Warner Music UK
Release Date: July 23rd 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Don’t Play (feat. KSI & Digital Farm Animals)
- Kiss My (Uh Oh) (feat. Little Mix)
- Who I Am
- Our Song (feat. Niall Horan)
- Way Too Long (feat. Nathan Dawe & MoStack)
- Unlovable (feat. Rudimental)
- Tell Your Girlfriend
- Better Not Together
Over the past few years (essentially when my brother and I undertook our blog series about influential artists of all time, and then more actively this year); I have been expanding my musical horizons and been listening to many different types of music outside of Christian music. I know it could sound like a broken record, with me making a big deal about this fact every so often in maybe every second post. But the reality is that to me, listening to and being impacted by something other than Christian music- is a big deal. Especially since I myself have been told virtually all my life that Christian music is good and everything else is bad. Since 2018 I’ve discovered that I can be blessed, encouraged, and inspired by music that isn’t intentionally used to glorify God- and while that can sound dichotomous and heretical and blasphemous to some; I tend to believe otherwise. That even what is intended to be bad can end up serving a greater purpose, and can end up having its place in society. Over the past few weeks and months, I’ve been reviewing a number of albums from mainstream artists that I would’ve never previously thought that I would listen to nor even review. Artists like Pink (All I Know So Far: Setlist), Aly & AJ (A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun), The Veronicas (GODZILLA), Olivia Rodrigo (SOUR), Julia Michaels (Not In Chronological Order), Bebe Rexha (Better Mistakes), Justin Bieber (Freedom), Zara Larsson (Poster Girl) and Shawn Mendes (Wonder) have all released moving and thought-provoking albums- and I have dived in and written about every single one of these releases. I didn’t expect to be positively impacted by these albums. But I was.
Enter in British pop singer Anne-Marie Nicholson, known eponymously by only her first name. The singer who made waves and buzz from her hit collaboration single “Friends” with Marshmello, as well as her rendition of “Rewrite The Stars” with James Arthur; recently released her second full length album Therapy a few days ago. With the debut album Speak Your Mind being successful on the charts, and respected greatly amongst fans and critics alike, Therapy was a tough act to follow, musically and lyrically. Yet as I’ve listened quite a number of times to Therapy as well as a few tracks here and there of Speak Your Mind, I’ve concluded that Anne-Marie’s second album is much more acoustic, chill, relaxed and less busy. The result is an album full of heartfelt and hopeful ballads, and inspiring pop tunes as well. If you’re not that caught up on what Anne-Marie is all about, you can read about her on Wikipedia here; but let me dive deep into Therapy, and divulge whether this album is one of the more inspirational pop albums of the year or not.
I want to help people through situations. I turned to music when I was younger, like when I’d broken up with an ex, or sometimes I’d think, ‘I feel really s*** about the way I look, so I’m going to put on some Christina Aguilera.’ It was always like music was helping me through. So, I want to be that person for others. Going through that ‘I want to be different’ phase felt authentic at the time, but not now that I know and remember why I’m an artist.
I’ve learned so much from my therapist. Seeing a therapist helped me learn about myself, learn to love myself, and to know what I deserve. It just made sense to call it Therapy. In a therapy session, you feel everything: You feel angry, you feel happy, you feel sad, you feel confused. And, that’s exactly what the songs on the album are: a mixture of emotions and situations.
I’ve always felt really strong-minded and like I’m not going to deal with anyone’s s***. But, that doesn’t mean I was outwardly portraying it. Inside, I was very strong-minded, but on the outside, I was so worried that people were going to judge me or not like me that I would do whatever they wanted. I would please people and bend and twist, just so I didn’t get a bad reputation. Writing those songs made me believe that I could be that self-assured person outwardly as well. And, it’s nice to know that you are still liked for being a strong-minded person. I feel like being confident and loving yourself is actually quite scary because you think people will think you’re a right prick. But, you become a better person when you love yourself, and people will actually love you more.
