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Hannah Grae’s “Hell Is A Teenage Girl” Is An Angsty Ode To Girlhood

This one goes out to the literal teenage girls and the 20-something teenage girls whose emotions have been brushed off and patronized for a little too long. Hannah Grae puts an arm around you before handing you a sledgehammer to take out all of that bottled-up rage while letting you know that it’s perfectly fine to break down into tears afterward. Her voice is as acrobatic as Olivia Rodrigo, giving her slower ballads a cinematic swell, yet able to convey anger like Hayley Williams, making her fast-paced musical rants confrontational in their nature. Grae often chooses to make her voice loud and clear either by paring down instrumentals or belting loud enough that she practically shouts over the ascending cacophony. 

The album kicks things off with “Time Of Your Life”, a weary, snarky anti-motivational cheer told by a young woman who has been put through the ringer of girlhood. Grae’s melodic voice welcomes you to the “best time of your life” that involves toxic friends, insecurity, and backstabbing until you lose your mind altogether. It’s best described as the opening to a coming-of-age movie from the 2000’s with its cynical lyrics set to upbeat instrumentals and illustrations of anxiety walking down the school hallway. If the opening track sounds gentler than some of the other songs then that’s because she was just easing you into the forthcoming rage and sadness that will soon flood your ears.

Taking a cue from Fleabag and bluntly stating the insecurities that plague our angsty narrator, Grae puts herself on blast in “I Never Say No”. She rants about how she is “so hardly self-aware” and “about every song [she writes] is about somebody else”. She manages to articulate the feeling of being acutely aware of your flaws, but not being sure what to do about them. But all she really needs is to shout them out and acknowledge the things that society wants us to hide. Grae deliberately puts on an exaggerated whiny tone as she simply states “I just don’t know”. As young women, we are told that our feelings are irrelevant and that nobody wants to hear them. The toned-down instrumentals make Grae’s voice all the more prominent making us listen to the things that bother her.

How many of us hate ourselves in pictures? Or prefer the version of ourselves that we present to others? Can you admit when you just don’t know anymore?

Grae puts down the electric guitar for “Beneath Your Jeans” using only a piano accompaniment. The lyrics detail the fear that many young women experience when walking alone at night. She describes the fear of walking alone in a deserted area with your shoulders out, running to a bus stop like it’s a haven. Grae asks “When I smile do you think that means that I wanna see beneath your jeans?” and the message is clear. She gets straight to the point, wondering why it is that a simple smile leads to being objectified? Do the men who look at her truly only think of her as a sex object? She looks straight at them asking them this question. Her anger here isn’t loud or flashy, but it is deeply hurt. She thinks about the girls that came before and after her asking “will the boys think she’s a liar? Will the girls think that she’s weak?” The stripped back instrumentals force you to focus on what she is saying, perhaps it mirrors the way that her personhood is stripped when she is objectified.

The cathartic title track, “Hell Is A Teenage Girl”, encourages you to sing along, preferably while holding up a lighter. At first, her voice is soft and bounces along with the staccato guitar as she describes stalking a girl scrutinizing her appearance in a school bathroom. But then she says “I’m scared of her” almost like there is something secretly terrifying about this girl. The first minute of the song is creepy, after getting used to Grae’s penchant for swelling vocals, you can’t help but wonder when the noise will get louder. Like a teenage girl, at first it is quiet and tidy, until suddenly everything that was being held back comes crashing down. Close to the 2-minute mark Grae suddenly draws out the word “same” getting louder until she is practically screaming and at that moment the music comes flooding in. You can’t tell whether you are listening to the chorus, the bridge, or a mantra that Grae wants you to remember. 

Written by JD Valdepenas

Photography by Thea Wiener and Molly Galke

Creative Director: Veronica Anaya

Talent: Emma Juska and Laila

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