At the beginning of this year, Colorado recording artist Matell felt disheartened by the pervasive violence and tragedy he witnessed. First it was the insurrection at the Capitol. Then it was the wave of hate crimes committed against Asian-Americans. All of this was happening as coronavirus case counts continued to surge. Matell wanted to release a song with a clear and distinct message, one that could urge people out of their stupor and encourage change at an individual level.
“The pandemic we’re in — people weren’t helping too many people,” Matell says. He wanted to remind everyone to “put away your hate, put away your selfishness, and reach out and help somebody.”
That simple message became the backbone of the lyrics for the song “Fragile (Help Someone).” Beyond urging people to be generally kind, he felt compelled to speak directly to the housing crisis. In the chorus of the song, Matell croons, “If someone needs a bed/Give it/If someone needs a lifting hand/Give it.”
Beyond the inspiration and lyrics of the song, “Fragile (Help Someone)” carries the mark of the pandemic in another way: It was recorded on Matell’s phone in his car. In January, Matell had no access to a studio, and his computer had broken. Using software from Spotify, with outside interference kept to a minimum, Matell sang directly into the mic on his phone.
When he finished recording his vocals, he produced the song with sparse digital instrumentation: a piano chord progression, a couple of bells, and chimes. He focused on letting the words take center stage. The whole process took less than six weeks.
“I want the message to come across as simple as possible, so people can relate to it and like it, but I didn’t want the music to distract from the lyrics," Matell says. "This is a very lyric-driven song."
As Matell wrote the song and observed the events that were taking place early this year, he lamented that the pandemic had prevented artists from creating something together — especially at a time when people needed meaningful art and music more than ever before.
He recalled “We Are the World,” a charity single released by a group of artists under the name U.S.A. for Africa; the song was used to raise funds for famine relief in 1985. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, it entreats listeners, “We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let's start giving.”
Matell channels a similar energy in his song. He likes to say that it is “'We Are the World' meets 2021.”
“I tried to structure the song on a world scale," Matell says, "so that everybody can really get the message regardless of religion and where they’re from."
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