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Over the past decade, music listeners everywhere bore witness to the ever-growing “sad girl” music genre that originated in the indie scene before rapidly taking over the mainstream music industry. The sound of this soft grunge niche is characterized by melancholic, lo-fi synth production and acoustic instrumentation. Lyrics on these tracks often discuss coming of age themes, trauma, and heartbreak. While a hallmark of the genre is its raw lyrical relatability, often consisting of simple poetic devices reinforced by soft, emotional vocals. With her debut album “Good Riddance,” Gracie Abrams contributes to this tradition; however, she fails to instill a lasting impact on the indie pop legacy.
Gracie Abrams rose to prominence in 2020 with her EP “minor,” which would go on to inspire Olivia Rodrigo’s infamous chart topping single “driver’s license.” She released her sophomore EP “This is What it Feels Like” in 2021, solidifying her position in the bedroom pop genre. Both pieces showcased Abrams’s talents as a song-writer and brought her great acclaim for her “string of consciousness” style of storytelling and sharp lyrical caliber.
At the moment, the 23-year-old boasts over 7.8 million monthly listeners on Spotify and is gearing up for not only her own tour, but her position as an opening act for Taylor Swift’s “The Eras” tour. Swift affirmed her support for Abrams in a “Rolling Stone” article in anticipation of the “Good Riddance” release, stating, “Gracie’s writing mixes fragility with introspection in a way that I really relate to.”
Such praise from the Queen of Pop herself — in addition to the immense public support which Abrams garners from millions of teenage girls around the world — would seemingly set the stage for a spellbinding freshman album from the singer-songwriter. “Good Riddance” however, is just OK.
Most of the 12 tracks on Abrams’s first album are predictable and generic. The listener is almost sure to be greeted by a synth beat or an acoustic guitar, followed by stereotypical lyrics rooted in tropes of young adulthood, and finally, a lo-fi culmination of adolescent angst supported by a folk-esque band. Then, just rinse and repeat. Few songs stand out against the grain of this unoriginal mold.
This doesn’t make the music itself “bad,” per se. There is a reason why this mold works: Listeners enjoy it and it sells records, as evidenced by the hundreds of indie pop albums to come before it. However, Abrams does little to nothing to expand on or experiment with this formula.
Lyrics littered throughout the album — such as “I guess I’m just difficult,” “If I move out this year, I’ll feel my parents slippin’,” and “I’ve been speakin’ / To my therapist, I call her every weekend” on track “Difficult” — read like blatant pandering to Gen Z and their obsession with celebrity relatability. A lyric on the same track, “Was it somethin’ that I said that colored you blue?'' might as well be a direct allusion to Halsey’s infamous “Colors” (2015) and the pseudo-deep lyrics for which it’s remembered.
In spite of the fact that tracks like “This is what the drugs are for” and “Full machine” represent a developing thematic maturity in Abrams’ new music, it is often overshadowed by the pseudo-relatability to which the lyricism subscribes. Moments like these highlight how little Abrams has grown as an artist since her initial releases.
Track 7, “Amelie,” stands out as an exception, which can be largely attributed to the narrative potency of the lyrics and the intrigue of the song’s namesake. As opposed to a collage of archetypal, contrived proclamations of heartbreak, “Amelie” distinctively acts as a borderline character study. The compelling nature of the song is enhanced by the momentum of its chorus as the audience is swept by the swell of the music: “Where did you go / Amelie, Amelie, Amelie? / Where’d you go?”
“Good Riddance” certainly leaves something to be desired. Although this record debut serves as a great ambiance-setting soft grunge piece, it isn’t something many people would reach for on its own due to its lack of individuality. It feels as though “Good Riddance” attempts, and fails, to capture the same feelings as legendary albums of the genre such as “Melodrama” by Lorde (2017) and “Punisher” by Phoebe Bridgers (2020). Even though “Good Riddance” will undoubtedly accrue acclaim from “sad girl indie” music enthusiasts everywhere, it really isn’t a revolutionary album. But not every album can be.
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