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This is What it Sounds Like: A Review of Gracie Abrams’ “This is What it Feels Like”

Introducing your new favorite nepotism baby: Gracie Abrams! Daughter of the famous producer, director, and screenwriter J. J. Abrams, 22-year-old Gracie released her sophomore album “This is What it Feels Like” on Friday, and it’s the perfect moody-pop compliment to “Red (Taylor’s Version).”

Gracie began to create her own music in the late 2010s with inspiration from pop and alternative icons such as Taylor Swift, Lorde, and Phoebe Bridgers. She shared intimate clips of her work on SoundCloud and Instagram, amassing the young artist a small but dedicated following.

Gracie shares an intimate video of her singing and playing the piano in her room.

In 2019, Gracie partnered with Interscope Records and officially debuted with singles “Mean It” and “Stay.” The following year, she released her first album “minor” on July 14th of 2020. Since her first release, Gracie has supplied fans with a number of singles, including “Long Sleeves” and the high-profile Unlearn” with benny blanco.

Gracie’s most recent release “This is What it Feels Like” can best be described as an “emotional collection of personal anecdotes,” as said by TeenVogue journalist Brenton Blanchet. With its low-fi beats and Gracie’s intimate lyricism, the album is a beautiful embodiment of the bedroom pop genre. Let’s take a look at the twelve tracks that compose “This is What it Feels Like.”

“Feels Like”

Released as one of the album’s three singles, “Feels Like” is a partial title track of the singer’s sophomore album. “Feels Like” is an upbeat ode dedicated to the beauty of friendship and what it “feels like.” In the song, Gracie details one of her many adventures with friend Audrey, singing “the train was cold, we left Connecticut,” referencing their trip to the city to see a movie. During the chorus, Gracie sings “we don’t have to leave the apartment,” seeming to tell Audrey their time together is always special, no matter what they do.

“Rockland”

As Gracie’s first collaboration with Aaron Dessner, “Rockland” showcases gently strummed guitar chords and the young artist’s breathy voice. In the song, Gracie sings to an ex-lover, asking “who took my place in bed when I left?” referencing the girl who inevitably replaced her. She honestly admits “I’m sure that I would like her… if I were slightly nicer,” referencing the all-too-familiar feelings of spite at the end of a relationship. With a strong pulse, the music builds in the bridge leading up to Gracie’s emotional break. In a painful plea, Gracie reveals her misery, singing “I see you every night in my sleep… like falling with a knife you cut deep.”

Gracie releases “Rockland” as a single.

“For Real This Time”

In the third track, Gracie transitions to a more upbeat composition that demonstrates her mastery of raw lyricism. With its groovy beat and gut-wrenching lyrics, “For Real This Time” details Gracie’s painful realization that her relationship has “run dry,” and it’s time for her to leave – “for real this time.” In contrast with the song’s lyrics, the pulsing drumbeat and hi-hat cymbal accents make the song perfect for a dance-in-your-room playlist.

“Camden”

“Camden” begins with gentle piano chords as an interlude to perhaps Abram’s most honest track yet. Gracie describes her struggles with mental health and self-image. The song takes on a fast pace as Gracie sings, “most of the girls are getting thinner,” referencing the relatable pressures of comparison and body image. Gracie is brutally honest about her struggles, singing “I can’t picture anything past 25 … I really hope that I survive this” as she imagines losing the battle with her mind. As the fourth track nears the end, the music builds but Gracie’s lyrics slow as she details her continuous struggles with mental health.

“The Bottom”

As the only-explicit track, “The Bottom” is a bold proclamation of Gracie’s self-doubts and flaws. She sings to her lover exclaiming her toxicity, “I’m gonna drag you right down to the bottom [with me].” Throughout the song, Gracie expresses feelings of negativity about herself and declares that instead of breaking up with her partner, Gracie thinks they should break up with her. With a fast-paced beat, “The Bottom” is another perfect example of Gracie’s brutal honesty; she sings, “I’m no good / you could do better.” Gracie uses her impressive lyricism to convey the relatable sense of feeling not good enough for someone and wanting that person to leave you.

Gracie announces the release of her album, “This is What it Feels Like.”

“Wishful Thinking”

The album’s sixth track details a personal experience Gracie went through with a friend struggling with addiction. She sings to her friend, “flaked on me back in August,” displaying the complicated nature of relationships with addicts. While she doesn’t see the friend much, she often hears about them from a third party, singing “I heard a rumor … it’s medicine and molly.” Gracie wishes she could help her friend and fix this, but addiction is complicated, and Gracie comes to realize it’s “just wishful thinking” to think that her friend would “grow up” and get better.

