Words By: Matthew Griffiths
Alessia Cara has already had an incredible career and it almost feels like the secret to it is her out of the box thinking, especially in her visuals.
It’s no question that Alessia Cara has a knack for telling a good story. Every time I come across her music, her songs are ingrained with personable and relatable themes that speak to an entire generation. In the last couple of months, I’ve noticed how these songs have been complimented massively by music videos bursting with colour, character and a playfulness that reminded me of iconic Katy Perry music videos such as “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)”, “Dark Horse”, or “Chained To The Rhythm”.
A lot of her creativity stems from working on songs at night. In a video discussing the meaning behind her track, “Sweet Dream”, she explained how insomnia has affected her throughout her whole life. This particular song was written during a sleepover in which she could not sleep, so she stayed up writing it, and recorded it in the studio the following day. Since going to therapy and doctors, Alessia confessed she felt she was writing better music now that she better understands how her brain works. Although I think she has always been an extremely talented artist, I hope fans will see the inner work she’s put into herself and consequently, into her new music. Sadly, her second album, The Pains of Growing, wasn’t marketed that well and only debuted at number 71, apparently selling less than 10,000 copies.
But Alessia’s music still never completely fell off the radar, and her imaginative visuals and storytelling ability validate that. Consider the opening scene in the video for “Sweet Dream”, where Alessia is lying face-down beneath a mattress, rather than atop one. Right off the bat, it’s such an oddly genius way to evoke the defeated feeling of lying in bed, but being unable to sleep. “Is it too much to ask for a sweet dream?” she asks from a floating bedroom window, watching sheep-shaped clouds leap past. Meanwhile, the production matches the visual through the use of awkward-sounding plucked stringed instruments akin to that of “Issues” by Julia Michaels.
At the end of the music video for “Sweet Dream”, Alessia lays down on a mattress in the sea. This is artistically linked to her video for “Shapeshifter”, an Amy Winehouse-esque accusatory track against an unfaithful lover. Smooth and jazzy in its instrumentation, the subdued vocals and smoky tone bring a maturity and level of believability to the story of the song. We see Alessia play all the characters in the video, each of which she has given a breakdown for. What brings it together with “Sweet Dream” is the ending – one of the aforementioned characters falls into a swimming pool, only for her then to wake up thrashing around in the sea, wearing the same clothes from the “Sweet Dream” video. I think it’s quite clever how it drives home the idea that her sleeplessness inspires her work.
In September, Alessia’s third studio album, In The Meantime dropped, containing these two singles. Despite not having listened to it yet, I personally loved the Amy Winehouse style of “Shapeshifter”. Although it’s a very grown up sound which contrasts with her playful videos, that sets her apart in a unique way, and I hope Alessia Cara continues in this direction whether it’s on this album or the next.