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Romantic relationships portrayed in music: a reenactment

Love reaches every corner of our culture, especially the music industry. Throughout the years, artists have consistently released tracks centered on romantic relationships, exploring both toxic and healthy dynamics. Here’s a recap of some of the most noteworthy love-focused albums from the past five years.

Marissa McCandless recreates Katie Gregson-MacLeod’s album “songs written for piano.” ILLUSTRATED AND PHOTO BY STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

“songs written for piano” (2022)

Scottish singer-songwriter Katie Gregson-MacLeod’s music carries an intimate melancholy and aching resonance. Listeners can hear her soft cries echoing through every note, whether through headphones or speakers. Her debut extended play (EP), titled “songs written for piano,” is a vulnerable and introspective musical journey characterized by its piano ballads and intimacy. The EP follows a chronological story of the tumultuous period between ages 18 and 21, capturing where life’s uncertainties take shape. Gregson-MacLeod details her first heartbreak at age 18, as well as the complexities of both toxic and healthy relationships.

Brittney Dietz recreates Billie Eilish’s album “Happier Than Ever.” ILLUSTRATED AND PHOTO BY STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

“Happier Than Ever” (2021)

In her sophomore album “Happier Than Ever,” Billie Eilish sings honestly about breakups, stardom and the downsides to fame. In the subdued, downtempo and jazz-infused pop songs, Eilish carries more of an introspective tone compared to her previous works, as highlighted by some of the spoken word interludes and ballads that explore what young women in the entertainment industry are subjected to by the media and public commentary. Recurring themes of sexual and emotional abuse as well as body image issues appear throughout the album before exploding into love-induced rage in the titular, breakup ballad-turned-rock song. The album, filled with deeply personal self-reflection, carries strong themes of Eilish’s emotional growth and female empowerment.

Skylar Sena recreates Olivia Rodrigo’s album “SOUR.” ILLUSTRATED AND PHOTO BY STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

“SOUR” (2021)

Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album “SOUR” is dedicated to adolescence and the aftermath of a failed, toxic relationship. The title itself refers to the bitterness and resentment that comes with the dissolution of said relationship, capitalizing on young heartbreak. The album — which explores pop subgenres from alternative pop to bedroom pop to pop-punk — delves into the struggles of navigating heartbreak as a teen. Rodrigo writes relatable and vulnerable music for her audience of largely Generation Z listeners. Her reflective lyricism, written from her personal experiences, seeps through as she explores challenges within a relationship as a 17-year-old.

Angelina Livigni recreates Taylor Swift’s album “Lover.” ILLUSTRATED AND PHOTO BY STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

“Lover” (2019)

Following Taylor Swift’s withdrawal from the public eye, which was captured in her previous album “reputation” (2017), Swift’s seventh album, “Lover,” returned with upbeat and bright love songs that mark a turn in Swift’s confidence and commitment to love, relationships and self-assurance. The bright pastel rainbow cover alludes to the album’s themes of love, attraction and positivity, spotlighting the importance of LBGTQ+ rights and feminism. The 1980s-inspired electro-pop and synth-pop sound blends brilliantly with Swift’s signature poignant songwriting, including love letters that range from forgetting about vengeance toward her wrong-doers to confessional tongue-in-cheek lyrics to a partner.

Isha Shah and Jerry Weintraub recreate Lana Del Rey’s album “Norman F****** Rockwell!.” ILLUSTRATED AND PHOTO BY STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

“Norman F****** Rockwell!” (2019)

Romance and love are presented in intricate, multi-dimensional forms in Lana Del Rey’s sixth album, “Norman F****** Rockwell!,” which came two years after “Lust for Life” (2017). Across 14 tracks, Del Rey explores the dark complexities of human connection that often arise with romantic relationships, such as betrayal and longing. The album blends classic rock elements with piano ballads, with its title drawing inspiration from the painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell, who is known for his vivid portrayals of everyday American life. With her nostalgic lyrical sentiments and deep, sultry voice, Del Rey navigates themes of emotional intimacy and heartbreaking disillusionment.

Through their melodies and lyrics, these albums are snapshots of the complexities of love and heartbreak. By showcasing raw vulnerability, these five artists offer a glimpse into the highs and lows of romance, inviting listeners to explore the emotions that bridge the gap between reality and music.

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About the Contributor
Clare Gehlich
Clare Gehlich, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor
Clare is the Assistant Arts and Culture Editor for The Statesman and a senior journalism major with a minor in political science. Since transferring to Stony Brook University in 2022, she has written for both Herald Community Newspapers and WSHU Public Radio.
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