AF 2021 IN REVIEW: Our Favorite Albums & Singles of The Year

If you went into 2021 with high expectations, you weren’t alone. Even if it was hard to feel optimistic this time last year, it certainly seemed as if things could get no worse. Live music did return, after all – though with the appearance of Delta, and now Omicron, the joyful noise comes with a caveat. After sixteen months of having to livestream shows (fun, but not the same) little could stop me from attending shows in person; wearing a mask as an extra precaution felt like no big deal, even if no one else was doing it. But luck (and vaccines) feel like the real reason I emerged unscathed from dozens of risky experiences, and with performances on the horizon canceled once again, maybe it’s wise to enter 2022 with slightly lower expectations.

There’s always recorded music, anyhow. Maybe the tumult of the year just has me personally feeling a bit unfocused, but it seems as though I barely scaled the mountain of this year’s musical offerings without getting a bit buried in the avalanche of releases – ones that had been pushed back, ones that were created in lockdown. I’ll be playing catch up well into the new year, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t gems I connected with almost immediately, and very deeply. And that’s what I’ve heard across the board, from those in the industry as well as casual music fans – is that our favorites this year stayed on heavy rotation, as we latched onto music that accurately reflected our moods, which evolved moment to moment and of course happened to be different for all of us at any given time. What does that mean for year-end lists? Audiofemme has always compiled an eclectic list, including favorites from each of our contributors without overall rank – consider any repeats to be the best of the best. But this year, the list seems even more diverse, meaning there’s a wealth of weird and wonderful music below to discover, dear reader. Thanks for sticking with us through another wild year.


  • Marianne White (Executive Director)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) PinkPantheress – to hell with it
      2) Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime
      3) Low – Hey What
      4) Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales
      5) Julien Baker – Little Oblivions
      6) Dawn Richard – Second Line: An Electro Revival
      7) Indigo De Souza – Any Shape You Take
      8) aya – im hole
      9) Flock of Dimes – Head of Roses
      10) Tyler, the Creator – CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST
    • Top 5 Singles:
      1) Japanese Breakfast – “Be Sweet”
      2) Loraine James (feat. Eden Samara) – “Running Like That”
      3) Hand Habits – “More Than Love”
      4) Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen – “Like I Used To”
      5) Julien Baker – “Faith Healer (Half Waif Remix)”

  • Lindsey Rhoades (Editor-in-Chief)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Low – Hey What
      2) Tirzah – Colourgrade
      3) Nana Yamato – Before Sunrise
      4) Emma Ruth Rundle – Engine of Hell
      5) Jane Weaver – Flock
      6) Tonstartssbandht – Petunia
      7) Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
      8) Squirrel Flower – Planet (i)
      9) Veik – Surrounding Structures
      10) Cassandra Jenkins – An Overview on Phenomenal Nature
    • Top 10 Singles:
      1) Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen – “Like I Used To”
      2) Special Interest – “All Tomorrow’s Carry”
      3) Squid – “G.S.K.”
      4) Julien Baker – “Bloodshot”
      5) Mandy, Indiana – “Bottle Episode”
      6) Remember Sports – “Pinky Ring”
      7) Cedric Noel – “Comuu”
      8) Gustaf – “Mine”
      9) June Jones – “Therapy”
      10) MAN ON MAN – “Stohner”

  • Mandy Brownholtz (Marketing Director)
    • Top 5 Albums (in no particular order):
      Spellling – The Turning Wheel
      King Woman – Celestial Blues
      Macy Rodman – Unbelievable Animals
      Marissa Nadler – The Path of the Clouds
      Kinlaw – The Tipping Scale
    • Top 3 Singles (in no particular order):
      Often – “Deep Sleep”
      Mannequin Pussy – “Control”
      Spice – “A Better Treatment”


  • Alexa Peters (Playing Seattle)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Wye Oak – Cut All The Wires: 2009-2011
      2) Dori Freeman – Ten Thousand Roses
      3) Isaiah Rashad – The House Is Burning
      4) Fawn Wood – Kåkike
      5) Carmen Q. Rothwell – Don’t Get Comfy / Nowhere
    • Honorable Mention: Mike Gebhart – Co-Pilot 
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Doja Cat (feat. SZA) – “Kiss Me More”
      2) Mitski – “Working for the Knife”
      3) DoNormaal – “Baby May”

  • Cat Woods (Playing Melbourne)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Deap Vally – Marriage
      2) Mod Con – Modern Condition
      3) Laura Stevenson – Laura Stevenson
      4) Joan As Police Woman – The Solution is Restless
      5) Black Country, New Road – For the first time
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Black Country, New Road – “Sunglasses”
      2) Lana Del Rey – “Dealer”
      3) jennylee – “Tickles”

  • Liz Ohanesian (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Hackedepicciotto — The Silver Threshold
      2) Saint Etienne — I’ve Been Trying to Tell You
      3) L’impératrice — Take Tsubo
      4) Pearl and the Oysters— Flowerland
      5) Nuovo Testamento — New Earth
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Midnight Magic – “Beam Me Up” 
      2) Jessie Ware – “Please”
      3) Gabriels – “Love and Hate in a Different Time (Kerri Chandler Remix)”  

