X.ARI not only brings a high level of creativity to her music, but a kind of creativity that is unique, that stands out in a very crowded space, not because it is loud or shocking – which it sometimes is – but because it is hers; it comes from a depth and a life that generates a musical agony and ecstasy that is a wonder to behold.
That wonder was on full display this weekend at Hollywood’s upscale Sayers Club for the release of her new video and song “Break Point”. For the packed crowd in the newly revamped club it was an unforgettable look into the mind and talent of a contemporary millennial who has made the journey from agony to ecstasy many times, a journey that some in the audience make also and many struggle to circumvent.
“Break-Point” is about PTSD — which is not limited to soldiers – and the moments before breakdown, specifically her breakdown in late 2016. “Having a mental health breakdown doesn’t just happen overnight,” she explains. “There’s a build up and a splitting point where you crack and you’re not really yourself anymore. This song describes that process and experience.” It was not just the song that described it, but X.ARI’s creative vision in the whole performance that conjured for the audience who she was – a woman who is sometimes cannot hold a single person in a single body and a single mind.
That performance opened up with the Break-Point video, projected onto a screen in front of Sayer’s newly expanded stage. In a single-take video shot on the floor of her bedroom, she takes you through the literal crackup of the duality that lives within her. Ying and yang, agony and ecstasy, male and female, light and dark, sanity and chaos, depression and joy – they are all present in her imagery.
After the audience absorbs the phantasmagorias of X.ARI’s video, the screen comes down and there she is, the embodiment of the duality we just witnessed onscreen. Dressed in a bifurcated silver and black coat, bifurcated black and white shorts, a plain white t-shirt, and silver shoes, one side of her face was literally dark and male with black hair and a beard, the other was light with blond hair and white surfaces. But the effect is not terrifying; that is not her way. It is intriguing, inviting; a portal open for exploration, which is where the music came in.
X.ARI uses music to explore herself, the duality of her life, and the unplumbed corners of synth-pop, electro-rock and rap and poetry. Friday night she and her drummer delivered eight songs, most of them innovative creations that delved into novel realms for her and for us. Although her instruments were machines – a laptop and an Ableton, she was not a cog in them or a pretty cypher pushing buttons. X.ARI was fully there, human and warm with her bright sparkling eyes and kilowatt smile, radiating and absorbing love, as it should be. Musically, X. ARI deftly danced in and out of genre lines, shifting on Friday night from entrancing alt-pop to gritty hip-hop to electronic elegance to screaming power in both new songs and old favorites like “Cattle Call” and “Kingdoms Fall”. But all the time, in every song, her visceral lyrics delivered messages of hope as they explored tragedy
As always with X.ARI, the performance was kinetic. She danced, tranced, clutched her chest, spread of arms, balled her fists and stretched out her hands in welcome and supplication. Her mission to not only raise awareness about mental health but also to focus on using her performance and her whole platform of music and video and poetry and activism to help others to turn their pain into power. She moves her body to display and control her duality, to mix the inner elements that inhabit her to bring her sound and voice to life with energy, power and heart, culminating in the musical journey through it all, her new song “Break Point”.
Friday night at the Sayer’s Club showed us why X. ARI has achieved several milestones and accolades since she started releasing music in 2016. She was selected by Music Connection Magazine to be featured in their Year-End’s issue as one of the “HOT 100 LIVE UNSIGNED ARTIST & BANDS 2018;” her first record, Tunnel Vision, won “Best Female Artist” and “Best Single” at the Artistic Echoes Indie Awards, and her song ‘Teachers‘ won first place in the Indie International Songwriting Competition last March. Her single “Stay v Go,” the lead single from her 2018 Dis-OrderEP, won 1st place in Toronto’s IMKTA Fest, was added to MOVE & On Demand, and will be featured in Journeys shoe stores across the U.S. throughout the month of February 2019.
X.ARI’s passage and struggle with mental health has inspired the Toronto native to help others through her music, donating 10% of the Sayers Club concert to Canada’s Bell Let’s Talk Day which generated 145 million conversations and raised over $7 million dollars for mental health research and treatment. Her Self Care Tips and Pain into Power blog reach out to help others who have experienced the PTSD she has. Not only was her performance a wonder to behold, but she herself is a creative wonder that we are all richer for it.