“Older”

“Older” centers Gracie’s delicate voice with the accompaniment of soft piano and violin. The song shares the feelings that accompany growing “older” with your partner and how this can force two people apart. Gracie sings to her partner, “I went quiet and you got cold… guess that happened when we got older.” The artist sees how both she and her partner slowly gave up on one another. In a heartbreaking lyric Gracie pleas, “won’t you just look at me? … or am I just too draining?” as her voice seems to break. While she sees the realities of what their relationship has become, Gracie can’t help but wonder, “we were so good weren’t we?”

“Better”

In the eighth track, Gracie details her dying relationship and the effects it had on her mental health. In “Better” she sings, “I barely left my bed… old clothes fit larger,” and it seems like her partner is feeling similar effects, “you’re looking smaller.” With a groovy beat, Gracie analogizes the relationship to a car, singing, “foot off the pedal” as the relationship comes to a close, but she admits, “I’d turn the car ‘round if you’d let me.” The song displays that while Gracie may want her lover back, it’s clear to her that they’re giving up on the pair.

“Hard to Sleep”

In “Hard to Sleep,” Gracie shares what goes through her mind when she tries to go to bed. With a light piano melody as the backdrop, Gracie explains how the intrusive thoughts affect her, singing, “I only thought it for a moment but it’s crippling.” The piano builds with the accompaniment of light strings, as Gracie’s voice grows desperate in the chorus. Gracie’s mind wanders, and she wonders, “What if I’m missing the capacity for all of it?” Friend Audrey makes another appearance to assure her; Gracie sings, “Audrey told me that she thinks it might be in my head,” suggesting that Gracie is only overthinking. Despite her friend’s reassurances, Gracie urges that it feels as if she’s the only one being suffocated by her thoughts.

Gracie shares the tracklist for her album.

“Augusta”

“Augusta” begins with light guitar strums and an upbeat tune, but the lyrics are far from light as Gracie explains feeling “lost.” She rambles off ways she could change her life and leave exhausting California behind, “cut my hair in the way that I’ve wanted… change my number and bury my wallet,” she sings. The artist admits that while she feels lost, she doesn’t know a lot that could hurt her, as she’s “learned the hard way to forget my body,” Gracie coos in a painfully honest lyric. “Augusta” ends in an echo of its beginning, with Gracie singing, “I’m lost,” over a simple guitar pattern.

“Painkillers”

In the shortest track of the album, Gracie analogizes a toxic love. “Painkillers” details the mix of feelings that came with her “codependence” on the other person. The song artfully centers the artist’s voice by using low piano chords and a simple melody. Gracie admits, “I almost liked the way you fooled me,” she realizes that the “side effects” are far worse “I’d wake up sweating… to sleep without you here would do me better.” However, in a breathy outro, Gracie begs for her “painkillers.” With an echoed synth,
Gracie pleads, “hold me… come through late and tell me that you want it bad,” as she feels she can’t live without them in her life.

“Alright”

The final track “Alright” begins with an instrumental sample from Jeremih’s song “Paradise.” The simple guitar strums lead into an account of Gracie’s struggle with mental health and heartbreak. She explains she’d rather, “down a whole bottle of whiskey, counting the people who hate me,” than try medication. Gracie samples more lyrics from “Paradise,” but gives the song a darker twist, singing “oh, someone tell me it gets better… because, for tonight, I’m just not alright,” admitting that it becomes difficult for her to believe she’ll eventually be okay. Gracie expresses wonder if she’ll ever escape the dark place she’s in. She sings, “what if I never move out? I’d live in the basement my whole life,” echoing a familiar fear of not being good enough.

Gracie announces her tour.

Through twelve beautifully honest tracks, young Gracie Abrams exhibits her talented lyricism and melancholic voice. “This is What it Feels Like” is a lovely demonstration of the young artist’s talent and only shows a glimpse of what’s to come for Gracie. For starters, Gracie plans to begin her “I Miss You I’m Sorry” tour on February 2, 2022, in Salt Lake City.

Kaitlyn Newport

American '24

Kaitlyn is a sophomore at American University majoring in journalism and political science. She enjoys creative writing, photography, and reading, and she is passionate about women's health, LGBTQ+ rights, and climate justice. Kaitlyn is a Contributing Writer for HCAU and currently living in D.C.
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