Ever since Julia Michaels burst onto the scene with self-penned hit “Issues”, she’s been steadily releasing new material over the past years. After EP Inner Monologue Part 1 was released in January, many were excitedly awaiting the release of the inevitable Part 2. Last week, that moment finally arrived. As the title suggests, the songs on Inner Monologue provide intimate glimpses into Michaels most inner thoughts and personal stories. Confessional pop that hits you right where it hurts is what she excels at, and it’s what she relies on throughout the record.
The EP opens with upbeat “17” where she wistfully laments the innocence and simplicity of a first relationship. It seems a little less introspective and slightly dreamier – more fantasy-based – than her previous material. Nevertheless, it’s a catchy earworm that’s somewhat reminiscent of Anne Marie’s “2002”. Both songs rely on a familiar-sounding pop production that emphasises the nostalgia.
A clear theme on this EP are self-sabotage in relationships, and knowing they’re meant to fall apart because of her choice in men. “Fucked Up Kinda” – a fitting duet and only feature on this EP – Michaels confesses that maybe sometimes she longs for things that she shouldn’t in relationships. Like a guilty pleasure, she mentions possessive and extremely jealous behaviour, and picking fights for no reason whatsoever. “Falling For Boys” marks the return to the ethereal stripped-back sound that also featured on some tracks on her previous EP, such as “Apple”. Michaels’ unique phrasing that allows her to fit entire sentences into just mere seconds takes the main spotlight in this song. And while the lyrics reflect a deeply personal and individual perspective – it’s still incredibly relatable. Similarly, third track “Hurt Again” sees Michaels confronting her fear of being let down in a relationship. There’s a certain universality to that particular feeling of recklessness, almost hinging upon hopelessness, where you give your heart away against all odds. It’s a sense of reckless optimism in disguise – you can’t be disappointed when you expect it to happen anyway.
And then there’s “Priest”. It’s a song that’s full of witty lines and wry humour that sees Michaels reflecting on the character of an ex. Whereas Michaels usually emphasises the difficulty in letting go of someone and her own role in dysfunctional romances, this track instead feels much more like closure. The lyrics focus on how she doesn’t owe her ex anything, and the production only further accentuates the idea of her being tired of their behaviour with its laid back guitar plucks. She isn’t disappointed or hurt – instead she laughs over the predictability of her ex’s behaviour and reminds herself she deserves better.
The EP doesn’t just focus on romantic relationships and the wide range of feelings that accompany them – such as love, guilt, hurt, regret and nostalgia. For example, “Work Too Much” sees Michaels consider the implications of her busy schedule on her ability to keep up with her friends and family. It’s something many people struggle with on a daily basis, let alone when it involves a career that blurs the lines between free time and work by default. It can feel restrictive, and Michaels confesses she longs for a little more freedom, a slightly more balance approached to life. On her previous EP, Michaels included two songs that directly deal with mental health. She continues the conversation here with “Body”. It’s another track that manages to enchant the listener with its raw depiction of just how hard it is to love ourselves – even when we deeply, truly want to.
The closer, “Shouldn’t Have Said It” is perhaps the stand-out song on this collection. The way the song rushes towards the chorus perfectly portrays the anxiety and guilt that Michaels mentions in the lyrics. She recognises that a fight can be a microcosm of people’s characters, and how that things said in the moment can haunt someone for a long while. As usual, there’s an incredible level of emotional awareness on Michaels’ part, as she reflects on her own responsibility. There’s something debilitating about knowing you’ve hurt someone and not being able to take it back – not knowing how to solve the root cause of the conflict. As a result, the song leaves the listener with a feeling of unfinished business – emphasising the inevitability of conflict and the insecurity it can cause when there’s no instant fix available.
In that sense, Inner Monologue Part 2 definitely feels like a natural progression of Part 1, with the same whimsical, yet strong melody lines and its lyrical intricacy. That is the magic of Julia Michaels. In allowing herself to be so vulnerable and raw, Michaels allows a lot of other people to do the same without feeling alone, weak or judged because of it. There’s a lot of bravery and strength to be found in showing our own imperfections. Talking about our most private thoughts, doubts and feelings is something we don’t do all that often – but Michaels provides you with the perfect soundtrack to externalize your own inner monologue and not feel so alone anymore.