Ella Jane fights her way to the spotlight in ‘Marginalia’

Rising pop singer Ella Jane got her big break on TikTok in 2020 when her song “nothing else i could do,” which started as an AP Literature final project, went viral. She hasn’t slowed down since then, earning a record deal and releasing a slew of singles and two projects within two years. Her sophomore project, “Marginalia,” released on Friday, showcasing her most cohesive work yet.

“Marginalia” has nine songs, but even though the album might be short, it doesn’t pack any less punch. While Ella Jane’s first project, “THIS IS NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE!,” felt more like a forced amalgamation of her earliest singles, “Marginalia” clearly has more intention behind it.

All of the songs have a unique premise but tie back to a general self-awareness about her shortcomings and mistakes in love. Ella Jane takes an unusually mature approach – instead of entirely blaming the other person for taking advantage of her or not treating her well, she subtly shifts some of the responsibility onto herself for sticking around and taking it, even though she knows better.

The content of “Marginalia” fits the title perfectly. The way Ella Jane poetically shares her thoughts and fills in the details of specific moments makes it feel like the listener is in her diary, reading the little scribbles she left in the margins. She truly flexes her songwriting skills to create vivid stories that leave the listener feeling like they experienced these things with her.

A perfect example is the album opener “7,” where she paints a picture of the street she grew up on: “We grew up down by the water / Minutes off the Hudson Line / Scared to be my parents’ daughter / Four doors from a dead-end sign.”

Some of her lyrics also have a charm and humor to them that let the sillier side of Ella Jane’s personality shine through. In the second verse of “You Shouldn’t Have Said That,” she sings “Still thought about you but now I know communists,” which is such a funny way to convey that college couldn’t distract her from the memories of her lover. The line is so unexpected that you can’t help but laugh.

The production of “Marginalia” only builds onto the coming-of-age and nostalgic vibe that the album is going for. Many of the songs sound like they would fit perfectly on the soundtrack of a teen movie. The songs strike a balance between upbeat and subdued, some full of fast-paced beats, synths and vocal effects while others have simple guitar and piano chords. What all of them have in common is a creativity that produces a sound unique to Ella Jane.

While multiple songs, like “7,” “Time On” and “Crash Cart,” stand out on “Marginalia,” the best song is “You Shouldn’t Have Said That” for both its lyrical vulnerability and its haunting quality. The song builds beautifully from the opening verse to the chorus, adding layers of instrumentation that make the song sonically interesting while maintaining its dark and dramatic sound. The production complements the feelings of betrayal and loneliness that are brought out through the lyrics.

“Marginalia” is an impressive body of work for an artist who’s still in the early stages of her career. The nine songs showcase Ella Jane’s growth as she starts to find and grow comfortable with her sound.

5/5 stars



Photo courtesy of Ella Jane.