Gracie Abrams Shouldn’t Be Reduced To Her Famous Dad And More Famous Bestie

Gracie Abrams notched her first-ever No. 1 on the UK’s Official Albums Chart with The Secret Of Us, her sophomore LP that also just debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The discourse should be that Abrams and Audrey Hobert, her best friend since fifth grade, made a courageous, intimate, and resonant album welcoming listeners into their living room and adding authentic layers to Abrams’ public persona. And those conversations are happening. But the headlines largely center around Abrams’ most famous friend, Taylor Swift, her neighbor on the Billboard 200 and UK’s Official Albums Chart with Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Oh, and Abrams entered this week’s Billboard Artist 100 at No. 2, behind only Swift.

Abrams, 24, comes by the “nepo baby” label honestly as the daughter of acclaimed director and producer J.J. Abrams (Star Wars, Lost, Alias) and political aide-turned-producer Katie McGrath. With iHeartRadio in July 2022, Abrams acknowledged she enjoyed “a privilege” in growing up around the industry but dismissed any negative connotation as a product of “the internet [being] a funny place for people to call anyone names.” In 2024, proximity to Swift is perhaps the all-powerful “nepo baby” subcategory. Case in point: My mom, the anti-pop culture aficionado, only knows Abrams in association with the viral “Us” backstory involving Swift clumsily putting out an apartment fire.

Every Swiftie knows how maniacally intentional Swift is about everything she does, so to think that doesn’t extend to who receives an invitation into Swiftian lore would be an ill-advised take. If Swift were divvying her co-signs based upon her favorite film and television creators, then Ellen Pompeo, Mariska Hargitay, and Guillermo Del Toro would be tearing up the pop charts. On Sunday, June 30, Swift used her final Dublin The Eras Tour show to laud an in-attendance Stevie Nicks for befriending female artists “just to be a guiding hand,” and Swift makes a concerted effort to pay that forward, regardless of their family crests, as best evidenced by her diverse cast of The Eras Tour openers.

Abrams and Swift debuted “Us” — a rare instance of Swift offering her services as a featured artist and, more significantly, signifying Swift passing her Track 5 baton to Abrams’ The Secret Of Us — during The Eras Tour in London, a familiar stage for Abrams. Swift empowered Abrams as one of the original The Eras Tour openers, beginning shortly after Abrams dropped Good Riddance, her February 2023 debut studio album produced by Aaron Dessner, who also produced The Secret Of Us. Dessner owes his two Grammys to producing Swift’s 2020 sister albums Folklore and Evermore, and Dessner has produced both of Abrams’ albums — the former springing Abrams’ first Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 2024.

So, yes, Dessner acts as an invisible string tying Abrams to Swift. Sure, “Us” helped The Secret Of Us reach more people. But Swift’s handling of a fire extinguisher in Abrams’ now-viral “Us” video is the least impressive part of their achingly beautiful duet’s spontaneous 2 a.m.-to-6 a.m. birth. Anybody could use their surname to score a hang with an A-list celebrity — and there is no evidence Abrams ever did that, to be clear — but it takes someone special to earn the respect of this generation’s definitive songwriter. Abrams’ pen is her sharpest sword to cut down hollow industry plant allegations.

“Us” has over 20.5 million streams on Spotify alone. Swift’s name will do that. But that’s fewer than Abrams generated with “Risk” (56.4 million) and “Close To You” (46.3 million). Abrams injected The Secret Of Us with organic intrigue weeks before “Us.” “Risk,” co-written with Hobert, impressed upon impact as the album’s manic, melodic lead single that houses one of the year’s best scream-sing hooks, “God, I’m actually invested / Haven’t even met him / Watch this be the wrong thing, classic.” Abrams and Hobert followed that with “Close To You,” another wonderfully extroverted daydream that became Abrams’ first-ever Billboard Hot 100 entry, debuting at No. 49, after fans first clamored for its release as a demo seven years ago. (“Us” and “Risk” debuted at Nos. 36 and 94 on this week’s Hot 100, respectively, while “Close To You” bumped to No. 60).

But even “Risk” and “Close To You” didn’t happen in a vacuum. For years, Abrams has been steadily forging an organic fan base by holding dearly the “say the quiet part out loud” oath taken by every lasting songwriter. Abrams laid the foundation with “Mess It Up,” “Feels Like,” or “I Know It Won’t Work” before “Risk,” “Close To You,” or “Us” could breach a different pop stratosphere.

Ultimately, the proof is always in the fandom. Abrams’ fans are anything but passive. In mere hours, Abrams’ upcoming headlining The Secret Of Us Tour sold out entirely, including four nights at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles and three nights at Radio City Music Hall. Buying concert tickets based solely on six degrees of separation? In this economy? Please.

“I don’t really think about how I want to be remembered, but this album shows a different side of me, and I like the idea of being known,” Abrams recently told Uproxx for this profile. “Not widely known, but known better. If anything, I would be thrilled for people to know me better through this album.”

Beyond the hits, Abrams repeatedly shows palpable growth as an anecdotal storyteller and vulnerable songwriter throughout The Secret Of Us. If this is what she mined with just 16 months to work with between Good Riddance and The Secret Of Us, Abrams’ songs should soon be ubiquitous enough — on the radio, in the grocery store, et al — for my mom and suburban moms everywhere to recognize her on merit. As is, to fully immerse in Abrams’ young yet enriched discography is to already know better than to reduce her to industry ties. The secret of Gracie Abrams is that there is no secret. She’s just damn good.