AJ Mitchell just released his new song Burn, another beautiful pop single showcasing his striking vocals. The single revisits and tackles themes he's juggled in past lyrics. During my conversation with AJ back in February, he reflected on his hometown Belleville in Illinois: “Sometimes it feels like you have to leave to come back. To burn it all down, to move forward". As I've interpreted it, in order to move on and see something for what it truly is, you need to step aside, retreat your support, and let it crumble; let it go down in flames. The idea of 'burning it all down' features prominently in music the talented singer has released over the past year, and in Burn, that theme is taken to town.
In previously released single Down in Flames, the narrative is hopeful as he proclaims "We'll put this fire out"; the situation or relationship is not beyond repair. Burn, on the other hand, reckons with the relationship we have with ourselves. Fearful of facing the issues lingering within, let alone utter the words, he realises that he has to take the leap and unfreeze the emotional congestion: "Nothing’s gonna change, until we up in flames, and someones gotta strike the match first". Bottled up emotions made extinct by flames signals an abrupt change in mindset that is painful to meet but necessary to confront because what's best in the long-term can sometimes feel difficult right then and there.
AJ wrote Burn to remind himself to use his voice. It's a song about breaking free of personalised shackles and taking ownership of one's personal truth; it reveals AJ's story just as it is. Bare before the flames, he allows himself to embrace his voice as the hurdles burn away: "It's been too dark to see the light. To see the light we've got to watch it burn". In light of the current situation, AJ was hesitant about releasing Burn, but he realised that: "Though Burn wasn't written about the current events directly, the sentiment of using my voice, my music and my platform to push for change is so important to me".
After charming the team and me last year, we've been closely following AJ's every move. We found ourselves completely enticed (and our day significantly improved) by the super cover of Britney Spears' Everytime he released during lockdown. When we were approached to collaborate again, during these confusing times, we had to find a way to make it work. In a socially distanced world, photographer Amber McKee mastered being close and far away simultaneously, breaking down the barriers of the alternative reality we've found ourselves in for the past two months and a bit.
As you lose yourself in this series, it's hard to fathom that Amber in fact directed AJ over FaceTime. Even though coronavirus has been debilitating, it is beautiful to see creativity find new avenues when traditional routes are blocked. We get to be a fly on his wall. This is uninhibited AJ at home, oscillating between productivity, phone, food, and boredom. When the world closed down, the days morphed into an indefinite loop.