The Importance of Expressing Our Vulnerable Side with Fiona Grey’s “Girls Like Me”

LA based singer-songwriter Fiona Grey’s latest release, “Girls Like Me”, reminds us that amidst all the heightened glamour and dramatisations of everyday personas, it’s important to express vulnerability.

We all possess multiple layers. The sociable self: known by friends and family. The selective self: How we choose to be presented on social media and in staged photographs. And the inner self: The secretive, completely personal side that might only be shared with a few close people. It’s the latter which can be the most problematic, causing conflict with what’s on the surface. We might want to share things but we’re scared of how it will be received, the imperfections ruining the perfect image. 

I’m all dressed up, queen with no crown
I tried to be tough but it’s safer here on the ground
You like to sleep, I stay up late
So hold me right now
Don’t hesitate
Girls like me
Girls like me
Cult Classic - Fiona Grey
Cult Classic – Fiona Grey

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the music video to “Girls Like Me,” the latest release by Los Angeles indie pop artist Fiona Grey. Taken from her 2018 debut EP Cult Classic, the song and its accompanying video are an intimate spotlight on vulnerability, an expressing of inner emotions we may feel more comfortable hiding from others. It’s a portrayal of persona, another side to a young person in the public eye- a theme that makes up the six song EP. Writing with Los Angeles as a backdrop, the songs explore a life fuelled by glamour, money, obsession, and social media, an observational wit in the lyricism and full-on theatricality in the sound. “Fangirl” and “Money”, for example, are intensified with dramatic outpours in the chorus, a sense of desperation for attention on behalf of the protagonist. “Dirty Dream” is much more dance-oriented, coated in sequins, as is “Media Queen” but with added attitude. “Girls Like Me”, in contrast to the rest of the EP, feels totally stripped back, lead predominantly by heartfelt vocals.

“‘Girls Like Me’ is one of my earliest songs. It was written in a time in my life where I was realising that the image we portray to the world is only a sliver of the full person we are’,” Grey tells Atwood Magazine in regards to the motive behind the song. “It was written honouring vulnerability, celebrating the many elements of that make up the beautiful people we are.

I watch you pick apart my brain
Stay still so I can drive you insane
You like the thrill, I need the chase
You don’t understand and I don’t want to explain 
Girls like me
Girls like me
Fiona Grey 2019 1
Fiona Grey © 2019

The video functions in a similar way, commencing with versions of Grey stepping into the centre of the camera’s lens and taking a deep a breath, or wrapping her coat around her as though giving herself a hug. One’s wearing a blazer, another a red dress, black coat and drink cans in her hair acting as curlers. The third is dressed up regal with jewellery while a fourth is wearing an unbuttoned oversized denim shirt. Which is the ‘real’ one? Are they all real? There’s an overall sense that what’s present on the outside is just a facade. That it’s who we are on the inside that holds the most poignancy.

When she sings ‘I’m all dressed up, queen with no crown’, she fights back tears and glances towards the ground. When repeating the first ‘Girls like me’, a look of defiance turns into a look of frustration. It’s as though she’s tired of pretending. “I wanted to show different elements of me, from a fully glamorous to stripping every ounce of make up off my face,” Grey tells Atwood Magazine. “There are days I feel more masculine and times I’m the valley girly girl.”

As the song progresses, the video remains the same; switching between each portrait shot. There’s the action of smudging lipstick over the face, pulling at jewellery as though it’s all a lie, and waving arms out in distress. Aside from looking elsewhere slightly or fidgeting on the spot, each version of Grey remains focused on the camera. Maybe the camera is the person addressed in the song or maybe it’s a mirror. Maybe she’s looking at us, baring all. Whichever, there is an essence of confrontation and the battle between intimacy and hiding things you’re afraid to share.

Fiona Grey 2019
Fiona Grey

“This may be the only pop music video where an artist actually wipes every ounce of make up off their face,” Grey explains. “Watching it in the edit was almost terrifying. I didn’t know if I was ready to show that much vulnerability.”

So take me out in gold and pearls
And we can play a game where this is a simple world
Chicago’s cold, you’d be my heat
A little distraction’s all we ever need
I watch you as I play each show
Creating worlds where we lose self control
At night we dance beneath the sheet
And you don’t have to understand, to stay with me
Girls Like Me
“Girls Like Me” still

Throughout Cult Classic there’s a focus on outwardness: celebrity culture, insincere sexual relationships, and a juxtaposition between feeling free and trapped. ’So is this the real me?’ she asks in “Money” ‘coming to the big screen/ Remember we have big dreams/ I read it in my favourite magazine’. Sonically, it comes through in the form of Grey’s sultry vocals and the blend of contemporary electronic sounds with the classic nature of string instruments.

“Girls Like Me”, third on the track listing, is somewhat the heart of the album, an authentic sadness in the midst of theatricality. It’s perhaps best summed up through the lines ‘Chicago’s cold, you’d be my heat/ A little distraction’s all we ever need.’ Grey is originally from Chicago, moving to LA where her music career has been established. But LA too is a stereotypical hub of vanity, a place renowned for distractions. In this sense, it’s like going back to the roots both literally and metaphorically in terms of persona. 

The EP is a follow-up to 2014’s Belladonna, released when Grey was 19 (prior to that she has extensive experience in performing, including touring with the likes of Charli XCX) which explores similar themes but with added angst in its sound. While Cult Classic, with its heightened glamour and dramatisation, is a critique of culture, “Girls Like Me” and its accompanying video is more a critique of ourselves. It’s ok, she emphasises, to reveal our fragilities. It’s human after all.

Stream Fiona Grey’s “Girl Like Me” exclusively on Atwood Magazine! Folks in the Los Angeles area can catch Grey at The Moroccan Lounge on 4/17/19!

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Cult Classic - Fiona Grey

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? © 2019

Cult Classic

an EP by Fiona Grey

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