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‘This Is What It Feels Like’: A Project Review

On November 12, 2021, new to the scene popstar Gracie Abrams released her highly-anticipated project, This Is What It Feels Like. More than a year after her first EP, minor, This Is What It Feels Like mimics the sonic and emotional vulnerability heard on minor, but is more intensified.

Featuring a 12 song track list, Abrams has revealed that these songs were created during her time in self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and really illustrate her mental health struggles during that challenging time. In a Teen Vogue interview, she explained that a main reason why This Is What It Feels Like was a project rather than an album was because she felt the songs were “fragments of different times over [her] mental health recovery. [She] felt like [she] was grasping at pieces of [herself] that [she] was starting to recognize again, or being able to articulate things in a way that made at least some sense to other people.”

When the well-known track “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo took over the music world at the beginning of 2021, Rodrigo stated the song was indebted to minor, Abrams’ EP from 2020. Despite not being as popular as Rodrigo, Abrams has seen a rapid rise in success in recent years. With her parents both being producers in the industry, Abrams grew up in a creative household and has been inspired in songwriting her whole life. Following the release of her EP, Abrams did not slow down. In the time leading up to the release of This Is What It Feels Like, she has been collaborating with various producers, such as Benny Blanco and Aaron Dessner.

Evident throughout the whole project, This Is What It Feels Like depicts the raw emotion felt by Gracie Abrams through various emotional turmoil she has experienced: self-betrayal, insecurity, regret, and the struggle of connections in her relationships. 

“I now have these songs to remember that time [isolation] really, really clearly. And so my hope with the project was just that. If anyone felt any of what I did last year, that they know that they were not alone in that. Because that’s what I’ve gained from them as a community and an audience. I very much have them, and they have me.”

“Gracie Abrams on Taylor Swift, Strength, and New Project ‘This Is What It Feels Like'”, Teen Vogue

In the tracks “Older” and “Better”, Abrams describes regret for a relationship she has accepted belongs in the past. A common theme in those tracks shows the guilt she feels over her part in the downfall of her relationships. This is seen in the lyrics ”I know I’m to blame for the small talk / And tiptoeing over,” and “Now all I feel is / So bad about it / I barely left my bed.”

Building off of these ideas, the tracks “The Bottom” and “For Real This Time” show the self-depreciation and insecurities Abrams holds against herself for her inability to make her relationships work. This is prominent in the lyrics “I’m gonna drag you right down to the bottom / Cause I’m no good / You could do better” and “But still we stayed a long time / I’m sorry if I make you cry tonight”. 

The final tracks on the project show the resulting emotions experienced after all of this turmoil, and how Abrams struggled with her mental health. “Augusta” and “Alright” depict Gracie putting the pieces back together after the rollercoaster of feelings she has faced. In the writing of the lyrics “I don’t know if I’ll be alright / What will it take to make this good?” and “Learned the hard way to forget my body / ‘Til you’re walking around like a zombie / Still don’t know how to talk through that story / I’m lost.”

While minor is one of my favorite music releases ever, This Is What It Feels Like brings an intertwined complexity of emotions and lyrics unlike anything I’ve heard from Abrams before that makes this a top contender in music of the year for me. With the abundance of music Abrams has been producing as of late, I’m excited to continue to watch her grow as an artist. Check out her entire discography here!

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Samira Sayan

U Mass Amherst '23

Samira is a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is double majoring in marketing and communications. She enjoys spin classes, listening to music, hanging out with friends and traveling.
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