Angela Sclafani put us on notice with the release of her impressive single How We Meet. The track was just one of several teasers she revealed in advance of her new record Songs of Other Selves. The accredited songwriter has described the new collection as an offering, an excavation, and a personal reckoning. We were not disappointed. Sclafani is an artistic force possesing an eclectic reach within a contemporary framework.
She defies convention with intelligent arrangements that display a studious understanding of pop music’s history and evolution. The manifested destiny was first spoken and now immortalized on the introductory I’m in My Old Room. With melodic charm we tour her creative origins.
With the opening line she acknowledges the perceived unhealthy obsession it takes to get here. She’s fragile and self conscious from being misunderstood. Like most great songwriters she might communicate better through her lyrics than in regular common transactions. Her feelings are complex and appear abstract like the pieces she puzzles together to make this story. She understands their connection, like a complex script that leaves you marveled by the screenwriter and their beautiful mind. Her’s equally perplexing.
The packed poetry cascades furiously like her lifework. She is a 2022 Woman to Watch on Broadway, a 2019 Fred Ebb Award Winner, and a 2018 Richie Jackson Artist Fellow. She was a finalist for the 2023 Jerome Hill Fellowship in Music. A two-time first-place winner of the Great American Song Contest’s Adult Contemporary category, her music has been praised for its “engagingly original lyrical story, inventively appealing imagery and smartly crafted melodic design.”
With so much success and a perceived furious ascension she finds herself unraveled on Getting Married (I Do). Wanting to please someone, perhaps an idea of herself that an independent woman of this magnitude would have had to suppress, she struggles with matrimony’s expectation. As if she’s trying to convince herself she can do it the old way, when we all know, she can only make it work anew. That frantic yearning masks itself in the mirage of failed relationships, though they were more like inconveniences. Anyone who doesn’t embrace her magic doesn’t deserve to be her muse. The crisis, though, is she wants the same tribute. To be a muse for another, to be their Goddess immortalized in art. She leaves a trail of undeserved lovers in her songs with a confident ruthless nature.
Getting Married (I Do) is her most Broadway inspired adapted moment. It’s one version of the young misunderstood dreamer we met within I’m In My Old Room.
With this extended release Sclafani finds an opportunity to embrace her indie pop side. We hear evidence of pop influence in moments like Inside Out and By Their Standards, the latter of which recalls the recent record of Paramore. By Their Standards is a smart art-pop arrangement that matches Angela’s already established contemporary excellence. Whereas these songs add a new dynamic to the writers catalog, she honors her previously released singles with For Me and I’m In My Old Room. They add to the vibe already established by I’d Fall, How We Meet, and Disappearing Act.
It’s righteous that her contemporary works have drawn similarities to Norah Jones and Sara Bareilles. Angela shares in their professional standard and thoughtful execution. She’s entirely original without trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s about her voice within this framework, and she has most certainly found it and knows to embrace it, to guard it. That sentiment shows in some of the difficult industry themes sprinkled throughout, where Angela finds herself navigating a crowded field gate-kept by questionable figures with alternative intentions.
A biproduct of being a young misunderstood aspiring artist is being socially ignored by your peers and left alone long enough to be able to process the perception of others and their ridiculous motives. Whether it be jealousy or something sicker, she sees right though it. And that last version of herself is the avenger, one that takes no prisoner. She indulgences these tendencies with sneaky whit. They can only hope she doesn’t get her proper due, cause everyone will be wondering who she’s singing about.
Ultimately, Angela Sclafani tells her story better than anyone. With wondrous imagery and cinematic flair she presents this album in its proper order, meant to be listened front to back to comprehend her art appropriately. Find an hour to be with her and listen front to back, she deserves it.