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An Analysis of Noelle Stevenson’s Adora Playlist

An Analysis of Noelle Stevenson’s Adora Playlist

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Noelle Stevenson has been one of the most giving screenwriters of today’s cartoons. Even though she can be downright evil in her teasing of future seasons and character interactions, she’s provided so much wonderful content for the fandom. One of our personal favorite contributions of hers can be found on her public Spotify profile, where she’s put together playlists for some of our favorite characters. Each song has significance to the story, and can provide some great insight on what our favorite princesses are thinking.

In this article, we’ll break down Noelle’s playlists for Adora, taking a quick look at every song and seeing how we can relate them to the story so far. Who knows, we may even be able to make some lyrical predictions for season 5! Get ready, ‘cause it’s about to look like this: 

Adora’s playlist is full of indie tunes, with many songs pointing out her desire to please everyone and live up to expectations, but also includes some nods toward her rocky relationship with Catra. Some lyrics reveal emotions that arenʻt easy to display in the show, providing us with a better understanding of what’s going on in her mind as stakes and tensions rise.

It hasn’t been confirmed whether the songs are in sequential order, but the first, Glory by Radical Face, sure brings me back to the beginning of Adora’s story, when the Horde took her in and she suffered under Shadow Weaver’s tutelage. “I was born when they took my name/When the world turned wicked, when I joined their game/But I turned and fought them/Like you always knew I’d do.” These few lines perfectly sum up the premise of the show: Adora turning against the Horde that raised her as a soldier. And with that last line, could it be possible Catra saw Adora’s departure coming?

Still Sane by Lorde isn’t quite as telling, but does display Adora’s unwavering will and aptitude as a cadet with the recurring line, “All work and no play/Never made me lose it.” We already know she works herself to the bone to take care of the people she loves, prioritizing honing her strength and abilities over fun. 

The next song, Trouble by Cage the Elephant, switches gears towards Adora’s emotions. “I’ve been facing trouble almost all my life/My sweet love, won’t you pull me through?” Who else would she be talking about besides Catra? Growing up in the Horde, they always had each other’s backs. Even with the pressure they were under, they could always rely on each other to lift each other up, as evidenced in the line, “Got so much to lose/Got so much to prove/God, don’t let me lose my mind.” Not only is this song a beautiful representation of their friendship, but also gives Catradora fans some serious hope.

“I don’t wanna be your hero/I don’t wanna be a big man/I just wanna fight like everyone else” is an incredibly telling line from Hero by Family of the Year. The pressure Adora is under, from working hard to become a Force Captain, to discovering the Sword of Power and becoming She-Ra, is crushing. No one asked her if she wanted to be Etheria’s savior, but she does what she has to regardless. 

This plays into the next song, The Show Must Go On by Queen. The title tells it all; despite the expectations, despite how badly she’d like to give up sometimes, she always perseveres in order to help her friends. A Better Son/Daughter demonstrates this persistence and determination as well with the line, “You’ll fake it if you have to.” It also sheds some light on the expectations placed upon her. “You’ll be better and you’ll be smarter and more grown up/And a better daughter or son and a real good friend,” is saying that she’s always striving to be better, to be the strong leader she’s meant to be, and the perfect friend she wants to be.

The next song on the playlist is Go to Sleep by the Avett Brothers. It’s a song about allowing oneself some respite after trying so hard to please others. “Wipe the blood from your face and your hands/Forgive yourself if you think that you can” is something the overworked princess could really bear to hear. 

Unfortunately, Stay Gold by First Aid Kit reveals that such advice means little to Adora. It describes the “what ifs” that plague her thoughts, the fear in the back of her mind that she won’t be good enough to save her friends. “What if our hard work ends in despair?/What if the road won’t take me there?/Oh, I wish, for once, we could stay gold.” She’s so consumed by her desire to protect that sometimes that doubt is her downfall. Heaven Knows, another song by First Aid Kit, turns this around with the self-explanatory lyric, “You’ve lost yourself in others’/Expectations of you.” 

Next is Liability by Lorde, a song about worrying that one’s usefulness will wear out and end in abandonment. We can definitely see this in Adora. “The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy/’Til all of the tricks don’t work anymore” She’s so consumed with the thought that she has to be the perfect savior She-Ra, that she sometimes forgets the friends she’s gained along the way, who care about her for who she is, not what she does for them. Luckily, though, when these thoughts arrive, her friends in the rebellion remind her that their combined power is what brings them hope. This can be seen in “Upward over the Mountain” by Iron & Wine, with the line “So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten.”

