#200: Farrah Abraham – My Teenage Dream Ended

The face of terror.

Farrah Abraham’s polarizing 2012 album is a one-of-a-kind exercise in terms of experimental pop. An incredibly personal and vulnerable experience.

Well, uh…this is an interesting one to start out on. Known as possibly one of the weirdest albums of the 2010s as well, Farrah Abraham’s My Teenage Dream Ended has polarized listeners since its release in 2012. Some have praised it as an avant-garde masterpiece gone unmatched, some see it as trash or “so bad it’s good” music, and others have fallen in between.

This divided reaction certainly proves to be understandable considering Farrah’s background — Farrah is not a singer, but an actress, notably from the shows 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom off MTV, I believe. Without the experience and talent needed to prove oneself as a singer, Farrah’s dreams seemed out of reach. But it certainly didn’t stop her from working on an album anyway. She worked on it beside an autobiography, and based the lyrics off of her diary. The struggle of making My Teenage Dream Ended shows more clearly as shown in an example from an interview with the producer of this album, Fredrick Cuevas, who stated that Farrah never actually listened to the music while recording:

“Usually, I plug someone into the studio and let them record over the music, but she didn’t want to do that. She was just hesitant to sing to it. I didn’t know what to do. But as an engineer, we problem-solve. The only thing I could think of was, ‘OK, I’m going to give you no music, but I’ll give you a click track,’ which is like a metronome, something to keep her on time. At the end of the day, I knew that whatever we recorded had to go back onto the production. She actually recorded everything without ever hearing the music. Like, she’d heard it before and approved it for that song, but as she was recording we never had the music on.”

It makes the story behind My Teenage Dream Ended all the more interesting, as it feels so methodical yet unorthodox for the process of creating an album. You’d assume that with this process being the way that it was that this would turn out, well, completely terrible. But once again, despite some negative evaluation, not all of it was bad. The Guardian named My Teenage Dream Ended the 32nd best album of 2012 (above albums such as The Idler Wheel…, mind you), an odd gesture to acknowledge such a little-known album. Not only that, but years later it was once again acknowledged by a somewhat larger influence in the recent music criticism sphere.

Anthony Fantano has decided to side among the more positive of critics with this album, rating the album at #200 of the top 200 albums of the 2010s, claiming the album was a “happy accident” of sorts and citing its influence on specific groups such as 100 gecs (who are unfortunately not on this list) and the PC Music label, with many others on RateYourMusic making similar comparisons. With only the context of that in mind alone, along with the amateurish, slightly creepy cover art with Abraham holding her daughter’s hand like a fucking serial killer, this should immediately be an interesting listen. With this all in mind, you have to ask: what is this album like as a listening experience. For that, I have to dive in.

Statistics

  • Number of tracks: 10
  • Date released: August 1, 2012
  • Label: Self-released
  • Genre: Electropop, Dubstep, Experimental
  • Length: 27:19
  • Average Track Length: 2:44
  • Longest Track: Searching for Closure (3:49)
  • Shortest Track: Caught in the Act (1:43)

First Thoughts

Edit: I added this while currently doing my review for The Monitor, as I felt this was needed to explain how I felt before I went further into the album. I had listened to this album prior to planning out this review, so technically this is the first time I have listened to it in a review format.

The first listen was very intriguing, to say the least. I don’t really have much to say other than that. The beats in my opinion ranged from decent to something that I would probably dance to, it was nothing insanely experimental or anything like that, but certainly listenable. As for the vocals, I had listened to this prior, so I was accustomed to the vocals, so they weren’t particularly anything new to me? But they fit surprisingly well with the instrumentals for the most part, even as unconventional as they are.

It certainly made a good impression for the most part on what I do like from my first listen of an album, when it feels like the pieces fit. Yet…this is a strange case, because these shouldn’t. But they do. Here, I am aware of the personal nature of the lyrics, as for the most part, the songs are minimal and short, and the lyrics themselves are incredibly easy to make out. What I am really hoping for is to just make heads or tails of what it’s going for.

Track Reviews

The Phone Call That Changed My Life

Right off the bat, the production is really basic, being heavily EDM and dubstep-inspired and just strong. It kind of just sounds like something you’d hear, like, right off of YouTube from Skrillex, but more likely an amateur dubstep musician who’s just starting off or something similar. That isn’t to say that’s a bad thing, though! I do think in most cases something like this would totally lose my interest, but how it unusually clashes with Farrah’s unbelievably autotuned vocals makes for an unusual and unforgettable experience.

