Jessica Meuse- her not-so “Halfhearted” album debut

Can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post… what the heck have I been doing these past few months, other than stressing about random stuff? Oh, and Thanksgiving happened and I was stuck in traffic for 9 hours driving home from work on November 15th because the weathermen screwed up the forecast with how much snow we were supposed to get…

Anyway, this post has been coming for a long time. I’d been following Jess since she was on Season 13 of American Idol. She was my favorite to win since her audition. Alex Preston did this as well (speaking of which, totally forgot he released a new album recently… can’t believe his previous album dropped only last year). They both auditioned with original songs.
Fun fact: “Blue-eyed Lie” was the very first song I bought on iTunes even though I’d had the software (and my iPod, obviously) since 2008. (Alex Preston’s “Fairytales” and Edvin Marton’s “Fanatico” I got at the same time as well).

In my history of watching American Idol and I pretty watched every Fox season except for Season 12 (I checked in at the top 7)… I’d gotten to know a lot of these artists and have bought a bunch of albums from them.
Jess is one of those artists I followed the series hoping to find. Someone whose music I could relate to on a personal level and I just really liked as a person.
And in following her, I really started to understand what the reality show circuit and the recording industry in general was about. Why it’s not always perfect and how it can get it wrong sometimes. (This knowledge also comes from a lot of reading Lyndsey Parker’s blog on Yahoo!)

When Jess was on Idol, I remember keeping up with her throughout the competition, never forgetting how much I loved that song and that audition. We both remember group round where she butted heads with one of the stages moms. Luckily, her past accomplishments on the show allowed her to advance despite not knowing all the words to “Singles Ladies”. (I’m in the minority in saying I cannot stand that song from the moment it came out and I still hate it).
Then there was a lot of battles to be had with the judges. They kept saying the songs weren’t working for her, or she looked stiff on stage. Granted, it’s not easy competing on live TV. Some people need to get more comfortable and get momentum to make it far- Carrie Underwood is super talented, but I think she even admitted that she learned how to become a better performer on the show. As much as it’s about talent, there’s a lot of superficiality to it. Heck, Loren Allred who actually sang “Never Enough” on “The Greatest Showman,” she said in an interview that The Voice was trying to pre-package her and make her into an artist she just wasn’t. People like Colbie Calliat were rejected by American Idol because they didn’t have the right energy.
The funny thing was that Jess gave the judges everything they wanted of her the night she was eliminated and sang “Blue-Eyed Lie” as her farewell performance… she had fire in her eyes and determination.

Yes, I am gonna eventually talk about this album, I promise 😛 Gotta say also how cool it was that Jess followed me back on Twitter and a couple of times we swapped tweets back and forth about random stuff. She’s really cool with her fans, something I hope she doesn’t lose as the years go on.
I bought one other single, “Done,” from iTunes. But I waited a couple years and kept up with her social media for a potential album. It was also really cool watching her old videos on YouTube and reading interviews about the latest. She’d been working with this current label for a year or so, I think, and it’s nice to finally have an album I can physically hold in my hands. [That’s always going to be a big thing with me- physical albums]

So song by song:

instead of Blue-Eyed Lie, it’s “Brown-Eyed Devil” that starts things off… this move will be seen by some as stupidly repetitive, recycling the same idea that worked well for her audition. But I think it’s a smart move because it touches back on the past, bringing back that familiarity for those who followed her since Idol and it also explores it further detail.
She didn’t just go with typical metaphors. She struck together so many different ways of saying why this dude is bad and you should stay away from him. It’s not just saying “he’s got barbed wire in his soul, lips like sugar cane,” it’s how he’ll come off “like a sweetheart to everybody else, but the truth is he’s a devil and he’s in love with himself”… his deviousness works on multiple levels. But it’s also a lot of words to remember 😛 I think I have a lot of it down, but every other lyric slips through the cracks.

“High” reminds me a little of “Champagne” from Cassadee’s album. It doesn’t have the same punch as the first song and it’s kinda hovering around the same level of emotion without a lot of variance.
It’s interesting- I came across an interview while trying to find lyrics and she was asked about this song and said it was something she wrote out of sarcasm about an abusive relationship where they were miserable all the time.
Gives me something to think about the next time I listen to it. The one lyric I remember is in the chorus where she says it’s like “a reborn phoenix learning how to fly.” Half of the time, this song sounds like it’s about a good relationship, but you get further below the surface and see things aren’t as good as they appear.

