Before turning even one year old, Ava Maria Safai began her musical career with piano lessons under the direction of her parents, both accomplished instructors. And then, at still the young age of three, she began formal classical vocal lessons. Since that time, she has received numerous awards and distinctions for her operatic, music theatre, jazz and pop performances. This year, Safai began recording her debut album We’ve Got Issues and has already completed the songwriting for her second follow-up album.
We’ve Got Issues is a culmination of Safai’s life between the ages of 12 to 19 years old and at those tender ages, her songwriting covers a lot of ground: mental health, losing loved ones, addiction, mass tragedy and other experiences close to her heart. Musically, Safai starts by structuring each song behind the piano and then later, adding strings, guitars, basses and drums. Each instrument added or not, depends on the mood Safai wants to convey within that song. The album was recorded and mixed in North Vancouver, BC at Ava Music & Art Centre Ltd. under the direction of engineer Justin Brown. It was mastered by Matty Harris in Los Angeles.
The “City of Angels” is of course what some call Los Angeles, but Safai doesn’t actually mention LA by name at all in the album’s opener. Instead, she sings about the loss of someone close. The heaviest heartfelt lyrics I thought were – “It’s been too long to keep on dancing under waterfalls / and I keep crying my own oceans.” Musically, the album starts with piano and violin and a sad feeling overall, and rightly so. Drums and backing vocal tracks are added later. “Alive & Well” starts off again with piano and Safai doing a talk-singing-talk delivery, showcasing her theatrical talent and timing. My best guess as to what this number is about, is a tragedy involving children in a community.
On “Addicted to You” Safai sings straightforward words about being madly in love with someone despite hating them – “I can’t imagine living in a world without you.” Musically, this one features mostly piano and vocals. The ending lyric cuts to the quick – “I hate you, but I’m still addicted to you.” “Supergirl” begins with piano and a solid drum beat inside a ballad styled song. Safai’s words say here that she knows she has to learn to let go and that she’s not perfect, but that’s ok. A lot of mixed emotions are inside this one and stylistically, it reminded me of Adele’s work.
The shortest song on the album “Black & Blues” has some of the most powerful, heart tugging song lyrics I’ve read in a long time – “When you hurt me, I never felt the pain / I kept singing through black and blues and in the midst of all the rain…” I mean, whoa. Sometimes the best lyrics are the ones that get straight to the point. This song delivers and is one not to be missed. “Civil War” offers up more socially conscious lyrics. Safai’s words had more universal appeal which stems from the song’s general title.
“Broken Melody” had an interesting vibe musically, with programmed drums, strings and additional vocals added. So, I thought it more dynamic and daring than the other songs. The lyrics suggest a toxic relationship. “Finding Hope” has a deep soulful and inspiring feeling, both musically and lyrically. In my view, this was Safai’s strongest song vocally. The strings really got to me, but eh… I’m a softy. Another song not to be missed and it clearly was my favorite. “Skin & Bones” steps it up with a back and forth rhythm on piano and a steady drum beat. The words to the song suggest rape or at the very least, a terribly bad relationship.
The last tune “The Road Less Traveled” begins with vocal harmonies and a piano that fades in. I really liked this one musically and how the instruments and vocals were arranged. Safai sings about treasured memories long past and leaving behind someone you loved deeply, or maybe in the case of this song, that loved one has left you. Either way, a tender melodic ballad that touches the heart. No doubt Ava Maria Safai has had some issues, but haven’t we all? All kidding aside, her debut tugs at the heart and gets to what it means to be human – the hurt, the pain, the loss, the love. But despite the heartache, she leaves room for acceptance and understanding.
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