Julia Michaels’ Songwriting Superpowers

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For nearly a decade, Julia Michaels has penned hit songs for the biggest acts in pop music. She is adept at turning people’s vulnerabilities into memorable hooks — think Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” or Selena Gomez’s “Lose You to Love Me.” There are countless others, but all of them share distinctive traits. Where many songwriters might turn to the simplest, almost nursery-rhyme-level lyrics to get the message across, Michaels does the opposite. She crams as many words as possible into each phrase. Her lyrics sound spoken. On her own hit song, her 2017 debut solo single “Issues,” she sings, “Bask in the glory, of all our problems / ’Cause we got the kind of love it takes to solve ’em”; it earned her a Song of the Year nomination at the 2018 Grammys, along with a Best New Artist nod. Her rhyming may sound accidental, but that’s the pop-song illusion. Michaels’s idiosyncratic phrasing has symmetry and her rhyming is indeed purposeful, all to illuminate her primary subject: the infinite recursions of human relationships. After releasing three EPs and countless singles of her own, Michaels has just released her first full-length album, Not in Chronological Order. On this week’s episode of Switched on Pop, Nate and Charlie try to identify Julias Michaels songwriting superpowers and then Charlie speaks with Michaels about how the vagaries of the heart inspire an endless stream of songs.

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