Speaking of Farrah’s vocals, they play a minimal part in the track and just don’t show up for the majority of the song, but when they do appear, holy shit, is it amazing. Her voice is rather trashy and raw, but layered behind auto-tune they sound so weirdly beautiful. There is a point where it doesn’t entirely cover up her voice, but even then it doesn’t sound terrible (at least not as bad as a few other points on the album). And that isn’t even going over the lyrics, which are…excruciatingly personal. Some of the lines don’t make sense, but from what I could make out, Farrah is going over having to deal with the loss of a loved one, specifically her boyfriend, who had passed away prior to the release of this album and before he could see their child. It’s an incredibly heavy topic that somewhat coincides with the very aggressive instrumental, the pain of loss. Certainly a great tone-setter for the rest of the album in terms of instrumental and topic, in my opinion.


After Prom

With the song After Prom, we get these loud and driving synths that sound straight out of the stereotypical “dance song” from the 2000s. In fact, this instrumental is straight up dancepop, with this kick-ass EDM beat interlaced with the synths. Farrah’s vocals feel even more alien here, with the autotune even more noticeable and off-key than before. Yet despite this, they somehow work even better than the first track does. I’m not fucking joking. It sounds like an alien trying to learn how to sing after being fed AI-generated music, like the shit generated from a crappy MIDI generator, and it halfway getting the gist of what it was trying to go for, and you can’t help but feel proud of it.

As for the lyrics, it centers around Farrah in what I assume is a party scene, singing amongst these camera flashing sounds about how these parties and life as a teenager can make you feel on top of the world but at the same time is filled with awful things that can ruin you for the rest of your life. It even takes on a bit of a sarcastic tone with these lyrics:

“Life, life
Is about party, living love
Don’t think about the choices you choose”

Needless to say, Farrah’s tone throughout is very upfront with how it presents itself. It comes off somewhat off-putting, especially being literally everywhere on the record, but for an LP like this it is brave as hell. Definitely another highlight on here for me, and certainly one that I play often when revisiting this album.


Caught in the Act

Caught in the Act is one of the shortest songs on the record, not even breaching two minutes, yet within that time it packs a lot in it. The production is similar to The Phone Call That Changed My Life, in that is based on dubstep, but is more so dramatic and varied with a MIDI strings section in the beginning of the song to the short breakbeat section leading to the dubstep beat. Besides that, the vocals are just as wild as After Prom, if not more so, being pitch-shifted and manipulated with the auto-tune, reaching new ranges unthought by mankind.

Farrah describes a love encounter here conflicting with her emotions and her family’s disapproval of said relationship. She discusses the complications of having to choose a romantic relationship over her family in the song, stating:

“Family is family, but love is love”

Along with that, she questions if it’s really worth being in a relationship at the end of the day and if it’s really worth it. It’s one of the moments in which love is discussed in a very interesting and almost whimsical light, as if it is something almost not of this world. If I had any comments against it, I would say it does fade into the background a bit compared to the other tracks, and the brevity doesn’t help that fact. Yet even then, I would consider it a solid one.


With Out This Ring…

With Out This Ring… is a track that begins to diversify the musical palette and experiments with more somber and calming instrumentals. It still carries the same dramatic tone such as tracks like Caught in the Act, but uses different instruments such as an acoustic guitar and a heavy emphasis on piano. It is certainly different and doesn’t line up with the EDM and dubstep stylings that the record started out with, but still fits itself very well within the tracklist! The vocals sound less alien but more like a robot singing in a sense. Definitely more clear and easy to make out them along with the lyrics.

Speaking of lyrics, they continue the personal themes of love and struggle that the rest of the record has carried; although this time it deals with the complications of being in a relationship at a young age, and emotions getting in the way of making it work. She questions if this is really what love is supposed to be like in the grand scheme of life, hitting the listener with some very hard lyrics that the first time I heard them, I was taken aback:

“Stick to our guns. We’re just young
Is this really what love is like?
Can’t be sure. I don’t wanna make mistakes
I still need to make more mistakes”

This song certainly includes some of the more personal and hard-hitting moments upon the record, and, despite its oddities, is an accurate portrayal of the complications of love in general, and how it personally affects those involved. Really stands out as a track on this record.


