Maya Hawke’s recently released second studio album, Moss, begs the age-old question: does every celebrity need to make music? Thankfully, for all of the sad girls out there, the answer in this case is an emphatic yes. Apart from her music, Maya Hawke is an actress best known for her work as Robin on the television series Stranger Things and her recent role in the Netflix movie Do Revenge. Though her spotlight can partially be attributed to her parents, Hollywood icons Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, she is well-respected in her own right—breaking from the typical nepotism baby convention. Moss further solidifies Hawke’s talent by building on her first album, Blush, and highlighting her profound capabilities as a songwriter.
A quick disclaimer: Maya Hawke’s music is not for everyone. As Moss demonstrates, her song composition is mundane, lacking the understanding of music theory and capacity for experimentation that elevates the work of traditional musicians. While this characteristic can dissuade many listeners, fans of her music recognize that this rawness enhances the emotional force of her chillingly descriptive and personal lyrics. Perhaps the greatest appeal of Moss is that it rejects the standard of a heavily produced professional album. Instead, close your eyes while listening to Moss, and Maya Hawke’s soft, raspy voice transports you to her bedroom floor where you sit as she plays for you the songs she wrote. The stripped-down compositions, her vulnerable vocal tone, and the painful honesty of her lyricism together culminate in a rare intimacy that packs a powerful, emotional punch.
Behind the melodies, the songwriting of Moss is a collage of various harmful and unhealthy relationships. Hawke's poetic narratives span from unbalanced romantic dynamics to strained familial connections to even pernicious societal interrelations. The theme of self-sacrificing devotion appears most frequently throughout the album. Lines like “I’m grateful for everything you put me through / It’s the only reason I’m any good to talk to / When I’m sick or suffering / I’ll still call you about my big, sore sweet tooth” on track “Sweet Tooth” epitomize Hawke’s feeling of being unconditionally loyal to someone regardless of how they treat her.
A feature that sets the album apart from less eloquent contemporary projects is Hawke’s sensitivity and insight as she commentates on society’s mistreatment and objectification of women. Throughout tracks Credit: Pitchfork
“Bloomed Into Blue,” “Thérèse,” and “Over” Hawke adopts
metaphors to represent how women are reduced to their bodies, sexuality, and femininity and pressured to act according to the constrictions of societal expectations. On “Over,” for instance, lyrics such as “Calling, calling out to my inner appalling monster / She is braving, braving / Saving me from you” communicate that, although society teaches women that it is crude or unladylike to stand up for themselves, she reaches for inner strength (her “monster”) to escape an abusive relationship. Similarly profound lyrics are scattered within every song on the album, giving listeners no solace from Hawke’s sombering musings.
Although Moss is neither extraordinary nor revolutionary, for the lucky few who see themselves in the line “I don’t see why you would want me / If I could, I would be anybody else” (“Luna Moth”), the album carries an indescribable weight of nostalgia. Not every lyrical narrative is universal, but even the most foreign experiences and emotions gain familiarity through her words. Maya Hawke proves with Moss that art does not need to be pretty to be beautiful.
Sydney Worrell is a sophomore in the SFS studying Culture and Politics. She will never be able to look at Ethan Hawke the same again after hearing “Driver.”