Alice Merton found big success with her 2017 breakthrough single “No Roots,” which then continued with her 2019 album Mint. This year she’s returned with new music including the apocalyptic hit “Vertigo” that mirrored the feeling that your sense of stability is slipping through your fingers like sand.
Today, she’s returned with two new tracks that follow Merton’s enlivened sense of self, titled “Hero” and “Island.” The former is a tug-of-war between wanting to save someone and block them from your mind completely. Merton’s voice is veiled behind a vocoder as synths prance around her in the background. But this track has a hard shell, recalling the punchy reflective pop songs of Christina Aguilera or Kelly Clarkson. “Island,” filled with remorse and determination to make things right, resides at the other end of the spectrum from its counterpart. “Standing alone at the edge of amends / I’m holding your heart in the palm of my hands,” she sings forcefully during the chorus.
Check out the video for “Hero” below, and stream both tracks here. You can also read on for some questions Merton answered for us about the singles.
What’s the inspiration behind “Hero”? Seems like a bit of a departure from your recent work.
I think as an artist you’re always inspired by your surroundings and things you experience. I love developing as a musician and songwriter, trying new things and working with different producers. I realized during COVID, and being away from the stage, that I don’t want to have any regrets when it comes to my music. I don’t want to ever hold back on ideas that might seem different or strange. “Hero” is very different from anything I’ve written up until now, which is kind of why I love it. It talks about a savior complex, but at the same time wishing you could make that person disappear from your mind. It’s kind of how I imagine a superhero feels 24/7.
You’re working with director Anuk Rohde again, the same videographer who did “Vertigo.” What does this relationship mean to you?
I loved working with Anuk the first time. She has such a creative and beautiful mind. I said to her right after we shot “Vertigo,” “I think you’ll have to do the next one too, I’m in love with your style.” When you find people you enjoy working with and are open to trying out quirky ideas, it makes your job so much easier and more fun. That’s how I feel with Anuk and her team.
What’s the inspiration behind releasing two new tracks on the same day? Are they somehow related?
I decided to put out two songs, partly because I see “Island” as the prequel to “Hero.” I keep thinking if “Hope” was a spectrum, “Island” and “Hero” would be at opposite ends. “Island” showcases a desperate need for survival, whereas “Hero” confronts a realistic and slightly pessimistic fate, waving the white flag and admitting to its defeat.
How much more music can we expect? How has the pandemic affected your writing?
There will be a lot more music to come in the future, and I’m excited to continue this new path with my fans. The pandemic has definitely affected my songwriting, but more to an extent that I realized how quickly everything can just disappear from one day to the next. It honestly made me want to work harder and appreciate every new experience and day of writing that comes my way. I don’t want to look back at my career in 10 years time and know I always took the easy way out, written what people expected or wanted. I want to challenge myself and follow the path that feels right, and having my own record label gives me the freedom to do that.