Singer-songwriter Sarah Potenza released her new album Road To Rome last week. The sophomore album from the former contestant on NBC’s hit karaoke contest show The Voice, it is more proof that the real winners from those competition shows are not always the people who win it all. It shows in fact, that sometimes the real winners are the people who do not make it all the way. The album’s musical and lyrical content collectively do plenty to prove that statement right from its outset in the form of ‘I Work For Me.’ This bluesy, soulful tune is one of many bold statements that Potenza makes throughout the course of the album and will be discussed shortly. ‘Keep On Holding,’ which comes later in the album’s run, does just as much to display Road to Rome’s strength with its far more vulnerable approach. It will be discussed a little later. ‘Diamond’ is yet another example of why Road to Rome is such a strong new effort from Potenza. When it is considered alongside the other two songs noted here and the rest of the album’s offerings, the whole of the album leaves no doubt that while she might not have won The Voice back in 2015, she is still a winner regardless.
Four years have passed since Sarah Potenza vied for fame and fortune on NBC’s hit karaoke competition show The Voice. While she did not win the overall season title, Potenza still went on to success, releasing her debut album only a year after the season’s end. Now with the release of her sophomore album last week, Potenza has proven even more that sometimes, the real winners of the TV talent competitions are not those who win it all, but those who don’t take the top prize. The album’s opener ‘I Work For Me’ is just one of the songs that serves to support that statement. The song’s musical arrangement is a subtle, yet upbeat mix of blues and pop sensibilities that when coupled with Potenza’s soulful, gritty vocal delivery style – which can be so easily likened to the likes of Susan Tedeschi, Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt — creates a sense of so much joy. It is a positive start to the record in itself. The joy created through the arrangement works with the confidence clearly exhibited in the song’s lyrical content to make even more clear why this is just one of Road to Rome’s strong points.
Potenza sings in the song’s lead verse, “I work for me/Oh yes I, yes I do/I work for me/They told me I was nothing/Told me I was trash/They told me I was too young/To ever make it last/You gotta earn a living/How are you gonna pay/But I blew it all off and I did it anyway/I don’t need your jive/I got my own/I got cat eye nails and a glitter phone/When the bills roll in/I…got everything…/I work for me.” That confidence continues in the song’s second verse as she sings, “They said that I was too much/I shouldn’t even try it/They said that I was too big/’Cause right now, I’m a giant/They told me keep on dreaming/So that’s just what I did/I’ve been collecting water from my well/Ever since I was a kid/Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will hurt me more/I turned your words into my songs and now I go to war/I don’t need no ballpoint/I can write my own joint/I’ve been signing five checks/With my blood and my sweat/I work for me.” Potenza puts it all out there, leaving nothing to doubt. She puts right out there, her story of her having been held back and pushed down, but refusing to let the naysayers keep her down. That clear confidence serves as a reminder that no one should let anyone be stopped from chasing their dreams. What’s more, being that Potenza delivers this message without feeling the need to be artsy and metaphorical makes the song that much more engaging and entertaining. When this portion of the song joins with the song’s musical arrangement, the whole of the two elements makes the song in whole, without doubt, a work that is certain to appeal to plenty of listeners. To that end, it is a clear example of what makes Road to Rome a truly viable record from Sarah Potenza. It is just one of the album’s high points. ‘Keep On Holding’ is yet another of the record’s strong points.
‘Keep On Holding’ is the polar opposite of ‘I Work For Me.’ Where the album’s opener is a proud, no-nonsense work, ‘Keep On Holding’ is a far more vulnerable piece that shows a completely different side of Potenza. The song opens with a gentle piano line that eventually is joined by a choir and drums for a composition that creates a very gospel style sound. Again, Potenza’s vocal delivery throughout can be compared to the likes of Franklin, Tedeschi and Raitt. At the same time, there’s a certain quality to her delivery here that also leads one to – believe it or not – compare Potenza’s style of singing to that of Gregg Allman. It’s in that gritty delivery that she could so easily be the female counterpart to him. The way in which her vocals grow along with the rest of the arrangement – which eventually reaches its peak almost three minutes into its nearly five-minute run time – creates so much emotion in the song. That emotion is the core of the song’s musical arrangement, and in itself is certain to keep listeners engaged. It is just one part of what makes the song another of the album’s strong points. The song’s lyrical content couples with that deeply moving musical arrangement to make the song even stronger.
