On Saturday, Sept. 26, while many people flocked to Philadelphia to see the Pope, I spent my Saturday night in Oaks at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center to see my favorite singer perform live: Emily Kinney.
An actress and singer-songwriter formerly on “The Walking Dead,” Kinney was one of many guests at Walker Stalker Con. I paid for the VIP package, so after I receive my signed copy of Kinney’s album and take a picture with her, I have the opportunity of sitting in the front row to hear her play.
Kinney starts the concert with “This Is War,” the first track from her new album of the same name. “This Is War” gives off a distinctly pop vibe, with a fun, bubbly tune that makes you nod your head along to the words. At the same time, it fills you with optimism and defiance. You feel like you can conquer anything when Kinney sings, “So far from the top, but I refuse to stop,” and “You’ve got more soldiers, but I’ve got more passion / and I’m right behind you, just gaining traction.” The highlight of the song happens when Kinney throws her fists in the air and shouts, “I’m bruised and bloody, but I’ll never give up!” It is definitely the perfect opening song.
“Married” is one of the first songs I ever heard by Kinney, so I admittedly have a huge soft spot for it. The first word that comes to mind to describe this song is, quite simply, cute. “Married” tells the story of a couple attending a party, where Kinney proposes they leave and get married.
One of my favorite verses is when Kinney croons, “The moon could be our witness / and North Fifth Street the aisle / and when we kiss, the stars will cheer and cry and smile.” The song suggests a quick elopement, and with a carefree smile, Kinney sings, “Our friends will feel left out / and our parents had no warning / but we’ll call them with the good news in the morning.”
The next two songs Kinney performs are “Berkeley’s Breathing” and “Michael,” tracks on “This Is War” that she often plays back to back. According to Kinney, these songs are about a boy she met when she first went out to San Francisco.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of “Berkeley’s Breathing” is its soothing sound, and “Michael” is easily one of my favorite songs from her latest album. Picking up speed from “Berkeley’s Breathing,” she opens with, “I never could believe in God / but always willing to give it a shot / if there is such a thing as magic, human souls / well, then mine looks a lot like Michael,” lyrics that have stuck with me since the first time I heard it.
Kinney urges, “Let’s forget about the tears I cried / and let’s hold on to that first night” and, full of nostalgia, reminisces, “Under the table, he took my hand / we sat across from the Green Day band / all of those boys, but I could only see his face / think how me and Michael, we are just the same.”
After this song, Kinney plays “Julie,” one of her more well-known tracks from “Expired Love” that engages the audience. Kinney explains there is a boy she likes who lives in Brooklyn who, unfortunately, has a girlfriend, and she wants everyone to sing along to the chorus, where she pleads him to “Take home Julie!” “Julie” is a fun, rather fast-paced song.
Kinney then slows the show down a bit with “Birthday Cake,” the second single from “This Is War” that also requires an interactive audience. The crowd snaps along as she sings the chorus: “Oh, boy, you really got me after birthday cake / making out on my friend’s new couch / so call me any night, any day of the week / I wanna learn what you’re all about / and I know I’m far away, but this is just the start / and if we make it past the first little part / we can fly around the world in the very same plane / we can share a life, share a name.” The bridge is perhaps my favorite part, when Kinney longingly sings, “From my heart, to my throat, to my lips, to the air / I don’t wish for much, but I wish you were here / we need to check this out, oh, check me in / I’m not into playing games, but I do fight to win.”
The next song Kinney performs is “Jonathan,” which is a song she wrote that she has yet to record. It’s a slow, lovely tune that leaves you with a sense of peace and contentment. “I was so cool and comfy traveling on my own / till I met a love that felt like home, named Jonathan,” Kinney sings softly during the chorus.
Kinney then picks the pace back up with “Molly.” The upbeat, catchy tune almost distracts you from the content of the lyrics, which appears to call out and challenge an unfaithful lover and his other woman. In the chorus, Kinney sings, “Oh, I know about Molly / she likes to sing and get high / she likes to kiss my boyfriend / when he comes walking by.” Kinney’s tone is confident as she proclaims, “Oh, Molly, you can have him / you’re much cooler than me / I never liked staying up smoking weed till three / so take my boots in his closet like you took my man / it’s clear you don’t mind wearing things secondhand.”
Kinney moves on to sing music that her character Beth performed on “The Walking Dead,” specifically “Be Good,” a song originally sung by Waxahatchee, and “Hold On,” a song originally sung by Tom Waits.
The second to last song Kinney performs is “Last Chance,” another track from “This Is War.” It carries almost an eerie, mystical quality as Kinney sings, “Oh, there’s no one left to call / nothing much to say / pretty sure the world is gonna end today / drink up one last whiskey, head to dance / baby, this is our last chance.” Kinney then launches into the chorus: “So gimme whatcha, gimme whatcha got tonight / pack of cigarettes, I’m your light / gimme whatcha, gimme whatcha, gimme whatcha can / I’m the last pretty girl, you’re the last decent man.” Though not officially released yet, it is already a beloved song, as many fans believe it to depict the relationship between Beth and Daryl on “The Walking Dead.”
Kinney ends the show with “Masterpiece,” which is from “Expired Love.” If I had to pick a favorite out of all of Kinney’s songs, I would probably choose “Masterpiece.” It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to, and it’s even better live.
“This Is War” will be released on Oct. 2, and you can pre-order it now on iTunes. I highly encourage everyone to check out Kinney’s music and buy her album, as she is truly a unique artist with a wonderful voice.
Casey Tobias is a second-year student majoring in women and gender’s studies. She can be reached at CT822683@wcupa.edu. Her Twitter is @Casey__Tobias.