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I’m in Love With Ethel Cain: A Look Into the Mastermind Behind “Preacher’s Daughter”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bowling Green chapter.

If you’re anything like me, your music taste is absolutely everywhere. Whether it be an upbeat, feel-good song that plays on the radio or the sounds of anguish being put beautifully to music, music has always possessed the ability to transcend time periods, emotions, experiences, and existences. One artist that exhibits this through and through is Ethel Cain.

Hayden Anhedönia grew up in a rural, Floridian, Southern Baptist community; homeschooled and surrounded by the effects and implications of religion. After she came out as gay, Hayden was vehemently shunned from her small-town life– in recent interviews, she comments on how everyone viewed her as a freak. “Everyone thought I was a freak,” she explains bluntly. “I was stalked by adults who didn’t even go to our church through their children’s social media accounts. It was like a witch hunt.” Fueled by this, Hayden booked it to Tallahassee after high school. During this period of Hayden’s life, Ethel Cain was born… or re-emerged from the dead. You can decide? Maybe?

NPR comments on how this period of Hayden’s life– “a blackout period of dysphoria, hard drugs and bleak electronic music under a few aliases; when the idea for Ethel Cain arrived, it may as well have been divine intervention.” This comes through within the music released under the name “Ethel Cain,” where Anhedönia transforms into the persona of Preacher’s Daughter‘s protagonist.

“[It is set] In 1991, ten years after the untimely death of her father, the beloved town preacher. For the last decade, Ethel, her mother, and her granny have lived together under the long shadow cast by the preacher’s passing. When we catch our first real glimpse of her in “American Teenager,” it’s Sunday morning and she’s got a head full of whiskey. The catchy, gently thigh-slapping country lilt and lyrics about high school football and crying in the bleachers place us in a sleepy Southern town. But when Cain mentions a neighbor’s brother coming home “in a box,” a darker current emerges,” writes THEM magazine. The dark themes present in the songs on Preacher’s Daughter show a dark, twisted story of a girl who “is the bad ending,” according to Anhedönia.

Preacher’s Daughter is an absolute masterpiece; the storytelling elements of the eloquent lyricism are reminiscent of Lana Del Rey’s classic Ultraviolence era and the musical elements are breathtakingly haunting. The story of Ethel Cain is devastating and dark, armed at the ready with trigger warnings of like, everything. Medium provides a deeper look into the elements of the album and their respective trigger warnings. No joke. Sh*t gets dark really fast.

Devastatingly, hauntingly beautiful is how I would whole-heartedly describe Ethel Cain’s Preacher’s Daughter. If you’re ready for the adventure of a lifetime, you can find more on Ethel here.

Erin Anderson

Bowling Green '25

Erin is a Junior at Bowling Green State University, where she is majoring in Adolescent/Young Adult Education (Integrated Language Arts). Alongside being Senior Editor for the group, she loves to write about astrology, self-love, spirituality, and mental health.