Written by Devyn Springer

I think a part of being queer and “out” is always being on the edge in relationships with family and never knowing where you stand.

A layering of loud, braggadocious, dark synths create the noise that fills the introduction to Atlanta artist TAYLOR ALXNDR’s new single Gritted Teeth.” It is the kind of noise that you expect to be followed by a beat drop and Kanye asking “how long you niggas ball?” However, this time, the darkwave noise isn’t followed by a braggart Yeezus or capitalist men discussing their riches. What we get following a bold and engaging introduction is much more: a vulnerable, reflective, and beautifully dynamic TAYLOR ALXNDR allowing us into their personal history.

“Gritted Teeth is a song I wrote reflecting on coming out as queer during my teen years and the way it affected my mother and I's relationship,” says TAYLOR. “There were moments when she couldn't look me in the eye or say that she loved me.”

TAYLOR’s words on the hook of the song, which reference the track’s title, reflect this sentiment: “You're saying I love you with gritted teeth. I wish we could go back to the old days, old days” It is a sentiment packed in a song that manages to feel immensely personal, while hold a resonating relevancy for many queer people. It’s a story and experience many of us can relate to, the ways relationships with family and friends can shift and alter once you become open with your queerness. This is the power of not just Gritted Teeth but TAYLOR ALXNDR’s artistic sound. It is something that feels personal, reflective of internal emotions and conversations within their own head, yet beautifully translatable to other queer and trans people.

On TAYLOR'S last single, Nightwork, they say they “I would like to somehow know my worth, ‘cause I’ve been putting in nightwork,” and on Gritted Teeth we get another Nightwork moment. That is, another song filled with lyrics and quotables that make the listener confront their demons, whether it be the grind that keeps them up putting in work all night, or the tension existing between them and their loved ones. As TAYLOR sings “which one of us will throw the first fist in the fight? I'm swallowing bullets just to get through the night” on the bridge of the song, I think of all the fights fought in queer folks’ lives not through fists but through gritted teeth, through fake smiles and forced “I love yous” that feel stale and hurt like hell.

The beat has an ominous darkness to it, with an intriguing pop-flare that still allows it to have upbeat and even dance moments. In TAYLOR'S words, this song is a way for them to process “not being loved as a whole” by their mother, and as the synths, clicks, and distant bells clash together throughout the track an explorative mood is created that mirrors that process. Just after TAYLOR profoundly sings “I was always out of frame. We are different in our feelings, but the same blood is in our veins,” there is a moment where the backing vocals sounds angelic, and they lead me to believe Gritted Teeth is not just a song, but a prayer. A prayer that is southern, and Black, and Queer, and Trans, all wrapped up in the artist that is TAYLOR ALXNDR. If Gritted Teeth is a prayer, the I am thankful for TAYLOR blessing us with it.

Listen to Gritted Teeth by TAYLOR ALXNDR below, or head over to their website to explore more of their work.