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Forward / Slash: The Emotional Lyricism of Leanna Firestone

I hope you’re as pumped as I am because on February 24th, Leanna Firestone released her debut album Forward / Slash and I have been listening to it on repeat ever since. Though this may be Leanna’s debut album, she has already developed a solid fan base, myself included, after the release of her debut EP Y/N along with several singles. Not to mention, she has had an amazing tik tok presence, regularly posting snippets of unreleased songs, several of which are now out on Forward / Slash and currently sitting at over 610K followers. And Forward / Slash did not disappoint! The album tells a beautiful story a love, heartbreak, mental health, and healing through a series of ten songs, each really more like two songs put together into one track and separated by a forward slash, to add up to what is really more like twenty short songs. Rather than being grouped together by sound, the songs are paired up by the message they tell so each track recounts two sides of one part the complex story Leanna weaves.

The album opens with “Hide / i do”. “Hide” was the first single Leanna had released for this album all the way back in June so this part of the song has been on heavy rotation in my playlists for months. The second half of the song, “i do” was also a popular one teased on tik tok. Together, the songs make for a smooth album opener with the idea of failed and failing love. Then comes one of my favorite tracks on the album: “Just Attention / patterns”. “Just Attention” is so gorgeously full of emotion. It’s raw and so numbly angry and feels like a rant, an outpouring of emotions and thoughts. Then “patterns” plays so well on this idea of rationalizing and processing heartbreak complete with such a gorgeous musical production. It literally gave me goosebumps!

“Diet Coke” was also a previously released single that I knew by heart which was paired with a “inside”, which I don’t believe had even been teased on tik tok. This track takes a break from the heartache of the last two to instead focus on mental health and body image. When paired together, “Diet Coke / inside” tell a vulnerable story of feeling uncomfortable in your own body.

Next up is “Google Translate / poppies”. “Google Translate” had been a favorite of mine since Leanna had released a clip of it, partially because, as a Spanish major, flirting and confessing your love in another language is just like the cutest thing to me. As for it’s counterpart, “poppies”, it hadn’t been released any where yet, which maybe made me even more stunned by Leanna’s genius. Though “poppies” may be short, the song ties in perfectly with both “Google Translate” and “‘Do You Wanna Be Friends?'” (the song after it) with the line “Like at 2 am, translating your sentences. Do you still think I’m trés jolie now that you just want to be friends?”. This was a breathtaking moment of lyrical genius that just emphasized the flow of the album and the care that went into it. So picking up where “Google Translate / poppies” left off, “‘Do You Wanna Be Friends?’ / newly unrequited” tells the story of love turned into an attempt at friendship and the pain that comes with that. “newly unrequited” not only flows perfectly from “‘Do You Wanna Be Friends?'” in telling that story, but is also so, so gorgeous on its own and definitely hit me where it hurts.

“I know I said we could be friends. I’m sorry that I went back on my word but please know I did try. I just hadn’t realized how bad seeing you fine without me was going to hurt.”

“‘Do You Wanna Be Friends?’ / newly unrequited” by Leanna Firestone

After that gut punch, “Gambling Addiction / eleven elevens” takes on a more optimistic look at love and just hoping and wishing for a relationship to work out. Then that emotional longing pays off in “Smitten / vulnerable”, the clear Lover era track on this rather Red era album. And all together, these two tracks provide a quick boppy reprieve from the heartbreak of the previous tracks, only made more fun by the fact that “Gambling Addiction” and “Smitten” were both previously released singles and I’ve listened to the “vulnerable” tik tok snippet countless times so I was ready to dance and sing along.

Of course though, that reprieve can only last so long before “Phantom Pain / the rapture”. Both of these songs have clips that have sat in my favorited tik toks for a while, and yes, I have cried to both of them a time or two. So suffice to say, the pairing of these two songs hit hard. Together, they tell a story of loss, pain, and heartbreak all seen in hindsight. Not only are the lyrics gorgeous but the emotion in Leanna’s voice on this track were so raw and painful, only serving to make the track that much more heartbreaking. Similarly, “TN / i always knew” takes on the idea of begging for someone to stay, only to recognize later that you should have always known better. “i always knew” had also been a favorite from tik tok for me (and another one I’ve shed a few tears to) so it completely took my breath away. And only did so more when Leanna drew it back to various songs on the album with the line “I should have known the ending before it ever happened based on patterns and attention, gambling addictions”.

And this all leads gorgeously into the final track, “happy for you / Method Acting” which closes out the album perfectly. This is the only song on the album where the two songs blur together, making it hard to identify where “happy for you” ends and “Method Acting” begins, which is fitting as the song talks about how, in her process of healing, there was never a clear point she switched from hurting to happy. Not only does it break away from the patterns of the other tracks, but “happy for you / Method Acting” is the perfect note to end on because it leaves the listener with a feeling of hope and healing. All together, the ten tracks are pure lyrical, musical, and organizational genius, telling a gorgeously emotional story a long time in the making.

Emma Bergman

Bowling Green '25

Emma is a freshman, double majoring in psychology and Spanish. She's a bonified Swiftie, a former theatre kid, and an avid reader. Her favorite topics to write about include media, mental health, and LGBTQ+ life.
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