“I’ll Find My Way” is one of those songs that started to stick after the first couple times. It’s about realizing a relationship was bad, how the guy will always have to settle for something less, how he deceives people and she’ll find her own way without him. The ending gets a little repetitive, but I will get so rapt up in it that I just channel all that emotion that I just stop noticing.
It’s also one of those songs clearly written to be a hit single because it’s catchy and memorable and just rolls off the tongue. This album has a bunch.

“California Dream”- I feel in love with immediately. Something in it feels like something I had gone through. Not without another person, but just all the emotions in my head about feelings I never acted on.
It’s about getting reacquainted with an old flame, a relationship that wasn’t perfect, hoping to be wrong about him, feeling sure he was the one and wanting for a moment to forget about the past. So many confused emotions tangled together. The repetition comes in at the end, repeating “my California dream” but unlike other songs on this album, it slowly tears me apart with each repetition.
Yeah, this is one of those songs hard for me to sing along to, as much as I want to, because it just breaks my heart. And I’m a blubbering mess that my throat closes up and I can’t get the words out 😛 the interview said that this was the same guy “High” was about and she imagined breaking up with him and meeting him again years later at a time when she was ready to forgive him… a lot of the songs on this album are about him… taking a note out of Taylor Swift’s songbook. I don’t mind. If anything, I suspected it because of all the repetition with the themes.

“Relapse” is self-explanatory, I think. The title alone attracted me to it because I knew it was going to be conflicting and complicated. That must be why people like gossip so much- it’s just juicy and multi-layered. Jesse McCartney also had a song called “Relapse” about a similar ordeal and it became one of my favorites on that particular album- it’s as addicting as the subject matter itself.
The lyrics started coming easy with this one as well.

“Thank God it Didn’t Work”- I remember this song was circulating for a few weeks before the album came out, but I didn’t want to listen to it until I got the album. It’s another of those mint-written singles. Again, it’s a song I settled into quickly and really got to like. The interview brought up this song and how you can be miserable about a situation, but you lose sight of the big picture and see that the failures led you to the successes.
I don’t think it’s exclusive to just relationships, but just life in general.

“Novocain”… this is another one that I really got into. I’d be on the road with this album and often I’d get tunnel vision where I’m focusing on the road ahead more than everything else around me. This song I’d come into in some times where I was a little stressed about something going on with my route and I’d just focus on this and get absorbed in it. Green Day had a song of the same name, although I think that was called “Give me Novocain” and it’s about being depressed and trying to numb pain. This one is about being addicted to a relationship and not feeling the same without this person in your life.
There’s a bridge before the chorus where certain lines repeat to reinforce the same message- that really drives it home. This is one of those songs I listen to and hear the notes differently than they’re written. Sometimes I want to take the end of the chorus a note higher or a note lower, depending on how I feel at the time.

“Love Her Better”- this was another one released as a single and it really reads that way. It’s talking about a guy who screwed up a relationship by cheating and she hopes he loves her better than he loved her. Like so many songs on this album, there’s a lot of grit and attitude and it makes the song all the more enjoyable. This one in particular.

“Halfhearted”- I kinda feel like this should have been the song to end the album. Title tracks are typically at the end or the start of an album and this is somewhere in the middle. Personally, I’d prefer to the song that ends it- just cuz it’s a bit of a tearjerker. This one just sums up the album, and Jess as a person. She sings the chorus and the bridge to the chorus towards the end. But with all the verses, she actually raps them. Which I thought was a bold move, very unexpected. She pretty much takes us through her life, how people didn’t get her and she made herself feel better by writing songs and playing every venue she could book. Also addressing her YouTube videos and her time on American Idol, and how she ultimately overcame adversity. The last time I listened to the album, I was kinda going through some traffic, kinda slow, but moving nonetheless. I was up to this song on the album so I actually did rap along with her just so I had something to focus on other than the traffic (it makes me a bit more nervous these days cuz I dealt with it for way too long during that snowstorm weeks ago… bleck! never again!). I’d normally leave the rap part of the song alone cuz it’s her time to shine. I don’t generally like rap in songs, but Ed Sheeran did it and mixed it flawlessly with singing and Jess does it just as well. Obviously, it’s one of the biggest standouts on the album.