  • Gillian G. Gaar (Musique Boutique)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Dolphin Midwives — Body of Water
      2) Sarah McQuaid — The St. Buryan Sessions
      3) Low — Hey What 
      4) Witch Camp — I’ve Forgotten Now Who I Used to Be 
      5) Full Bush — Movie Night
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Maggie Herron — “Sweet Lullaby”
      2) Sleater-Kinney — “High in the Grass”
      3) ONETWOTHREE — “Give Paw” 

  • Jason Scott (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Jetty Bones – Push Back
      2) M.A.G.S. – Say Things That Matter
      3) Lyndsay Ellyn – Queen of Nothing
      4) Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed
      5) Christian Lopez – The Other Side
    • Top 5 Singles:
      1) Hayes Carll – “Help Me Remember”
      2) Jake Wesley Rogers – “Middle of Love”
      3) Adele – “To Be Loved”
      4) Carly Pearce – “What He Didn’t Do”
      5) Kacey Musgraves – “what doesn’t kill me”

  • Michelle Rose (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Alex Orange Drink – Everything Is Broken, Maybe That’s O​.​K.
      2) Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
      3) Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed
      4) Magdalena Bay – Mercurial World
      5) Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Blonder – “Ice Cream Girl” 
      2) Mitski – “The Only Heartbreaker”
      3) Kristiane – “Better On Your Own”  

  • Victoria Moorwood (Playing Cincy)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Polo G – Hall of Fame
      2) Benny the Butcher & Harry Fraud – The Plugs I Met 2
      3) Megan Thee Stallion – Something For Thee Hotties
      4) Pooh Shiesty – Shiesty Sessions
      5) blackbear – misery lake
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Benny the Butcher & Harry Fraud – “Thanksgiving”
      2) Lil Nas X (feat. Jack Harlow)  – “INDUSTRY BABY”
      3) 24kGoldn (feat. Future) – “Company”

  • Jamila Aboushaca (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed
      2) Snoh Aalegra – Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies 
      3) Lil Nas X – Montero
      4) Darkside – Spiral
      5) Blu DeTiger – How Did We Get Here EP
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Kaytranada (feat. H.E.R.) – “Intimidated”
      2) Kacey Musgraves – “simple times”
      3) Snoh Aalegra – “In Your Eyes”

  • Sophia Vaccaro (Playing the Bay)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Aly & AJ – A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun
      2) Julia Wolf – Girls in Purgatory (Full Moon Edition)
      3) Megan Thee Stallion – Something For Thee Hotties
      4) Lil Mariko – Lil Mariko
      5) Destroy Boys – Open Mouth, Open Heart
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) daine – “dainecore”
      2) Julia Wolf – “Villain”
      3) Doja Cat – “Need To Know”

  • Sam Weisenthal (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Indigo De Souza – Any Shape You Take
      2) Katy Kirby – Cool Dry Place
      3) Mega Bog – Life, and Another
      4) Ada Lea – one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden
      5) Olivia Kaplan – Tonight Turns to Nothing
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Charlotte Cornfield – “Drunk For You” 
      2) Dora Jar – “Multiply”
      3) Joe Taylor Sutkowski, Dirt Buyer – “What Luck, Goodbye”  

  • Sara Barron (Playing Detroit)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) PinkPantheress – to hell with it
      2) Summer Walker – Still Over It
      3) Erika de Casier – Sensational
      4) Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales
      5) Adele – 30
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Lana Del Rey – “Dealer”
      2) Liv.e – “Bout It”
      3) SZA – “I Hate U”

  • Eleanor Forrest (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
      2) CL – ALPHA
      3) My Life As Ali Thomas – Peppermint Town
      4) Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
      5) Remember Sports – Like a Stone
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) FKA twigs (feat. Central Cee) – “Measure of a Man”
      2) Sabriel – “Pulse”
      3) Lexie Liu – “有吗炒面 ALGTR”

AF 2020 IN REVIEW: Our Favorite Albums & Singles of The Year

In a year that’s been like no other for the music industry, it feels a bit weird to make a best of 2020 list – there have been no tours, venues and clubs across the globe are in danger of closing their doors for good, release schedules were shuffled beyond recognition, and musicians have had to find other ways to make ends meet while those in the U.S. await the next round of paltry stimulus checks. With a situation so dire, the metrics have changed – should we ascribe arbitrary value to the skill of producers, songwriters, performers, and the execution of their finished projects, or simply celebrate records that made us feel like the whole world wasn’t crumbling?

Definitively ranking releases has never been the Audiofemme model for looking back on the year in music. Instead, our writers each share a short list of what moved them most, in the hopes that our readers will find something that moves them, too. Whether you spent the lockdown voraciously listening to more new music this year than ever before, or fell back on comforting favorites, or didn’t have the headspace to absorb the wealth of music inspired by the pandemic, the variety here emphasizes how truly essential music can be to our well-being. If you’re in the position to do so, support your favorite artists and venues by buying merch, and check out the National Independent Venue Association to stay updated on what’s happening with the Save Our Stages act. Here’s to a brighter 2021.


