5 Songs Where Artists Went from Shallow to Personal | Mini Playlist
In this mini playlist, we highlight five songs where artists not normally associated with releasing ‘personal’ music showcased their ‘personal’ side.
Part of what makes the music industry alluring is the wide range of musicians. There are a number of genres, sub-genres, and various approaches to the same ends. In other words, the means to achieve the ends varies across the board. On this particular mini-playlist, the ends are the same: songs that get personal. This list examines a specific song by five artists not necessarily known for a personal approach to their music. It doesn’t mean that these artists are completely shallow people. It also doesn’t mean that they’ve never recorded a personal song prior to this one. It just means in this particular instance, it was worth noting how personal the respective artist became on a song. Here are 5 Songs Where Artists Went from Shallow to Personal.
1. Kesha, “Praying”
Album: Rainbow, 2017
Kesha gave us all chills on “Praying,” the promo single for Rainbow. “Praying” marked her first departure – a stark contrast from her past work. A ballad, it’s clear from the jump she’s aiming for empowerment for herself, and others who’ve been in an unfortunate situation. By the end of the song, the powerhouse vocals are mind-blowing. Where has she been hiding this? The most surprising moment is when she nails a high F that no one – NO ONE – thought she could hit. Judging by the content, Dr. Luke is definitely in the doghouse.
“‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell / I had to learn how to fight for myself / And we both know all the truth I could tell / I’ll just say this is I wish you farewell / I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’ / I hope your soul is changin’, changin’ / I hope you find your peace / Falling on your knees, prayin’.”
It should also be noted that Rainbow features numerous instances of Kesha ‘stepping up her game,’ opting for empowerment and thoughtfulness over gimmickry and silliness. Her “Tik Tok” days are over.
2. Jay-Z, “4:44”
Album: 4:44, 2017
Jay-Z is rapper who definitely knows how to flex. However, on his 2017 album 4:44, he swapped out the ‘flex action’ for getting personal. The title track, “4:44,” is a notable example. “4:44” features one of the most awesome samples of the album, courtesy of British soul singer Hannah Williams & the Affirmations (“Late Nights & Heartbreak”). Notably, Kim Burrell provides additional vocals, which fit seamlessly into the music. Interestingly, the title track was conceived at 4:44 A.M. and clocks in at 4:44 in length. While the production and overall sound are radiant, the message is truly ear-catching. Jay-Z apologizes to Beyoncé for his infidelity – starting from the opening tip.
“Look, I apologize, often womanize / Took for my child to be born, see through a woman’s eyes / Took for these natural twins to believe in miracles / Took me too long for this song, I don’t deserve you…”
3. Miley Cyrus, “Malibu”
Album: Younger Now, 2017
Miley Cyrus isn’t the go-to artist in regards to a personal listening experience. Her 2013 album, Bangerz, has its share of shallow, less personal moments. Sure, there are instances where Cyrus shows genuine emotion on this album, but it’s not necessarily personal. “Malibu,” from Younger Now, showcases a mature Miley Cyrus. Clearly, she’s grown up. A serious song, she trades the carefree fun and rebellion of her Bangerz days for love. On the first verse, she portrays a picture of being lost and found through true love. The chorus summarizes the dedication in she feels toward her man. The second verse grows even more personal, clearly referencing Liam Hemsworth.
“We watched the sun go down as we were walkin’ / I’d spent the rest of my life just standing here talkin’ / You would explain the current, as I just smile / Hoping that you’ll stay the same and nothing will change… / I never would’ve believed you if three years ago you told me / I’d be here writing this song.”
4. Lady Gaga, “Million Reasons”
Album: Joanne, 2016
Over the past couple of years, Lady Gaga has become a much more personal artist. It’s not that her early hits were devoid of substance by any means, but even the depth of all-encompassing message of “Born This Way” may have felt less heavy given its danceable groove. “Million Reasons,” a standout from Joanne, finds Lady Gaga dig-in-deep lyrically, with the help of renowned songwriter Hillary Lindsey (Lady Antebellum), who adds a dash of country. This is clearly a pop-rock, singer-songwriter-oriented song, a stark contrast to the more danceable records by the pop artist. The high-flying record feels authentic and incredibly personal from the jump. The crowning achievement of “Million Reasons” is undoubtedly the chorus:
“I bow down to pray / I try to make the worst seem better / Lord, show me the way / to cut through all his worn-out leather / I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away / but baby, I just need one good one to stay.”
5. Usher, “Papers”
Album: Raymond v. Raymond, 2010
Characterizing Usher as a shallow artist would be a great overstatement. However, calling “Yeah!” or “Love in This Club” personal songs would also be an overstatement. Nonetheless, Usher eschewed the club in favor of meaningful, serious vibes on “Paper,” from Raymond v. Raymond. Rolling Stone “hits the nail on the head” with its description of “Papers”:
“Seemingly, a near play-by-play account of the singer’s short-lived marriage and divorce from Tamika Foster, the track could be the most personal in Usher’s career.”
Even without Rolling Stone’s contributions, the lyrics of “Papers” say it all, particularly the chorus:
“For you, I gave my heart and turned my back against the world / ‘Cause you were my girl, girl, girl / I done damn near lost my mama, I done been through so much drama / I done turned into the man I never thought I’d be / I’m ready to sign them papers, papers, papers / I don’t took all I can take, but you leave me no options girl…”
Photo Credits: Kemosabe, Roc Nation, RCA, Interscope, La Face