Photo credit: Chris Martin
Release Date: 09/09/2022
Genre: Pop, Soul
Label: Self Released
Follow Mikalah Gordon
“American Idol” alum Mikalah Gordon has released her debut album, Vivian and long-awaited project was more than worth the wait. Gordon was a huge personality on Season 4 of Idol, yeah the one Carrie Underwood won, and while she didn’t gain the title, she secured a career in the entertainment industry that is going 17 years strong.
At the time, she was a polarizing public figure. She gave off an air of Fran Drescher, and much like the Nanny, you either loved or hated her. The problem? She was 16. Idol was a machine, it churned out artists with insane promise just as quick as they tossed them to the side. Like all reality TV, there is a portion that is scripted; the show couldn’t actually leave the winner up to the general public… So, if you were down to play, you did great. If you weren’t, well… It was easy to eliminate someone, it happened weekly.
For those who were not given the crown, they were restricted by insane contracts that forbid them from releasing any music for a certain duration after the winner had released their album; by that time we were on the next season and most contestants were no longer in the spotlight. Mikalah got creative. She began hosting, doing stand-up comedy and releasing music when it made sense.
Mikalah’s debut single, Honey, was a 70s rock vibe with an incredible vocal. Her 2019 follow-up was an LGBTQ+ Christmas song called Sugar & Spice that makes it on my Holiday playlist, yearly. The last stand-alone single, Cry Love is an LGBTQ+ anthem, released during Pride Month in 2021. If you haven’t caught on, yes, Mikalah is a lesbian and recently got engaged to Vegas DJ Lisa Pittman.
Fast-forward to 2022 and Mikalah announced that her debut album was on its way. She announced it would be titled “Vivian” in honor of her late grandmother who not only inspired Mikalah, but loved her sincerely. The Amy Winehouse-influenced record is beyond incredible. The project was produced fellow Idol alum Brandon Rogers and written by both Gordon and Rogers. We start off with what was originally the lead single, Good Girl.
Mikalah Gordon Vivian
Good Girl is about her time on American Idol. What it was like to bunk with Carrie Underwood, the internet and how they completely tore her apart (which, they did). The R&B inspired pop-track has inspiring lyrics that sound like something Gordon truly needed to get out.
If not only to finally share her story. Her deeper vocals with the rasp that sounds like she has actually been singing for 475 years carry the track from start to finish.
Lucky (feat. Brian Newman)
Lucky is probably my favorite track on the record; she’s a Vegas girl baby. The slow, sexy melodies on the mysterious sounding beat create a story. Immediately, I see the strip, Mikalah is walking down the crowded street in a Showgirl costume, just living in the moment. I have probably had this song on repeat for a longer amount of time than I would like to admit.
Mikalah is an entertainer, her music is a animated as she is; you get the full sense of who she is on Lucky.
The Role is about her relationship with, at the time, girlfriend. The song has LAYERS. The build up to the chorus is gorgeous and then it hits. The cinematic and vibrant chorus has some of the best vocals on the whole record. Again, that rasp bleeds through your speakers and just hits your ears in all the right spots.
*clears throat* WE CAN GO AS FAR AS WE WANT, WE CAN KEEP IT CLOSE TO HOME – WE CAN LET IT OUT, BURN IT DOWN AND STRIP IT THE BONES. Magical.
El Juego breaks the album up in a really interesting way. The track is lyrically and musically quite different, but in a fabulous way. Mikalah gives a different type of vulnerability. Anyone who isn’t fully in love with themselves can sometimes seek that feeling out in others, and that’s what El Juego is about.
Realizing that no one can provide you that love, and how easy it can be to fall into a trap and potentially lose what matters to you the most. And she sings in Spanish which is as great as you would expect it to be.
Strange brings us back to the Amy vibes. This tracks is about Mikalah’s relationship with her parents and how no matter what they do, she can’t help but love them and she finds that… Strange. Some of the best writing appears on this song, I think a lot of us can relate to having a very weird relationship with our parents and when you hear her pain, you feel yours.
That is what an artist is supposed to do, cause you discomfort and force you to think about things that may not be easy.
Witness (feat. Sam Gordon)
Witness has to be the stand-out track on this record. The brother-sister duet is… like, shockingly great? We all knew Mikalah had pipes, but Sam hits the mic and it’s honestly one of the most shocking experiences I’ve ever had… He is BEYOND talented; His voice sounds tenured and seasoned, there is a natural twang that expresses emotion like someone who has been professionally singing for years.
The track tells the story of how when you’re young and you might not have stable parents, your sibling is the only one who can fully know you and your journey. That is such a special relationship and that comes across in this song.
Vita is the most emotional track on the record, hands down. It’s about her grandmother, Vivian. It also is Mikalah’s most vulnerable vocal performance, it sounds real. Like she was on the verge of tears at moments and she had to pull it together for Vivian. The lyrics tell the story of love, true and sincere love.
When you lose your main support system, life can feel even harder than it was before. Music like this makes it easier to deal with your own loss. And again, the layers! The chorus coming on in the end takes this track to a higher level.
Hands Off is the lead single off of Vivian and is the story of survival. Being a victim of sexual assault is a terrible and hard-to-grasp emotion; it happened so you can’t change it but then in the same breath, it happened. Artists like Mikalah who share their experiences and turn it into a power anthem help a portion of assault victims reclaim their voice.
Everyone has their own journey and is on their own path, but every now and again it’s wonderful to have a hand reached out to you that pulls you in for a hug. While the track is a hard-hitting beat and, like we said, power anthem; there is something about that track that will help people feel seen.
In short (lol), Vivian is one of the strongest debuts an American Idol contestant has ever had. Do yourself a favor and stream it.