Ingrid Michaelson Breaks Down 'Stranger Things'-Inspired Album: Exclusive

Ingrid Michaelson
Shervin Lainez

Ingrid Michaelson

When you listen to "Pretty" by Ingrid Michaelson with no context, you might think, "Hey, this is a great song about finding yourself and being an empowered female." You'd never expect it to actually be about Eleven discovering herself and the idea of beauty in Netflix's Stranger Things, but it is. In fact, every single track on Michaelson's brand-new album Stranger Songs, out today (June 28), is tied to the sci-fi show. 

If you're a Stranger Things fan, then you're in for a serious treat. But even if you're not all that wild about the Upside Down world, you'll still love this album, because it's made for everyone. It's not what you'd think -- there are no spooky effects or creature-related lyrics -- but meaningful, melodic pop at its finest.

Michaelson is an artist who thrives under certain demands, even when she's inflicting them upon herself, and so the superfan was delighted to take on the challenge of crafting an album around such a specific theme. "I took inspiration from the show and the characters and all these ideas started to come to me," Michaelson previously said in a statement about the album.

"Every song on the record includes a reference from the show, some more specific than others, but all of the themes are universal -- these are feelings everyone has.”

Billboard had Michaelson break down all eleven (she really did that!) tracks on the album. Check it out below.

"Freak Show"

This song is inspired by a line from the first episode; the school bully calls Dustin, Mike and Lucas “freaks.” I wanted to turn the idea of "freakshow" around into something positive -- being different is a positive thing and not conforming to what everyone thinks is an ideal is positive. It’s what makes you, you. As someone who always felt like an outsider growing up, and even now, it was a really cathartic song to write. It’s from the point of view of Mike, welcoming Eleven into their world, saying, "It’s okay if you feel alone, we can be alone together."

"Young And In Love"

We wanted to write something that gave listeners the feeling of being young and in love, whether they are young, or not -- or in love, or not. We just wanted to infuse that summer feeling of being young and in love into the listeners' ears.

"Hey Kid"

This is from the point of view of Hopper, talking to Eleven. He lost his daughter when she was quite young and of course hasn’t gotten over it. He sees Eleven as another child he has to be responsible for. But he’s dealing with a superhero who can’t be controlled, which is a little of what most parents go through -- they want to control their children but at some point, they have to let them go.

"Hate You"

This song is from Steve’s point of view. Nancy’s pretty nasty to him when she breaks up with him and yet he still sticks around. He’s a good guy and still wants to support her and help her and those around her. It’s easy to leave. Hard to stay. It makes us love Steve. 


Jealous is from the point of view of Eleven, when she sees Max on the skateboard with Mike. She gets jealous and knocks Max off her skateboard with her powers. You can tell she feels bad instantly and is also sad at the idea of losing Mike. It’s the concept of, "I know I do bad things; I know I shouldn’t do this, but I do it anyway" -- which is a very human feeling.

"Missing You"

"Missing You" is about the love triangle between Nancy, Steve and Jonathan. It’s the concept of being with one person, but knowing you should be with somebody else. I think a lot of people have felt that, in one way or another.

"Best Friend'

There’s a fan theory that Barb is in love with Nancy, so I wanted to touch on that with the idea of falling in love with your best friend. I think a lot of fans love Barb and wanted more from her story. So, I gave her more. 


Mother is an amalgamation of Eleven’s search for her mother, Will trying to find his mother from the Upside Down and myself, having lost my mother. It is quite special to me. 

"Christmas Lights"

Christmas Lights is about Winona Ryder’s character, Joy, communicating with her son Will in the Upside Down through the Christmas lights. But upon listening to it after the fact, it chokes me up because it makes me think about Christmastime and my mom and dad. I remember all the wonderful times we had at that time of year...so it becomes a sort of metaphorical, talking to them through the Christmas lights.


Pretty is my Eleven anthem. The boys dress her up as a girl by putting a blonde wig and a pink dress on her.  Mike says, "You look pretty...good," because he doesn’t want her to know he thinks she looks pretty, because he’s too shy. Eleven looks in the mirror and says, "pretty good." We wanted to explore the idea of what makes someone “pretty” or what makes someone “feminine” and what makes someone a woman. The core of it is strength and not outward appearance.

"Take Me Home"

Take Me Home is from my point of view and it states my reasoning for why I wrote the whole record. I have a very intense streak of nostalgia that manifests itself in wanting to relive many moments in my life. That’s what the show helps me do -- it helps me escape and go back in time, just for a moment -- and that feeling was really the catalyst for why I wanted to write from the point of view of these characters. In doing that I think I’ve written about myself too. We all feel the same things as humans, in varying degrees of intensity.

Stranger Songs is out now via Cabin 24 and precedes the show's third season premiere on July 4. Listen to the album below, and check out Michaelson's upcoming tour dates after the jump.


September 24             Washington DC          930 Club
September 26             Nashville TN               Marathon Music Works
September 27             Atlanta GA                  Buckhead Theater
September 30             Austin TX                    Emo's
October 3                    San Diego CA             The Observatory North Park
October 4                    Los Angeles CA          The Wiltern
October 9                    San Francisco CA      The Fillmore
October 11                  Portland OR                Roseland Theater
October 12                  Seattle WA                  The Showbox
October 14                  Salt Lake City UT       Union Event Center
October 16                  Denver CO                  Ogden Theatre
October 18                  Minneapolis MN          The Orpheum
October 19                  Chicago IL                  Vic Theatre
October 20                  Detroit MI                    Majestic Theater
October 22                  Boston MA                  House of Blues
October 25                  Philadelphia PA          Union Transfer
October 28                  New York NY              Webster Hall
October 29                  New York NY              Webster Hall