Julia Michaels doesn’t sugar coat anything. Her music delves into important issues that most pop singers gloss over, taking the easy route by romanticizing life and love. Not Michaels – she lays it all on the line, baring her soul for people to take or leave.
Her second EP, Inner Monologue, Pt. 1, is exactly what it sounds like – her deepest thoughts, desires and fears spilled into six candid tracks. Not that any part of this album is as accidental as a spilled cup of tea. Michaels is a skilled songwriter, crafting lyrics and melodies that unveil what makes her tick and strike a relatable chord in the listener. Inner Monologue, Pt. 1 gifts us with six more layers of Michaels – and we already want more.
25-year-old Julia Michaels, an Iowa native, began her songwriting career at just 14-years-old by writing theme songs for TV and film. Since then, she’s written major hits for countless big-name artists like Shawn Mendes, Keith Urban, Britney Spears and Maroon 5. In 2017, Michaels wrote a song that she couldn’t imagine anyone but herself singing, so she finally took center stage at age 23. That song was the Grammy-nominated hit, “Issues”.
“Issues” is as honest of a song as they come. The frank lyrics tell us that we’re all a little messed up, and that’s perfectly fine. Michaels jumps into these serious topics without making them feel serious. She contrasts heavy lyrics with light melodies that effortlessly carry our worries away. Two years since the release of “Issues”, Michaels is now known for the poignant songs carried by her own distinct voice.
Inner Monologue, Pt. 1 begins with the ironically cheery “Anxiety”, an ode to Michaels’ real-life anxiety and depression, featuring fellow pop-star Selena Gomez. The melancholy lyrics float above a bouncy melody, creating a strangely perfect storm. Songs like these are so necessary for young women to hear. They tell us to give ourselves a break because our struggles are not uncommon.
“Into You” feels more high-stakes than Michaels’ other breezy tunes. A pulsing beat carries the chorus as she confesses the lengths she goes to avoid running into an ex. But the echoing anthem sounds like the backdrop to a montage of Michaels running full-speed ahead towards the very thing she’s trying to dodge. It’s easy to relate to this back-and-forth battle of staying away from someone who you know is bad for you.
In “Happy”, we see Michaels looking into her bathroom mirror, admitting to her self-destruction with jagged breaths above synth beats. Her voice takes on an immature tone, but that’s exactly what she’s admitting to being. She cries a simple but powerful “I just wanna be fucking happy”. Don’t we all. “Deep” showcases Michaels’ stunning falsetto with a powerful chorus that abruptly cuts to a foot-tappingly carefree beat. This juxtaposition represents the feeling of being heartbroken with meeting someone new who gives you butterflies again.
Michaels collaborates with Irish singer Niall Horan on the emotional “What a Time” where two old lovers reminisce on their relationship. Michaels voice cracks as she morphs the nostalgic lyric “What a time” into the heartbreaking, “What a lie”.
The crowning moment of Inner Monologue, Pt. 1 comes with “Apple”, a sun-kissed love story that drifts from a trickling ukulele to finger-snapping pop beats. It’s an understated moment of the EP compared to the powerful lyrics of “Anxiety” and building crescendos in “What a Lie”, but that’s what makes it so special – it’s a lovely surprise.
It’s no secret that Julia Michaels has the songwriting chops most artists would kill for. But what Inner Monologue, Pt. 1 shows us is that she has a radiant voice to match. She tells compelling stories of heartbreak – romantic and internal. Michaels is a real woman with real issues – she simply turns them into beautiful songs. Lucky for us that we get to hear them.