Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Sara Bareilles – Saint Honesty

We now move to Sara Bareilles, celebrating the patron saint of critics everywhere..


Kayla Beardslee: I’ve been returning to “Saint Honesty” over and over since April, and I fell even more in love when Bareilles performed it on SNL, in one of the strongest testaments to live performance I’ve seen since Beychella and Lizzo’s Tiny Desk. The track was recorded in one take with a full band, so it makes sense how naturally transcendental and (in Sara’s words) perfectly imperfect it feels when performed live. Hearing the beginning piano chords and Sara’s honeyed “leaving all the windows open” transports me immediately and completely into the song’s world — a simpler one, where letting warm summer rain inside to stain the floorboards can cure all the hurt in our weather-maker hearts. It’s not that “Saint Honesty” is ignorant of the complicated turmoil of real life, but that for four and a half minutes, Sara Bareilles’s beautiful, compelling voice and gentle instrumental accompaniment give us a moment of reassurance in the storm. “We won’t let go / We’ll be soaked to the bone,” she sings — soaked in the intimate flaws of a romantic (or platonic) relationship and in the goddamn scary political mess of the past few years, cleansed by the rain and the faith that salvation must be coming, and, finally, baptized by the truth found in simple yet moving tracks like this one.

Jonathan Bradley: I like the coziness of a warm room while it rains outside; it’s much like the coziness of an upright bass and a brushed snare. “Saint Honesty” wants to let the storm in, but the arrangement doesn’t, and nor does Bareilles’s vocal, which she lays out like a table setting.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: I can’t quite track the rains and the saints of the metaphor, but it almost doesn’t matter– the way Bareilles hits the high notes is salvation enough, the smoothness of her voice over T Bone Burnett’s production a stunning bit of retro-pop. The rest of the song doesn’t do enough to interest me deeply, but sometimes a moment as stunning as the bridge will stick, even as the rest fades into sophisticated beige.

Katherine St Asaph: She’s not gonna build you a bridge over troubled water ’cause you need one. Or, rather, she is, but I preferred the understated Sarah McLachlan/Pierre Marchand lullaby that preceded the eighth-hand gospel stylings and vocal bombast (bombast by Bareilles standards, at least).

Katie Gill: Sara Bareilles has always had an awkward time fitting in. Bouncing between top 40 pop to adult contemporary to Broadway, she’s musically had fingers in so many different pies. And once I saw that “produced by T Bone Burnett” label in the video description, I KNEW she’d be bouncing to a different sound entirely. The sound fits her but feels rote, like Bareilles just took a typical T Bone Burnett Acoustic Folkish Song and slapped a new coat of paint on it.

Alfred Soto: At home in the medium of Florence Welsh and Fiona Apple, Sara Bareilles is plummier about her emotions. I’m not sure about “salvation” as salve after a night of angry sex, nor about the noodly lead guitar. Maybe Bob Seger’s an ancestor too.

Nortey Dowuona: The heavy piano slides around the shifting drums and smooth bass, guitar drifting in the fringes of the mix, as Sara gently, patiently gathers the broken pieces of shattered hearts and places them back in folks’ chests.

Iain Mew: The cleansing rain of honesty is a strong image to soak into, but “Saint Honesty” starts off as a cautious drizzle and essentially stays there, developing very little. The result is just a bit damp.

Ryo Miyauchi: Sara goes for it with her vocals in the chorus, but as cathartic as that is for the narrative about pouring out the truth, the magic of “Saint Honesty” is found in its quiet moments. The song patiently spins a larger metaphor based on rain, confession and baptism with a series of rich lyrics, and the singer leaves behind gold like “oh, these hearts, they’re weather-makers.” She sighs them like just pieces of casual conversation, almost without knowledge she’s letting it disappear in the smoky, stripped-down blues.

Reader average: [5.5] (2 votes)

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2 Responses to “Sara Bareilles – Saint Honesty”

  1. The “leaving all the windows open” that opens this and its resonance with “we could leave the Christmas lights up til January” in “Lover” makes me hope that whenever Taylor Swift inevitably records her thirtysomething adult contemporary album, she gets T Bone Burnett to produce.

  2. I was just now reading Rob Sheffield’s ranking of every Taylor Swift song (, and found out that T Bone Burnett produced Taylor’s Safe and Sound! So there’s already evidence it could work.

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