Release Date: February 17th 2021
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- 8 Am
- Wasting Time
- Too Much
- You Don’t Care
- I Can’t
- We Won’t Talk Tonight
- Lesson Learned
Cimorelli has been one of my favourite sibling-bands over the last few years, alongside other prominent bands, like for KING AND COUNTRY and Switchfoot. And if you’ve been a fan of Cimorelli like myself over the last few years, for any of the band members (who are all in fact sisters) to release some material on their own can initially cause us all to think and ponder- are the band breaking up? Are some members leaving to pursue a solo career? Is the band evolving in ways unimaginable? Whatever our thoughts that come into our heads, we think them. It was the case when Lisa Cimorelli released her new solo material, of which she stated from the start that she was not leaving the band, but rather, doing something on the side in addition. And in 2019, we saw another Cimorelli sister have courage enough to release a collection of songs in a solo capacity. Lauren Cimorelli unveiled to the world her debut EP in July 2019, Orange. Fans of Cimorelli the band I’m sure would’ve enjoyed this EP, as I did back then when I heard it; all the while being proud of the fact that individual band members within a band collective can still venture out and do their own thing, alongside the main band activity. For Lauren to carve out time to create the four songs on Orange, and then send them out into the internet ether, either to be praised or critiqued; takes courage. Since releasing her debut single ‘Running’ in late 2018, and a few songs scattered around 2019; Orange was the first time all of her music could have been accessed in one space. There were songs like ‘Running’, ‘Flames’ and ‘Pressure’ that were standouts on Orange, and alongside the other track ‘Brown Eyed Boys’, formed an EP about relationships and the interesting way that we as humans navigate them, be that in a romantic, platonic or friendship sense. Fast-forwrad to 2020, Lauren Cimorelli has since offered to us another EP in the form of Blue, featuring another five songs, each tackling an element of single and dating life, and the relationships one forms during a time in your life where feelings and attraction seem to be bubbling to the surface and are some of the central and core things that people often think about at that age. Songs like ‘These Days’, ‘Rabbit Hole’ and ‘Automatic Love’ were standouts from Blue, an EP from Lauren that was also a great reminder of this young woman’s talent, both inside Cimorelli the band, and on her own.
She also released an Orange + Blue full-length album consisting of all the songs on Orange and Blue in one collection. Now in 2021, Lauren has since released another offering of music- this time it’s a ‘mixtape’ titled 17– 8 songs recorded as demos when she was 17, chronologically displaying her feelings at that point in time. Released in February 2021, Lauren’s unaltered vocals presented through these 8 piano-driven melodies are enough for us to be emotionally connected to what Lauren was feeling in those moments of relationship drama, and while the album as a whole is more about break-ups and relationship changes rather than celebrating the stickability of said relationships in the long run, 17 presents a real, raw and honest look at the feelings of a teenager, and the pressure someone has at that point in life, to either have a relationship, look for a relationship, stay in a relationship, or even pursue relationships above anything else.
‘…this is me at 17. Some of the best times of my life, and some of the worst times. Every moment was colored in the confusing chaos of youth. Who am I? What am I doing with my life? How do I take care of other people? How do I take care of myself? I’m not okay. What do I do about it? Unrequited love, self discovery, and all the different kinds of heartbreak. I put together a collection of songs that I wrote all around that time of my life and I wanted to share them with you guys. I doesn’t quite feel like an album to me so I’m calling it a mixtape. Called “17”. And it’s coming out tonight at midnight. I tried to keep them pretty much the same as when I first recorded them so I only re-recorded the vocals on 3 of the songs. The other 5 are my actual voice from 5 years ago and the instrumentals are pretty much the same as I recorded them back then too. It think these 8 songs capture how I felt perfectly. It’s really vulnerable for me to release these because I was going through a lot at that time and I never told anyone how I was feeling. I just kept it all inside. I wanted everyone to think I was perfect, but I was very much broken inside. So here’s a little piece of my history, a little piece of my heart. I hope it moves you in some way…’
With 8 tracks on this mixtape, Lauren bears her feelings on the line- this collection of songs probably wasn’t supposed to see the light of day, however, since 17 released, we see possibly the most vulnerable Lauren has been. The mixtape begins with ‘8am’, a song about trying so hard to forget a past relationship, but then realising that it’s been quite some time since that relationship, and you still keep coming back to it in your mind, understanding full well that ‘…I just wanna find someone new, but I don’t know how to…’ There is a sense of longing from Lauren, to want to move on, but understanding that this person and this relationship was a big part of her life before, and sometimes it can take longer than what people anticipate. ‘8am’ brings us into the world and life of Lauren aged 17, as we’re reminded that sometimes relationship breakups hurt so bad, to the point where moving on, is impossible until you address the hurt, and figure out the reasons why you may have held onto the past relationship as long as you have. ‘Wasting Time’ paints this scenario and picture about being alone in your head a lot of the time, trying to analyse failed relationships, and trying to move on with doing something productive, but feeling as though time is wasted instead. Lauren uses looping percussion and her passionate voice to eagerly hook us into this 2-and-a-half-minute song about something people often do each and every day without noticing- just wasting time with your life, bumming around, yearning for the weekend, and trying to get to moments in your life that you anticipate, all the while throwing out the in between stage in your life as quickly as you believe you can. ‘Wasting Time’ is a wake-up call for each of us: what are we truly spending our time on, and do our thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams get captured and arrested by our relationships (failed and unfailed), or do we trust God and the process He’s placed us in, as we calmly navigate our lives with a sense of hope and intentionality? ‘18’ follows along as track #3, and while this song can on the surface, be about boys, what the track really delves deep into is this issue about going deep into something (relationships, friendships, academic studies) without much wisdom, and being young about it as well. The way I was when I was 18 is so different to that when I was 28, which is going to be massively different to when I’m 38. To make decisions about relationships back when we were very young, can seem like a lot of pressure (from ourselves, or socially from society at large) placed upon us in those moments. We see this viewpoint, unsaid of course, about how esteemed you were if you were in a relationship, and that if you weren’t, for whatever reason…gee, there must be something wrong, right? ‘18’ allows us to be open to the naïvity about starting relationships when you’re young; and understanding that it’s perfectly ok to not be in relationships if you know it’s not the right time for it.
