Toronto artist GRAE may be inspired by 80's new wave, but the singer-songwriter is taking a fresh approach to pop, blending the light-hearted inclinations of new wave with indie-led guitar and dreamy bedroom pop vocals. This sound has culminated in the sparkling debut album 'Whiplash'. Out now, 'Whiplash' is GRAE's nostalgic contemplation of the multitudes of love, mirrored by a polished, yet composite sound.
Although GRAE's sound is strong, it didn't appear overnight. "I've always struggled with my musical identity," the singer-songwriter admits. "It was a huge process of exploring and trying different sounds and different things." Having written songs since the age of 10, GRAE grew up on the music of her father - bonding over broadening her musical horizons with his collection of records and, in turn, cultivating a love for 80s music. This assorted music taste may lend itself to GRAE's varied sound, which GRAE herself also hypothesis is due to astrological placement: "I don't know if it's because I'm a Gemini or what's wrong with me, but I'm forever changing and forever evolving. I've always found it so hard to box myself in."
GRAE's earned musical confidence allowed for the exploration that led to the dynamic sound of 'Whiplash'. The project follows her 2020 EP 'Permanent Maniac' that has five million streams and counting, including a plethora of hits that feature on TV shows such as 'Nancy Drew', 'The Bold Type' and Netflix’s 'Virgin River’. In these shows, GRAE's songs are perfectly paired to moments of intimacy, affection, and intense emotion.
Explorations of different forms of love are something GRAE does well - as evidenced in 'Whiplash'. From the examination of familial love in 'Spinning' to the love lost in 'How Very Dare You'', to the self-love gathered in 'Boxes', GRAE is full of affection and more than willing to share it with the world. She explains, "The album's very much just about being entangled in all these emotions. It's about two different dynamics - being previously in a relationship and trying to start anew. You're nostalgic, but also excited to start something new, whilst also being sad that something's ending. It was such a crazy, weird emotional rollercoaster."
The album's opener, 'Boxes' takes listeners on an alt-pop journey, wading through recollection to depict an important moment for GRAE's coming of age. Sonically, 'Boxes' is a delight, with incredible panning from the outset showcasing stellar production, and an earworm chorus that'll have you warbling "nostalgia knows me so well" for hours.
The track is inspired by GRAE waking up one day and deciding to take down the band posters adorning her wall, an experience more than relatable to twenty-somethings dealing with the expectations accompanying adulthood. But for GRAE, this was more than bedroom decoration: it was a ritual of maturity - "that was a huge moment for me because I've always been that person where my whole identity is the bands." This identity was not lost though, as GRAE confesses her favourite artists are never far away - "I literally took the posters off the wall onto my legs - now my legs are covered in tattoos of all the bands I love."
The music video for 'Boxes' captures this representation of teenage GRAE's love for music and identity, citing a simplistic concept: "We just wanted to create something that captured youth and nostalgia." The video features a group of friends frolicking in a photo booth, a familiar scene to those of us that spent many a weekend squeezing into an Urban Outfitters photo booth to strike a pose.
'Boxes', like a few of the songs from 'Whiplash' expertly captures a feeling that's hard to put your finger on, perhaps enabled by GRAE's unabashed honesty. As we speak, it's clear that for GRAE's music, nothing is off-limits - "I'm the type of person where if I'm on the metro or subway or whatever, and I'm next to someone and we start talking, I'll tell them my whole life story without a blink."
The singer enjoys taking the deepest parts of her experience and writing her feelings into the consciousness of others in the hope of building a bridge between herself and her fans. "I just really hope that there's something in my music that can make my listeners feel less alone… I'm very grateful for everybody and I just really hope that they like this body of work."
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‘Whiplash’ is out now.
Words: Gem Stokes
Photo Credit: Gemma Warren
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