Potenza sings in this song’s lead verse, “I’ve been running down these roads/For decades at a time/Like a misfit runaway…the path then led me to my dream/I was wrong again/These roads go in circles/The beginning is the end/Stickers on the side board/Some bands you recognize/Some bands you never heard of/And some you idolize/And it makes you think that maybe/If they played here, too/Maybe there’s a chance/They were once like you/So keep on holding/Onto your heart/It’s a long road/Honey it’s a long shot/Keep on holding/Onto your heart/It’s a long road/But we got a good start.” She goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, about the club in question filling up with people. Not having liner notes to reference, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly who the guest vocalist is in this verse. However, if one did not know any better, one would imagine it was Dolly Parton. That could of course be completely wrong, but it sure sounds like her. From there, Potenza returns to the song’s chorus, reminding listeners again not to give up on anything in life, even one’s dreams. This is very similar to the theme of the album’s opener, just delivered in a different fashion, managing to keep the theme at least somewhat fresh in turn. When that familiar message of determination is coupled with the song’s hybrid gospel/southern/blues rock arrangement, the whole transforms into a song whose mix of confidence and vulnerability makes it stand out as yet another of the album’s key entries. It is not the last of the album’s key compositions. ‘Diamond’ which comes a little bit earlier in the album’s run, is yet another of the LP’s strong points.
‘Diamond’ presents is a mid-tempo piece that puts on display once more, Potenza’s blues/southern rock influences, yet does so in a subtle fashion. The song is driven in large through its drums, which almost create a feeling almost, of a heartbeat as Potenza courses through the song. The addition of the choral element to the song along with the equally subtle bass line rounds out the song’s arrangement for a whole that creates more than its own share of entertainment and engagement. That portion of the song is just one part of what makes the song stand out. Its familiar lyrical message of self-confidence – which very much permeates this album overall – gives the song even more punch.
Potenza sings in this song, “Once I was a young girl/I was foolish/Foolish with my heart/I listened to it closely/When all they told me was who I was/And who I was not/I went chasing after boys/Refused to recognize/They can’t f*** with girls like me/I blamed myself/I cursed my gifts/Why did I have to be like this/I was just too young/Too young to see/I was born to be a diamond/The whole damn world’s gonna see me shining/I ain’t gonna keep on hiding/I was born to be a diamond.” She goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “The thousands of days/And thousands of miles/I carried all those words upon my back/I let them defy me/I let my doubt blind me/But honey I’m done/I’m done f****** with all that.” From here, Potenza returns to the song’s chorus again before reaching the song’s third verse, which follows in a fashion very similar to that of the first two verses. Yet again, the message here leaves zero doubt as to its message. This is someone who is fully self-assured. It’s hardly the last display of self-assurance featured in Road to Rome. The album’s remaining seven songs each put that self-confidence on display in their own unique fashions. Keeping that in consideration along with the confidence exhibited in this song and the other two more directly noted works, the whole of Road to Rome can be said to be the real start to Sarah Potenza’s career, and a powerful start at that.
While it is her second full-length studio recording, Sarah Potenza’s Road to Rome can be argued to be the real start to her professional career. That is due to the clear display of confidence exhibited from the record’s beginning to its end. From one song to the next, Potenza is fully self-assured, and presents that confidence in various ways in each song, both musically and lyrically. The songs featured here are just a few examples of the varied ways in which that confidence is displayed. When they are considered alongside the record’s seven remaining songs, the whole of Road to Rome once again proves to be more proof that sometimes, the real winners of all those TV karaoke talent contests are the people who don’t win on the shows. Road to Rome is available now. More information on the album is available online now along with all of Sarah Potenza’s latest news and more at:
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