  • Marianne White (Executive Director)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders
      2) the Microphones – Microphones in 2020
      3) Soccer Mommy – Color Theory
      4) Megan Thee Stallion – Good News
      5) Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
      6) Amaarae – The Angel You Don’t Know
      7) Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
      8) Adrianne Lenker – songs/instrumentals
      9) Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
      10) Lomelda – Hannah
    • Top 5 Singles:
      1) Kinlaw – “Permissions”
      2) Billie Eilish – “Therefore I Am”
      3) Little Dragon & Moses Sumney – “The Other Lover”
      4) Yves Tumor – “Kerosene!”
      5) Megan Thee Stallion – “Shots Fired”

  • Lindsey Rhoades (Editor-in-Chief)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Land of Talk – Indistinct Conversations
      2) Dehd – Flower of Devotion
      3) SAULT – Untitled (Black Is)/Untitled (Rise)
      4) Public Practice – Gentle Grip
      5) Cindy Lee – What’s Tonight to Eternity
      6) Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
      7) Benny Yurco – You Are My Dreams
      8) Eve Owen – Don’t Let the Ink Dry
      9) Porridge Radio – Every Bad
      10) Jess Cornelius – Distance
    • Top 10 Singles:
      1) Little Hag – “Tetris”
      2) Elizabeth Moen – “Creature of Habit”
      3) Yo La Tengo – “Bleeding”
      4) Caribou – “Home”
      5) Jess Williamson – “Pictures of Flowers”
      6) Adrianne Lenker – “anything”
      7) Nicolás Jaar – “Mud”
      8) Soccer Mommy – “Circle the Drain”
      9) New Fries – “Ploce”
      10) El Perro Del Mar – “The Bells”


  • Alexa Peters (Playing Seattle)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight
      2) Blimes and Gab – Talk About It
      3) Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
      4) Tomo Nakayama – Melonday
      5) Matt Gold – Imagined Sky
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Stevie Wonder – “Can’t Put it in the Hands of Fate”
      2) Tomo Nakayama – “Get To Know You”
      3) Ariana Grande – “Positions”

  • Amanda Silberling (Playing Philly)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Frances Quinlan – Likewise
      2) Bartees Strange – Live Forever
      3) Told Slant – Point the Flashlight and Walk
      4) Diet Cig – Do You Wonder About Me?
      5) Shamir – Shamir
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Kississippi – “Around Your Room”
      2) Sad13 – “Hysterical”
      3) The Garages – “Mike Townsend (Is a Disappointment)”

  • Ashley Prillaman (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
      2) Lasse Passage – Sunwards
      3) Megan Thee Stallion – Good News
      4) Grimes – Miss Anthropocene
      5) Yves Tumor – Heaven To A Tortured Mind
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Megan Thee Stallion – “B.I.T.C.H.”
      2) Perfume Genius – “On the Floor”
      3) SG Lewis & Robyn – “Impact” (feat. Robyn & Channel Tres)

  • Cat Woods (Playing Melbourne)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Jarvis Cocker – Beyond the Pale
      2) Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine
      3) Run the Jewels – RTJ4
      4) Emma Donovan & The Putbacks – Crossover
      5) Various Artists – Deadly Hearts: Walking Together
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Emma Donovan & The Putbacks – “Mob March”
      2) Laura Veirs – “Freedom Feeling”
      3) Miley Cyrus – “Never Be Me”

  • Chaka V. Grier (Playing Toronto)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas
      2) Joya Mooi – Blossom Carefully
      3) Lady Gaga – Chromatica
      4) Witch Prophet – DNA Activation
      5) Tremendum – Winter
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Lianne La Havas – “Green Papaya”
      2) Lady Gaga – “Free Woman”
      3) Allie X – “Susie Save Your Love”

  • Cillea Houghton (Playing Nashville)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Chris Stapleton  – Starting Over
      2) Brett Eldredge – Sunday Drive
      3) Little Big Town – Nightfall
      4) Ingrid Andress – Lady Like
      5) Ruston Kelly – Shape & Destroy
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”
      2) Billie Eilish – “Therefore I Am”
      3) Remi Wolf  – “Hello Hello Hello”

  • Eleanor Forrest (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Grimes – Miss Anthropocene
      2) Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA
      3) Allie X – Cape Cod
      4) LEXXE – Meet Me in the Shadows
      5) Gustavo Santaolalla, Mac Quayle – The Last of Us Part II (Original Soundtrack)
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) CL – “+5 STAR+”
      2) Yves Tumor & Kelsey Lu – “let all the poisons that lurk in the mud seep out”
      3)  Stephan Moccio – “Freddie’s Theme”

  • Gillian G. Gaar (Musique Boutique)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Dust Bowl Faeries – Plague Garden
      2) Ganser – Just Look At That Sky
      3) Oceanator – Things I Never Said
      4) Loma – Don’t Shy Away
      5) Maggie Herron – Your Refrain
      6) Pretenders – Hate for Sale
      7) The Bird and the Bee – Put up the Lights
      8) Partner – Never Give Up
      9) Bully – Sugaregg
      10) Olivia Awbrey – Dishonorable Harvest

  • Jason Scott (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Mickey Guyton – Bridges EP
      2) Katie Pruitt – Expectations
      3) Mandy Moore – Silver Landings
      4) Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
      5) Cf Watkins – Babygirl
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Mickey Guyton – “Black Like Me”
      2) Ashley McBryde – “Stone”
      3) Lori McKenna feat. Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose – “When You’re My Age”

  • Jamila Aboushaca (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
      2) Khruangbin – Mordechai
      3) Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon III: The Chosen
      4) Tycho – Simulcast
      5) Run the Jewels – RTJ4
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Tame Impala – “Lost In Yesterday”
      2) Phoebe Bridgers – “Kyoto”
      3) Halsey – “You should be sad”

