Lauren Isenberg is better known by her stage name, renforshort, which derives from her nickname of “Ren.” Hailing from Toronto, Canada and just twenty years old, the alternative pop artist is plunging ahead in the industry. Though she began performing at the age of just thirteen years old, her career has begun making great strides as she grows into a young adult—her single “moshpit,” released early in 2022, has earned praise from OnesToWatch, NME, Billboard, Teen Vogue, and EUPHORIA. But now, her most recent plunge has come in the form of her record dear amelia, which was released on July 8th via Interscope Records. The album even scored a feature from Travis Barker on the track “we’ll be okay.”
Renforshort’s sound is most clearly characterized through both its “intimate delivery” and “unfiltered lyricism.” Ren remarks that, “Since I started making music it’s been about writing songs that are very emotional. Not only in a relationship sense, but also what I’m going through that would help other people,” while also remaining “as simple as possible for listeners to interpret while still having a good message.” These qualities come through clearly on dear amelia, which travels with Ren through some of her mental health journey, touching on topics like anxiety, depression, and disassociation. However, rather than being an album that brings you down or even just keeps you company while you cry, dear amelia looks to breathe “strangely radiant life” into the darkest moments of both the narrator and the listener. Dear amelia began—perhaps unusually—at the end, with Ren writing the album after feeling inspired to do so following the creation of the album’s title track, which serves as the final song on the record. Rather than being an amalgamation of various individual songs, dear amelia was created through channeling one clear idea and one clear voice.
But though Ren may be finding both her voice and success with her latest record, there are some speed bumps she faces along the way. She vocalizes, “I would like to maybe be taken more seriously. I feel like people should just start listening a little bit more,” and feels that “as a young person in the music industry, and particularly as a young woman, there’s a lot of prejudice that can be difficult to overcome.” Though we may live in more modern times than the past, Ren says there’s much progress to be made on the front of young artists retaining control over their lives and careers. “I still feel like young artists are looked at as young people, and that’s a little annoying,” she admits. “I don’t think that any traditional values really have gone away… I feel like no one thinks a seventeen-year-old can make decisions about her life, but you expect someone to come out of high school at seventeen or eighteen and be like, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’”
The vision Ren sees for the future extends not only beyond the playing field equalizing in terms of age, but also in terms of gender. Passionate about doing what she can to overcome the sexism she faces, Ren brought an almost exclusively female team on her last tour. Of the struggles she and other young women face, Ren says, “I started really young, and being a young female artist in general is super difficult, and when you tack on the fact that you’re seventeen on top of that… It’s like, I already have this roadbump of being a woman and now I have being young on top of it. There’s a lot of things that I think need to be changed in the industry for a woman. There’s a lot of things that need to be changed in the world for a woman.”
Ren feels that even though she loved the male team members she had in the past and that they did a great job of supporting her, she finds being surrounded by other women empowering in a career where she’s often asked at venues if her husband is performing. “I feel like a lot of people are intimidated by a powerful woman,” she muses on navigating the difficult waters of the music industry. In fact, notable industry figures have acknowledged renforshort’s seismic energy and impact. In 2020, Geffen Records president Neil Jacobsen described her as, “a ferocious beast about to explode.” However, regardless of the waves she’s making as an artist, Ren can’t allow for her position as a public figure and musician to overshadow her own humanity. She adds, “As much as I love people to be intimidated by me… I feel like, just look at me like I’m a person and listen to me. My ideas are great, I know that.”
Part of this passion for being surrounded by other women on the road may come from Ren’s strong feelings about the power of friendship in supporting her both professionally and personally. Of her almost all-female team, she remarked, “It’s like having a friend on the road.” Her website demonstrates how important friendship is to her, with a free link to a coloring book entitled “fuck, I luv my friends.” This is titled after her track of the same name off dear amelia, and the coloring book features images from the lyric video. The song serves as a celebration of love, friendship, and girl power, with lines like, “If I ran away tonight, I know you’d run with me / Fuck I love my friends / Without them, I’d be dead / I know they’re the only ones who will love me ‘til I’m dead.”
So, one might wonder—is this mysterious Amelia person the album is dedicated to one of Ren’s beloved friends? The answer is no—and in fact, may be quite the opposite. Amelia is the personification of Ren’s mental illnesses, condensed into a character Ren can imagine conversing with and parsing out her various struggles. Creating the imaginary Amelia has been a valuable coping mechanism for Ren—it’s so important that she’s decided to share Amelia with her fans. Not only does Ren connect her fans to the concept of Amelia through her record, but she has also created the Letters to Amelia project. Through this project, Ren’s fans can use a template given on her website to write a letter addressed to Amelia. Then, they can send them to a PO box, where the letters will then be discarded without being opened—leaving the conversation solely between the writer and the imaginary Amelia with no outside interference.
The emotional and interpersonal journeys on dear amelia have demonstrated just how much Ren has grown as a musician since she first started making music at such a young age. This is a fact Ren recognizes. Remarking on how she’s progressed since first beginning to create music, “I’ve changed in so many ways, as a person and as an artist, but I’ve kept those core values of making music…mental health, just honesty. But I feel like my writing has definitely matured.” With dear amelia marking renforshort’s debut LP release, the singer has built a solid foundation and secure footing for her career to take off. We’re eager to see how Ren’s musical and personal journey unfolds as she continues to grow and change as an artist.