A soldier. A big mess. A diamond born to shine. An independent woman. These are a few of the striking ways Sarah Potenza defines herself on her inspiring new album Road to Rome. Following her tenure on Season 8 of The Voice, where Potenza established herself as a powerhouse soul singer, she proved to be an equally compelling songwriter with her acclaimed debut album Monster in 2016. It’s no coincidence that Potenza is releasing Road to Rome on International Women’s Day, as the project serves as an unapologetic declaration of who she is at her core.
Potenza’s lyrics are steeped in strength, integrity, and perseverance, and she establishes this on the opening track “I Work For Me.” From the moment she hits the first note, Potenza is the epitome of empowerment, grabbing the listener with a voice that’s as moving as her lyrics. Potenza owns her success by penning an epic triumph song in response to those who attempted to discourage her dream. “I turned your words into my songs and then I go to war … I’ve been signing my checks with my blood and my sweat,” she professes with soaring vocals. She carries this fierce attitude into “Dickerson and Queen,” a swanky blues number that serves as another celebration of Potenza’s free mind and independent spirit as she declares “I don’t give a fuck about nothing but the music … I listen closely to all my visions, that’s how I make all my big decisions.”
Potenza truly glimmers on “Diamond,” channeling the vulnerability of growing up feeling like an outsider into a convincing song that honors her inextinguishable spirit. “I listened too closely / when others they told me / who I was and who I was not,” she sings, her voice roaring over a bold blues melody. Potenza brings to light how she suppressed her gifts under the weight of societal norms, basking in the truth that her power lives in her uniqueness as she determinedly professes, “I was born to be a diamond / whole damn world gonna see me shining.”
While Potenza establishes a commanding presence on the album’s bold numbers, she exudes just as much conviction in its quieter moments, like the beautiful “Earthquake,” an honest tribute to her husband, guitarist Ian Crossman. The thoughtful, heartfelt ballad recognizes his contributions to her life, as she thanks him for embracing her strong personality that she compares to an earthquake. But with this gratefulness comes vulnerability, as Potenza extends an apology for any moment he felt like a passenger rather than her equal.
She continues to blend this confidence and emotion on “Worthy,” a cover of the soulful, piano number by Mary Gauthier (which she personally sent to Potenza), letting her voice fly on lyrics “I am worthy, what a thing to claim.” This gracefully leads into the three-minute message of encouragement, “I Believe,” where the roots singer shares the story of how her grandmother made a living by working at a factory, though she only reached a sixth-grade education, reveling in how her unwavering strength runs through her veins. “I don’t matter where you are / it only matters where you land… get your shit together / we got work to do,” she sings over a synth-infused blues beat.
Potenza ends the album with a sobering moment in the title track, centered around independence and finding her voice, putting forth the profound statement that “shame is a drug and I was a user,” before she ends on the hopeful note: “I will rise up singing on this road I walk to Rome.”
The world needs Potenza’s voice, one that belongs to a powerful woman who’s not afraid to put forth her honest opinions, share courageous self-reflections, and unabashedly own every aspect of herself, making her voice important not only in today, but for years to come.