Perform “Here” with your class using Modern Band Charts provided by Little Kids Rock.
From surf rock beach parties in the 1960s to present day rappers “in the club,” popular music has long been associated with socialization activities like dancing and drinking, usually amongst a large crowd of people. But for those who are more comfortable spending their time at home or with a small group of friends, the glorification of parties and dancing in popular music may provoke anxiety. For many such people, Alessia Cara’s “Here” is an anthem.
“I’m used to being alone. I enjoy it,” Cara writes on Genius.com, “I think you get a lot done when you’re alone. It’s easier to get your feelings out when you’re alone. You don’t have to worry about how you look. You can do whatever, look however. It’s just the best time to do whatever you want.” Cara began her music career largely alone in 2010, posting YouTube videos of her popular music covers and celebrity impressions, mostly filmed in the comfort of her own bedroom. Soon Cara’s videos began attracting attention and her viewership increased dramatically. In 2015, Cara, a self-made star, signed with Def Jam Recordings.
“Here” was Cara’s first single with Def Jam, and its lyrics are inspired by lived experience. Cara recalls that on the day she wrote the song, “all I kept thinking about was this party I’d gone to the night before, which was like the most uncomfortable party I’d ever gone to. I realized how uncomfortable I was and I called my mom, and I was like ‘mom I have to come home early, please pick me up.’” By relating her feelings of discomfort towards parties, Cara hoped the song would appeal to “all the antisocial, awkward, and miserable party-goers of the world.”
“Here” peaked at #6 on the Billboard charts, and secured positions in many “Best Songs of 2015” lists as well. The success of “Here” is likely due in part to its appeal to those who do not feel represented by the images popular music culture often promotes. In the song, Cara makes it clear she has no interest in the gossip, drug use, alcohol consumption, and flirtation that she associates with parties, and that she’d prefer socializing with a small group of “real” friends. Cara’s admission of social discomfort sends a message of acceptance to other people that may experience similar feelings. “Here” encourages her audience to be themselves in the face of peer pressure, a message she has continued to advocate in other songs, such as “Scars to Your Beautiful.”
In this lesson, students compare lyrics to historical content to determine how Alessia Cara’s song “Here” defies popular music conventions. Then, they consider their own experiences with peer pressure, and imagine what their own “unconventional” pop song might be about.