Artist: Sharon Van Etten
Album: Are We There
Sharon Van Etten, the American singer-songwriter is set to release her new album Are We There on May 26th. This will be the artist’s fourth LP release and the album, like Etten’s past works, surrounds the harsh realties of being in love, when the shackles of routine take away the love and replace it with a relationship of convenience.
Having released three albums prior to Are We There, the influence of life events surrounding Etten on her music is well-known and in my opinion, adds a meaningful dimension to the songs. Her genuineness and honesty about a long-drawn out abusive relationship has often found ways into her musical expression. Are We There is no stranger to this, as the album encircles around the themes of heartbreak and the singer’s attempts at justification for staying in the relationship. The album opens with the simple and melodic arrangement of “Afraid of Nothing” as the Etten sings, “I can’t wait till we’re afraid of nothing.” This lyric, in my opinion, captures the spirit of the relationship that is the focus of this album. Having lost love, the singer ponders over what could’ve been if only they had been more accepting and fearless. In the six minute arrangement of “Your Love is Killing Me,” Etten is found expressing her inability to walk away from a relationship that is clearly detrimental for her. Realizing that she can no longer continue like this, the singer pleads, “break my legs so I won’t walk to you, cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you.” The song bears similarity to the work of Fiona Apple, both in the musical arrangement and the dark nature of the lyrical content. However, both these aspects help to make the song stand out and force the listener to empathize with the singer’s pain. The song “Our Love,” the listener finds Etten singing about a clearly abusive relationship. Repeating the “it’s all love” to the point that it becomes almost meaningless, it’s unclear who the singer is trying to convince that there was, in fact, love in the relationship. Throughout the album, Etten is found blaming herself and wondering what could’ve been had they taken more chances and not made so many mistakes. A perfect illustration of this what-if stance is found in “I Love You But I’m Lost.”
Are We There is distinct from other albums inspired by heartbreak as it sheds insight into what it is like to stay in a relationship despite being aware of its harmful consequences. Through her lyrical content, Sharon Van Etten, forces the listener to empathize with her decision not to walk away from the relationship. The singer-songwriter’s honesty is commendable and helps to make this album an eye-opening listen.