Opening the track list is the pulsating and energetic “x2”. A revenge song at its core, Anne-Marie fervently relays that she is going to wrong her ex in the same way they did to her- but to a greater magnitude of 2 times (hence the reason why the song is called ‘x2’)- and the fact that this song us so profoundly intense and in-your-face, reminds us that Anne-Marie is holding nothing back with respects to lyrical subject matter. The melody, though intense, also encourages us to look at all of the ways other people devalue us, but then reminds us subtly to be the bigger person and not to act in a vengeful way. The song speaks about something negative so, so much; but the way it which the track hammers home the negative aspect, makes this actually a song championing forgiveness and love, in a reverse psychological way. And with Anne-Marie already getting this much impact out of this first track… it’s no wonder I’ve found this album one of the most impacting of this year thus far!
The rest of Therapy is just as compelling and powerful as the album opener. “Don’t Play”, a hard-hitting, confronting and no-nonsense collaboration with rapper KSI and DJ Digital Farm Animals, invokes raw and unbridled emotion, as Anne-Marie and KSI fervently ask their partner to not play games with their heart, and to not string them along (an ultimatum we can declare to even platonic friends who are toxic and noncommittal); while the personal, inspiring radio friendly ballad “Who I Am” simply declares Anne-Marie’s individuality and self-worth, as she unequivocally cries out ‘…love me or hate me, nothing’s gonna change me, that’s just how they made me…you can call me crazy, and I may be…’. It’s a song that brings a smile to my face as Anne-Marie doesn’t let people walk over her and proudly declares who she is so that people know her values, boundaries and morals; and it’s a song like this that reminds us all that we can be firm in our beliefs, values and our faith without it impeding on everyone else in our lives. “Kiss My (Uh Oh)”, with Little Mix, is a pop radio-friendly dance track fit for clubs and bars and for dancing (when it is socially acceptable to do so with at a distance of course!); as Anne-Marie beautifully harmonises with Jade, Leigh-Anne and Perrie, and the quartet sing about walking away from someone when they’re not treating you right. With Anne-Marie and the pop trio singing out ‘…why you only love when I’m walkin’ away? Only ever want me, when I don’t wanna stay? Love the feeling, hittin’ different, I’m not ever looking back, while I’m leaving, I see you staring, go ahead boy, you can kiss my…’; we are encouraged not to be passive in a failing relationship… can I conclude that this song is one of my favourites from Therapy?
Lead single “Our Song”, with Niall Horan, is a fun, boppy, piano led pop tune that essentially relays the notion that you can in fact dislike a song so much after you break up with someone because it reminds you of them so much, but then at the same time you love the song as you dwell upon happier times (as in you feel a myriad of emotions and feelings associated with the song, and that’s ok!); while Anne-Marie teams up with DJ Nathan Dawe and rapper MoStack in “Way Too Long”, whereby Anne-Marie laments that it’s been way too long since she’s been intimate with her partner. Truthfully, this song wasn’t my favourite, especially the rap whereby MoStack sings about female singers he finds attractive (and compares them to objects!), however the underlying theme of the track about wanting human connection, is still prevalent and relevant in society today. Thankfully, we are presented with probably the most powerful and moving song on the album straight after the worst one, as “Breathing” is a haunting, mysterious and emotional love song in its truest form, as Anne-Marie describes that being in love is like breathing, and that This is a very different track. It’s the first-ever love song I’ve ever written, because I normally cringe when I’m trying to write a love song. My parents have been together since they were 14, and I always thought that would happen for me. But I’ve gone through so much heartbreak since then that I started not believing in love. This song is about coming to the realisation that you can’t not believe in it. We tried many different vibes for it, from speeding it up to making it into a house song. But we ended up going back to its original form, only adding violins and strings. I think it’s a nice break in the album where people can just take a breath.
