Of all the narratives running through art and life, reinvention is among the most compelling. Regardless of how or why it occurs, witnessing or undergoing a reinvention allows us to confront the exciting, essential notion that the self is unfixed and malleable. That said, it also begs certain questions: What, if anything, carries forward? Is there anything about us that’s impervious to reinvention? Can we simply pull a fast one on ourselves?
Sure, artistic reinvention may not always come with such intense emotional baggage, but when the art we create is so fundamentally tied to our psychological state, notions of personal and artistic change can play off each other to produce something electric. Case in point: “Betty”, the newest single from Montreal-based singer-songwriter Mirabelle.
Just as “Betty” is a new work — as are the other two singles off Mirabelle’s upcoming record Late Bloomer — Mirabelle itself is also an entirely fresh creation courtesy of Laurence Hélie. After releasing two francophone folk-country records in the early 2010s that showcased her lovely voice, melodic range, and efficient songwriting chops, Hélie hit a wall. She felt bored and constrained, the songs stopped coming, the well ran dry. It’s here where Hélie’s reinvention narrative takes off. After the ideas and passion began flowing once more and coalesced into the songs that would make up Late Bloomer, Hélie wanted a clean break — a real chance to build her artistic self up from scratch using a fresh template. So she did it.
“Betty” is a powerful declaration that Mirabelle is the start of something entirely new for Hélie. Gone is the folky instrumentation and rustic ethos of her previous work and in its place is a stunning reinvention of her sound. Here, the drums hit harder, everything is fuzzed out and electric, and the low end rumbles, lingering in your gut. Hélie’s voice, as gorgeous as ever, slithers through the song’s simple arrangement with an effortless grace that recalls names like McLachlan to Morrissette. The arrangement teems with the irresistible anticipation that comes with striding confidently into some previously closed-off part of yourself. “The lights went out, not that I was scared at all, I know this house,” she sings, sounding reinvigorated.
As revelatory and assured as “Betty” sounds, it’s Hélie’s subtlety and self-awareness that round out the song’s effect. “Sure we can fool anybody but we wonʼt fool ourselves”, goes the chorus. Here, Hélie displays a willingness to interrogate her own desire for reinvention. It’s a phrase that in no way negates or belittles the idea of change and self-transformation, but simply warns against self-deception, superficiality, loss of perspective, and self-forgetting. If we fall prey to these more devious aspects of reinvention, we run the risk of thinking that our metamorphosis is somehow complete. At the end of the day, reinvention should be about continuously trying to move towards something purer, more honest, and more aligned with our unique perspective on things. With “Betty”, the impending release of Late Bloomer, and Mirabelle, Hélie is taking an admirably assured step towards personal and artistic self discovery.