The Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as the five stages of grief, typically occurs in response to the loss of someone very close to you. It consists of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance, and can manifest in myriad ways, in no particular order. For indie pop singer Ingrid Michaelson, who recently lost her mother to terminal cancer, coping occurred within the confines of the recording studio, where she unearthed a broad range of emotions on her new album, appropriately named It Doesn't Have to Make Sense (out today). The 10 tracks run the gamut from piano-driven ballads to ebullient pop tunes. “There’s a song that’s the saddest one I’ve ever written and one that’s super happy and celebratory,” she says. “That’s life: You go through major loss and sadness, but you also hopefully will find your joy.” Below, more from Michaelson on everything from her new release to filming a music video using Snapchat filters.
First off, what inspired “Hell No”? The lyrics are pretty heavy.
Honestly, I started to sing a melody, and the words “Hell No” just came out. Then I started thinking about what that expression means, and it made the most sense to do a breakup song. There are some very specific lyrics that are fabricated—a redhead didn’t cheat on me!—but I’ve been through some breakups in my life and wanted to write a fun, take-back-my-joy song. We finished it in two hours. Then we went to Dairy Queen.
Why did you decide to film the music video entirely on Snapchat?
I don’t take myself too seriously, so I thought it would be a funny idea to make a video compiled of all different Snapchat lenses. In this age where everybody is trying to make themselves look thinner, or change the color of their eyes, or make their lips bigger with all these apps on your phone, I think it’s refreshing that Snapchat has ones that turn you into a chipmunk or a panda or an oddly shaped person.
Are you a big fan of the app personally?
It’s really fun and non-committal. Whatever you’re doing is gone in 24 hours, unless somebody is taking a screen shot—but most of my foolishness goes undocumented or unsaved. I love the new filter that makes you look like the Grinch. It’s so strange-looking. I keep wondering, What are they going to think of next? Then every month, something happens that’s even more bizarre.
Is there a backstory to the title of your album?
Losing my mother shifted my life in a very huge way. My initial reaction was, Why is this happening to me? And I couldn’t find the answer. Then I realized, that’s OK. So when I was sequencing the album, I allowed myself to feel every emotion. I thought, It doesn’t have to make sense—and all of a sudden everything made sense!
Your new single, “Celebrate,” is definitely upbeat.
It’s about the past. As we get older and all these things happen to us, I think, Oh man, how easy were our lives in eighth grade? We didn’t know what our parents were really going through. I was aching for that nostalgia during the course of my mother’s illness. The roots [of the song] are from a sad place, but it’s about trying to get that carefree feeling back, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
The album comes out today—the same day as Britney Spears, Celine Dion, and Barbra Streisand.
I’m in great company! I’m just glad Beyoncé’s not dropping something too. I don’t think any of those women are stealing my thunder. It’s going to be a good day for lady music!
Watch the music video for “Hell No” above, and purchase It Doesn't Have to Make Sense ($12) via the iTunes Store.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.