Three months after her second run as the lead in “Waitress,” the musical she scored based on the 2007 movie with the same title, Sara Bareilles serves us “Amidst the Chaos.” An anthology of finding calm in the storm, Bareilles’s new album was worth the wait.
I think it’s safe to say that pop music has missed Bareilles. Though it hasn’t been a hiatus — far from it, actually — it’s just that we haven’t been hearing performances in her voice. Whether it’s with Jenna in “Waitress,” Mary Magdalene in “Jesus Christ Superstar” or Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” the chameleon-esque ability she has is commendable, but this new stage of her career should be celebrated.
It’s refreshing to see Bareilles return to her roots. The quintessential belting, impeccable lower-range vocals and well-written lyrics are all there. For those looking to reminisce about the days of “Love Song” and “Gravity,” she delivers.
Bareilles touches on the political in “Amidst the Chaos.” In “Armor,” she is blatantly feminist, with references to biblical Eve and catcalling. Another track, “No Such Thing,” is a self-proclaimed “love song” about missing the Obamas. Then, in “Safe Place to Land,” she collaborates with John Legend — the Jesus Christ to her Mary Magdalene — in a power ballad for families separated at the border.
They sing, “Surely someone will reach out a hand/ And show you a safe place to land/ Be the hand of a hopeful stranger/ A little scared but you’re strong enough/ Be the light in the dark of this danger/ ‘Til the sun comes up.”
“Orpheus” stands out as the best track on the album. An anthem of perseverance and strength all wrapped up in a slow-burning acoustic beat and gentle vocals, it is what Bareilles calls the “centerpiece” of the collection.
She sings, “Don’t stop trying to find me here amidst the chaos/ Though I know it’s blinding, there’s a way out/ Say out loud/ We will not give up on love now/ No fear, don’t you turn like/ Orpheus, just stay here/ Hold me in the dark, and when the day appears/ We’ll say/ We did not give up on love today.”
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Bareilles said that “Orpheus” reflects the confusion of young adulthood and the current political climate in the United States.
“(‘Orpheus’) is just all about kind of learning to cope with this sort of new chapter in the world, where politically and socially and culturally, it can sort of feel like the world is on fire a lot of the time,” she said.
As someone who was a staple on the charts in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Bareilles took her time conquering Broadway before coming home to the smooth pop that made her the household name that she is. With her first time dabbling in mixing the political and the personal, it’ll be interesting to see where the 39-year-old will go from here.