Summer is over. Temperatures have dropped. The leaves have changed colors. And as the pumpkin spice lattes have returned, so, too, has the concept of “Sad Girl Autumn.”
At least, that’s according to social media users who went into an internet frenzy after Adele released a 21-second snippet of her new single, “Easy on Me,” just after indie rock artist Mitski released the music video for “Working for the Knife” and hit artist Taylor Swift announced that the re-recorded version of “Red” is coming a week earlier than anticipated.
The slew of female artists releasing music with themes related to nostalgia, sadness and introspection has prompted many people to get in their feels in time for “Sad Girl Autumn.” The term, which refers to a whole season of sorrow, is not novel. Now, however, it comes on the heels of what people called "Hot Vax Summer," a spoof of the title of rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s song “Hot Girl Summer.” And as The New York Times pointed out in a recent article, this year “seasonal devotion has seeped into the lexicon.”
“Both Taylor Swift and Adele coming to serve sad girl autumn just one week apart! Our hearts are not ready,” a Twitter user wrote.
“mitski dropping a new song and adele dropping a new teaser,” another person tweeted. “SAD GIRL AUTUMN NATION WE RISE!”
But it isn’t necessarily “Sad Girl Autumn” because of the new releases. Nor is the music necessarily supposed to be tied to a season, some experts said.
“There’s not a seasonal strategy timed to a release of a song or album,” said Nate Sloan, an assistant professor of musicology at the University of Southern California. “These artists aren’t trying to capture the zeitgeist or general social and economic anxiety of the world, but they are tapping into their emotions and broadcasting it to a larger audience.
“Artists reach into their own life experiences and translate that into songs that everyone can enjoy,” he added.
Still, pop music experts said, there is no denying these artists’ ability to capture their vulnerability behind the mic, which clearly resonates with fans.
“All of these artists bring an extraordinary intimacy to their voices close to the microphone, so you can catch every nuance of their emotion in their voices,” said Joe Bennett, a professor of forensic musicology at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“It’s no coincidence that some of the most talented, innovative women artists — like Mitski, Adele and Taylor Swift — are tapping into these emotional and musical gray areas, and that’s why people are responding to them,” he said.
Swift herself addressed the phenomenon in 2019, when she appeared on NPR's "Tiny Desk Concert" series, talking about the fan response to the original release of "Red."
"People on the internet...in and amongst people who care about my music, have been kind enough to associate autumn with one of my albums called 'Red,'" Swift said. "You know, I guess it’s just a very like, autumn-y album."
Regardless of whether Adele, Mitski or Swift timed their music to seasonal changes, fans say they are still prepared to brood and sulk. Adele’s new single drops Friday, and her full album, “30,” comes out Nov. 19. “Red (Taylor’s Version)” will debut Nov. 12. Tickets for Mitski’s coming tour in North America have already sold out, she said in a recent tweet.
And autumn, fans say, is the perfect backdrop for the melancholic tunes.
Adam Patla, 27, a self-described Swiftie and Adele fan, said their music “taps into that aesthetic of fall, and people are excited to have a soundtrack to that.”
“Even if they’re not sad, it’s fun to be dramatic, blast the music and act like you’re the main character,” he said.
Sivi Satchithanandan, 24, said she welcomed all of the gloomy music.
“I plan to cozy up in my blanket and blast all of these women at ear-splitting volumes,” she said. “I’m ready to be destroyed.”