  • Liz Ohanesian (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine
      2) Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure?
      3) Phenomenal Handclap Band – PHB
      4) Khruangbin – Mordechai
      5) TootArd – Migrant Birds
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Anoraak – “Gang” 
      2) Kylie Minogue – “Magic”
      3) Horsemeat Disco feat. Phenomenal Handclap Band – “Sanctuary”  

  • Michelle Rose (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
      2) Taylor Swift – folklore
      3) Shamir – Shamir
      4) Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure?
      5) HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Porches – “I Miss That” 
      2) Annabel Jones – “Spiritual Violence”
      3) Wolf – “High Waist Jeans”  

  • Sara Barron (Playing Detroit)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Summer Walker – Over It
      2) Yaeji – WHAT WE DREW
      3) Liv.e – Couldn’t Wait to Tell You
      4) Ojerime – B4 I Breakdown
      5) KeiyaA – Forever, Ya Girl
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Yves Tumor – “Kerosene!”
      2) Kali Uchis, Jhay Cortez – “la luz (fin)”
      3) fleet.dreams – “Selph Love”

  • Sophia Vaccaro (Playing the Bay)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now
      2) The Front Bottoms – In Sickness & In Flames
      3) Zheani – Zheani Sparkes EP
      4) Various Artists – Save Stereogum: A ’00s Covers Comp
      5) Halsey – Manic
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Charli XCX – “forever”
      2) Doja Cat – “Boss Bitch”
      3) Wolf – “Hoops”

  • Suzannah Weiss (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Galantis – Church
      2) Best Coast – Always Tomorrow
      3) Overcoats – The Fight
      4) Holy Motors – Horse
      5) Suzanne Vallie – Love Lives Where Rules Die
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) CAMÍNA – “Cinnamon”
      2) Naïka – “African Sun”
      3) Edoheart – “Original Sufferhead”

  • Tarra Thiessen (RSVP Here, Check the Spreadsheet)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network – Ballet of Apes
      2) Ganser – Just Look At That Sky
      3) Death Valley Girls – Under The Spell of Joy
      4) The Koreatown Oddity – Little Dominiques Nosebleed
      5) Ghost Funk Orchestra – An Ode To Escapism
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Miss Eaves – “Belly Bounce”
      2) Purple Witch of Culver – “Trig”
      3) Shilpa Ray – “Heteronormative Horseshit Blues”

  • Victoria Moorwood (Playing Cincy)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Lil Baby – My Turn
      2) A$AP Ferg – Floor Seats II
      3) Polo G – The Goat
      4) The Weeknd – After Hours
      5) Teyana Taylor – The Album
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion – “WAP”
      2) Roddy Ricch  – “The Box”
      3) Big Sean & Nipsey Hussle – “Deep Reverence”

Emily Weisband Pens Point-Blank Pop on Not Afraid to Say Goodbye EP

Photo Credit: Joelle Grace

Emily Weisband believes there’s a difference between honesty and truth. A prolific songwriter whose cuts include Camila Cabello’s “Consequences” and “Boy with Luv” by BTS & Halsey, she knows what she’s talking about. But in song, one person’s honesty can be someone else’s falsehood, casting a disconnect between listeners; the more specific songwriting gets, the stronger ties grow, and a listener can then slot themselves into the story.

“Details might not be everyone’s details, but the core truth is everyone can inject their own details into a story,” she observes. “If I tell you, ‘Oh, I got broken up with in a car, and I was wearing a red shirt,’ you could say, ‘Oh, well, I got broken up with in a car, but my shirt was blue.’ The more specific you are, this opens Pandora’s Box of imagination and storytelling.”

Weisband cracks that creative box open wide on her new EP. Not Afraid to Say Goodbye follows 2019’s Identity Crisis and stands as both an extension and natural progression. “A normal part of your 20s is figuring life out. I didn’t really try to fit into any box with either project,” she tells Audiofemme. “I’m very confessional, so whatever is happening right now is what I invite people into.”

Identity Crisis unabashedly embraced the mess. As any 20-something knows, that first decade of adulthood can be full of mistakes, tragedies, and countless nights crying on the bathroom floor – that’s just how it is. Weisband has seen it all, and her debut LP proposed this morsel of wisdom: she learned who she was not. “That’s where I left off with that album. I don’t necessarily know who I am all the time, but I definitely know what I’m not about,” she says. “I know what sucks the life out of me, and I know what hurts me. I don’t want to willingly sign up for it anymore. I want good people and things in my life. It’s an empowering thing to draw boundaries.”

Not Afraid to Say Goodbye picks up exactly where she left off. Across four songs, featuring contributions from producers Tofer Brown, The Futuristics, and Alysa Vanderheym, Weisband bravely exposes her heart, scars and all. While continuing to reclaim the emotional narrative, she reassesses an unexpected breakup that sent her spiraling out. She had to totally lose control before she could regain any of it.

“I swear to God I don’t know who you are,” she cries on the brutally fragile “Out of This Car;” three months post-heartbreak, she revisits that specific moment again. “The Way I Say Goodbye” works as a companion piece to “Out of This Car,” but the former arrives as her “surrender” song, as she describes it. “It’s an evolved perspective on that same moment. You can pour your heart out all you want and do everything in your power to let somebody know how you feel for them,” she says. “At the end of the day, you can’t make somebody love you who just doesn’t. It was a humbling moment being told somebody didn’t want to be with me, and it’s really easy to feel you’re not enough.” The piano-based melody glistens, timelessly harkening back to the work of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Joni Mitchell that Weisband has always loved. It’s forever imprinted with her unique voice, of course, but she filters the words with a cool classic lens. “This song embodies who I am as a human in so many ways,” she says.

