(Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair) “Gracie Abrams makes her mark on the music scene with her first outing.”
Anyone familiar with the “sad girl” pop or bedroom pop genre will likely treat Abrams as a household name. She has previously established herself as a forceful singer-songwriter on her EP projects “minor” and “This is What it Feels Like,” displaying her distinct raspy, somber tone with poised lyrics of heartbreak, sorrow and habits of self-destruction. But here, Abrams has recruited the musical ear of Aaron Dessner of The National—long-time collaborator of the “Queen of Pop” Taylor Swift—who serves as both a co-writer and producer. Luckily for Abrams, it most definitely pays off. And in gearing up for being an opening act for Taylor Swift’s “Era’s Tour,” the stakes were high with this release.
Dessner’s signature soft piano chords and intricate guitar plucks add weight and substance previously missing from Abrams’ discography. While Abrams’s work has garnered praise and attention—especially from Olivia Rodrigo, who names Abrams as an inspiration for her smash hit “driver’s license”— she had yet to completely land on her feet with her previous projects.
With “Good Riddance,” she shatters any barriers holding her back, breaking past restraint that has been seen in her songwriting. She hits similar beats to her previous releases, but she hits all the right notes for an approachable debut album for newcomers while being able to satisfy those who have been longtime fans. Her tender vocals and simplistic yet honest songwriting style are approachable to feel relatable for a wide audience.
The album is written by both Abrams and Dessner with production credits also belonging to Dessner. “Good Riddance” is an intimate project seeing Abrams expand her songwriting to new depths of self-reflection and storytelling. She gives listeners an honest look at her own personal struggles and heartbreaks, showing maturity and poise compared to her previous projects which only scratched the surface.
The opening track “Best” sets the tone for Abrams’s self-confessional tendencies for the album. Dessner’s soothing productionis foundational in the life and voice of this album, which is easy to fall in love with from the first note. The song serves as a relatable reflection of misunderstanding one’s own actions in a relationship. It is also the only time the name of the album is referenced, with Gracie singing, “You’re the worst of my crimes / You fell hard, I thought, ‘good riddance.’”
Other notable highlights on the album include “I know it won’t work,” which picks up the pace of the album immediately from track two with a driving pop beat and catchy hook, “And part of me wants to walk away ’til you really listen / I hate to look at your face and know that we’re feelin’ different.” “Amelie,” on the other hand, is a low-tempo guitar ballad about a one-off conversation Abrams had with a girl named Amelie. She questions whether this meeting was indeed real or a figment of her imagination. The song is unique and a standout, seeing Abrams explore her imagination, anxieties and curiosity.
What may be the strongest song on the album comes with track eight, “Difficult.” This song delves into the growing pains of coming of age and being in one’s early twenties. It is an honest and mature look into Abrams’ anxieties, unsure of whether she should “move out this year” and hoping she will “wake up invisible.” However, what makes this song remarkable is Abrams’s ability to take this anxiety she feels and put it right onto the page. She eloquently describes her experiences in a simplistic and truthful way that many young adolescents can relate to, who can only name their experiences as “difficult.”
In closing the album, Abrams takes a different approach on “Right now.” She instead opts to write about the relationship she has with her audience, touring and her artistry. It is a candid look into how the grueling schedule and lifestyle of being a full-time musician can affect one’s mental health and relationship with those around them. She sings “People 24/7 / It’s the best and a curse / All they do is remind me / That I’m still introverted.” It is almost as if she is not singing at all, her voice blending into small grazes of piano as if spoken poetry.
Overall, “Good Riddance” is a forceful debut album and sets the mark for a career of success and musical growth for one of the industry’s more unique voices. She held onto what made her beloved by fans while being able to take her music to new places lyrically and sonically.