Edited by Anna Mengani
Jonah Kagen is a 23-year-old singer/songwriter from Savanna, Georgia; with a rising fandom since he started on TikTok in 2020 during the pandemic and released his first single 'broken’ in 2021. Since then, he has gained over 200 million global streams and currently has 2.4 million monthly Spotify listeners. Just last year, he toured the U.S alongside pop singer Maisie Peters as her opener. In August of this year, he completed his first-ever headline tour with 6 U.S stops then finished off the year touring alongside Philip Phillips. This November Jonah announced his own Save My Soul Tour with 19 U.S stops, beginning March 18th of next year.
With just over 20 minutes, The Roads consists of 6 songs, 4 of them previously released and 2 new. This album reflects the journey life has taken Jonah on, with obstacles, changes, and decisions. Each song represents a momentous time in his life and how he worked through it. Jonah expresses the meaning of the album, “The Roads is a story of decisions and consequences, each song represents a distinct moment in my ongoing quest to 'figure it out' and what those moments did and continue to do to me. Each is a road that I’ve taken that has shaped and continues to shape who I am.” This album shows Jonah’s emotional and raw writing style, with sounds and relatable lyrics like Dean Lewis. Jonah hopes listeners find themselves in this album and his stories as we are all just trying to figure life out.
Starting with the title track, 'The Roads,’ this song reminds me of running through a field on a mission to go somewhere important. Beginning with a soft guitar, Jonah’s voice matches the tempo which picks up with an added strong drum in the chorus. 'The Roads’ encompasses the journey of ending a tough relationship where the heart-shaped sunglasses are removed, and the realization begins. The song begins with a friend expressing concern for Jonah while entering the relationship, as they are witnessing a change in the relationship and seeing their friendless. Jonah recalls regretting not taking their advice because the journey changed him. The music video highlights the hurt on his face while reflecting. After analyzing the lyrics, the tempo sounds exactly as previously explained, as if running through a field. Similar to the chorus, "There's blisters on my feet, I ran right through my shoes. These roads are changing me, but they all lead back to you.”
Now, my favorite thing about Jonah is his ability to express his strong emotions through his voice while he is singing. He can be singing in a language that I do not know, and I would still be able to feel the emotion behind his voice. This next track is the perfect example of that. You do not even have to be paying attention to the lyrics to feel it. 'Pollution' starts with Jonah's signature acoustic guitar sound and soft-spoken voice. The chorus shows that emotion the most with a pleading sound,” Oh, forgive me, my darlin', I let you down. I don’t know where you are and I need you now. I’d do anything, I'd give up all I have. I want you back, I want you back, I want you back.” Hearing this for the first time gathered tears in my eyes and goosebumps in my arms. This track is about growing up and slowly drifting out of a friendship but wishing you could desperately go back to the time before the 'pollution.' There are so many ways listeners can relate and find themselves within this track, it could be through a childhood friendship, growing up and moving away from your parents, or even growing apart in a romantic relationship. The music video illustrates the desperation to get that innocent time back. It features an unknown woman figure walking on her own path while Jonah is seen following closely behind until the very end when she finally turns around. The video ends with Jonah and the girl just staring at each other from a couple of feet away.
‘Save My Soul’ is my favorite on the album because of the visuals it gives me. Every time I listen to it, I think of a romance movie when the love interests are falling apart or going through a rough patch but in the end, realize they cannot live without each other. The chorus in his songs never fails to stun me with emotion, this one expresses his desperation to not lose his special someone by almost screaming his voice raw from intensity, “Darling, please don't go. Don't leave, I can't be alone.” This one gets me so emotional because I think of my loved ones every time and how I have no idea what I would do without them in my life. This track can be interpreted in so many ways, which is amazing because it can relate to and reach so many people. To someone, it can mean growing apart from one lover, and to another, it can mean losing a family member. Again, Jonah strums his signature acoustic guitar, as shown in the music video, with a unique change at the end featuring a soft violin. Watch the 'Save My Soul' music video on YouTube below!
As the shortest song in the album, 'Made Up My Mind’ is also the only track with a featured artist, Lily Meola. Lily is a 28-year-old pop singer from Maui, Hawaii with over 1.7 million monthly listeners on Spotify. With her most streamed single, 'Daydream’ has over 56 million streams. Fans cannot stop talking about how Lily and Jonah's voices complement each other so perfectly, and I could not agree more. This track is less focused on the acoustic guitar and more on the blended harmonies. The song is a conversation with your significant other about a hypothetical situation where one of you dies and leaves the other behind. Will you want them to move on? What if you are the one to be left behind, will you be able to move on? The track expresses how they do not want to see themselves without them here on earth, “I'd let my heart stop in my chest before I laid you down to rest. No rhyme or reason to exist. It's not a life I wanna live without you here.” The music video is a picture-perfect illustration, it displays a young couple together while Jonah is coming back from the dead. During Lily’s verse, the same thing happens when she is rising from under the ground. As they are making their way through the trees, alive from the dead, they find their way back to each other in the end. This illustrates they died 'before they made up their mind.'
'This Life Ain’t Easy,’ is the only song Jonah did not assemble a video for. It has a better display of Jonah’s vocals in a soft and comforting way. Just as the title suggests, this track is about how life is difficult to go through. Although the topic and lyrics are darker, Jonah’s tone is uplifting, and the overall sound is comforting. I like this one metaphor, “Used to think when I was younger, I'd get old and sort it out. Pain disguised itself as hunger, now the craving's twice as loud,” meaning the pain when he was younger disguised itself as hunger for more and curiosity. Now that he is older the pain has only worsened and is not disguising itself but instead making itself known, being "loud."
The ending track, '18’, is a cute song and sounds more personal as though Jonah just grabbed his guitar and started serenading you. The music video reflects that illustration, it is just the camera and Jonah with his guitar. The acoustic guitar starts mellow and solid throughout the entire song while Jonah’s voice gets louder and authoritative in the chorus. The song is about meeting the love of your life at an early age where it just slipped away. This is expressed in the chorus, “Don't you know what we could've been? Made to love, we were younger then.” It is about the one that got away, the only way they will remember each other is when they were 18. They will not ever see each other grow old like they had always planned, because they were too young. It is a perfect song to end the album by going back to when he was young and in love. When he still had that innocence that was not tainted with 'Pollution,’ before life took him on the road.
Jonah never disappoints with his music and strong lyrics; The Roads is a perfect example of that. Listen to his new releases live on his 2024 Save My Soul Tour, and buy the tickets here! Listen to Jonah Kagen's new EP The Roads and more on his Spotify below.