In all forms except physical, I’m the embodiment of “sad girl autumn.”
I know that’s rich coming from someone living in a tropical country where the season doesn’t even exist. All my fall-themed Pinterest boards and wardrobe choices probably won’t see the light of day, either.
But growing up in a strictly rain-or-shine environment, “sad girl autumn”—and any fall-related aesthetics for that matter—have evolved into lifestyles that transcend pumpkin spice lattes, ugg boots, and knit sweaters. I’ve accustomed myself to reading and watching so many tear-jerkers that “sad girl autumn” is all year round by now, with overarching sentiments of heartbreak, yearning, and—you guessed it—delusion.
There are no piles of crisp, warm-toned leaves around here that I can use to paint a sullen romance. Thankfully, the crestfallen “sad girl autumn” mindset lives on through the main pop girls who’ve colored the music scene with anthems I scream my heart out to at any minor inconvenience.
Think Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License,” Niki’s “Oceans and Engines,” and the pioneer of “sad girl autumn” itself, Taylor Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version).”
I’m always down for chart-topping, emotionally charged hits. But this year, no album has channeled the delicate yet deep-rooted atmosphere of fall quite like McKenna Grace’s “Autumn Leaves.”
From poetic ballads to heart-wrenching musings on love, here’s why I’ve made all five tracks of the “Gifted” actress’ sophomore EP my entire personality.
Nothing tugs at my heartstrings more than a classical track on longing and separation. In the titular album opener, Grace illustrates long-distance love through shared moments and keepsakes—plane tickets, bucket lists, Polaroids, and their first kiss. Who wouldn’t want to look for their crushes or partners in their shared playlists, moodboards, and conversations over texts? I’m not big on gifts and souvenirs, but I, too, would act that dramatically if my favorite smile was 2,000 miles away.
I can’t listen to “Catch Me” without feeling like I’m in a Hallmark movie as a strong-willed protagonist getting swept away in a small-town romance. But like every cheesy rom-com, the two leads can’t get together without navigating through their differences and a frustrating will-they-or-won’t-they arc first. Warm and whimsical, “Catch Me” leaves listeners—most likely in troubling situationships—with the million-dollar question: “Why love at all if it leaves you empty?”
Taylor Swift didn’t open “Evermore” with “Gray November, I’ve been down since July” for nothing. “November” takes that forlorn vibe and cranks it up a notch with lyrics that scream “You’ll get over them eventually” and “Know it’s for the better.” It’s a crash course on cutting ties with people that once meant the world, whether it’s a falling out with a close friend or freedom from a relationship that went south.
“What You’ll Never Say”
In case “Back to December (Taylor’s Version)” doesn’t convince me enough to mend my past wounds with people I still hold dear, then I can count on “What You’ll Never Say” to help me make sense of that much-needed closure. It’s an apology I’d write at the crack of dawn by my bedside table, never to be sent to the other party. Though I wouldn’t hear from them again anymore, I take comfort in having inklings of what they’d write back.
“Midnight in London”
I don’t want to have biases like a kid, but “Midnight in London” is my favorite on “Autumn Leaves.” I can’t think of a better way to close the EP than with a song that captures finally entering the acceptance stage of a harrowing breakup. “Midnight in London” is simple and unassuming, with Grace ruminating on her memories with an old flame as if they’re talking on the phone for the last time. Listening to it felt like my first breath of freedom after countless tear-stained nights.
“Autumn Leaves” is an EP teeming with wisdom and maturity beyond Grace’s years. No matter how many times I’ve put the EP on loop—probably enough to get all five songs on my Spotify Wrapped highlights—I’m still awestruck at how sincerely Grace muses over love and relationships at just 17.
She’s proven to have not only the vocal chops but also the songwriting skills and knack for performing that makes her a storyteller on the rise.
Solemn and heartfelt, “Autumn Leaves” shows how even the most emotionally taxing love stories have something beautiful to offer in the long run. It’s what fuels our “delulu” moments, after all. Grace herself “loves being a delusional teenage girl,” and you know what? So do I.
Photo screengrabbed from the “Catch Me” music video