By Amara Uzokwe
Gracie Abrams is not afraid of vulnerability. Using compelling introspection and candidness to narrate the deterioration of young love has essentially been the story of her career so far. She had her breakthrough in 2020 with her debut EP minor which featured viral hit ‘I miss you, I’m sorry’ and inspired Olivia Rodrigo’s 2021 hit ‘drivers licence’.
Her disregard for sugar-coating has amassed her a dedicated fanbase as well as praise from some of her own musical inspirations including Taylor Swift, who she will be supporting on 30 dates of her US Eras Tour this summer. She followed minor with her second EP This Is What It Feels Like (2021) which increased her popularity and expanded on her bedroom-pop sound.
Now, Abrams arrives with her long awaited, habitually confessional debut album, Good Riddance. The album features more layered, textured production (courtesy of The National’s Aaron Dessner, who produced and cowrote the entire thing) and brings greater maturity and depth on the topics explored on her previous projects. Throughout the record, the 23-year-old challenges typical tropes of pop music, where blame for a relationship’s downfall usually falls on one party – on Good Riddance she’s both pointing the finger and taking the blame.
Following this theme, the album opens with ‘Best’, a song about accountability and self-hatred, where she confesses to her past partner – “I never was the best to you.” The intro, reminiscent of ‘Snow on The Beach’ by Taylor Swift, begins with wintery, muted guitar plucks before Abrams begins with “I was bored out my mind.” In an interview with Rolling Stone, the singer revealed that this track was the hardest to write. Defined by Abrams’ signature vocals over acoustic guitars and reverb-soaked synths, the song sets the tone for the rest of the album.
Singles ‘I know it won’t work’ and ‘Where do we go now?’ are amongst the highlights of the album. We learn on the former that not everything can be put gently as Abrams tells the subject “Won’t you stop holding out for me when I don’t want it? / Cause I’m your ghost right now / Your house is haunted.” The track is most similar in catchiness to her older singles such as ’21’ and ‘Feels Like’ which suggests it will be an instant crowd-pleaser when she brings it to life on stage.
On ‘Where do we go now?’ we hear the singer helplessly asking the title phrase repeatedly and in the final minute she spirals into, arguably, the best bridge of her career so far. The music video was released in January, with stunning visuals directed by Gia Coppola. There are moments in the album where fellow California native Phoebe Bridgers’ influence shines through; in tracks such as ‘This is what the drugs are for’ and ‘Amelie’ which echo Bridgers’ own debut Stranger In The Alps in their production.
Around the midpoint of the album, the songs do seem to blend into each other a little (namely ‘I should hate you’ and ‘Will you cry?’), however Abrams picks the pace back up with the first single released ahead of the album, ‘Difficult’. On this upbeat yet gut wrenching indie-rock track, the singer discusses how her internal struggles affect aspects of her life including her relationships, echoing the feelings expressed in ‘Best’. A significant turning point of the album arrives at the penultimate track ‘The blue’. The song marks the first love song in the singer’s entire discography (“You came out of the blue like that”).
She ends the album with ‘Right now’- a slow, reflective song that begins with Abrams feeling homesick whilst on tour (“Look at me I feel homesick / Want my dog in the door”). Any students may find the lyrics reminding them of their first week of university (“This is somebody’s hometown / Never been here before”, “Am I losing my family every minute I’m gone? / What if my little brother thinks my leaving was wrong?”).
With each line more poignant than the last, Abrams proves she can find words to describe those feelings we struggle to put a finger on. She brings the album to a close with “I feel like myself right now”, a powerful statement to end with, as the pop singer emerges from the fog of uncertainty with a new level of confidence.
All in all, Good Riddance is the perfect album for anyone who has found themselves growing up and out of someone in their early adulthood. Where production may have been lacking on her previous projects, Dessner’s competence in intricate guitar parts and composition truly takes Abrams’ songwriting to the next level. The singer will embark on an already sold-out UK tour later this autumn with a date at Manchester Academy.
Listen to Good Riddance here:
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