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  • Rachael Bach

Review: "Cheer Me On" - Julia McKay

Julia McKay’s “Cheer Me On” is dark and edgy, while maintaining vulnerability and honesty through her lyricism. Right off the bat, she begins with the lyrics “I feel like you don’t see me/Not the way my mother does” struck a chord with me. A mother seeing their child for everything that they are and loving them anyway is one of the purest loves, and she knows that her lover does not know her well enough to love her that purely. She feels small and silenced by this person, saying “You love it when I’m quiet” forcing her to recede into her own personal echo chamber of thoughts for comfort, since this person is unwilling to provide it to her. In the bridge, she asks why this person isn’t proud of who she is as a person, and why they’re with her if they’re not. The pain of the unreciprocated love is potent, and the vulnerability of ending the song with the lyrics “Oh I wish sometimes you’d try to cheer me on” is like a stab to the heart, since all she wants is this person’s love and support.

The song begins with a driving electric guitar and vocals, with very minimalistic production. From the start, the grungy tone of the electric guitar helps establish the mood of the song. The  stripped down first verse and chorus allow the lyrics to shine and helps the thesis of the song really sink in. After the first chorus, drums and synth-y production kick in, adding energy and passion. It adds an edge to her emotional vulnerability. The darkness of the production creates a contrast with the lyrics, where she talks about her personal echo chamber cheering her on. The song feels anything but cheerful, and rather helps create a vacuum of sadness that McKay wants to fill with love. Haunting background vocals echo after the main vocals, paralleling the echo chamber of her mind that she sings about. The main vocals also had reverb added to them that added to the floating, echoing tone of the song. The production made me feel like I was inside her mind with her, hearing her most vulnerable inner thoughts. The bridge builds tension to a powerful, anthemic final chorus with stunning vocals. The vocal run that she does at the end of the skillful, and the power she adds to her vocals conveyed her pent up frustration. Overall, the storytelling of both the lyrics and the production are perfectly executed. 

Julia McKay, a rising star in the music scene, invites listeners into her captivating universe with her soul-stirring melodies and poignant lyrics. Her debut single, "How Much of You," served as a compelling introduction to her artistry, delving into challenging emotions and hard truths with a raw authenticity that resonates deeply with audiences. Building on the momentum of her initial success, McKay's follow-up single welcomes listeners into her 'echo chamber,' exploring themes of isolation within relationships through driving guitar rhythms and anthemic choruses that showcase her jaw-dropping vocals. With influences stemming from a musical upbringing immersed in the sounds of Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin, McKay channels the power of her predecessors into her own unique sound. Growing up in the tight-knit music community of Anchorage, she honed her craft from a young age, her passion for music evident from the moment she first sang her first notes. Now, as she prepares to release her debut EP, McKay continues to push boundaries and expand her artistic world, as evidenced by the beautifully crafted music video for "Cheer Me On." With her debut EP on the horizon, Julia McKay is undoubtedly an artist to watch.

Written By Rachael Bach



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