Difficult

Album: yet to be titled (2022)
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Songfacts®:

  • Gracie Abrams is a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles whose music is classified as bedroom pop. Raised with her two brothers by her Star Wars filmmaker father JJ Abrams and producer mother Katie McGrath, Gracie became interested in music at a young age. She gave her first public performance as a singer in fifth grade when she delivered Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" during a school talent show.

    After downloading just three tracks on her SoundCloud, Abrams released her debut single, "Mean It," under Interscope Records on October 24, 2019. She released "Difficult" as a single on October 7, 2022.
  • This song is a candid look at Abrams' emotional and self-esteem issues. A primary source of the singer's misery is her realization that a romantic relationship didn't turn out how she'd expected or hoped. Abrams learned the hard way that the "happy ever after" loving relationships in her father's movies are just an illusion; they don't happen that way in real life.

    My double vision
    Is only amplifyin' everythin' he isn't
    'Til I feel less attached and bored to death, but listen
    It's no one's fault, it's just my terrible condition


    Once she realized her partner wasn't perfect, Abrams felt "less attached and bored to death" by him.
  • Now that she's an adult, Abrams has to take on more responsibilities herself but she's apprehensive about taking major steps like moving out of her family home.

    And I've been thinkin'
    If I move out this year, I'll feel my parents slippin'
    Away and also, I'm just scared of that commitment
    I really think sometimes there's somethin' that I'm missin'


    Overwhelmed and frustrated, Abrams feels everything is spiraling out of control and wonders why everything is so difficult.
  • Later in the song, Abrams recounts some ways she's tried to deal with her funk:

    She's spoken to her therapist every weekend.

    Abrams has resorted to alcohol, but this means she just stays up too late, pondering her bad decisions.

    She hoped writing this song would act as a self-help, but still "there's somethin' that I'm missin.'"
  • Still in her early 20s, Abrams is just scratching the surface of getting to know herself. "I definitely feel hyper-aware of how little I know," she told Rolling Stone. "In some ways, that part is a huge relief, but occasionally it makes me feel really, truly insane - 'Difficult' came from that place."

    "I remember these lyrics came to mind so fast because they're blue, but they're also really clear," she continued. "I think there can be both a confidence and a melancholia to realizations like the ones I work through in 'Difficult.'"
  • Abrams co-wrote "Difficult" with The National's Aaron Dessner (Taylor Swift, Sharon Van Etten) at Long Pond Studio in New York's Hudson Valley. Dessner's production creates a gloomy environment that aligns with the song's lyrical concept.
  • Dessner also played the acoustic and bass guitars, piano (with Doveman) and synthesizer (with Doveman, James McAlister and Ben Lanz). The other musicians who pitched in were:

    Synth bass: Jonathan Low
    Percussion: James McAlister and Matt Barrick
    Drums: Matt Barrick and Bryan Devendorf
    Wurlitzer electric piano and mellotron: Doveman

    Bryan Devendorf is The National's drummer, and Jonathan Low is their engineer. James McAlister provided most of the percussion and drums on Sufjan Stevens' Illinois album and collaborated with Stevens and The National's Bryce Dessner on their Planetarium album. Pianist Doveman is another frequent Sufjan Stevens collaborator and previously worked with Dessner on Taylor Swift's Folklore track "The 1."

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