Even though Anne-Marie has collaborated with other artists on 4 tracks (“Don’t Play”, “Kiss My (Uh Oh)”, “Our Song” and “Way Too Long”), “Unlovable” is another track where Anne-Marie reminds us that collaboration on a song can turn something ordinary into pure gold. As Rudimental joins on this jazz inspired dance club track; we are presented with the one true question that we all face- and it’s about worthiness and whether anyone can and will love us with our flaws and issues. Thus this is a song that we all need to listen to, if only to spark a healthy discussion between our friends and family, even if the track offers up no resolution; while “Beautiful”, written by Ed Sheeran, is the only song that Anne-Marie didn’t write. An inspirational song about inner beauty and loving yourself the way you are, and about not being envious or coveting someone else’s life; Anne-Marie emphatically cries out that ‘…we are beautiful, all of us, cause we got something natural, it’s a part of us, darling when they put you down like that, yeah, you can reply right back, we are beautiful, yeah, I know, I know, we are…’, and inspires us all to look past our differences and see the positives and the good in all of us: When I wrote ‘Perfect to Me’ on the first album, I couldn’t believe how many felt the same way. It made me feel less alone. I always knew I needed to write another song like it on the next album. ‘Perfect to Me’ is about not feeling great but accepting it. At the end of this song, I asked all my friends and family to sing the chorus and the backing vocals in voice notes. My godson and his little sister sing the solo at the end.
Similar in theme to the revenge opener “x2”, “Tell Your Girlfriend” is a passionate diss to an ex, as Anne-Marie threatens to tell her ex-partner’s other girlfriend about his other conquests; with the song being a savage warning to us all to treat all the women in our lives with dignity, respect and worthiness; while the penultimate radio friendly ballad “Better Not Together” is a track and an admission of two people not being compatible and better off as friends. It’s a breakup song but also a song of hope and a new beginning- why be with someone you don’t fully connect with on every level possible? The powerful and honest title track ends a near-flawless album. The heartbeat of the album champions looking after yourself, your own mental health and your wellbeing first and foremost- and though this song is another breakup song because of someone being vulnerable to admit their own shortcomings and that they need therapy, Anne-Marie majestically and emotionally delivers this track with professionalism and passion- so much so that it doesn’t feel like a breakup song but rather a ‘discovering yourself’ song. A song in which we all can sing out as we work on ourselves on a daily basis, Anne-Marie reminds us that even in the midst of COVID-19, we can be connected with people and we can grow as humans- always evolving and always learning about the world around us and what makes us tick. And Anne-Marie reminds us that This is the only song I wrote after coming up with the title of this album. Therapy can come in so many forms, like writing a diary or growing vegetables or speaking to a friend. It’s doing what you love and figuring yourself out. In this song, I talk about love being the answer to happiness, or getting tattoos making me feel happier. But when we remove all of the outward distraction, we see that true happiness comes from ourselves—from our own brains. It’s so personal. I treated that studio session like a therapy session.; can I say again that Therapy is a favourite of mine (shocking, I know!) of all of the albums of 2021?
I definitely don’t feel scared about being completely honest in a song because I know I needed that when I was younger. When I first started writing, I never used to be honest in my lyrics. I used to pretend and make stories up that I hadn’t experienced because it was scary to tell people the truth. Once when I had writer’s block, someone said to me, ‘What are you going through at the moment?’ So, I started telling them, and we made a song out of it. At the time, I couldn’t believe that it was literally my story in a song. So, that then made writing easier for me because it was so simple to write stuff that I’ve felt or experienced, instead of making something up that I have no idea how it feels. I honestly had no idea that my music would help people in any way. But, I’ve realized that through me being so honest, other people feel OK telling me about their experiences. So I was like, ‘Whoa, it’s helping them. This is the role I play. This is why I’m doing it.’
I am more certain of who I am. I also know my boundaries now. I don’t want to wake up feeling sad and have to pretend that I’m happy and then deal with it later on my own after faking it all day. From therapy and figuring myself out, I’ve realized it helps others more if I don’t do that. So, from now on, I’ll know when to say no without being so worried about people thinking I’m rude or a diva.
Anne-Marie’s Therapy, aside from “Way Too Long”, comprises of songs full of life, emotion and inspiring messages. There’s something for everyone here, and no doubt you’ll be quietly (or loudly!) singing Anne-Marie’s praises in the coming weeks and months and years. Am I a fan of Anne-Marie? Perhaps… what matters more is that this album hits you at all the right emotions and feelings. No doubt about it! Listen yourself, find out, and be inspired! Well done Anne-Marie, I can’t wait to hear what is in store for you next? Christmas album or covers album?
3 songs to listen to: Kiss My (Uh Oh), Breathing, Beautiful
RIYL: Jess Glynne, Zara Larsson, Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Ava Max, Jessie J