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Bareilles admits that the 2016 presidential election was a catalyst for her wanting to write music again.

Tony Award nominee and acclaimed singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles doesn’t sit idly by while the current political climate boils around her. “Amidst the Chaos” is the first album Bareilles has released since “The Blessed Unrest” in 2013. Bareilles disclosed the her motivation to release an album came from the news of Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election.

In true countercultural fashion, Bareilles artistically combines her musical talents and political progressiveness in her newest release.

“The election was a huge catalyst for me wanting to turn back into making a songwriter record,” Bareilles said. “I wanted to talk about what it's like to be a woman right now in a time when it feels like the world is on fire.”

“Fire” is the title of the album’s opening song, and reflects her fiery aura as an artist. Fierce and honest, the lyrics mirror a personal chaos rather than a political one. The song sets a precedent that beyond society’s political mishaps, people are imperfect as well.  Bareilles sings in her raw and original voice, “We'd have burned up in the flames / Long before they ever rose up higher / Someday I / I won't have to feel the cold / But I do now so I'll know / What it feels like when I feel fire.”

“No Such Thing” is a breakup song— Bareilles wouldn’t dare create an album without one. She uncovers it’s atypical, hinting that the song is in reference to Barack Obama.

“All the breakup songs on this record are about Barack Obama. When I’m like ‘Come back’ it’s about the Obamas,” Bareilles said. “I miss them both to the ends of the earth.”

The duality of Bareilles’ album is ingenious in its ability for the listener to interpret the lyrics in a way that relates to their own life. Whether they too are mourning the end of the Obama administration or are amidst a breakup with a significant other, Bareilles’ lyrics offer comfort and relatability in times of confusion.

“A Safe Place to Land,” featuring John Legend, is a song about the border crisis. The lyrics are emotionally impactful. Its opening lyrics, “When holding your breath is safer than breathing / When letting go is braver than keeping / When innocent words turn to lies / And you can't hide by closing your eyes,” puts the listener in the shoes of a refugee. Legend and Bareilles singing together creates a gripping juxtaposition in musicality.

Hope is a central theme throughout the song “Orpheus,” which includes the lyrics “Don’t stop trying to find me here / Amidst the chaos.” This gentle and melodic song reflects Bareilles’ natural ability to bring comfort to her listeners. Her message of hope radiates in her ability to urge her listeners to continue on and never give up. She sings gently, “Though I know it's blinding, there’s a way out / Say out loud / We will not give up on love now.”

Whether interpreted politically or personally, “Amidst the Chaos” is a collection of melodious songs touching on hard issues head on. Bareilles helps the listener understand the political climate of society in a graceful way. Her songs are filled with substance and controversy, but she softens the blow of the unveiled emotional truths by using provoking lyrics and polished melodies. The album has a classic Bareilles sound with a political twist. The songs take the listener on a journey, enabling them to consider the climate of society and allowing them to evaluate their personal qualms, “Amidst the Chaos.”

Contact Audrey Nakagawa at nakagaas@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.