It’s been ten years since heartsick, fed-up girls across the world began belting the lyrics to Kelly Clarkson’s iconic post-break-up anthem “Since U Been Gone,” and in the ensuing decade, pop music and female empowerment have become a rather hot topic. From Nicki Minaj to Katy Perry to Rihanna to Beyoncé to Taylor Swift to Miley Cyrus, media outlets have loved to play the are-they-or-aren’t-they game with pop starlets and feminism. Most times, when the diva-of-the-moment comes up against the point-blank “Are you a feminist?” question, she fumbles – either with a misinformed take on politics or semantics, or with caveats like “I am, BUT…” that incite a whole host of think-pieces. But what that approach often misses is an analysis of what these ladies’ audiences (presumably youngish girls) are consuming, and how they might take these messages to heart. Because in the end, it’s not up to pop starlets to have a position on politics, per se – really, they’re just making music. We can, however, look to that music and evaluate what it communicates about feminism or empowerment, and today, there’s another one to add to the canon: the newest single from Sariah, “Aware, Alive, Awake,” which AudioFemme is happy to premiere.
The Massachusetts-born pop singer has been dropping club bangers since “Deep N Luv” began racing up the Billboard charts last year. She followed that with “All About Sex;” both showcase a young woman self-assured in her sexuality and in control of even the most casual encounters, embracing her sexual freedom. Sariah’s “unashamed to be untamed” motto and powerful confidence is refreshing – she meets the male gaze head on, demanding her own satisfaction first and foremost. Now living in NYC, she’s dubbed herself the “Queen of Hearts” and says “I want to be the fire of nightlife, and I want my music to be its anthem.”
While “Aware, Alive, Awake” is every bit as empowered (and catchy!) as her previous tunes, it’s miles more introspective. Tackling the complicated feelings that come after the body rush of both random hook-ups and long-term trainwreck relationships, Sariah sings “I am bruised and broken, breathless / Nothing that was spoken saves this,” but her voice doesn’t crack once. Instead, she bursts into the track’s triumphant chorus: “I am gonna go my way without you / I won’t stay around you / It’s my turn now and I’m starting my escape / Aware, alive, awake.” Though her previous songs were all about being the party girl, “Aware, Alive, Awake” is a powerful reminder that self-care is essential to maintaining desire and healthy sexuality, that without being able to identify and explicitly state one’s needs to a potential partner we risk losing ourselves. Not content to wander dazed through an unhealthy relationship, she doesn’t stop at the assertion that she’s had enough. She goes on to make a point of telling her partner that she’s leaving and that she can and will do better, buoyed by the three essential A-words in the song’s title.
Though lyrically the song goes deeper than Sariah’s previous output, it’s not somber by any means. The uplifting message is made that much more celebratory by an infectious guitar riff and chorus of crescendoing “Oh oh ohs” that explode behind Sariah’s assertions. It channels Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” vibes in the best ways, and it’s easy to picture clubs full of girls shouting out the words in front of a DJ booth in support of that friend who just got dumped and is now drying her eyes and waking up, too. “This past year has been the most inspirational year of growth and realization,” says Sariah. “‘Aware, Alive, Awake’ speaks to this journey, through the ups and downs, and I see this as my right of passage into the Queen I have become.”