There aren’t many things better than discovering a new artist whose music you instantly connect with. Whether they’re touring the nation making their name or supporting big acts globally, we’re here to put a spotlight on the musically gifted people with a bright future ahead of them. This week, we’re introducing you to the coolest new pop singer on the block, Julia Michaels.
For Fans Of: James Bay, P!NK, Paramore
Essential Listening: ‘Happy’, ‘What A Time’
All you have to do is look at the list of people that Julia Michaels has worked with and you’ll be impressed, because her phonebook is full of some of the biggest names in Hollywood. In the past year alone she’s released songs with Selena Gomez, Niall Horan and James Bay, and her touring schedule has included support slots with Maroon 5, P!NK and Keith Urban, to name a few. Not only that, but she’s been involved in the writing process for some of the biggest pop hits on the planet, including tracks by Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, Demi Lovato and the Britney Spears.
Looking at that list of names, we wouldn’t blame you for thinking that Julia is a polished pop star straight out of LA, but that’s where you would be wrong. When it comes to her solo material, the 25-year-old Iowa native prefers to pen alternative, mostly acoustic songs that focus on the dark side of mental health, feeling alone and failing at relationships.
‘Issues’ was her first stepping stone into the world of being a solo artist, hitting the industry in 2017, it was an instant hit. A song that many other singers had fought for but one that Julia knew she had to keep for herself. The gentle intro of strings and raspy vocals build to a thumping bassline and an atmospheric chorus that lay Julia bare, all emotions out on the table for everyone to see. It was the bump start she needed for her solo career and the payoff was huge, because at the end of 2018 it was nominated for Song Of The Year at the Grammy's, alongside her second nomination for Best New Artist.
‘Issues’ was the lead single from her major-label debut EP, Nervous System, which was released in the summer of 2017. Receiving widespread acclaim, that EP was the building blocks for Julia’s career and allowed her to test the waters of being in the spotlight, rather than behind the scenes. Venturing into different avenues of pop, from dancey numbers to piano ballads, it allowed fans to really discover her as an artist, as well as relating to her on a personal level.
2018 became her biggest year yet. Alongside the small matter of the Grammy nominations, Julia also had the opportunity to experience tour life, her song ‘Heaven’ was featured on the soundtrack for Fifty Shades Freed and she continued to release music throughout the year, both as a solo artist and a collaborator (Lauv, Clean Bandit, Noah Kahan).
Taking 2019 by the horns, Julia didn’t ease into the year with some downtime, but instead dropped her second EP, Inner Monologue Part 1, which includes features from long-term collaborator and friend, Selena Gomez, as well as One Direction’s Niall Horan. A more mature record, it delves into the pain of depression, with opening track, ‘Anxiety’, playing out like a spoken word poem. Gomez chimes in with the lyrics, “Feel like I'm always apologising for feeling / Like I'm out of my mind when I'm doing just fine / And my exes all say that I'm hard to deal with / And I admit it, it's true”, whilst together they sing of isolation and the struggles of being sociable – something that seems to be a never-ending battle for our generation.
‘Happy’ is also far from what its title suggests, with Julia’s voice raw and desperate as she cries out “Oh, I just wanna be f**king happy” and admitting that her art has a damaging effect on her relationships. Don’t let the sadness put you off, though, because the entire EP is a beautiful, honest and eye-opening collection of songs, and it's this style of songwriting that makes Julia stand out from the rest of today’s pop industry.
Springtime also brought the release of a duet with British singer, James Bay and we were blessed with the stunning track, ‘Peer Pressure’. A sure hit, it saw both their vocals syncing together perfectly to create a state of bliss and love, making it a contender for ballad of the year. If you prefer your heartbreak a little more upbeat, though, then it's Julia's collab with alt-pop outfit, LANY, that you need to hear, as they roped her in for vocal duties on ‘okay'. Another tale of a relationship gone sour, it's soundtracked by stunning harmonies, simple electric guitar melodies and a little snappy percussion that meshes so wonderfully it's hard to know why they haven't teamed up before.
If the second half of 2019 shapes up like the first, then we’re going to be seeing (and hearing) a lot more from Julia Michaels in the coming months and frankly, we’re totally fine with that. Stepping across the Atlantic for a headline tour on our shores very soon, this’ll be your chance to witness one of the fastest-rising stars in the pop world before she goes on to dominate stages globally, and you wouldn’t want to miss that would you?
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