It’s always nice to get a reminder that someone’s placement in a reality competition show is not necessarily a true mark of his or her talent. Even though the audience isn’t privy to all the efforts that go into simply qualifying for most of these shows, it’s easy to dismiss someone who doesn’t make it deep into the competition. For the singer Bea Miller, a ninth place finisher in season two of The X Factor, her most recent EP Chapter One: Blue proves that she has an original modern pop sound that may not have been reflected in her placement in the competition. She is someone who, while still young, is clearly forging her own path to success.
The three-song EP has a generally dark tone and shows some clever songwriting from Miller, even though most of the thematic material doesn’t stray far from the pop canon. She creates a sense of familiarity for the listener with a veiled (and perhaps unintentional) reference to the oft-sampled “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega on “Song Like You,” and the more overt use of “London Bridge” on “Burning Bridges.” The allusions to these well-known songs act like a wink to the audience while the rest of Miller’s material is wholly her own.
For much of the EP, Miller writes about dealing with struggles in life and love. On the first track “Song Like You,” she acknowledges an issue in her life that needs resolving. Toward the end of the song, she writes, “Can’t get you out of my mind/ when I’m alone and I’ve been wasting so much time/ and it’s killing me inside/ a song like you.” The use of second person her implies that the subject of Miller’s ire is perhaps a past lover but she keeps things vague enough to leave it open to interpretation.
On “Burning Bridges,” Miller writes in a way that is more clearly about a failing romance. She details getting caught in a long-term relationship that causes her to develop an attachment to the other person despite being treated poorly. In the chorus, she sings, “I don’t know why I stick around to watch you burn our bridges down/ I can’t help it that I need you.” It’s a complicated push and pull that could come up in any relationship that has been through turmoil.
“I Can’t Breathe” continues the melancholy mood of the EP, featuring minimal production centered around simple piano chords and Miller’s subdued voice. Here she writes about being stuck in a difficult mental and emotional place and the resulting feeling of hopelessness. The music builds as the track progresses, becoming almost cinematic toward its end. The swelling, encouraging music contradicts Miller’s repetitions of the phrase, “I Can’t Breathe,” leaving us with a sense of mystery as to where she is headed.
Miller shows a palpable level of self-assuredness on Chapter One: Blue, even as the subject matter is somewhat gloomy and introspective. The EP’s title also implies that future releases will explore other aspects of her psyche. Her delivery is on point and the songwriting and production throw an interesting flavor into the pop landscape. Not bad for ninth place.
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