Daniella Watters released As You Are this past week, the 4th EP in what she calls her “ X.ARI Project”- the name by which I have known her for the 4 +years I have been following her, both as a live performer and a recording artist. The confessional EP continues to expand X.ARI’s exploration of mental illness and her own inner demons through some of the best and most powerful pop and electronic music out there.
As You Are is six songs, each a gem on its own and together a gestalt look at the world that she, and thousands of other people with various conditions of mental illness, inhabit. The more complex version, as she tells it, is comorbidity, the state of living with a mind afflicted by multiple disorders. As You Are takes you through her beautiful mind in a process she calls “pain into power” – using her poetry and music to confront and dominate her challenges and bring hope and strength to others.
The EP opens on a high note, “Lifting UP “a confessional about rising up after hardships, and a definitive statement that lets you know she is proud of herself and what she has accomplished, and delivers the message of stay true to you in smoothly produced pop that scaffolds her perfectly-controlled voice as she moves through a song that lifts and carries you with its spontaneous-feeling musical complexity.
“Watching” moves into a melody-shaped inner world of seeing a new person with the opportunities for a relationship and the unknown of new possibilities or rejection. The music is light, filled with rainbows and hip-hop poetry, a demonstration of how broadly talented X.ARI is, of how she can be many things musically, all of them pleasing, although not always pleasant.
The title song, “As You Are” is X.ARI’s anti-bullying song – actually an anthem – for anyone who has felt picked on or outcasted.
Don’t let ‘em push you out and pull you under/Somebody says you gotta
Go and get yourself together/Somebody said, but they don’t know
How deep it goes/Just come as you are
This is what she is doing in this EP – coming as she is, modeling that advice in music. And it works so very well. But the world can go dark as light, as she tells us next in “BSMI” – Broke, Single, and Mentally Ill – a song she released earlier this year.
Depression it feeds on me/Obsession it breeds in me
Confessin I’m broke single and mentally ill/You can’t see all the crazy in me
So I’m confessing I’m broke single and mentally ill
“BSMI” is a confession that the freedom she gains with self-knowledge can also be freedom to suffer, delivered in a high tempo electronic beat with perfectly-pitched overdubbed backing vocals. Wow. The music is an earworm; the lyrics are hard.
X.ARI shifts to a sweet love song in “Be Where You Are, moving her voice up a notch as she tells a lover she wants to be where that person is. Written with Antony Marks, the song intrigues us with the lines my past in the present tense/some things we’ll never know….it’s how our lives will get to where we go, sung in a sweet, intensely personal voice, sometimes reaching falsetto. The song creates the kind of sonic world that X.ARI excels at – longing, thoughtful, deep, melodic.
The EP ends on a joyful note in “Take Me Home”, although with a catch. The joy is starting a relationship with the one that is romantic, intimate, blinding in its perfection
…I’m feeling naked in my clothes/you see me like no other
I’m comfortable overexposed with you.
The catch is that she lives across the country. The result is both a celebration of the love and a plea to be taken across the country so they can plant a seed/wanna watch it grow. Written with Anders Grahn, it shows yet again, X.ARI’s unique ability to combine joy and pain in addictive music that pierces you heart while it captures your eardrums.
Over the last year X.ARI wrote over 30 songs in a cathartic explosion of talent and energy. She culled out these six for As You Are and released the EP in support of World Mental Health Day. In doing so, she created an album that is addictive, joyful, painful, urgent, and like no other.
As You Are, released Oct. 9, 2020; available on all platforms.
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