Liar Liar

Liar Liar is another instance in which Farrah discusses a troubled relationship, more specifically arguments and lies in the same dysfunctional relationship. Some of the lyrics are eloquent, but I don’t think they’re as well put together as they are in tracks like After Prom or With Out This Ring…:

“Fire, I do not fight this desire
I stood there, your pants on fire”

…like, seriously? I don’t mean to be rude, but this is probably something that a 12-year-old would write and think they were a genius because of it. However, I do like the repeated chorus:

“We’re fighting
We’re fighting not”

Another issue that I have with the song are some of the vocals. At some points they’re fine, but I don’t think the auto-tune protects her voice the way it does in other tracks on the album. In fact, some points come off as rather grating to the ear and personally I just can’t stand. However, one thing I can compliment on here is the instrumental. It’s a soft guitar-backed one including these angelic voices that sound like something out of a singer-songwriter piece or an ambient work; certainly one of the more accessible of them.


Unplanned Parenthood

Jesus Christ, do I LOVE the beat on this track! It starts off really dark with this driving and hypnotic bass wub that transitions into a basic dance beat that works really well with the track. It definitely sounds like something you’d hear off a darker PC Music track. The vocals go just as wild as Caught in the Act, even though the song isn’t as intense, which really hammers in the interest that this track brings.

Farrah’s lyrics delve into the trouble and shock of being pregnant with the child of their significant other, and having to change the decisions they make in order to do what is best for their soon-to-be child:

“On and off doesn’t work anymore
Is this a happy ending?
All, let’s do this trip
I can’t be in denial, playing games
I think it’s overrated”

The clashing it makes with the dark beat in the background only makes this track even more heavy than it already was, adding to the complexity and personal angle of the album anyway. Of all the tracks here, I’d argue this one is probably the most underrated of them.


Searching for Closure

The longest track on the record at almost 4 minutes in length, I wish Searching for Closure had a better instrumental than it does. It starts off interesting with this heart beat sound that is later interlaced with some pianos and synths, which do sound nice but it is INCREDIBLY easy to tell that they just sound like MIDIs, which is rather off-putting if anything. Along with that, it just fades into the background unlike similar tracks on the record. The vocals, compared to the other areas, are decent, but don’t really change up much or make the song interesting enough to listen regularly. However, it does have a very interesting topical choice.

The lyrics talk about Farrah wanting closure with her deceased boyfriend, which she unfortunately cannot get. She also discusses having to process it, troubles with those close to her boyfriend:

“I see your friends, family and all those in between
I hate how they’ve acted
Disrespect, lies, a big mess
Lack of love
You deserve better – I’m only trying to make a difference
I’m holding back my tears, my tongue
This kills me”

So even if not the most instrumentally unique parts of the album, lyrically it digs into one’s soul on a deep scale that only the listener and Farrah can feel. It isn’t my favorite, but don’t completely count this track off — it has good qualities either way.


On My Own

We once again go back to the EDM roots of the album with these odd, plucky and spacey synths that add to the uniqueness of the song. The vocals are a bit more relaxed and sound more like a song than most of the cuts here, but they still have the auto-tuned oddness that most of them carry. As one of the more well-known tracks on here (and what I believe is a single off of the album?), it makes senses as to why.

The lyrics are similar to that of Searching for Closure, though despite the depressive tones I think it is a bit more optimistic than what the other had to offer. They discuss the same loss as before and having to be independent as a single mother, but having to move on from loss for herself and her child, pretty clearly shown here in these:

“Trying to keep it together
There’s so many spaces to fill
And when I’m overwhelmed, overworked, underfed
When we’re gettin’ enough money to budget with
Don’t figure till I make it through
Yeah, I’ll make it through
And for our child, too”

It is an incredibly personal moment for her and goes along with the solemn moments here, but is one of the few moments in which the listener sees Farrah’s happier, more optimistic side show, along with Finally Getting Up From Rock Bottom, closer to a place of acceptance, which is awe-inspiring if anything.

…also the beginning lyrics about the swing totally remind me of this.


The Sunshine State

What the fuck is this track? Like, seriously. This is easily one of the oddest songs, if not THE oddest song on the record. The beat is pretty EDM-inspired and sounds like a complete summer jam; parts of it remind me of music from Skrillex and deadmau5. It goes all over the place though, especially once the song picks up. The vocals are easily at their most uninhibited, and mixed with the beat lead to one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had with this list and probably ever WILL have.

