I was caught off guard when I heard the raw voice of Alessia Cara. The lamentation of her ‘pains of growing’ - also the title of her latest album, released in November 2018 - completely threw me. I found myself frantically grabbing my phone, eager to find the name of the song, the name of the artist. The lyrics had hit home. But why? 

I became addicted to the album; the hip-hop beat fused with the profound lyrics of her songs encompassed a hybridity of dreamy blues and pop from a young female artist which I’d never really heard before. Sure, we have countless pop songs on heartache, heartbreak and everything in between (thank God), but Alessia Cara’s vital perspective on her youth, and the struggles outside of a broken heart was something I definitely needed. 

As a nineteen-year-old with no grand life plan, I can assure you my younger self would either be pessimistic or largely optimistic at my current situation. Pessimistic that at this point, I don’t completely have my life together and that I still don’t know all the answers; or, instead, optimistic that secretly, somewhere and somehow, my life will turn around and I’ll get it together soon... like, very soon. But clearly, on reflection of my younger teenage self’s bright hopes for my adulthood, the uncertainty represented by Cara’s growing pains started in my early teenage years. Right now I am happy for the most part; I have great friends, a loving family and I’m at university studying a degree I love. Life is good. But, as Alessia Cara sings, ‘still the growing pains are keeping me up at night’. 

The Pains of Growing provoked a lot of self-reflection; as Cara said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar “I think the more you talk about universal feelings, the more we become aware that people are a lot more similar than we think”. So, why did her lyrics hit home? I only have to look at myself, my friends, people online, to see where these growing pains are stemming from. Am I good enough? What if I’m not what society expects me to be? We are surrounded by so many people, both online and offline, but can still feel so alone, so inadequate. That’s where Cara steps in, to tell you that it's just fine to feel that way. It's part of our growing pains, and they won’t last forever.

Alessia Cara in “Growing Pains” single artwork.

Alessia Cara isn’t the first young female artist to use her tumultuous youth to help guys and girls alike with the growth and ultimate uncertainty that comes with it. On my eighteenth birthday, I listened to Lorde’s song ‘Sober II’ from her latest album Melodrama. Talking of ‘terror’, ‘horror’ and ‘the holy sick divine nights’, Lorde paints a particularly melodramatic image of life as a late teen. Whilst Lorde’s lyrics glitter with hyperbole, her voice is crucial in guiding us through an uncertain youth in which everything is, needless to say, a little bit manic. As Lorde suggests, it’s a pretty wild time, but that’s inevitable. 

‘Liability (Reprise)’ is amongst one of the many underrated Lorde songs that needs to be added to the narrative that artists such as Alessia Cara create as an ode to the messiness of growing up. Lorde to illuminates the complexity of our young minds and our internal conflict. The artist sings of ‘all of the shit that we harbour’ as young people, trying to find our way, whether its self-doubt, heartbreak, loss, or the confusion that we must deal with in a carefully crafted artificial online and offline world. Yet, as Lorde repeatedly reminds us in the song ‘you’re not what you thought you were’. All ‘the tears and the highs we breathe’, do not make you a burden. 

Young female artists and their ability to express their vulnerability, their doubt, their fear and everything that comes alongside the wonderful experiences of growing up, is something that we need more of. Growing up can be hard; it’s clearly no easy feat for anybody, not us or even the likes of Alessia Cara or Lorde, but their beautiful illustration of the hard times is the silver lining to this univeral vulnerability; we are granted the guidance to grow, the encouragement to bloom.