- Anusha Iyer, Rebecca Xiong, and Sofia Gil, AIT
Ella Jane in Concert + THIS IS NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE! Review
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the world went into lockdown. One of the many industries that was hit hardest was the music industry. Many artists handled the pandemic differently: some released albums, some swam in controversy, and some turned to TikTok. One of the artists who turned to TikTok as a method of sharing songs is up and coming indie pop singer/songwriter, Ella Roth, or as her followers know her, Ella Jane. Ella Jane’s hit single, “nothing else i could do,” blew up on Tiktok and was one of many songs to increase her popularity. As of now, Ella Jane has nine songs in her discography, seven of which are in her EP, “THIS IS NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE!” Additionally, despite bursting into the indie-pop scene very recently, with the release of her first single in February 2020, she has already sold out 2 concerts. Fueled by a powerful voice and innate songwriting ability, Ella Jane is a name to expect to see more in the future.
Following the release of six solo singles, Ella Jane finally released her first extended play (EP) this past September, a milestone project her fans had been anticipating. The track list consists of the six singles already released at the time, plus one new song. Starting from the top, “The City” is the poignant, tender beginning of Ella’s bedroom-pop escapades. Following on its heels is the The Great Gatsby inspired, electric indie-pop quintessence, “nothing else i could do.” Garnering well over 13 million Spotify streams, the song remains Ella’s most popular and is considered her “breakout” song. “[The song] was based on my AP Lit…final creative project on The Great Gatsby,” Ella confessed in an interview. Third on the tracklist is the scorching and wild “AUGUST IS A FEVER,” fittingly styled in all-caps. The moody small-town anthem is “an identity crisis bottled up in a song,” according to the writer herself. “bored&blind,” the next song on the EP, is a textured, rhythmic masterpiece. “Honestly I’m kinda burned out,” Ella sings, opening up the song with a lyric that resonates deep with her burned out Gen Z fanbase. “Thief,” track five on the EP, allures with its lush tone and gives listeners a “head underwater” sensation, while the subsequent track, “the sellout,” charms with its folksy acoustic body and lyrics that look towards closure. The final track, “through the looking glass,” is deeply vulnerable, and through intoxicating harmonies and a haunting piano line, Ella vocalizes her struggles with mental health, a fitting ending to an addictive first project. The balance of songs in the EP allows Ella to shine in her uncanny ability to nail down specific experiences among sonically satisfying melodies. After delivering an EP that is just as intimate as it is universal, it’s safe to say that Ella has many more tricks up her sleeve.
The viral indie-pop songwriter first announced two concert dates to her Instagram followers on September 8th, just hours before the release of her debut EP, saying that “it’s been a long hard year without live music and [she] is so in awe that this… finally happen[ed].” The first of these dates took place in her hometown of Brooklyn, at a venue by the name of Baby’s All Right. After nearly two months of anticipation, fans lined up outside the venue on a moderately cold Thursday night in December. A narrow walkway led to a cozy room with dimmed lights and a small bar in the back. Ella’s team had decorated the stage in typical Gen Z fashion, with cleverly integrated easter eggs to her most recent music video. Sunflowers lined the microphone stands and vines adorned various instruments, giving a personal touch to the place. Shortly after doors opened, the opening act arrived through a side door, setting the tone for a lively night to come. Indie-rock duo Boyish, consisting of vocalist India Shore and guitarist Claire Altendahl, entered with a warm welcome to the crowd. Thanks to Roth’s constant promotion of Boyish, fans were able to sing along to tracks from their 2018 EP “Carnation'' and their 2020 album “Garden Spider.” With a setlist that had audience members bopping along, Boyish was able to build anticipation for Ella’s repertoire. Thanking the crowd, Shore and Altendahl exited stage left, and the wait for the main act began.
As time went on, the side door began to open more frequently, and the peered in, hoping to catch a glimpse of the singer before her set. The crowd began to chant choruses of “Ella, Ella, Ella.” Finally, with the intro to “bored&blind” playing, Ella Jane strode through the door and onto the stage. Wearing a yellow suit jacket and a matching black skirt and top, she jumped into a song and her voice was introduction enough. After a vivacious first number, she brought the energy back with the slow feel-good tune, “AUGUST IS A FEVER.” While Roth sang, the crowd passed around a disposable camera, and fans took photos in small groups. Switching to the guitar, Ella Jane took a minute to thank everyone for coming out and supporting the first show she’s ever played. She followed it up by saying that the next few songs would progressively get “more depressing” as the night went on. It surprised no one when Roth played “the sellout” followed by “Thief” and “through the looking glass,” which she performed on piano. Ella Jane then graced the crowd with an unreleased track she introduced as “Time On.” Switching gears completely, Roth told the crowd, “you all better know this one,” and began to strum “You Belong With Me,” a popular country-pop song by AMA’s Artist of the Decade, Taylor Swift. At that point, the energy in the room was nearly electric; audience members jumped and screamed every lyric. When the number ended, Roth joked, “I knew I chose the right song for this demographic.” The crowd laughed along, and the artist took the opportunity to introduce the next song, “Calling Card” which featured a call and response with the audience. After this, Roth left the stage without performing her most popular song, and fans began to chant for the encore. At the crowd’s behest, Roth returned to play her debut single, “The City,” and finally “nothing else i could do.”
With one last thank you, Ella left the stage and fans poured out the side exit to meet her near the merch table. As the show’s maximum capacity was capped at 280 people, Ella met most of the concert-goers after the show, learning names and taking photos with everyone who stuck around. Merch bundles were offered, and many audience members left with t-shirts and bucket hats, as well as bracelets and tank tops from the opening act. With one last glance, fans trickled out of the door and into the December chill, holding on to the feeling of a memorable night.