Imagine this: You’re one year into the pandemic, have tried too many hobbies and are hoping for something inspiring to come along. Then you see a TikTok of a singer strumming their guitar and smoothly serenading you with gorgeous lyrics. This is what happened to me and so many others when Leith Ross started teasing their songs on the app in 2021. 24-year old queer Canadian indie singer Leith Ross is a force to be reckoned with.
Ross’ discography is an all-too-real assortment of vulnerability, transparency and self-actualization. Their gift lies in their poetic songwriting that reflects common themes amongst Gen Z as well as their ability to detail relatable struggles through eloquent lyricism.
Ross’ first project was their 2020 EP “Motherwell,” which came to be from their senior project at Humber College in Toronto. With the backdrop of graduating college, “Motherwell”’s thematic context gains an extra layer of clarity. The EP is an introspective deep-dive into growing pains and the flood of childhood memories that arise as we grow up.
The first track of “Motherwell,” titled “Everyone I’ve Never Met,” explores the complexities of social anxiety, specifically in a time of extreme change and realization. Lyrics like “Highways make me fidget / There are way too many cars / And I’m sure I’d like the drivers / If we pulled aside to talk” provide a nuanced perspective of social anxiety. This issue has only grown more common since the pandemic, and since “Motherwell” was released in late 2020, it is a fair assumption to say the pandemic influenced the songwriting.
Ross sings about getting their food delivered and how they don’t talk to people anymore, noting the effect of human disconnect during the pandemic. The catchy outro flows with the strum of their guitar, “I miss everyone I’ve never met,” which touches on the idea that social anxiety can hinder their ability to connect with people, something they hope to change.
On “Prayer,” the fourth song on the EP, Ross questions their religion and belief in God. Explaining in the first verse they were raised to believe in God and the Bible, Ross reveals they can’t believe in a God that is not “as human as [them].” In a revelation, Ross confesses they need to believe in a higher power because without an explanation for all the brokenness in the world, life would be too lonely and scary.
Track six, “Tommy,” is a nostalgia-filled ode to Ross’ grandfather. Following the theme of reflecting on childhood memories, the song explores their grandfather’s personality and how he influenced Ross as they grew up. The chorus is written from the perspective of Ross’ grandmother as a message to her husband, showcasing Ross’ songwriting skills. Ross softly sings, “Oh Tommy I love that one / You used to sing it when you were young / Play it again, my love / For the kids to remember when they grow up.” This reflection on their grandmother’s notion that music would play a role in her grandchildren’s lives is a beautiful anecdote that adds a sweetness to the track.
More recently, Ross announced their debut album “To Learn” which will be released on May 19. In anticipation, they have teased new music on their TikTok, as they did back in 2021. So far, Ross has officially released four of the songs on the album. Their recent releases further solidify their destiny as Gen Z’s lyrical muse, despite a class of skilled wordsmiths.
“We’ll Never Have Sex” was Ross’ breakout song, with its Tik Tok tease reaching 1.2 million likes. This delicate love song is the first single on Ross’ upcoming album, setting in place themes of growing into ourselves and falling in and out of love. In the song, Ross explores having a partner that helps to melt your past hardships and trauma surrounding trust and commitment. The stripped-down chorus cuts deep, “Oh, you kissed me just to kiss me / Not to take me home.” Ross’s gentle tone and poetic imagery is enough to bring any listener to tears.
Ross’ single “(You) On My Arm” is the gay love song of Gen Z’s dreams, not to mention the most upbeat track in their discography. The song is all about yearning for an intense crush and imagining perfect scenarios in your head. The innocent and charming lyrics like “I wanna buy you / Pretty little things / And never ever lie to you,” make this the perfect tune to play at a picnic or when frolicking through a flowery field.
Ross is not afraid to address taboo topics and explore painful experiences through vulnerable lyrics. Their latest single “Guts” explores the aftermath of sexual assault and processing the complex emotions that come with healing from a traumatic experience. In the song, Ross avoids their abuser in public and explains the different lines they hear from friends and friends of their abuser, and they sing about how these opinions influence their healing process. In a stunning revelation, Ross sings about wishing they had the guts to punch their abuser in the stomach. However, the most jarring lyrics come in at the post-chorus and bridge where Ross dares to ask the question: “But do their mothers know?” In their reflections on traumatic experiences, Ross brings humanity back into question, even admitting they know it’s not the mothers’ fault and saying, “but I do think that she’d cry if I called.”
Leith Ross is a rising star amongst a generation of candid lyricists. They are able to tackle difficult topics and provide nuanced perspectives on typical love songs in a way few artists are doing to this day. Their gut wrenching lyrics bring a balance of discomfort and comfort for Gen Z listeners hoping to find someone who understands their deepest insecurities and complex emotions. Ross is just getting started with their songwriting, and as they tease more and more songs on their TikTok, fans such as myself are anticipating more great music in the future.
Abbie Bobeck SC ’26 is from Washington, D.C. She enjoys tanning at the beach, sugar cookies from Malott and a London Fog from the Motley.