Republic Records / Mercury Records / UMG Recordings
Release Date: March 24th 2023
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Hailee Steinfeld– SunKissing (Single) (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
One of the artists who has taken me by surprise throughout the past few years- in a definite good way- has been American actress, singer, and songwriter Hailee Steinfeld. While most fans would know of her extreme talent as an actor in films like True Grit, Pitch Perfect 2, Pitch Perfect 3, Enders Game, Romeo & Juliet, The Edge Of Seventeen, Bumblebee, Spiderman: Into The SpiderVerse and the TV series Dickinson and Hawkeye; I’d say that Hailee’s die-hard fans 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 in 2015 Hailee unveiled her debut EP titled HAIZ. A ton of singles later from the years of 2016-2019… and in 2020, Haile unveiled an EP Half Written Story. We reviewed the EP here– the 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.
Now at the time I ventured into Hailee’s music in the beginning of 2020, I hadn’t heard much of Hailee’s ventures as a singer and as a songwriter. Sure, I heard of her as an actor, but aside from the two Pitch Perfects and True Grit, I hadn’t got around to watching any of Hailee’s films. Yet Hailee’s heartfelt and honest new single and new music video “I Love You’s” circled into my YouTube home page one day (perhaps it was because I had been watching 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!) and I took a chance, thinking ‘why not?’. The result was 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, decided to write about her in my Momentous Mondays blog series, and have since been blessed and impressed by everything Hailee has released thus far. While I’d like to go more in depth about Hailee, I think I’ll leave that to my blog and my review about Half Written Story– Hailee’s first EP release in 5 years (and a collection featuring some of her most vulnerable songs yet). But for now, let’s fast forward to now and let’s dive deep into Hailee’s latest single “SunKissing”.
I previously reviewed Hailee’s 2022 single “Coast”. A summery, breezy, acoustic pop anthem about shooting the breeze and chilling and having a great time; this melody features Anderson .Paak on guest vocals, and doesn’t feature much lyrical substance and weight. But there’s still something about Hailee’s songs that are magical and special- and one listen to this summer ‘banger’, and you’ll be enthralled and enamoured by Hailee’s music as well, just like I have. Similarly, with “SunKissing”, there’s a earnest honesty and frankness to the track, despite the topic being about relaxing in the summertime and about having a good time at the beach- activities that I reckon are superfluous, but are probably more important to the current generation younger than me.
I feel like I finally got the chance to allow myself to be inspired by the music that I grew up listening to. It’s only ever been in the background of my life. I am obsessed with pop music — for as long as I’ve been making music, my favorite playlists are pop playlists. I was very inspired by that, and I wanted to make records that felt like what I was inspired by [back] then.
All of it was moving so quickly, and it was working in a way that I kept on in that specific direction. And this time around, I was able to go back and dig a little bit deeper into why I love music in the first place — what has influenced me and inspired me to make it. And that [included] artists and groups [whose influence] you wouldn’t necessarily hear on music I’ve done in the past.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I started listening to a ton of old music. It’s amazing how there’s old music that gave you life, it gave you this energy, it makes you feel so great. I had just finished working on Half Written Story, where I was very clearly going through something. I had a very clear intention with how I was writing and what I wanted to get across, and it was an array of emotions from frustrated and sad and confused and lonely. I had done that within four songs and I was like, “I got that off my chest. I want to make music that feels good — I want to make music that has that groove, that gives you that life and that energy that I get when I listen to the Beach Boys, when I listen to the Eagles.”
It’s a wide and eclectic group of musicians, artists, and songs that I realized that inspired me so much growing up, but I was able to pull all of that into “Coast” and into the records to come.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve just become more self-aware, or aware of opening myself up to being inspired by more than what I originally thought I could be inspired by. I’ve had so many full-circle moments where my acting career and what I’ve learned through it all — and through the characters that I’ve played, more specifically, and through the writing that I’ve been lucky enough to take on as a character — has definitely influenced me as an artist. And in more than one way.
In the writing, 100 percent. I’ve said this before — after years of playing a very fearless, fearlessly known poet, I went back into the studio and felt this sense of “nobody has to see any of this if I don’t want them to, but that shouldn’t stop me, so therefore it shouldn’t be stopped in writing everything and more.” And the exciting part is, at the end of the day, it’s all coming out. There isn’t really anything that’s being held back.
[When] I put out Half Written Story, it was part one of two. And I basically had two not completed, but it was close. I say it was close, but [the songs] needed time. They needed more time than I had been giving. So I made the decision to move on from that and move into this bigger project. I got out of my system what I felt I really needed to with part one, and I was ready to move on from it. [This next project has a] much bigger picture and something I’m even more excited about.
When I decided that Half Written Story was wrapped up after part one and I was going into this new world, everything was [still] so up in the air, as far as the reality of getting in a room with people. So I figured in the meantime, let me build up this world visually and then we can go from there.
The whole record started with the visual side of things, and then we went into ideas and concepts and titles. I’d already had an idea of what I wanted this all to look like, and I knew that would very clearly influence the sound in a way that I could articulate easier than any other way.
I’ve got floor to ceiling boards just covered — the amount of things I’ve printed and cut and pasted and pinned and all of that, it’s years worth now. Your girl loves a mood board [Laughs].
I was able to create this whole universe, which I’ve never been able to do with my music. In a way, with the music working so well simultaneously to my acting, I’ve had these singles that have come out over time. This is really the first time I’ve been able to build a proper world that I cannot wait for. Everybody’s getting a little taste of it with “Coast,” but there’s so much more where that came from.
According to the above interview with Grammy.com; could it be that Hailee’s new upcoming debut full length album is a summer-y project similar in sound to The Beach Boys and the surf bands of the 60’s and 70’s? Quite possibly. So if you’re searching for something lyrically deep, then both “SunKissing” and “Coast” aren’t it. Thematically and lyrically, Hailee’s two songs speak about chilling by the beach and living life in the moment. It’s a song that, for all intents and purposes, not really a must listen if viewed solely on the lyrics. But there is a positive, positive, and bouncy musical vibe, and Hailee’s vocals are exquisite, poignant, and inspiring.
In the coming years, Hailee Steinfeld will be the name on everyone’s lips. Right now, Half Written Story still seems to be the pinnacle of her musical career. That EP was clearly about relationships and how some end in a way we don’t expect. Yet while it seems that Hailee’s EP is clearly mostly ‘doom and gloom’; it’s obvious that the talent is there, and personally I reckon that this EP is thoroughly enjoyable, as we empathise with Hailee in her plight and only wish her the best and more in the coming years and months. On the other hand, both “Coast” and “SunKissing” signify a change in musical direction- to a direction that is more acoustic, summer-y and laid-back, but these songs on the whole sadly aren’t my ‘cup of tea’ at the moment. Sure, it’s a musical poppy track that is catchy. But lyrically the melody doesn’t do anything for me. You may resonate with this song though, so let’s not completely diss this track, when sometimes you need a song to dance to that can be taken not that seriously. There was talk about a possible Half Written Story Part 2, so here’s hoping that Hailee’s next EP or album will be more pop and happier, but until that time, perhaps we need to listen to Half Written Story again (and maybe “Coast” and “SunKissing”)- and dig deep for the lyrical gold that I’m sure we’ll come across again and again and again. Will I check out a full-length Hailee Steinfeld album though? You betcha I will! There’s definitely no doubt about that!
RIYL: Selena Gomez, Bebe Rexha, Demi Lovato, Little Mix, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry