Catie Turner’s lyrics play out much like a storybook: listeners are able to indulge in night-driving bliss while taking in narratives that showcase the honestly complicated reality of growing up and learning how to comprehend love. Turner has created a coming-of-age story all her own in her music but, unlike a movie, we don’t need to see another side of the story to make it feel whole. “Play God,” Turner’s latest single and her first release with Atlantic Records, feels like.a continuation, a new chapter.
The song comes shortly after last single, “One Day,” which chronicles the dilemma of being happy with someone without being ready to commit to forever. In an interview with American Songwriter around the track’s release, Turner described her enthusiasm about being able to call music her career since making the trek out to Los Angeles. “I create in a studio now instead of a dirty, unmade bed, and I get to learn who I am even more because I’m under my own roof,” Turner said. “I get to explore my identity.”
That excitement gleams between the lines of “Play God,” taking the charm that Turner became known for during her American Idol stint and pairing it with the painful recollection of the better moments in a crumbling relationship.
“’Play God’ is a sad song about not being able to fix a relationship and how the memories of places and sounds are triggered to one person; the type of song you listen to on a road trip and pretend you are a different person to,” Turner said in a press release for the track. “I wrote it because I was trying to fix a relationship but realized I had exhausted all my options and needed someone else to meet me, I couldn’t do the entire relationship maintenance by myself. Hence it being a sad song.”
Unlike songs such as “21st Century Machine” that put Turner on fans’ maps, “Play God” doesn’t feel critical of the world (though societal criticism is necessary and deserved); rather, it is grounded in the realism of heartache, playing out more like a subtle acceptance of endings rather than a critique on how the relationship got there. Turner knows that what’s done is done, and it becomes clear in lines like, “I keep holding on to something expired / You’re running through my mind and now I’m too tired.”
In addition to the feeling, Turner takes care in making scenes feel visually feasible to listeners. This is particularly true of the first verse in “Play God,” which puts into words the feeling of longing after walking away from a relationship: “New York, it don’t feel the same without you / ‘Cause everything’s a different shade of blue / Waiting for the train in Penn Station / Hoping that I might fall into you.”
“Play God” is a track best heard wearing earbuds in the backseat, gazing through the car window and imagining their own main character moment for listeners. For Turner, though, her newfound career path means she doesn’t have to fantasize about that moment: she’s stepping into the leading role on her own.