Growth can be painful. It often involves loss, change and gain. In coming of age, an individual will face new horizons and grow out of their previous naivete. Rising singer-songwriter Sarah Kinsley not only explores the border between adolescence and adulthood in her music but also vocally demonstrates everything it takes to cross it.
How Kinsley Grew Her Musical Monarchy
Kinsley’s latest EP, “The King,” gives growth a chance to represent itself in a different light — one that is welcoming rather than intimidating. Kinsley expressed in a tweet that the entire record’s focus is on “what it means to be young, unsure and alive.” With over 5 million streams worldwide, the five-track EP has found an audience that can relate to the struggles and benefits of maturity.
However, Kinsley didn’t produce a successful album that represents acceptance and change just out of the blue. Rather, “The King” is the result of a lifetime spent with music.
Kinsley discussed her musical background with interviewer Erica Danielle Garcia in an article for EUPHORIA: “Music wasn’t a large presence; it was just everything. It was always there. I think that was part of the reason why I had to do music, in some form. At some point, it just became inseparable from life. Or they were always just one and the same.”
The ambitious singer has shared her passion for music through social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, but she most commonly uses TikTok. In a TikTok video that garnered more than 4.5 million views, Kinsley responded to a common misconception that “women don’t produce music” by building a complete song from a variety of audio clips. Her ability to make a melody out of mundane sound bites is proof of Kinsley’s vast and captivating talent.
Kinsley hopes that her listeners will find the same solace and meaning in her work that she does. “Sometimes I think the lyrics feel comforting to us because they seem to answer questions,” she continued in the EUPHORIA article. “My listeners and I, perhaps we’re sharing in the experience of learning equally, existing between what we know and what we can hardly imagine. I like to think we’re living through it together in the music.”
Released June 4 and totaling 20 minutes in duration, “The King” brings Kinsley’s self-growth and livelihood to center stage. The EP is a superb example of the 20-year-old’s rising career and stands as a great segue into a lifetime of music-making.
“The King” opens with “Karma,” a track based on the uncertainty of a precarious relationship. Kinsley weaves between a world of superstition and intuition by using the connotations of the words “fortune teller,” “gods” and “fate.” She sings, “I swear it’s a sign that we first met on a Friday / Everyone told me the 13th was bad luck.” Although Kinsley’s intuition beckons her toward her significant other, superstition holds her back from taking the risk of a broken heart.
Doubt and apprehension give “Karma” a sense of realism and relatability. In a world full of unpredictability, Kinsley wrestles with indecision and preaches growth and acceptance. The upbeat track doesn’t conclude with Kinsley’s decision to be with her lover and instead displays the difficult choices we make when growing up and how reaching conclusions is never easy.
“Over + Under”
Following “Karma” is “Over + Under.” The track offers a sincere and straightforward tone, with Kinsley singing, “You are the ocean of endless possibility / surrounding, surrounding, surrounding me.” On top of her breathy vocals and soft vibrato, Kinsley’s layered harmonies tell the story of a young adult struggling to “get over” her significant other while also simultaneously yearning to be “under” him. The diverse harmonies can additionally represent the voices in Kinsley’s conscious mind, a powerful driving force for the singer to make a decision.
Kinsley performed “Over + Under” in a TikTok video after explaining to listeners that she wrote the song about “being constantly in and out of wanting someone.” Similar to “Karma,” the song depicts the struggles of making potentially life-changing adult choices. However, unlike the young adult who can’t bring herself to choose between following her intuition or giving into superstition in “Karma,” “Over + Under” depicts someone who has made a choice and is sticking to it. The song ends decisively with the outro, “Some things are meant to happen.”
“I’m Not a Mountain”
From hesitancy and wariness to mild assurance, Kinsley’s two opening songs highlight the mental changes we encounter while growing up. The EP’s third track — “I’m Not a Mountain” — however, has Kinsley coming to terms with any doubt and uncertainty she battled with in the past.
According to a Guitar Girl Magazine Q&A, every single on the EP speaks to the young musician. Together, the songs show Kinsley’s path to becoming “The King.” “I love the way each track is aligned and placed on the record, especially ‘I’m Not a Mountain’ … That song is probably the most raw, most intimate I’ve ever been in music. It’s a cry of release, of accepting doubt and pain and flaw and selfishness and everything that makes me not a mountain, but human.”
Speaking to her struggle to stand firm, Kinsley sings, “I’m not a mountain / I will crumble when you go.” Her vulnerability sheds light on mankind’s natural imperfection and commends those for working through their flaws. With growth comes change, and if nothing is “crumbling” at the outset, then there will be nothing to rebuild.
“Caught Up in a Dream”
“I’m Not a Mountain” finishes with the line, “I can do it on my own,” which lyrically blends into the track that follows it: “Caught Up in a Dream.” Verse one starts with, “Walking in the wind to get lost / I was shedding a skin off again.” Kinsley’s transition from doing things “on [her] own” to getting “lost” depicts an independent yet lonesome figure. With time, however, Kinsley reflects on her past as she faces a new tide that “is a-turning.”
Kinsley settles into a sense of self in the bridge of “Caught Up in a Dream,” where she sings, “I’m living, dying, I’m born again.” Her elegant and tender voice supports her personal revival after a time of uncertainty and suspicion. Now that she has matured into a young adult who is aiming for her full potential, Kinsley can finally reach her destiny of becoming “The King.”
Kinsley went viral on TikTok in May when she introduced the instrumental intro to “The King,” which many listeners have compared to Borns’ “Electric Love.” From the piano buildup to the drums to the spacey synth, the track is “what it sounds like to truly be alive.”
“The King” is the closing track of the EP and acts as Kinsley’s way of moving beyond the past and embracing the endless opportunities that await her in the future. In the pre-chorus, she tells her significant other, “Before we get older let’s do everything / You’re scared of when it’s over / You’re still young and you’re still free.” Kinsley provides an escape for those who can’t control if they grow old but can control if they grow up.
To grow up means to lose fragments of the past. It means to change perspectives, opinions, attitudes and focus. Kinsley reveals that power, ambition and hope derive from one’s revolution in life. With her cinematic appeal and engaging vocals in “The King,” Kinsley has created a compelling world of self-acceptance and growth. The rising star has made a lasting mark in the music industry, and her career can only excel from here.
Kinsley clearly demonstrates how to cross the border between adolescence and adulthood in her music, which in turn enabled her to become a “king” who will likely release more emphatic tunes in the near future. As listeners, we can only wait and see how Kinsley’s reign plays out.