Gracie Abrams learns that ‘The Secret of Us’ isn’t always hers to keep

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Recommended Tracks: “Blowing Smoke”, “I Love You, I’m Sorry”, “us.”
Artists You Might Like: boygenius, Lizzy McAlpine, Taylor Swift

Secrets keep us close; that’s what we are told as kids. They bond us like no other and keep us connected, for better or for worse. Regardless, they tether you forever, but perhaps the truth is better kept secret. Pop it girl and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Gracie Abrams binds those secrets and holds them dear to her heart in her sophomore album, The Secret of Us. Abrams follows her trail of merging vulnerability with relatability, which she has done on past projects like This Is What It Feels Like (2021) and Good Riddance (2023).

Daughter of filmmaker J.J. Abrams, Gracie Abrams rose to fame in her own right with her debut EP, Minor (2020), which featured hit singles “Mean It” and “I Miss You, I’m Sorry.” Her debut album Good Riddance catapulted Abrams to unprecedented amounts of fame, leading to her opening for selected shows on the US leg of The Eras Tour and receiving a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist. With over 16 million monthly listeners on Spotify, Abrams reveals her secrets, struggles and thoughts in The Secret of Us. This album was entirely co-produced by Abrams and her long-time collaborator Aaron Dessner, who also produced tracks on This Is What It Feels Like and even more on Good Riddance.

The album opens with “Felt Good About You,” where Abrams details a relationship that starts positively and passionately but eventually turns sour in this Vampire Weekend-esque track. The verses and chorus capture Abrams’ slow disinterest and conflict within the relationship, while the bridge shines with regretful introspection. Despite the ups and downs characterized throughout the track, she ultimately sings, “I felt fuller without you,” realizing that the relationship brought her more pain than joy. There’s hesitation, pain and fear, but it’s not until “Risk” that she takes a leap of faith in someone new.

But, of course, secrets both tie one together and tear you apart. Abrams is bitter, heartbroken and emotional in “Blowing Smoke.” Even when she tries to move on in the previous track, she struggles with her ex moving on and becomes increasingly insecure and curious about the new relationship. She sings, “If she’s got a pulse, she meets your standards now?” In a music style very similar to This Is What It Feels Like, Abrams channels her ballad singer-songwriter heart and continues to shed her regretful tears in “I Love You, I’m Sorry.” She’s resentful, hurt and mourning the loss of the one she loved, singing, “The way life goes / Joyriding down our road / Lay on the horn to prove that it haunts me / I love you, I’m sorry.”

In the next track “us.”, produced by Jack Antonoff, Abrams is joined by pop icon Taylor Swift, delivering a sweet summation of the entire record: “Wondering if you regret the secret of us.” Against playful guitar picking and Swift’s smooth vocal harmonies, the emotional track explores the aftermath of a broken relationship, filled with regret and longing — themes both singers are known for. Their references to annotated sonnets add a layer of youthful and introspective heartache amidst secret contemplation.

Yet, we’re left to wonder who the “us” is referencing — the kept secret relationship or the “us.” It leads into the sweet surrender and quiet desperation of “Let It Happen,” which tackles the theme introduced in “Risk.” And once again, Abrams takes another leap of faith.

The acoustic guitar-driven track “I Knew It, I Know You” channels Swift’s folklore (2020)/evermore (2020) era, showcasing Abrams’ journey from hurt to empowerment, marked by self-assertion. In contrast, “Give You I Give You I” puts a twist on the groundwork laid in the previous track. Instead of feeling self-assured and seeking closure, Abrams is emotionally drained and used after investing in someone who didn’t feel the same way. She’s left feeling abandoned and questioning her own worth in the process. She sings, “And you did all that I wouldn’t do, erasing lines around us / I held my head, I used to hold you but now I’ll walk around us / And I can’t lie and claim confused when I know just what happened.” There’s a sense of betrayal and disillusionment that casts the track, overlaying themes of betrayal.

While much of the album consists of themes of longing and acceptance within relationships, Abrams flips this idea on its head in “Good Luck Charlie.” She depicts a protagonist named Charlie who keeps a picture of someone named Audrey in their wallet. With moments of tension and missed connections, she sings, “Good luck, Charlie / I hope you’re ready / ‘Cause this isn’t what you wanted / You know that it’s her or nothin’.”

Abrams comes to terms with the dissolution of the relationship in the final two tracks of the record, “Free Now” and “Close To You.” In “Free Now,” she finds some liberation amidst the gentle build of electric guitar and drum beats. She admits that she can’t wait for her partner to heal or change, but despite this, she’s ready to let go, before she shifts toward intense desire and infatuation in the highly-anticipated song, “Close To You.” Unlike previous releases, there’s a lightness, contentment and readiness to move forward in the final chapter of this secret.

“Us” might be a secret, but it’s ours to keep. Following her most acclaimed year yet, Abrams seeks peace amidst lingering pain, inviting us along the ride with her. The Secret of Us marks a shift toward a more self-assured sound while maintaining lyrical vulnerability that is nuanced, exciting and just as chaotic. Because even amidst private reflections and brazen young adult angst, sometimes it’s our secrets to keep.

Abrams is set to embark on her sold-out The Secret of Us Tour with special guest Role Model from September to October 2024.

Keep up with Gracie Abrams: Instagram // Spotify // X // YouTube // Facebook // Website

Clare Gehlich
Clare Gehlich
Clare is a recent Stony Brook University graduate, holding a BA in Journalism. She was a journalism intern at Melodic for the spring 2024 semester and currently serves as the album coordinator and is a freelance writer for the magazine.

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