In praise of: Sara Bareilles
I’ve adored American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles since hearing her single “Love Song”, which was released 16 June, 2007, a few weeks ahead of her first studio label album Little Voice. It’s a delightfully catchy song that’s also a frank confession to the songwriters she was saddled with by the producers.
Bareilles instantly appealed to me as an unshowy lady just rocking out on her piano. Sounds Like Me, her autobiographical collection of essays, is a testament to her normality. She mentions she didn’t listen to a lot of music as a kid, and mostly listened to pop until she was introduced to Janis Joplin as a young adult. She gushes over how cool it is to know Tegan and Sara, and describes the sheer awkwardness of being invited to a Taylor Swift gig and finding herself utterly unable to hear herself sing.
What she lacks in spectacle she makes up for with humour. Read this verse in “Never Getting Rid of Me”, from the Broadway musical she wrote and performed in, Waitress:
“I grew up an only child in a suburb of the city
Spent my days alone my only friend was a stray kitty called Sardine
I though it was hilarious to call a cat a kind of fish
She played hard to get hissing while she scratched me
What she was trying to say was ‘Ogie come and catch me’
I learned quickly, perserverance stood between a cat and her new best friend, me!”
Or if you’re at home and in the mood for something coarser, listen to the laugh-out-loud “Sweet As Whole” (yup):
That said, she isn’t just an expert at flipping off those who want to be “King of Anything”. The Blessed Unrest, her fifth album, was probably my favourite of 2013 because it was beautiful, melachony yet also optimistic and life-affirming. I’ve lost count of the times “Satellite Call” started playing in my head having known many a “lonely child” in my family or when volunteering.
What I realised listening to Sounds Like Me is that Sara really is a comedian, and like all comedians she understands life is pain, a pain you struggle to overcome, whether it’s by laughing, dancing, or crying. As a child she was subjected to jibes about her weight, and she clowned around to combat her sensitivity to it. It’s no wonder she wrote something as beautifully sensitive as “Brave”, her song for a friend who was struggling to come out. That song certainly struck a chord, as demonstrated by a lip-synching video of patients and staff at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital that went viral in 2013:
I’m hard pressed to find another Bareilles fan in the UK: Sounds Like Me wasn’t even published here. That’s in stark contrast to the US, where she performs on morning breakfast shows, at the Oscars and the Kennedy Center Honors. The Obamas are fans, including her on some of their Spotify playlists. Here’s to the next ten years of Sara Bareilles’ music, and fingers crossed Waitress going to transfer to the West End.