Song You Need to Know: Joanna Sternberg, ‘This Is Not Who I Want to Be’ – Rolling Stone
×
Home Music Music Features

Song You Need to Know: Joanna Sternberg, ‘This Is Not Who I Want to Be’

Gorgeous bedroom lofi from the singer-songwriter’s impressive debut album.

Joanna Sternberg

Joanna Sternberg

“I’m stuck to the bed with brain zaps in my head,” singer-songwriter Joanna Sternberg intones on the opening track of their debut album, Then I Try Some More. Playing by themself on piano, “This Is Not Who I Want To Be” narrates a brutally difficult period in the 27 year-old singer’s life. “That song is about when I was going through heroin withdrawal and I should’ve been in a hospital, but I did it in my room and I literally just wrote that song as it was happening to me,” they’ve said of the song. 

Then I Try Some More is a gorgeous bedroom lo-fi rendering of mid-century blues, jazz, and pop (Sternberg is a huge Scott Joplin fan) that carves out a middle ground between Daniel Johnson and Randy Newman; the piano introduction to “Nothing Makes My Heart Sing” would’ve sounded at home on the latter’s 1972 masterwork Sail Away

All of this is to say that Sternberg is a relentlessly studious songwriter with a sharp sense of how to use phrasing to advance the song they’re singing. On “this Is Not Who I Want To Be,” they do just that, deploying meter and melody to do much of the narrative work. 

Rain pouring down/my head pounds from/the sound, they sing in the song’s first line, with a loping piano melody set to tip-tap vocal phrasing that mirrors the relentlessness of both the pounding rain on their roof and the unendurable pain of a dope withdrawal.

“This Is Not Who I Want To Be” is a stunning exercise in artful subtlety, the type of song that sounds like it’s always existed: “It just kept playing in my head,” Sternberg said of the experience of writing the song in real-time, “but I didn’t realize it hadn’t been written already.”

 

Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.

Newswire

Powered by
Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.