Alessia Cara was just 18 years old when she released her debut single, "Here
," in April 2015. The song became a sleeper hit, charting all over the world. The lead single from Cara's second album, The Pains of Growing
, finds her reflecting on her feelings of confusion and isolation as she tries to find peace of mind in the face of her rapid-fire transition from childhood to becoming a young adult and successful artist.Make my way through the motions, I try to ignore it
But home's looking farther the closer I get
Don't know why I can't see the end
Is it over yet? Hmm
Cara explained to Genius
: "When I was younger, I felt like being able to fulfill all my dreams would make everything okay. And it makes a huge part of my life amazing and lovely, but there's still something there that no circumstance can necessarily fix. I think a lot has to come from you. And I just didn't know how to quite do that yet or where to start."
Hey, hey, hey, yeah, hey, yeah
And I can't hide 'cause growing pains are keeping me up at night
Cara's chorus relates to her habit of going to bed really late and then staying awake thinking about everything. She explained:
"Thinking about my day that just happened. Thinking about the next day that's about to happen. In this case, what was keeping me up at night is just the feeling of sadness and not knowing why, and being mad at myself for being sad. Because I was like, "Why are you sad? What's going on?" And I didn't understand myself. It's frustrating enough that I felt like no one else understood me, but then I couldn't even understand myself.
It's like one part of me was mad at the other part of me for being confusing and weird. So yeah, that was keeping me up for a very long time. It's hard to get to sleep and to turn that side off. Especially when you're so distracted throughout the day, you don't have time to even think. And then it just all comes out when you're alone in the dark, I guess."
The song was produced by Cara's frequent collaborators "Pop" Wansel and "Oak" Felder. The production duo's other credits include Big Sean's "Marvin & Chardonnay
" and Usher's "Good Kisser
Cara recalled how she got Pop and Oak to use their expertise to transform her demo into the completed song:
"I just felt like I needed to write everything in a secluded area. So most of these songs off of this album, I wrote in a tiny room, or in a bathroom, or in a bathtub. Really small spaces. I don't know why.
And so for this one, I wrote it on the back of the bus, on guitar, and then I mocked up this really crappy midi keyboard version of it, on Logic on my laptop, and just made a really rough, crappy production, and then brought it to Pop and Oak and was like, 'Can you make this sound cool and way better than it does right now?' And so, they did."
This was the first song that Cara wrote for The Pains of Growing album. The song set the agenda for the whole record. She explained in a video interview it "broke the wall of this entire story I decided I wanted to tell."
Cara explained: "The idea of growing pains means that you're growing, you know, through pain, and it gave me like something to blame my feelings on even, you know, like just blame it on the growing pains. It's like the reminder to myself to be like, you're growing from this, no matter how crappy it feels at the time."
Asked to expand on the feelings she was experiencing, Cara explained that she was still in her late teens when she suddenly become a famous musician and "was living this incredibly different life from what I was used to, and I was just really thrown into it."
At first she felt isolated, before she learnt "how to maneuver through it." However, for a while Cara just felt like she didn't know what was doing, and didn't belong.
All those feelings she collectively called "growing pains," and the young singer "had to learn that it's okay to just be confused; it's okay to be overwhelmed."
The song opens The Pains of Growing album, then at the end of the record, Cara offers up a one-minute reprise of the track. She explained: "I felt like I needed to kind of re-acknowledge it and go back to the fact that if there's anything that you're going through, it's okay to just blame it on the growing pains because you're growing from it and that's the premise in a way like every song on the album, so I felt like it was a good way to end it and get a little bit more personal with it."
The Pains of Growing won both Album and Pop Album of the Year at the 2020 Juno Awards. In addition, Cara took home the prize for Songwriter of the Year.