Actress Mckenna Grace’s debut EP “Bittersweet 16” showcases her empowering musical talent


courtesy of McKenna Grace and Photo Finish Records

Mckenna Grace’s debut EP reveals the daunting pressures of fame, yet manages to resonate many familiar feelings about pain and betrayal.

Mckenna Grace released her experimental debut EP called “Bittersweet 16” on March 3. The eight-track album encompasses a journey from self-discovery to heartaches, filled with teenage angst. Grace’s versatility in both her acting and music career is reflected in the EP, in which she explores mostly pop-rock, with hints of pop-punk and indie pop. 

The sixteen-year-old Emmy-nominated actress is best known for her roles in “Gifted,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” with one of her original singles, “Haunted House,” featured in the movie’s end credits. Starting acting at the age of four, Grace’s fame and experiences with Hollywood surround the theme of her EP: insecurities and feelings of inadequacy, which all teens go through. 

The EP kicks off with “Ugly Crier,” the EP’s first out of three pre-release singles. Grace sings, “I’m so mediocre, I’m a loser, I’m a joker,” setting the tone of the EP to be self-deprecating and soul-searching. Although she writes, “I’m such an ugly crier, I’ll never be Taylor Swift,” she ironically portrays her songs reminiscent of Swift’s early “Fearless” days – confessional but empowering. 

The next three songs “City Leaver,” “Checkered Vans” and “Buzzkill Baby” explore a more rebellious phase with an upbeat track and hardcore pop-punk seeping through. The lyrics “hanging my heart from a telephone wire,” reveals Grace’s heartaches and captures her anger and resentment. While I have never experienced such a heartbreak, the feelings of pain and aching that Grace’s voice encapsulates is relatable to anyone. 

While every song screams (figuratively and sometimes literally) despair and betrayal, Grace manages to add a different personality to every song, some of resentment and spite, others of bold statements of having moved on. 

The EP takes a turn as Grace introduces a more melancholic feel to both her lyrics and tune. With a softer tone and slow piano backtrack, “Post Party Trauma” is a bittersweet, poignant but dejecting song about Grace’s experiences with Hollywood parties. Like “Ugly Crier,” the track deals with the pressures of fame. 

“Collapsing Star” starts off the familiar beat of “Until I Found You” by Stephen Sanchez, but with wistful lyrics and an anguishing spin to it, emphasizing Grace’s opposite feelings of what Sanchez sings about: love. The song showcases Grace’s versatile singing abilities ranging from deeper notes to voice cracks and a younger raw voice.

The EP ends with the song of the same title, “Bittersweet 16.” The lyrics “they say I’m too young to think about love but without it I feel incomplete,” encompasses the conflicting feelings about societal pressures through heartbreak. Beginning with a backtrack of cheering, Grace eases into a recollection of a “childhood wasted,” and regrets. 

As a 16 year-old myself (though neither homeschooled nor famous) Mckenna Grace’s authenticity and passion speaks loudly, making her songs deeply relatable. Grace’s potential to become a pop icon in the music industry shines through with her first EP.