“Without You”- another unexpected move for the album. Jess duets with another American Idol alum, Bo Bice. I know a lot of the Idol people know each other, but they were on the series a long time apart. I found out he’s also from Alabama (I know she’s from Slapout, Alabama cuz that name totally suits her sassy personality). Anyway, it’s one of those really good anthems that fits for songwriters and artists and just people who deal with a lot of criticism and people trying to tear them down. Both of them sing the chorus together, but they swap verses and even comment to each other within the song. It’s pretty cool.
Great chorus too- “without you, I’m feeling better. when I see you again, I won’t even remember your name”. And the final lyric- “I want to thank you for all the hell you put me through cuz I couldn’t have gotten here without you”…

by the way, sorry if any of these lyrics have inaccuracies and they’re not word-for-word correct… but whatever I write down, if they’re wrong, they’re close enough where the message comes through.
Anyway, that’s a collaboration I never expected, had no idea these two knew each other, so it was pretty cool.

“Ruin”- the 11th track of a certain soundtrack opened my eyes to something that led me to start writing as a hobby. As a result, I look to a lot of track 11’s on albums and see if any of them hold the same meaning. Not all track 11’s hold up admittedly, but some wind up being my favorites on the albums ( “In and out of time” on Colton Dixon’s first album was the 11th track and it always stuck out to me for one reason or another even though I have no clue what the song is meant to be about).
Anyway, on the second or third time I heard this song, it hit me in the heart so hard because I saw myself so clearly in it, it was like looking in a mirror. It’s about getting hurt and putting up walls to keep others from hurting you. And then someone comes along and breaks down those walls and makes you believe in yourself again. I’d have this in the car and sing it at the top of my lungs, I feel it so strongly. I had my suspicions it was another 11th track, and sure enough it was.

“The Noose”- this song annoyed me slightly the first time I heard it cuz I had no idea what the final lyric in the chorus was. But when I saw the title of the song and heard it again, I figured it out “I’m standing on the edge on the ledge and you’re the noose”… this was where the album started to get a little repetitive for me the first couple times. But I started to like it more with every listen. It’s kinda like this relationship- it’s addicting going through these lyrics and singing them that it’s hard to stop myself sometimes.

“Beyond the Sea”- another song I didn’t care for a lot at first. But mostly because it’s such a country thing, going through all of these states just to prove you love somebody. I don’t mind country music to a point, but I still have my limits. And stuff like that, I feel like there’s a serious disconnect that I can’t follow. Like “Thank God for Hometowns” on Carrie Underwood’s album- I don’t come from a tight-knit community like that so it’s hard to relate.
But as I listened to this song more, I somehow stumbled into the right state of mind where I could appreciate it. Having that type of devotion for someone you’d walk through fire for them. Don’t remember who I was thinking about, but he helped whoever he was.

“When I’m Gone”- the point goes without saying. “You only love me when I’m leaving and you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone” and she says how he only wants her when she’s crying, only comes around when she gives up hoping… that really twisted abusive relationship. And then she twists it around at the end when she talks about the girl he’s with doing the same thing to him. There’s something satisfying about that.

“His Missing Heart (Jigsaw Puzzle)”- stands alone as the one song on this album Jess had nothing to do with other than singing it. It’s about a couple who had fallen out of love, particularly the husband and the wife is telling their kid how something had been missing between them for a while.
This song kills me whenever I listen to it- it’s very sentimental and heart-breaking. Very nicely written. But I hate ending this album on a downer, so I’m probably not going to be listening to this one all the time.
If the title track wasn’t put last, the previous song could do just as fine.

One of these days, I’ll looking more into albums and why certain ones work as a whole better than others. Like what the right number of songs are to have on an album. Personally, I’m leaning towards 12 because it’s a solid number. Anything more than that, there’s a chance it can run long or things can get repetitive and run long.
I have this issue with Taylor’s albums too. I don’t 100% love every album because there are a handful of songs that aren’t up to that same quality.
But in this case, all of the material is really good and that relatability factor is strong. But themes repeat too much. Ed Sheeran’s most recent album had this too, maybe the reason I don’t care for it as much as the previous one by him. But both have 12 tracks also… it’s not as cut and dry as one would think.

But already, I’m feeling like with each listen, I appreciate more about different songs. That typically happens with albums I grow to really like.
After all this time waiting for this to come together, and it doesn’t always (record companies are so fickle, but artists can also part ways cuz they’re not 100% into the relationship)… I’m so glad this is one of those cases an album came out of it. Cuz Jess is awesome and she has so many fans that love and support her.

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