‘Too Much’ gives us a glimpse into the mind of Lauren during that time- and while I know for sure that her mental state now is much better, seeing how this song states that she things that her life feels like ‘too much’ for the people around her to even understand, makes my heart break for not only her 17 y.o. self, but really for all the people out there that feel like if they were to share their true selves with people, that they’ll just become a burden. Lauren also continues this theme in the next song ‘You Don’t Care’, where she addresses reasons for a breakdown in relationship, and attributes it to the fact that the other person doesn’t care about her, but rather only enjoys and likes the image of being with someone rather than the someone. Wanting to keep things casual and being content with the status quo in a relationship, is most certainly a red flag for anyone who longs for something more, so I guess ‘You Don’t Care’ is for people who may not know that the other person in said relationship isn’t as fully committed as you. ‘I Can’t’ speaks about this persona who wants and longs for a relationship, but would rather prefer to self-sabotage and break their own heart, than to face her own demons as to why she believes that she is not worthy enough to be in a healthy, stable, good relationship of her own…which is a very sad thing that people often do to themselves- that even though they’re on a good thing, they often fall into the lies of them believing that they don’t deserve such good things happening to them, because of what they may have done before, or even because of what they believe people have spoken over them in the past. The mixtape ends with ‘We Won’t Talk Tonight’ and ‘Lessons Learned’. The former is a track that focuses on the feelings of young ‘love’ (or is it infatuation), of how after a period of two weeks, the other person is ‘ghosting’ you, and you don’t know if what you’re pursuing is the relationship, or just the idea of one. This idea of wanting to be wanted really tugs at your heart, and in order to feel wanted, and wanting to have that feeling, you compromise on what you set as a priority in a relationship, and then you delve deep into one, all for the sake of the feeling of being wanted, accepted, loved, appreciated. ‘Lessons Learned’ is the final track on the mixtape, and chronicles into one song, all of the things that Lauren has learnt from her teenage years, and if anything; her failed relationships were a lesson learnt for the future, that all the heartache, pain, regret, dashed dreams, and unrealised connections has maybe led her to understand more about herself, people, boys, and the rest of it. With Lauren channelling her own inner Avril Lavigne voice, ‘Lesson Learned’ is the most upbeat song on the mixtape; and has the potential to maybe come a single from Lauren’s in the future, if she ever decides to go that route. Maybe release something to radio in the upcoming weeks/months ahead?
In a general sense, Lauren’s an excellent deliverer of the music, and while this mixtape has the most electronic effects presented throughout these 8 tracks, it is in these electronic settings (and even acoustic ones), where I find Lauren has the ability to shine through, even amongst all the EDM that people can often find as being a detractant from the songs themselves. I’ve loved a lot of her acoustic material, and it’ll still have to get my head around the EDM pop that Lauren is delving into now. But I’ve always felt that Lauren’s emotive songwriting ought to be the focus of these songs- that maybe, these EDM moments cover up her beautiful singing ability. But one thing’s for sure- she knows how to write a heart-wrenching song, something to challenge us in our own walk in life. Well done Lauren for this mixtape. Can’t wait for whatever is in store in the future…maybe a full-on worship album in the future? Whatever the case, 17 is an album certain to be enjoyed if you’re a fan of Cimorelli, of Lauren’s original music, or of pop music with an independent standpoint. So, what are we all waiting for? If we’re a fan of vulnerable music, as we all should be, then take a listen to the heartfelt moments of this full-length album, as we let the Lord God speak to us and remind us all of the relationships in our own lives that we need to look at, mend and heal in some certain cases, as we understand that even though relationships in an earthly sense can come and go, our relationship in Christ is firmly planted on what He’s done for us, and will not waver with time and years.
3 songs to listen to: 8am, Too Much, Lesson Learned
RIYL: Cimorelli, Lisa Cimorelli, Rachael Nemiroff, Carly Rae Jepsen, Rachel Platten