Life is a story. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end. And sometimes it can seem as if we’re stuck in certain chapters of our story—like growing up—longer than others.
Twenty-two-year-old Alessia Cara is right in the middle of her story. Right in the middle of growing up. She’s past adolescence, and she’s entering into adulthood where life, especially a famous life, can get overwhelming. And her sophomore album, The Pains of Growing, chronicles the various life transitions she’s navigating.
Cara’s sultry, soulful sounds permeate all 14 pop-filled tracks as she shares what’s on her heart: love and loss, family and friends, and the life lessons she’s learned along the way.
Emotional healing after a breakup can be hard. And Alessia sings about ending a relationship for her own good (even when she might not want to) in songs such as “Out of Love,” “Nintendo Game,” “Trust My Lonely” and “I Don’t Want To.”
In the first of those songs, Alessia realizes her former beau has moved on, and so must she: “I won’t tell you I’m lonely/‘Cause it might be selfish/I won’t ask you to hold me/‘Cause that won’t mend what’s helpless.” And in “Trust My Lonely,” she decides to put distance between herself and her ex-boyfriend: “Go get your praise from someone else/You did a number on my health/My world is brighter by itself.” She also realizes, in retrospect, some of the dysfunctional elements in past relationships.
Alessia understands that love is a commitment and not a feeling in “Comfortable” (“Oh, we can’t run away from the comfortable/‘Cause it’s inevitable in love, in love”). And in “A Little More,” she wants to continue to learn more about the man she loves: “Please say you’ll never get bored/Can you blame me for wanting a little bit more?”
In “Easier Said,” the singer reassures strugglers that it’s OK to take your time in the healing process, even when the world is rushing you to get well: “Healing and patience are leveraged/Don’t place the blame on your heart, just to shut ’em up.” She feels the same about her personal healing in “Not Today,” as she honestly grapples with her own mental state: “One day I won’t need a Ph.D./To sit me down and tell me what it all means/Maybe one day, it’ll be a breeze/But surely not today.”
Alessia may struggle with her own insecurities in “Girl Next Door” (“I get uncomfortable, hide behind my walls/… But at least I say what I mean”) and “Growing Pains,” but she continues to move forward despite them.
“All We Know” and “7 Days” ask hard questions about life and God. In the former, Alessia tries to make sense of life (“Paul says, ‘Let it be’/But the others said, ‘The test is key'”); and in the latter, she wonders if God is disappointed in humanity (“Does He hang His head at all the greed that we possess?/As the antisocial media perpetuates the mess/ … I hope that through the static, You’ll show us the clarity”).
In “Wherever I Live,” Alessia has learned to make the most of every situation. And in “My Kind,” she looks back on her family and childhood with thankfulness.
In “I Don’t Want To,” Alicia flirts with the temptation of staying in a relationship that she knows isn’t good for her: “I could get on a flight, I could make up the time/I know I’m out of line, can I see you?”
“Comfortable” articulates a cynical and disillusioned view of marriage: “They say the honeymoon is just a puppet show/They say nobody really makes it through.” In “7 Days,” Alessia admits that she doesn’t think religion really matters.
We hear “d–n” in the songs “All We Know” and “7 Days.” And on “Wherever I Live” and “My Kind,” there are a few references to crass jokes, hints of sensuality and references to haunted rooms.
We don’t learn all about life in a day. But sometimes we wish we could. Life is a continual learning process, one in which we’re always changing, moving, shifting. In The Pains of Growing, Alessia Cara gets at this idea with maturity and grace. She recognizes that we won’t ever have all the answers. But she also knows we have to keep moving forward, even when we’re not 100% sure of the next step.
In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Alessia talked in depth about wanting to influence her fans and those who listen to her music. She said she wants to help people realize that mainstream media doesn’t have it all figured out and that, more often than not, the media wants to feed the world a “one size fits all” solution. But that solution doesn’t exist. So Alessia encourages us to be honest, realize that it’s OK to feel overwhelmed at times. It’s OK to be happy. It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to struggle.
For the most part, The Pains of Growing is honest and encouraging, uplifting and genuine. True, listeners will have to navigate a few mild profanities and some confessions about lost love. But the overall message here is a refreshingly positive one, one that could help some lonely listeners to realize that they’re not alone as they meander along life’s ever-winding road.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).