This Is What It Feels Like
Interscope · November 12, 2021
It was just about a year and a half ago that L.A. singer-songwriter Gracie Abrams released her debut EP minor, an introspective songbook of confessions that offered fans of bedroom pop pensive and pointed harmonies detailing the emotional fallout of a disintegrating relationship — all with promising signs of room for lyrical and melodic growth. Abrams’ presence in the subgenre earned her a following that now stands at roughly 5 million monthly Spotify listeners, with her last EP’s climactic track, “I miss you, I’m sorry,” amassing almost 70 million plays to date on the platform.
As she returns with This Is What It Feels Like, Abrams transports listeners away from the isolation of her lockdown-era diary entries, opting instead to take them along for a vivid and evocative road trip through different scenes, moods, and moments in her recent life.
The project’s lead single and opening track, “Feels Like,” stands slightly apart from the rest of the tracklist narratively as it tells the story of the intimacy, loyalty, and companionship she finds in a close friend. Abrams then takes us through a rollercoaster of vulnerable thoughts, doubts, and emotions that spotlight insecurities and questions she has about herself, her relationships, and what living life will look like in the fast-approaching years.
“I never said it, but I know that I / Can’t picture anything past twenty-five / Not like I care to know the time and / Not like I’m looking for that silence,” she confesses on “Camden,” a song she told fans on an “Ask Me Anything” thread on Reddit was the most difficult to write because it’s “more about my own issues rather than my issues in relationship to someone else.” “Camden” was also co-written and produced by The National and Big Red Machine’s Aaron Dessner, who brings piano chords just as contemplative and sincere as Abrams’ reflections in a beautiful blend of their sounds. Dessner also lends a hand in production to “Rockland,” “Hard to Sleep,” and “Augusta.”
This Is What It Feels Like and minor have their similarities, but their differences are notable and often what make each track on the new project unique. Where a few songs on minor tend to blend together with the exception of “I miss you, I’m sorry,” and “21,” This Is What It Feels Like boasts different melodies, lyrics, and production styles while still maintaining the thread of narrative consistency listeners can expect from a collection like this.
The most pleasantly jarring track on the project, “The Bottom,” exhibits Abrams’ ability to deliver unguarded self-deprecation over an upbeat drum and electric guitar riff—something radically different from the soft, slow-paced, and quiet ballads that comprise most of her discography. On “The Bottom,” Abrams tells a presumed love interest that they deserve better than her, that they should walk out, and that she’ll inevitably drag them “right down to the bottom.”
One of the most interesting things about the way This Is What It Feels Like presents is the lyrical and narrative nuances that come with the project’s progression. Abrams casts self-doubt on her decisions and actions in past relationships and is quick to claim fault and responsibility on songs like “The Bottom” and “Rockland,” but also ponders if asking another love interest to “grow up” was simply too much to ask on “Wishful Thinking.” On “Painkillers,” she heartbreakingly marries the two sentiments with raw, cutting lyrics, singing, “I called you out and labelled you a problem… I should know that it takes one to know one.”
In her Reddit “Ask Me Anything,” Abrams also made clear that she doesn’t consider the project a traditional “album.” To her, its songs feel like a blend of different feelings and memories coming from a myriad of places rather than from a unified narrative — and it works. These songs come from different highs and lows and different pages of Abrams’ romantic and personal life, but they align in a way that’s consistent with just the right amount of lyrical and melodic diversity, and it’s a clear show of force for what Abrams is ready to bring next.