Ethel Cain’s music is a religious experience

As someone with a strict religious upbringing, Ethel Cain reminds us that transness is, in fact, next to godliness. Cain emerges as a vibrant singer who blends authenticity, vulnerability, and unbridled talent behind the microphone. With a voice that resonates with raw emotion and lyrics that delve into the depths of human experience, Cain (real name Hayden Silas Anhedönia) transcends genres and labels, proving to us all that she’s a different kind of pop star.

Born and raised in the heart of Tallahassee, Cain’s journey into music — classified as classic rock — began as a means of self-expression in a world that often sought to confine her spirit. Embracing her identity as a trans woman, she found solace and empowerment in the melodies she crafted, while using her music to help both herself and others heal from the confounds of religious trauma.

Cain’s music defies categorization, seamlessly weaving elements of folk, pop, and alternative rock into a tapestry that is uniquely her own. Her haunting vocals possess an ethereal quality, capable of evoking a myriad of emotions within the listener, from heartache to hope and from longing to liberation. Through her introspective lyrics and evocative storytelling, she invites audiences to embark on a journey of self-discovery and introspection, unafraid to confront the complexities of the human condition head-on while reminding folks to embrace their inner demons.

“Ethel was kind of a subconscious manifestation of what I wanted out of my femininity,” Cain told Them about developing her alter ego. “I was weak and kind of shaky in my own femininity, especially after I came out [as trans], so Ethel was a huge swing in the other direction. She’s always in control. She’s always one step ahead. I thought, ‘If I put on this character, it makes it easier to build my own confidence.’”

Having released music since she was 18 (and now freshly turned 26), Cain continues to grab the attention and hearts of those who, like her, are navigating the haunting ideologies of a transphobic America. Despite the challenges she has faced as a transgender artist navigating an industry often resistant to change, Cain remains steadfast in her commitment to authenticity, using music to paint a picture of both resilience and artistic freedom.

What makes Cain someone to watch is the disinterest she has in being a “pop star.” Her refusal to conform to societal norms or artistic conventions is not an act of rebellion, but rather a testament to her unwavering dedication to staying true to herself and her craft as a trans woman.

“When you are trans, you are living a very specific experience that not many other people in the world have,” Cain said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “I wanted to not be known as a trans artist, I think, not because I didn’t want people to know I was trans, or because I didn’t want to be proud of that fact, but.… It has shaped the way that I am in certain ways, but it’s not everything.” 

With each release, Cain has pushed the boundaries of her artistry, fearlessly exploring new sonic landscapes and pushing the limits of her creativity. From the haunting melodies of “Hard Times” to the anthemic energy of “American Teenager” (both off her 2022 album Preacher’s Daughter), her music serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of vulnerability and the catharsis that comes from embracing one’s truth. Moreover, it can be said that many are finding salvation in her music.

Cain continues to serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for the LGBTQ+ community that we, too, are angelic. Her unapologetic embrace of her identity and willingness to share her journey with the world serve as a reminder that visibility is a form of activism, and that true change can only come from standing proudly in one’s own truth and story. 

As she continues to carve out her place in the musical landscape, Ethel Cain remains an artist to watch – a shining example of the power of resilience, authenticity, and the enduring ability of music to transcend boundaries and touch the soul. In a world that often seeks to divide us, her music stands as a testament to the universal language of music being the thing that can bring anyone together. 

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