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

On October 16, 2020, Sasha Sloan released her debut album, Only Child.

Sasha Sloan is the stage name for Russian-American indie-pop artist, Alexandra Artourovna Yatchenko. While Sloan has previously released a few EPs, she is more well-known for her songwriting prowess. Sloan has written for Camila Cabello, Kygo, Charlie XCX, John Legend, and LANY — to just name a few of her credentials.

On her debut album, Sloan continues to explore the introspective and emotionally honest approach to songwriting and production that she has developed over the years. On top of her EPs and various singles, Sloan focuses her energy on discussions of loneliness and fragility throughout her succinct, 10 track album.

“Only Child” opens with “Matter to You.” As a slower beginning to an album, “Matter to You,” primes the listener for a more laid-back experience. The first words we hear Sloan sing are, “I hate New York City / All the lights are way too bright / Million people on the street / They’re all living their own lives / And I’m a stranger.” Immediately, Sloan launches the audience into a visceral experience of an overwhelming crowd and an overly-stimulating environment. Sloan’s lyrics call this imagery to mind, but the overall creation and her vocal style directly juxtaposes the claustrophobic space that Sloan despises. Her soft and airy vocals gently guide the listener through her hatred of crowded spaces. Yet, as the master of contradictions, Sloan shares how she feels like a nobody in the city, but at the very least, she recognizes, “I know I matter to you.”

The titular track, Only Child, features Sloan’s imagination about what life with a sibling would look like. Sloan wonders about a life full of a “built-in best friend” and “someone who’s been there before.” Sloan’s life as an only child is one of inherent loneliness and longing for something more. As the title track, these discussions of isolation anchor the album in a deeper discussion of detachment and withdrawal from others. Only Child is carefully constructed with soft and understated instrumentals. At times, it seems as if Sloan is barely able to croak out the lyrics — her vocals in themselves tug at your heartstrings and coax out a few tears.   

From Only Child, the first single to be released, “Lie,” is one of the more upbeat tracks on the album. With a punchy hook and an anthem-like chorus, Sloan cries out, “I want you to lie, lie right to my face / Want you to put your hands on my waist / Can we just dance ’til the skies are white? / ‘Cause I really can’t get my heart broken tonight.” Even in the midst of danceable backing beats, Sloan contrasts this seemingly happier song with the desire to avoid any kind of heartbreak or loneliness. She wishes to escape her lonely world for just one night — even if it all is just an act.

Sasha Sloan performing live in concert
Photo by Justin Higuchi distributed under a CC BY 2.0 license
Following “Lie,” is “Hypochondriac” — one of my favorite songs from the album. Throughout the song, Sloan chronicles how she mistreats her body, but as soon as she fell in love, she became a hypochondriac because she finally “had something worth living for.” From smoking like a chimney and drinking like a sailor, Sloan notes that she is now “scared of planes and heart attacks.” While hypochondria is typically depicted as a destructive and obsessive illness, Sloan presents her hypochondria as an act of love. Her health now matters to someone other than herself — and thus, she will now call her doctor every day.

Another one of my favorite songs, “Until it Happens to You,” brutally explores what it is like to watch someone go through a difficult event and not being able to relate until much later. While you can’t compare pain, it is awful to see someone go through a traumatic event and not be able to fix anything or truly sympathize with their situation. In an interview with Apple Music, Sloan shared, “ I never feel like I know what to say. I never feel like my words are sufficient. I haven’t been there. I tried to funnel that frustration into a song, and I wanted it to sound truly emotional …  to express just how badly I wanted to be there for them.” Sloan is deeply frustrated by her inability to properly respond to a devastating situation, but she recognizes that “you won’t be the one having trouble sleeping” or tasked with putting back the pieces, until life forces you into that situation. Coupled with her devastating lyrics, the song instrumentally builds and builds throughout the song, and ultimately, the song’s crescendo breaks and echos the sentiment of not being able to truly understand until you’re forced to endure the same pain.

While the majority of Only Child focuses on truly depressing parts of life, Sloan leaves the listener with a sense of hope as the album concludes with “High School Me.” Now at age 25, Sloan reflects back to her high school self, and remarks on how impressed her high school self would be with where she currently is in life. Even if it “doesn’t all get better,” Sloan’s high school self would be incredibly proud and understand that everything will be okay. This song encourages us to reflect on the progress we’ve all made and to stick around to see what other positive changes life will bring.

On her social media platforms, Sloan goes by the moniker sadgirlsloan. Even if her music is sad at times, it is much more profound and introspective than that simple label. Sloan’s ethereal vocals combined with introspective and inquisitive lyrics create an irresistible combination that demands several listens with your full attention. Come for the reflective and sad music, but stay for the clever contradictions and angsty storytelling that Sloan crafts in each of her songs.

Senior at the University of Utah studying English, Spanish, and Philosophy Passionate about art, grammar, and ethics
Her Campus Utah Chapter Contributor