It’s clear that Griff is experiencing something akin to an artistic ascension. After the release of her successful EP One Foot in Front of the Other, she’s been touring and writing new material. Her latest EP vertigo vol.1 shows with just a few songs just how gifted of a songwriter she is – ranging from the extremely catchy “Vertigo,” to the newly released melancholic piano ballad “Astronaut.”
Because the track both opens and closes with Griff humming to herself, it almost feels like the track is meant as a cathartic lullaby to herself. Indeed, speaking on “Astronaut,” Griff said it was “about the idea of being left behind. In young relationships, when someone needs time to figure out and find themselves without you, it hurts because you’re left wondering what about yourself wasn’t enough for them.”
In that sense, “Astronaut” is the perfect counterpart and bookending song of vertigo vol. 1. Whereas “Vertigo” is firmly rooted in the anger stage of grief, pointing out why being afraid of commitment or love is truly the other person’s loss, “Astronaut” feels more suited to the stage of denial and depression. Where you’re being swallowed whole by the fact that someone has hurt you and left you to deal with it by yourself. Most importantly, it tells a story of not having seen it coming.
“You and I talked about everything under the sun, and I’m not sure at what point you figured this out on your own,” Griff opens in the first verse. The stripped-back piano gives the track an incredibly intimate feel, which is further strengthened by her airy vocals in the chorus. As if it hurts to form the words, and say what needs to be sung. In the second verse, Griff’s sadness briefly erupts into something more fiery – the hash reality of it all catching up with her. “And thе cruelest part of it is how you tell me that you love me still (Yeah) / Like I’m supposed to wait here while you’re figuring out just how you feel.”
Griff expertly stretches the concept of space, both to signify the distance between two people in an ending relationship, as well as a destination in and of itself. As if the person choosing themselves over the relationship has lost their way, and can’t see things clearly anymore: “And when you come back down to earth / Bet I’ll be the one you call / When you realize there’s nothing out there but matter and emptiness.”
She’s not the only artist who’s dabbled in these metaphors. For example, “Astronaut” forms an interesting juxtaposition to the song “Space Man” by Sam Ryder, which uses similar themes – except from the perspective of the person stuck in space. And perhaps even more fitting, Griff just spent the past summer touring with Coldplay on their “Music of the Spheres World Tour.”
It should come as no surprise then, that the writer of “My Universe” would himself feel drawn to “Astronaut” too. Griff revealed that none other than Chris Martin agreed to play the piano for her on this track. “I’d produced ‘Astronaut’ and written it 100% by myself. He really got stuck in. We listened to maybe 30 of my songs together, but he kept stopping ‘Astronaut’. Chris advised me to strip it all back and keep things simple, so I had the cheek to ask him to play on it himself and I am so honoured he agreed.”
And while Christmas might seem like an odd time to release new music, let alone sad songs, trust me. “Astronaut” and “River” happen to go really well together in a playlist. Go on, try it out yourself.