I remember a snow-bent day in February, riding the train back from my friend’s apartment. The windows were flecked with ice and I had a knot in my stomach. My friend, a relentlessly brilliant environmental major, had spent much of the visit agonizing over her work ethic. Despite working multiple jobs, attending class, and tending to her own creative projects, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she wasn’t doing enough. Enough to make her parents proud, enough to make her proud of herself. This not enough feeling is all too familiar to today’s rising youth, and indie artist Sarah Cicero captures this ache in “Proud,” the final song of her debut EP.
It’s too early in the morning to be crying in my kitchen floor/Feel it in my bones, don’t want to live like this anymore
Cicero’s 2021 EP Cold Immaculate Opposite is unflinchingly vulnerable. The five-track collection is a testament to the aches and pains of being a twenty something human – the highs, the lows, and the longing, good Lord, the longing. “Proud” is a song that yearns, that expands, that sinks into you like a fog. It is a particularly vulnerable track on Cicero’s EP, chronicling the speaker’s battle with self-doubt and her disappointment in not reaching her own – and what she assumes to be her mother’s – expectations. It has the lyrical sweetness of a Dodie track, with the vocal clarity and steadiness that is all Cicero.
Longing but I don’t know what for, don’t recognize myself anymore/And when I stop to look around, I’m not sure I’ve made my mother proud
There’s a nearly underwater feeling to the soundscape. It draws the listener into a swaying, muffled atmosphere characteristic of lo-fi stylings. The vocals, however, are crisp and clear – like a blade of light shining through the ocean water and landing on the sand below. This is not a particularly high-energy song, nor a song of desperation or a call to action; it’s a track about self-stagnation, of uncertainty, of the quiet terror that lives in all of us as we grow up and try to meet the world’s expectations.
Can’t say goodbye again so I’m better off alone/But I’m getting tired of coming back to an empty home
After the second chorus, the song slips into a spellbinding bridge. A subtle gritty bass charges the sound, stepping into a darker register. Cicero threads the sound with her sweet, humming vocals, building into a set of heart-ripping harmonies. You can feel the speaker’s ache for approval here, the overwhelming disenchantment and uncertainty with self.
Sarah Cicero’s song “Proud” is a smooth magnetic track perfect for keeping you company on the tough days. The vulnerability in Cicero’s work is both personal and community driven – in engaging with Cicero’s songs, you find space for both your personal pain and the knowledge that you are not alone.