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FLETCHER Sets a Match and Stares Into the Flames

With new album ‘In Search of the Antidote,’ the pop singer is focused on healing and taking a hard look at herself
(Credit: Sebastian Faena)

“There was a lot of finger-pointing on my previous albums, and here the finger’s pointing back at me,” pop singer FLETCHER tells me of her new album, In Search of the Antidote. “That’s what we are to each other—we’re mirrors. I just had these realizations of, like, ‘Oh, I’m not the victim in all of this. I’ve contributed to these experiences.’ Why do these patterns keep repeating in my life?” 

FLETCHER starts her sophomore album (released on March 22) by setting a match to everything she knows and staring straight into the flames. “I’m burning down my world again, just because,” she croons on album opener “Maybe I Am” over gently strummed guitars that quickly crescendo into a stadium-ready pop-rock chorus. Simultaneously, she considers the various criticisms she’s heard about herself: She’s a narcissist, she’s ruining her life on purpose, she’s permanently numb. 

On In Search of the Antidote, FLETCHER doesn’t always offer solutions for fixing the problems she recognizes in herself, but she acknowledges them with an impressive level of awareness, humility, and honesty. More than anything, she is willing to break down who she has been in the pursuit of who she could become.

The process of self-interrogation was prompted by a Lyme Disease diagnosis she got at the end of her spring tour last year. She canceled further show dates, moved back to her hometown of Ashbury, New Jersey, focused on healing, and sat with herself, embarking on a “really complex unlearning process.” Without the applause or constant social media validation, she was “confronted with all the ways in which my self worth was not coming from the innermost chambers of my being.” 

What does her healing process look like? A lot of different things depending on the day. “Sometimes it’s creating a really intentional sacred space with pretty things like flowers,” she says. “Sometimes it’s movement. Other times it’s just bawling in a curled-up ball on the floor. In any given moment, it’s asking yourself, ‘What does my body need? What does baby Cari need? Can I give that to her?’” And, while she emphasizes that the process of healing isn’t linear, FLETCHER has noticed an overall change in her behavior since starting this process. Not only is she able to recognize her flaws more, but she’s also more able to have more compassion for the people in her life because she has more compassion for herself. 

It’s been a whirlwind few years for FLETCHER. In 2016, the year she graduated from New York University’s Clive Davis Institute, her track “Wasted Youth” topped the Billboard Emerging Artists chart. She signed to Capitol Records in 2018, and the next year, her breakout single “Undrunk” landed on the Billboard Hot 100. The track exemplifies her talent for candidly processing regret and longing through highly specific memories: the way the lime she squeezes into her drink burns her fingertips, the 5:00 a.m. phone call she wishes she could take back, all the times she lost her temper. Since then, she’s garnered countless accolades, including a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, an opening spot for Panic! At The Disco on their farewell tour, and an important role as one of the Internet’s most popular queer pop icons.

(Credit: Sebastian Faena)

In 2022, she released her debut album, Girl of My Dreams, a project that glows radioactive with headache. One track in particular blew up on TikTok because of how candid FLETCHER was. “Becky’s So Hot” is a song about her ex’s new girlfriend. She uses her real name and speaks about her with a mix of jealousy and desire: “Makes me wanna hit her when I see her / Cause Becky’s so hot in your vintage T-shirt.” FLETCHER’s ex posted a TikTok saying she hadn’t been informed or asked permission about the song. The exchange prompted endless discourse about objectification, privacy violations, and violence in the lyrics.

On her new album, FLETCHER addresses the controversy on “Doing Better.” She lists all the ways she’s been trying to improve her life—seeing a psychic, going “on a pussy diet”—but admits that her stomach still hurts and that “better feels worse.” “The verses are me making fun of myself and all the ways that I was acting super cocky and confident when, on the inside, I was actually deeply struggling with all of it,” she says. “There was a toxic, unhealed part of me that was thriving in the chaos, and then this deeper higher self that was like, ‘This doesn’t feel good.’” 

FLETCHER’s health issues, paired with the backlash from “Becky’s So Hot,” prompted her “deep healing journey.” But, as she outlines on “Doing Better,” the external mechanisms for coping were not as impactful as unearthing parts of herself that had always existed. “I went to see healers and therapists,” she says. “And those things are incredible. We need community and support. But the amount of outside sourcing that I was doing to just feel fucking okay [was too much]. The answer has always been there. It’s not so much about finding it outside myself—it’s just arriving at what I already know. I’m in the process of unveiling, or removing the layers that don’t serve the art or me.”

(Credit: Sebastian Faena)

As FLETCHER speaks about unearthing a sense of self that’s always existed within her, I’m curious if she believes in souls, in some part of the human psyche that exists beyond or before the body. She says that tapping into a sense of spirituality has been one of the most meaningful parts of her process. “There’s something about us that makes all of us so uniquely individual,” she says. “It’s our essence, which goes so beyond the physical body. I wanted to get to the root of who I am. I am not this body. I am not even this brain. Sometimes I think about my body like a rental car. I came down to experience life, to feel all these crazy feelings. And, you know, energy cannot be created nor destroyed. And so whether from a scientific perspective or from a more metaphysical perspective, we return to something. We change forms. Getting closer to that has been like the deepest part of healing work for me.”

The emotional work and illness that FLETCHER was experiencing while writing In Search Of The Antidote deeply influenced the sound of the music too. While these songs are still driven by soaring pop choruses, the synthy gloss of 2022’s Girl Of My Dreams is toned down and swapped for a grittier, guitar-driven sound. “I did not have the energy to put on any sort of facade for this record,” she says. “I was navigating so much with my body, and I needed the music to be unfiltered. My vocals were affected in a big way. I was classically trained since I was five years old, so I’ve always had this really technical approach to singing. I didn’t have access to that. Vocally it’s a bit wilder or raspier. I have no choice but to sing from my heart.”

Despite the grueling healing work she’s been doing, FLETCHER hasn’t lost her sense of whimsy. “I’m a delusional Pisces,” she says. On the booming ballad “Lead Me On,” she begs a lover to engage with her even just a little bit because “something is better than nothing at all.” 

“I’m a hopeless romantic,” she continues. “I believe in fairytale love. It lights me up. Some of my deepest inspiration comes from going to a coffee shop and envisioning my whole life with the barista.”