In the realm of songwriting, heartache can be a propulsive force to be reckoned with. Ryan Cassata’s newest single “Guard Rail” joins its duo of predecessors “Loner Boy” and “Starfucker$” in reflecting upon the pale facets of heartbreak and fame.
For some time now, Ryan Cassata has explored the sonic textures of rap and electronic music, incorporating both into the title track from 2020’s The Witches Made Me Do It, and leaning heavier into these energies throughout the follow-up album Rebels & Ghosts later that year. The musical stylistics suit Cassata well, his casual flow rolling through the rhythms of his beat production and making room for the piercing energy of his hooks. The three singles explored here today excel in their aims, taking the heartache of their subject matter in stride and channeling it into confident, catchy works.
The newest single, just released, catches the singer-songwriter on a reflective drive, pondering the sacrifices made and ready to be made for a former love. The opening lyrics below paint an all-too-familiar scene of the desperation of love gone bad. As the song progresses it’s evident that he’s not going back. The new sounds in which he finds himself performing amplify this notion with striking color, clipping along at a determined but eased pace. “Guard Rail” is full of a bevy of production dynamics that harken back to early 2000s R&B, and highlighting Cassata’s rebukes in what feels like a clever, self-aware subversion. Where these sounds have typically highlighted one’s pinings toward the objects of one’s affection, they act as a protective wall against further pain here.
“This song is all about regret. It’s about the concept of “No Contact” as the lyrics go “two weeks without talk, felt close to the end like Montauk, said I’d drive over the guard rail for you.” It’s a dark track that lays out all the negative emotions on the table on display for all to see. It’s also an apology and admission of shame.” – Ryan Cassata
“Loner Boy” (feat. Niko Storment)
Another reminiscence on the loneliness of a relationship gone sour, “Loner Boy” circles the stark impressions of a partnership in painful relatability. The specifics in the lyricism here are the key to its poignancy- acts of service gone unappreciated, sleeping in different rooms- are replayed in anger and frustration. As if inviting us back in time, Cassata illustrates these moments from the perspective of still being in the relationship. The refrain “Fuck tonight” is a playful, if painful, nod to wit’s end as experienced in this time capsule.
“”Loner Boy” is about realizing that I am worthy of love and kindness. The lyrics tackle the concept of being in a relationship that is spiraling out of control. However there is a light at the end of the tunnel when you realize you deserve better.” – Ryan Cassata
A smooth, autotuned appearance by fellow Trans musician Niko Storment echoes Cassata’s jab, “you need a time out.” There is more of a swagger to “Loner Boy,” a more sneering sibling to “Guard Rail” in many regards. Its production is darker, utilizing an almost carnival-esque organ motif to capture the uncanny pain of one’s heartbreak.
The intersection of fame and loneliness is a time-worn association, but so often it forgets to be fun. “Starfucker$,” on the other hand is very fun. Cassata’s guitar is filtered into a steely separation, mirroring the connection (or lack thereof) between the titular sycophants receiving his frustration. The beat here is aggressive, highlighting the more propulsive flow of Cassata’s rap and hook. The danger present around many corners of the entertainment industry is highlighted in “Starfucker$” second verse, referencing an unnamed “distraction” who “made a plan to sell us out.” This was the first of the singles to arrive earlier this year and still retains its exciting freshness alongside its fellow releases.
“This song is about my middle and high school bullies and the people that were not for me when I started but are suddenly for me now because they want something from me. Call them clout chasers, coattail riders, or Starfucker$.” – Ryan Cassata
The theme of self-love is strong in these new songs, resonating with Cassata’s fan base. On the music video for “Starfucker$,” YouTube commenter Ronan Elliott responded, “Amazing song from an amazing person!!! You are somebody that I can always look up to and you have taught me to just love myself for who I am!” There is something to be said of self-respect, boundaries, and working outside the lines, and it is a joy receiving those themes in these packages.
One of my favorite things about all three of these singles is that they do not shy away from trying something new. I have always respected artists that try something new and it’s all the more exciting when it works. “Guard Rail,” “Loner Boy,” and “Starfucker$” will each appear on the upcoming album Magic Miracle Mile due to arrive October 22. They are all available now on streaming, and I highly recommend checking them out at the links below!
Review by Bobby Guard
Photographs by Asher Phoenix
Magic Miracle Mile Album Artwork by Emiko Lytell