Arthur Miller spent much of the 1960s shacked up at the infamous Hotel Chelsea in New York City, a period he captured in his essay The Chelsea Affect. Hoping to tap into that spirit of freewheeling creativity that permeated the famous landmark, Canadian songwriter Emerald Isabella decided to adapt that title for her own musical persona. Taking on the name Chelsea Effect, Isabella released her first single, “Good Enough”, back in November.
Now, the Chelsea Effect has reached back to another period of literary greatness for her latest single, “Youth in ’21”. The song is inspired by an imagined conversation between Hadley Hemingway (Ernest’s wife) and Zelda Fitzgerald (F. Scott’s wife) set in the France of the 1920s. The ladies’ love affairs with their husbands were the types that inspired authors to put pen to paper, resulting in works like The Great Gatsby and A Moveable Feast.
“I wanted to write a song that encapsulated the experiences of those women and the feeling that I had the first time I truly fell in love,” Isabella said of “Youth in ’21”. “There’s this idea that sometimes you meet someone and it seems as though you’ve known this person your whole life… But when your love ends, do you live inside the nostalgia and take solace in the memories? Or like Ernest Hemingway, do you never fully recover from this lost love? And most importantly, just because it ended, does it make it any less beautiful?”
The song shows a more restrained Chelsea Effect than “Good Enough”, her electropop refocused through a folk pop lens. Gentle and sweet, her voice burns like a piece of newspaper caught in the updraft from the fire of the song’s rousing instrumentation. “And the music played on/ Every note became our song,” she sings out on the chorus. “Melting into each other/ As we watched the rising sun/ We were youth in ‘21.” There’s a nostalgic romance there that’s served on such supple slice of velvet that it makes you wish it still existed. Take a listen below.