“You’re Cool,” co-written with good friend Vanderheym, glues to the piano as well, and offers a soul-stirring gospel backlight on the hook. Inspired by a Las Vegas trip, the song delves into the early panic of a burgeoning romance with her current boyfriend. “As humans, we are so zero to 100. We’re all or nothing. It’s awesome but so warped sometimes. Most of the time, it’s not all one thing,” Weisband explains.

She interrogates the sometimes overwhelming pressure we put on new relationships on “The One.” “We idolize this idea of ‘The One.’ They’re either ‘The One’ or trash,” Weisband says, noting she was careful not to fall into that trap this time, instead, letting the relationship be whatever it was going to be. “It was empowering to know someone didn’t need to be The One right now. I was still getting to know him, and he didn’t win my entire trust and heart the moment I met them,” she continues.

What marks her growth as a person and songwriter the most is her willingness to confront the past and her Virginia upbringing. Like many who grew up in the church, Weisband has done plenty of deconstructing and rebuilding of faith ─ and it’s made all the difference to the person she’s become. “My childhood wasn’t suppressing, necessarily. I had fantastic parents, but kids don’t know grey areas. Adulthood is when you go to the grey. My parents were teaching what we believed,” she says. “I did the faith song and dance.”

Upon entering her teens and early 20s, Weisband’s entire world had opened up. “I started experiencing more and meeting different kinds of people ─ and feeling and desiring more things. I don’t think any human wants to believe something because they feel they have to,” she offers. “That’s not an inspiring experience at all. I started asking questions. I’m not saying you should go out and rebel against everything you were taught, but I am grateful for the process. I had to arrive at a place where what I believed was true to my convictions and not to please anybody else.”

She finally bloomed, as did her songwriting. “My music became more human. For people who grew up in the church, there is a danger of getting wrapped up in what you do or don’t do, what you say or don’t say. There’s almost a sense of trying to be superhuman all the time, and that’s what makes you a good Christian,” she explains of the transformation. “In a lot of ways, I tried to be superhuman, and that came across in my writing. I wrote about real life things, but they weren’t real to me ─ because I didn’t want anyone to know I was thinking that or doing that or going through that. I was constantly chasing superhumanness.”

A turning point came when she allowed herself to get in touch with her own “humanity and everything that meant,” from sexuality to personal flaws. “I recognized my desire for faith that was authentic to me,” she says.

Her storytelling became messier, too, perfectly tuned into what the truth actually was. “I took myself off this church pedestal I grew up on,” admits Weisband. “It’s not like I’m anti-church or anti-the way I grew up. There were some really great things that were instilled in me.”

Writing Cabello’s “Consequences,” alongside Amy Wadge and Nicolle Galyon, was another moment of clarity. Weisband was right in the middle of her identity crisis and needed to pull things together to get to a writing session. “I’d gotten involved in some stuff that I was really ashamed I’d gotten involved in. And I was suffering the consequences. I didn’t want anybody to know,” she recalls. “I don’t cancel writes, but I was seriously considering not going to work that day. I just know me, and I’m a tell-all queen. I know if they ask how I am, I won’t be able to lie to them. I’m not an actress.” 

Her co-writers naturally asked her how she was, and after a bit of prodding, she eventually broke down into tears, revealing every not-so-pretty detail. “I was really embarrassed that I told them everything and really embarrassed we wrote the song,” she admits now. But her fearlessness in that moment led to a career-defining moment. Wadge, a frequent Ed Sheeran collaborator, called her up later to tell her how much he loved the song and that he wanted to send it off to Cabello, who was working on her debut LP.

Cabello loved it, too, cut it, and the rest is history. “It was one of my first lessons that it matters to sacrifice your pride and privacy to write music. This is what creators do. We feel it and make sense of it, so the world doesn’t have to,” she says. 

Emily Weisband sacrifices much more than her pride and privacy on her new EP. Not Afraid to Say Goodbye outlines pain and brutal honesty few are willing to explore, erupting into one of the year’s best releases. Her knack for hooks mingles ceremoniously with gut-wrenching balladry, and it perfectly captures her ongoing journey through her 20s.

“It’s been a rocky time. It’s beautiful and exciting. You look back on those early years and go ‘hell yeah!’ But I don’t know many people who’d want to actually go back to them. You want to belong in the world, but you don’t know where you belong,” she says. “And I’m still going through that process, and I think I’ll always go through it to a degree. I think creators are all children until we’re 80.”

Follow Emily Weisband on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Delacey Shares “Chapel” Video and Discusses Debut LP Black Coffee

Photo Credit: Aysia Marotta

Los Angeles-based femme fatale Delacey brings us on an unapologetic journey through her masterful debut LP Black Coffee, released March 27. Reminiscent of a real-life Jessica Rabbit (from 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which combined animation and live action in groundbreaking new ways), Delacey goes beyond seedy man-eater archetypes, creating a complex persona through her work. Crooning with a sultry vocal fry, Delacey brings a refreshing emotional urgency through carefully crafted modern love ballads. Delacey’s stream of consciousness lyrics are raw and confessional – through unabridged sense-memory experiences, she gives her listeners a true window into her inner monologue.

