume that these songs are just there to fill up numbers and therefore brush over them completely), these two tracks are anything but fillers- in fact, placing ‘Showing Up’ as track 1 should’ve been a better decision, as we know that any best-of that is interesting and unique always features a newly recorded track within the first 5 tracks on the album. Nevertheless, both ‘Too Far’ and ‘Showing Up’ present to us themes that we as listeners can latch onto and be inspired by. Recorded in 2015, ‘Too Far’ is about wishing, about taking a back step and looking at your life so far, and wondering to yourself ‘I wonder what would happen if I drove far away from where I live right now- would all my worries follow me?’ This is a track that begs to ask the question- if we were living in another state, another country, another anywhere, would all the things that have happened to us til now still affect us in another way, or would we just obtain new experiences? Are the bad and good experiences that happen to us, just tied to where we live, or are they despite it? Things we need to think about, ‘Too Far’ allows us to have an honest discussion about worry, and if worry is caused by environment, genetics, or something else entirely.
And then there’s ‘Showing Up’…just wow. And I mean it. Standing at 3:07, this short track is pack full of encouragement and inspiration. Written and recorded in conjunction with Target’s ‘showing up’ campaign; Alex G invites us along a journey of opening up and being real fully, allowing us all to see the real Alex on display- real, honest, open, and encouraging us all to be as well. What is special about ‘Showing Up’ is that the song can be a real catalyst for many to also ‘show up’ in situations too- without any agendas or hidden schemes, but rather, to just be present in people’s lives, and to love unconditionally and without reservation- it is only when we place aside all pride and judgement and we just love because it’s the right thing to do, that we can fully be aware of the other person’s situation, and see things from another person’s point of view. It is the bridge of the song that has spoken to me the most, which is in fact only two lines repeated three times- ‘no more believing I’m gonna need a little more than I’ve got’ alongside ‘done overthinking every reason I gotta sit and watch’.
The first line is an allusion to the fact that sometimes we as humans (and even Christians for that matter) often buy into the lie that we need to have a little more- more faith, more hope, more looks, more togetherness, more perfection, more anything; before we can participate and show up in life. And if we believe that, we become crippled. We don’t live up to our full potential because everything is performance based, we’re striving for something to achieve and attain, to acquire, hoping, that our parents and friends, or even Jesus Himself, is pleased with us. But this song is a reminder to us all that all we need to do is to just show up as we are, that all we have right now is enough for God to move in our lives and use us as vessels of encouragement to others. For I remember that in the bible, the Lord used rebels, orphans, the humble and weak to further His message of hope and love (guys like Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, all these guys had hang-ups and mishaps), so if the Lord can use people like them, then all we should do is to just come as we are, and He will use us no question!
Then there’s the second line- ‘done overthinking every reason I gotta sit and watch’. We may at times find every reason available not to participate for whatever reason, to just sit on the sidelines and watch. Most likely because we believe that what we have to offer is insignificant and miniscule. But what I’ve learnt is this- that if someone like Alex G can have humble beginnings as a youtube cover artist and become a young role model for many with a heart for vulnerability and authenticity, not just in public space but in private life as well, then that ought to be testimony enough that whatever we have to bring isn’t small, that what we have will affect someone’s life, big or small, that what we have in our hearts matter to someone. Even if what we do only transforms one other person’s life, that ought to be reason enough to step away from the sidelines and jump in head first into this journey called life full of unique experiences and amazing discoveries!
There’s a quote said by Alex herself in a recent VLOG about the aftermath of the 2016 American election that really sums up her own transformation as a person over the last few years. Alex reminds us all, that there’s only one thing we can do during difficult times- ‘…just show up, show up when you don’t know what to say, show up when you don’t know what to do, show up when you don’t understand but want to, just show up…I saw somewhere that someone was saying that they are so grateful that their church is like an alternate reality to what is going on in the world. I saw that and I said, that is not what the church should be. The church should not be an alternate reality, the church should be the one stepping into the reality that is very real for a lot of people, the church should not be a place where you go to forget all of your problems. The church…people, which is what the church should be…we should not be alternate realities to what is happening in the world, we should not be alternate realities to what is happening in our friend’s lives…we should be brave enough, we should love strongly enough, to stand out there on the front lines with the people that we claim to love, we should face whatever danger that they’re facing, we should face whatever fear they’re facing, because when we do it together, when you are not alone, that is when fear dies and love wins…’ And as we’re all reading this excerpt, we are reminded, that such a transformation can only occur through the intervention of Christ Himself. And that is the beauty of life- that whatever we undertake and whatever road we travel, that everything is used by Him to further our connection with the creator and the created, and Alex’s new album My Life on the Internet has been one of many albums this year to do just that! Sure the album is full of 12 covers and 2 original songs. But we can’t deny Alex’s passion and enthusiasm, shown tremendously through this album. My Life on the Internet, if nothing else, is a great moment of escapism from the turbulent times which is the current political climate. Yet looking deeper, it is the songs like ‘Too Far’ and ‘Showing Up’ that really show us what it means to become an artist that places the needs of others (their fans/friends/family) above their own. This is an album that is fun and meaningful, but more important, Alex G is an artist everyone should listen to, regardless of the music genre you like. Alex will revolutionise authenticity and real and honest music within the industry. My Life on the Internet certainly places Alex on the map, while subsequent albums/EPs will further assert the fact that Alex’s passion is to be real, to portray the same self in both private and public. What out for more Alex G music in the future- from what I reckon, this is going to be the start of a wonderful and fruitful career in music. Here’s hoping her values stay grounded in unconditional love and inspiration, evident in both Share Your Story EP and My Life on the Internet. An album certain to be in my iTunes playlist on repeat for months to come, kudos to Alex and the team for creating an album that is like no other in 2017. Can’t wait to the next album later on during the year, whenever it arises!
4 songs to listen to: Showing Up, Too Far, Thinking Out Loud, See You Again
RIYL: Moriah Peters, Tori Kelly, Francesca Battistelli, Marie Miller, for KING AND COUNTRY