Sara Bareilles | Amidst the Chaos | Album Review

Epic Records
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

There’s nothing technically wrong with Sara Bareilles’ songwriting, compositions, or vocal delivery, but Amidst the Chaos isn’t the right title for an album with tracks so mellow that it doesn’t evoke anything resembling chaos.

The album makes a political statement. Bareilles has stated in interviews that the title Amidst the Chaos is a response to Trump’s presidency. For example, the soulful track “If I Can’t Have You,” which lyrically sounds like a standard breakup song, is apparently about former President Obama. This might explain why the track sounds like something from What’s Going On-era Marvin Gaye. In other tracks like “Saint Honesty” and “A Safe Place to Land,” Bareilles sounds sorrowful, like Gaye.

Unfortunately, aside from “Armor,” which—referencing catcalling—is clearly about sexism, other political messages within Amidst the Chaos are so vague it’s questionable whether Bareilles’ audience would understand the exact statement she’s trying to make. 

Bareilles’ earlier work also would be described as mellow and uncontroversial, but her earlier hits like “Love Song” and “Brave” at least feature playful piano riffs that distinguish Bareilles from other pop singers. However, the only tracks on Amidst the Chaos with her signature catchy piano riffs are “Armor” and “Wicked Love.”

Bareilles’ songwriting seems to be moving away from the lyrically generic “Love Song,” which could be addressed to anyone, to more specific storytelling. In “Miss Simone,” Bareilles describes dancing on the rooftop with a lover to Nina Simone, while “Poetry by Dead Men” seemingly mocks an ex-lover’s habit of reading poetry in coffee shops. 

It isn’t clear what emotion Bareilles is trying to convey or what she wants her audience to feel. A few songs stick out on the album, leaving it somewhere between a flop and a hit.

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