The lyrics on this song add to the bizarre nature, with some just being straight-up incoherent or not making any sense at ALL. With what did make sense, I guess you could call this the “party anthem” of the record, especially with lyrics like these:

“Va-va-va-va-vacay
Island poppin’
Fantasy to wonder
Palms, white waves
Seashells and flowers
Guys partyin’
Drinks flowin’
Endless money
Keep it goin'”

Overall, it was…uh, it was something. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it, though? If anything, it made me respect Farrah more, that someone could make something like this. I guess check it out, if you want…???


Finally Getting Up From Rock Bottom

The lyrics of Finally Getting Up From Rock Bottom, one of the singles off My Teenage Dream Ended, are easily the most upbeat on the album, the main message essentially being about moving on from the past that has troubled her and holding her head up high for what is to come. While I do like and appreciate the message of the song…that unfortunately doesn’t mean I like it. In fact, quite the opposite.

I don’t know why specifically this track has this problem, but the vocals just are…not good. They just sound like any trashy 2000s dancepop artist from the time. The auto-tune unfortunately doesn’t save them either; if anything, I feel it makes them worse. The beat is pretty bland too this time around; sure, it’s aggressive, sure, it goes hard, but that doesn’t make it necessarily an interesting one. Ultimately, this track just didn’t sit well with me, and it doesn’t help the fact that it’s the closer of the album. Speaking of which…it doesn’t really even feel like a closer, leaving the album feeling somewhat incomplete, even with a great message. I usually just skip this one if it comes on.

General Thoughts

Edit: Like the first thoughts, this was also added to the review to make it stand out a bit more. You’ll see this more coming up!

Generally, I think the instrumentals overall, as incredibly simple and unassuming as they are, set an excellent backdrop for Farrah’s vocals, which certainly do not disappoint in their weirdness. Surprisingly, they’re not as bad as one would assume? I mean sure, it’s obvious that Farrah can’t sing well, but either she hits some notes or the auto-tune just does a very good job at masking it, thanks to Cuevas.

Obviously the lyrics are really dark, and cover a variety of topics like the struggles that come with youth, having a child, death and the like. Clashing with again, these rather demure backings makes for an indescribable experience that really has nothing like it: I really don’t know what else I could compare it to, it’s that distinctive in how it portrays.

Another compliment I can give it that I’ve also noticed in similar releases is the length. It isn’t even 30 minutes, which makes for a perfect album length in my opinion! Sure, the song lengths vary slightly, but in the grand scheme, Farrah knows that she needs to keep the viewer’s attention span, intentional or not, and keeping it at this length does just that. Already combining that with the oddity that this album is just makes it all the more interesting.

There are a few criticisms I do have, though. Obviously, not every instrumental is great, some I could do without, and it is clear not everything is mixed or mastered professionally either. The auto-tune doesn’t completely protect how bad Farrah’s singing vocals are, and there are some points in which you can tell; oh god, you can tell. Along with that, the consistency/flow of the album aren’t perfect either. Some songs connect better than others in terms of instrumental; I feel as if structurally Finally Getting Up From Rock Bottom could be made into a WAY better ending than it is, generally just small things.

Conclusion

Overall, I found this record to be pretty enjoyable for what it is. Despite some instrumentals that could’ve been more fleshed out and some auto-tuning areas that could’ve really been fixed, this was a really surreal, unique and overall interesting experience of an album. Its unusually basic instrumental palettes combined questionably with unusual vocals that don’t seem to know what they’re going for are fascinating enough, but adding onto that seriously deep and personal topics like death make it all the more relatable. It obviously won’t be for everyone, but for those into experimental pop and outsider music, for those into artists like 100 gecs and Charli XCX, this is certainly not something to miss.

Best Tracks

The Phone Call That Changed My Life
After Prom
With Out This Ring…
Unplanned Parenthood
On My Own
The Sunshine State

Worst Tracks

Finally Getting Up From Rock Bottom

Listen

Sources

https://www.thefader.com/2017/11/21/farrah-abraham-album-producer-interview (Irony!)

https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2012/nov/26/guardian-best-albums-2012-40-21

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x200zclstbE

https://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/farrah-abraham/my-teenage-dream-ended/

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