The album, full of self-aware nuances around seduction, sexuality, and witty storytelling, visits iconic settings – a wedding chapel, a busy city subway, rainy NYC streets, and Lana Del Rey’s darkly-rendered Los Angeles – and has a surprising breadth and depth. “Break Up, Slow Dance” (featuring Valley Boy) echoes the dramatic lyricism of a modern-day Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, while “Chapel” will resonate with music lovers enamored with the old school effortless cool of Jazz singer Peggy Lee.

The timeless yet modern music production and arrangements by Ido Zmishlany (Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello, Demi Lovato) transforms Delacey’s sound into pop perfection. Delacey herself is a seasoned songwriter, having co-penned Halsey’s “Without Me,” The Chainsmokers’ “New York City”, Madison Beer’s “Dead,” and Zara Larsson’s “Ruin My Life,” among others. But Black Coffee is truly her own effort, establishing her solo identity and bringing catharsis, comfort, and hopelessly romantic, escapist bedroom pop to music lovers during a time when our creative culture has been seized and tainted by isolation and uncertainty. During my time social distancing, I was able to chat with the open and charming Delacey about her humble beginnings and the momentum behind her beautiful body of work Black Coffee.

AF: Your sounds echo the grittiness of New York City with the sultriness of a California dreamer. Where are you from?

D: I was born in Orange County, California but people always think I’m from New York – it’s funny but that’s just because I have lived there before, and I’ve written a lot of music there. I’m a California girl – my parents were from Detroit, Michigan. Orange County, CA is like a small town, far from LA. Now I’m living in Los Angeles proper because of my career.

AF: Let’s talk about your name. Where does it come from?

D: When I was little girl, I was obsessed with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (the original) and there’s a family by the name of De Lacey [“the only person who was kind to the monster – despite his deformities. The character represents the absence of prejudice, and the purity of love.”]. I begged my mom to change my name, but she wouldn’t let me. I just told everyone it was my name! And so it’s kind of always been another name for me, it had nothing to do with music at first. When I was eighteen actually my mom told me I could change my name legally to Delacey but I decided to keep it as my stage name.

Photo Credit: Alex Toderica

AF: How would you describe your teenage self?

D: Okay, so it’s kind of weird. I was always really driven by my passions in the arts which led to me barely graduating high school. I actually got kicked out, and had to just finish online! I was a rebel, and wanted to spend all of my time singing, acting, dancing, and doing photography. I had this extreme urgency to express myself through art. I worked a lot of odd jobs as a teenager, like being a nanny, just so I could save up and move to New York when I was twenty years old.

AF: There’s an unapologetic romanticism and urgency to your writing. How did you develop your poetic voice and the lens through which you see the world?

D: My family has always called me a drama queen. I’ve always been very dramatic and intense by nature – passionate in general. Growing up, my dad battled cancer and seeing my parents come out on the other side of that experience really made me value life and live each day to the fullest. It makes you realize how fragile life can be. Seeing my father come out of that battle made me ambitious and goal-oriented. You have to grow up faster, tougher, and fearlessly independent.

AF: How did you get your start professionally in the music industry?

D: When I finally got to New York, my first job was actually in photography. The whole time I was living there, I was just writing songs in my apartment and doing open mics. Music was my life, but I felt like I didn’t know anyone in the industry. A lot of times I felt like giving up and just going home to LA. Luckily I’m the kind of person who sets goals and won’t stop until I achieve them! I didn’t have a back up plan. I eventually went home and through making connections with friends interning, I landed a small publishing deal that distributed my music. They helped develop my writing skills, and explained that I could be a professional songwriter. I eventually parted ways with them when I had my first big cut – a song called “New York City” that came out with The Chainsmokers. That was an “Ah ha!” moment when I realized I could really do this professionally.

AF: What is the most challenging thing about transitioning from being a professional songwriter to releasing a solo record?

D: You feel more vulnerable when it’s yourself. Everything I’ve always written was very personal, but now there’s no middleman. It’s just me putting it out – you’re getting judged differently and you’re the one getting criticized or praised. It’s hard to not overthink things when it’s coming from yourself. It’s important to be honest. If you’re honest, the music will resonate.

AF: The song and imagery  for “Chapel” is like a Femme Fatale take on a dark, twisted fairy tale in a Vegas-style setting. There’s an underlying tone of theatrical tragedy and debauchery. Can you talk a bit about the inspiration behind the song and video?

D: Me and the director wanted it to feel like a getting hitched in Vegas crazy whirlwind romance film. We were super inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s aesthetic for this music video and I love how our spin on it came about.

AF: Your voice echoes tones and textures of classic singers from past decades of popular music. There’s an element of your style that makes me want to catch you performing live behind a Big Brass Band from the late 1950s. What era of music has been your biggest influence?

D: I love that! Thank you. That is the majority of the music I grew up listening to, and Billie Holiday is still my most played artist every year. So to answer your question hell yes – super inspired by an era I wasn’t even alive during.

AF: What artist, dead or alive, would be on your dream tour?

D: It’s so hard to pick but a tour with Dusty Springfield and Elvis and Mazzy Star would be my dream come true.

Follow Delacey on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Seven Music Videos That Represent the Female Gaze

The male gaze is practically part of our collective cultural definition of a music video. Even videos by seemingly progressive bands, like The 1975’s “Girls” and The Chainsmokers’ “Beach House,” present women as props, dancing scantily clad in the background.

