Ethel Cain’s American Nightmare | them.


Preacher’s Daughter is an album filled with macabre, haunting music – songs that evoke the sound of synapses closing; who wish stomach ache on cannibals. That’s why it might be surprising to hear that arguably the most disturbing piece of Cain’s work doesn’t appear on the album; it’s actually a cover.

In recognition of National Women’s Day last March, Cain shared a rendition of Britney Spears’ 2004 ballad, “Everytime.” The original was still on the trappings of fame; the accompanying video shows Spears battling paparazzi before fantasizing about dying by suicide in a bath. But in Cain’s hands, the piece resonates with an unsettling new prophetic urgency. Here is an artist with an acute sensitivity to control about to release her first album, go on a national tour, potentially enter a new type of existence where she is, once again, vulnerable to the expectations of others, whether it’s fans, agents, managers, paparazzi or the various parasites that attach themselves to rising stars.

After racing from Perry, Florida to the Spotify studio in Los Angeles, where she produced and recorded her cover of Britney’s “cautionary tale,” could Ahnedönia have traded one cult for another? Is she out of the woods?

About a month before the end of her debut, I ask the musician if she is ready for fame. “I don’t know,” she replies categorically. Pressed on the question, her tone turns raw: “I’m nervous. Not so long as she gets caught up like Britney, she insists, but that her work will be misunderstood, or worse — deliberately taken out of context. “It really stresses me out,” she says, “So I constantly remind myself that not everyone will understand. And the people who get it are the people it’s meant for.

Anhedönia has come a long way since Perry. One of the most significant changes in her life is the formation of a sizable and dedicated fan base, the Daughters of Cain. “That was one of my biggest obstacles as an adult,” she tells me. “I never intended to be famous. And I don’t want to be a celebrity. But people come up to me, trying to talk to me. It’s intimidating.

Because of this newfound attention, she has put limits on how she engages with those outside of her closest circle. Still, she maintains a Tumblr page, where she lovingly answers questions from fans while sharing tender details of her life. These offers are often hilarious. “What’s in orange juice and champagne that makes me want to talk about dick and only dick,” she recently asked. Sometimes his messages hit with brutal honesty.

“I never really wanted to be in the music industry,” Anhedönia wrote last month. “I just want to do my little soundcloud songs and sit by the creek and eat raspberries… guess I’m stuck in it for a while lol. Hope it doesn’t get worse.”

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