In the post-Britney Spears era, teen music sensations have taken a deliciously dark turn from the traditional blonde singing bubblegum pop. Billie Eilish is the most recent success story to date, costumed in oversized streetwear (a far cry from the usual crop-top and miniskirt) and known for her mature themes such as grief, violence, and depression. Artists like Lorde and Lana Del Rey have paved the way for the newest installment of Gen Z sad girls, and Ren, an up-and-coming artist from Toronto, has fashioned the genre into her own.
The 16-year-old’s newest single “mind games” already boasts almost one million plays, and features the singer’s breathy vocals over a rumbling bassline. Ren playfully refers to her lover as a “silly little freak,” and resumes the role of puppet master, taking up headspace in his daily thoughts. “Maybe we just do it for attention” she whispers, speaking to the push-and-pull dating games meant to keep the other interested without taking the flirtation too seriously. Such cynical lyrics echo the new kind of teen idol that bears more resemblance to an actual, living breathing teen, one who would sooner roll her eyes than wink at a stranger.
The video for “mind games” shares the same grit and grimness, albeit with a delicate streak. Ren alternates between silk and lace dresses in a house in the midst of a move-out, indicating the transience and instability one often feels in short-term love. Suddenly, the video reverses and a boy appears in the window. At first, they don’t interact, but soon he begins to take her place in the video—two are playing these games. Ren’s music and stylings can only be described as haunting, with an airy, ethereal quality that leave you grasping at vapors. This tone carries through the almost timeless backdrop of the video, featuring an antique cherry-red car and house whose creaks you can practically hear. The overall effect is beautiful yet eerie, modern yet weathered.
Ren will no doubt continue to develop as an artist, with “mind games” being a strong foray to establish a singular sound while capitalizing on the newfound freedoms artists her age have gained. No matter where her style goes, her foundation lies in her talent, specifically her soon-to-be distinctive vocals that perfectly capture the laid-back, effortless aura of youth.