But recently, female artists have been taking back the medium by creating videos that speak to their own visual pleasure. Here are some music videos that depict the world through women’s eyes.

“Colors” by Halsey

Though Halsey has said “Colors” is about being in a relationship with an addict — likely The 1975’s Matty Healy — the video presents an alternate interpretation of the lyrics. As she sings “Everything is grey / His hair, his smoke, his dreams,” the visuals tell the story of a young woman obsessed with an older man — or, more accurately, obsessed with looking at him.

The video opens with Halsey and her fictional mother staring at a man and his son, and as it goes on, you pick up on an odd love triangle (or is it a rectangle?), all while Halsey takes photos and salivates over them in the privacy of her room. Shirtless shots of the male characters abound, and though Halsey also has an underwear scene, it’s clear that this is about her fantasies, not a male fantasy she’s starring in.

“I Luh Ya Papi” by Jennifer Lopez

This video is self-referential from the get go, beginning with a meeting where JLo and her collaborators plan out the video. “If she was a dude, they’d seriously have her up in a mansion with all these half-naked girls,” one says.

“Why do the men always objectify the women in every single video?” another adds. “Why can’t we for once objectify the men?” The answer is, no reason. So, they objectify the hell out of them. The satire is obvious (and hilarious) at times, like when a guy in a speedo washes a car with his butt, but you can also tell she’s serious: She and her friends are having a blast enjoying the eye candy. At the very end, it’s revealed that JLo is still in her meeting and has imagined the whole video — so, it is literally a representation of her gaze.   

“Closer” by Tegan and Sara

At a fantastically queer dance party, Tegan and Sara Quin sing sexually aggressive lyrics like “All I dream of lately is how to get you underneath me” as couples of all configurations stare excitedly into each other’s eyes and kiss. From a woman cupping another woman’s head in her hands to one who leans into a man on top of a car, characters of all genders demonstrate a genuine combination of desire and affection, and all couples consist of equals.

“break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” by Ariana Grande

Ariana sits alone at a party creepily staring at a couple and trying to break them up, but she catches her audience off guard by making out with the girl once she finally gets their attention. It seems like a ploy for shock value and LGBTQ street cred honestly, but the way she ceaselessly stalks them before she pounces is admirably bold.

“Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen

This super relatable video shows Jepsen spying on a crush as he mows her lawn, hiding below her romance novels when he looks at her, and partaking in strange antics to get his attention. It’s reminiscent of many childhood crushes, reminding us that despite being socialized to do the opposite, women have an innate ability to take joy in looking.

Alas, this one’s also got a gay plot twist, but unlike Ariana’s, it doesn’t work out in Carly’s favor. I vote she does a followup featuring her crush’s budding romance with her guitarist.

“Honeytrap” by Throwing Shade

In the visuals accompanying this trippy, dreamy song, Throwing Shade (aka Nabihah Iqbal) overlooks a garden full of naked men covered in flowers and fruit. It seems almost cheesy, until you realize it wouldn’t seem that way if the genders were reversed. Actually, it’s a work of art, nude men and all.

“She Keeps Me Warm” by Mary Lambert

For this heartfelt ode to a lesbian relationship, Lambert crushes on a barista. They steal glances at each other as Lambert sits at the cafe reading a book, inside which she leaves a note saying “I think you’re super cute.” The stages of their budding romance, from holding hands in the back of a car to sharing their first kiss on a rooftop, help to humanize same-sex relationships while, most likely, making you cry.

HIGH NOTES: 10 Female Artists Who Reference Drugs in Their Music

When you hear the phrase “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” you usually picture male musicians: Lou Reed croaking out the words to “Heroin” or “Waiting For My Man;” The Weeknd’s famously numb face; Kurt Cobain finding God in “Lithium;” The Beatles on LSD; Neil Young’s coke booger immortalized in The Last Waltz.

Stereotypes about drug users aren’t flattering to any gender, but female celebrities are held to especially high standards of behavior, with sex, drugs, and other supposedly hedonistic behaviors deemed “unladylike.” Maybe that’s why more women seem to avoid drug references—and why those who make them convey a special brand of “IDGAF.” Being unladylike, after all, is part of many artists’ images. Here are some women who have changed the public’s perception of women and drugs through drug references.


Halsey sprinkles drug references throughout her songs, which looks like a way of solidifying her image as a rebellious woman, until you realize few of them actually describe her taking drugs. “Are you high enough without the Mary Jane like me?” she sings in “Gasoline,” inspiring a remix by K.A.A.N. titled “Mary Jane.” In “Hurricane,” she sings of someone who “tripped on LSD, and I found myself reminded to keep you far away from me.” “Colors” centers on another toxic person: “You’re only happy when your sorry head is filled with dope.”

These songs may tell an anti-drug message, but in “New Americana,” she sings, “We are the new Americana, high on legal marijuana.” Confirming that “we” includes her, she said at the 2016 VMAs, “I smoke a lot of weed.” Altogether, her songs give an (accurate) picture of drugs as potentially both positive and destructive.


The opening lines of Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz are pretty telling: “Yeah I smoke pot, yeah I love peace, but I don’t give a fuck, I ain’t no hippy,” she sings on Dooo It!” and that’s only the beginning of an album littered with drug references. A year prior to its release, she sang about dancing with either “Miley” or “Molly,” depending on if you know,” prompting headlines like Miley Cyrus sings about molly again; experts warn of its dangers and Demi Lovato warns pal Miley Cyrus of the dangers of drugs after star confirms MDMA reference.”

