In a world of viral sensations turned pop-star phenomena who seemingly get younger and younger with each passing one-hit-wonder, Jensen McRae offers a unique twist to modern music culture with tastefully articulated folk/pop sound and hauntingly beautiful lyricism straight from Poetry 101.
No stranger to the role TikTok plays in the music industry, the 23-year-old’s TikTok account has over 100,000 followers and 2.2 million likes. Jensen McRae brings artistry, talent and anticipation to the many names that have gained attention thanks to the video-sharing social media app. McRae created traction from posting snippets of original songs, but her real claim to fame came when she somewhat jokingly posted a parody song about COVID-19 vaccinations in the style of popular indie/folk artist Phoebe Bridgers. The song gained popularity and eventually recognition from Bridgers herself.
McRae’s EP, “Who Hurt You?” was released on June 22, 2021, and features six songs. The selection includes the aforementioned parody titled “Immune,” and others that caress the ears with their conjunction of pop, folk, indie and alternative sound. Such sounds create 21 minutes of seamlessly soft and belted vocals, folky and sweet guitar riffs and approachable, yet demanding melodies that create a tang of angst and heartache hidden between the notes. The uniquely crafted combination of genres gives listeners something new and heartbreakingly beautiful to cry in the car to after the last two years we’ve had.
However, McRae’s musical sound itself is not the only star of the show. Her lyricism is a fresh breath for modern-day music that is so often filled with simplistic and repetitive phrases all in the name of a good beat. Written like poetry, her lyrics offer music lovers a place to run to that is reminiscent of other indie/pop artists like Bon Iver and Taylor Swift.
In the song “Adam’s Ribs,” McRae writes a song of unrequited love while drawing inspiration from the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Though this metaphor has been used before, McRae adds a new element to this story of love and loss by intertwining it with the woes of heartbreak as a modern day young adult. Her lyrics, “I tried to bargain / not to get thrown from the garden / too fast I fell to begging / have you ever lost Heaven?” and similarly, “the high is worth the bruise / I’d still eat the fruit” seem simplistic in nature but hold so much emotion and metaphorical value that the listener can’t help but feel the ache it is accompanied by.
Furthermore, the previously mentioned “parody” is not really a true parody at all. “Immune” offers a vulnerable and honest account of a young person falling in love in the time of COVID-19. Music that is impactful has always stemmed from political and social happenings (think ’70’s era rock and roll and ’90’s grunge) and McRae’s “Immune” is no different.
The lyrics, “What will we say to each other / when the needle goes in / what will be to each other / if the world doesn’t end” is a haunting and beautiful outcry about the affects the pandemic has had on us all, combined with our ever-present desire to be loved no matter the circumstances.
The EP scores slightly less than five stars solely for its inability to feel complete. Although EPs are not meant to be full albums, with only six songs, the EP leaves listeners with a feeling similar to that of a cliff-hanger. Considering McRae is a young and emerging artist, listeners and music appreciators alike should not (and probably do not) expect this to be a perfect record, but it scores pretty close in the grand scheme of things.
In total, McRae’s EP is a staple piece of music released in this kind-of-post, kind-of-still-ongoing COVID-19 atmosphere that we are all experiencing and going through together. “Who Hurt You?” is a vulnerable and poetic account of human heartache and the human condition that keeps all of us begging for more. It is exactly what we need during times like these.