But Miley’s not ashamed of her drug use. “I think weed is the best drug on earth,” she said in a Rolling Stone interview. “One time I smoked a joint with peyote in it, and I saw a wolf howling at the moon. Hollywood is a coke town, but weed is so much better. And molly, too. Those are happy drugs – social drugs. They make you want to be with friends.”

She did, however, announce last spring that she’d stopped using alcohol and drugs. “I haven’t smoked weed in three weeks, which is the longest I’ve ever [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][gone without it],” she told Billboard. “I’m not doing drugs, I’m not drinking, I’m completely clean right now! That was just something that I wanted to do.” Her reason? “I like to surround myself with people that make me want to get better, more evolved, open. And I was noticing, it’s not the people that are stoned.” Halsey might beg to differ.


Rihanna’s “We Found Love” video is believed to be an ode to the relationship-healing powers of MDMA, with montages of pills, raves, and expanding pupils as she and a male actor rekindle a dying love, though she then appears to leave him after they crash back to reality. The lyric “yellow diamonds” is thought to refer to the drug. But mostly, Rihanna’s a proud stoner, singing in James Joint,” “I’d rather be smoking weed whenever we breathe.”


From raving about a guy who “might sell coke” in “Super Bass” to saying she’s “high as hell, I only took a half a pill” in “Anaconda,” drug use is one of the many things Nicki Minaj is unapologetic about. She also establishes herself as defying conventions of femininity by dropping sports references in her songs. (Billboard counted 42.)


With music embracing female sexuality and celebrating clubbing as a way to lose your inhibitions, Madonna created a new archetype of femininity. MDMA was such a central part of this image, she named an album (and a skincare line) MDNA. But when she tried to speak to a younger generation of drug users, it backfired. “Have you seen molly?” she asked a crowd at Ultra, eliciting criticism from Deadmau5 and Paul van Dyk. In response, she claimed she was simply referencing a Cedric Gervais song, tweeting, “I don’t support drug use and I never have.” One notable exception: urging a lover to “get unconscious” in 1994 hit “Bedtime Story,” which she promoted with a pretty trippy video. 


Like most of Jenny Lewis’s music, her drug references paint depressing images. In Rabbit Fur Coat,” she sings of her estranged mother, “She was living in her car, I was living on the road, and I hear she’s putting that stuff up her nose.” In the eponymous track for her first solo album, “Acid Tongue,” she sings, “I’ve been down to Dixie and dropped acid on my tongue, tripped upon the land ’til enough was enough.” But drugs seem to be a thing of the past for Lewis. Later in the song, she sings, “To be lonely is a habit like smoking or taking drugs, and I’ve quit them both, but man, was it rough.”


Long before Halsey or Miley Cyrus, perhaps the OG of female stoner artists was Janis Joplin, whose ode to marijuana, “Mary Jane,” is somewhere between a celebration of the drug’s benefits and a confession of addiction. “I spend my money all on Mary Jane,” she sang. “Now I walk in the street now lookin’ for a friend, one that can lend me some change, and he never questions my reason why ’cause he too loves Mary Jane.” Of course, she would later lose her life to another addiction, dying of an accidental heroin overdose.


Aside from publicly refusing to go to rehab, Winehouse referenced her drug habits in lyrics like “I’d rather have myself and smoke my homegrown” in “Addicted” and “You love blow, and I love puff” in “Back to Back.”

In 2007, she told Rolling Stone that the change in her musical style from jazz to R&B reflected a change in her drug of choice from weed to alcohol. “I used to smoke a lot of weed,” she said. “I suppose if you have an addictive personality then you go from one poison to the other. The whole weed mentality is very hip-hop, and when I made my first record, all I was listening to was hip-hop and jazz. The weed mentality is very defensive, very much like, ‘Fuck you, you don’t know me.’ Whereas the drinking mentality is very ‘Woe is me, oh, I love you, I’m gonna lie in the road for you, I don’t even care if you never even look my way, I’m always gonna love you.'”


Drugs were a central part of 1930s jazz culture, and Fitzgerald was no exception. In “When I Get Low I Get High,” she sang about numbing her pain with drugs, and a few years later, she got more explicit in “Wacky Dust,” a song about a substance that “gives your feet a feeling so breezy” and “brings a dancing jag”—presumably, cocaine. It ends on a less celebratory note, though, warning listeners that “it’s something you can’t trust, and in the end, the rhythm will stop. When it does, then you’ll drop from happy wacky dust.”


“I can’t lie,” Tove Lo told BBC of “Habits (Stay High),” whose video features her downing drink after drink at a club (and whose lyrics reference the munchies). “What I’m singing about is my life. It’s the truth. I’ve had moments where that [drug-taking] has been a bigger part than it should be. It’s hard to admit to, and I could filter it or find another metaphor for it — but it doesn’t feel right to me.”

“There are so many dudes singing about the same subject,” she elaborated to Untitled. “I wonder if they get the same question or is it because I’m a girl that people ask me, ‘Don’t you feel like you have a responsibility to be a role model?’ And I think: do I have that [responsibility] more than dudes because I’m a girl and I sing pop? I think there’s a kind of denial on how much drugs are a part of people’s lives.”