Wait for Me by John-Allison Weiss screams “Catra!” to me. The song is about saying goodbye to the life and people one once knew. “Yeah, all the things you do to me, the promise and the pain/I wish with all my heart that I could stay,” is congruous to the episode “Promise” where we learn all about Adora and Catra’s upbringing and how inseparable they were. If the lyrics do reflect Adora’s thoughts, we can assume that she truly never wanted to hurt Catra. If it weren’t for the necessity of taking up the title of She-Ra, Adora would have stayed in the Horde for her friend. Another lyric that stuck out to me is, “We’ll never make it and it wasn’t meant to be/But I’ll wait if you’ll wait for me.” Adora doesn’t want to give up on Catra. She understands the circumstances that have torn them apart, but still holds hope that they may one day reconcile.

One of the most prevalent themes in SPOP is the rejection of destiny. Season 4, especially, shows us how affected Adora is by the pressure to fulfill what is expected of her. Mowgli’s Road by MARINA represents the mental struggle she suffers in the light of deciding whether or not to follow Light Hope’s expectations. “I’ll do as I am told/Well, I don’t know/Who…I want to be.” Adora has never had the choice to decide who she wants to be. It’s always been decided for her, both in the Horde and in the rebellion, and her sense of identity has taken a blow as a result.

Stones By Damion Suomi is all about rising above the hardships ahead. Time and time again we’ve seen Adora, when faced with adversity, continuing until the fight’s been won. “Resist that devil and he’ll see/I sally forth to fight/’Cause men don’t live on bread alone.” Despite Shadow Weaver’s manipulation, despite her broken relationship with Catra, despite the crushing weight of her duties, Adora never gives up. She always has someone to protect, and that is motivation enough.

Praying by Kesha switches gears a little bit. With the lyrics, “You brought the flames and you put me through hell/I had to learn how to fight for myself” and “I don’t need you, I found a strength I’ve never known” definitely brings us back to Shadow Weaver. I think this song represents much more than just her abuse, but the entirety of her upbringing, and how Shadow Weaver has so strongly affected her and Catra’s lives. This song could pertain to either of them for this reason. I do believe that for Adora, the lyrics “Sometimes, I pray for you at night, oh/Someday, maybe you’ll see the light” reference how she sees Catra exhibiting some of the same traits as their guardian, and holds out hope that she’ll have a change of heart.

In a similar light, The Things I Regret by Brandi Carlile paint a picture of just that: Adora’s regrets. “It’s hard moving on from the things you’ve done wrong/When they play in your head like an old fashioned song” This begs the question: what does she regret? The chorus provides some insight. “Lonely miles/Without you/Let them roll over me/When I doubt you.” Adora clearly still cares about Catra, and considers her refusal to leave the Horde as a personal failure. If only she could have convinced her to come to Bright Moon, the war might be playing out much differently, and she would still have her closest friend by her side. I’m sure we can all agree this is out of her control, but sometimes that can be difficult to accept.

Although technically the last song on the list, I feel like Antebellum by Vienna Teng fits better here. The definition of antebellum is “before the war,” but the lyrics focus on the sense of yearning that comes with war. Adora misses the calm before the storm, when her future seemed so bright. “I know our antebellum innocence/Was never meant to see the light of our armistice/But how much would I give to have it back again/How much did we lose/To live this way?” With each of their fights, Adora is reminded of the content life she lived in the Fright Zone, when she and Catra weren’t trying to kill each other. She mourns that she’ll never have that back again. Dame’s Don’t Wreck Your Head also follows this theme with lyrics like “The wars we’re fighting/There’s no reason for this.” She wishes Catra would think the same way.

Now comes my person favorite song on the playlist, What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes. You might recognize it from the infamous He-Man meme, but it has some significance as well. Adora feels lost much of the time, hence all the “What’s going on?”s. She questions everything she knows – who she is, where she comes from and why she’s here now, why she of all people was chosen to wield this power. This is an expression of all the frustration and grief that accompanies having one’s life turned upside-down.

Whatever You Do by Brandi Carlile is a more recent addition to the playlist, and perfectly encapsulates the ending of season 3 and into season 4. “There’s a road left behind me that I’d rather not speak of/And a hard one ahead of me, too/I love you, whatever you do/But I got a life to live, too.” For all the hope she’s been holding out that Catra will have a change of heart, after the portal incident, she understands that she must move on if she’s to protect her friends in the rebellion. She knows that until Catra reflects on her own actions, all Adora can do is fight back and do what is right.

Finally, we end with the short yet powerful song The Beginning After the End by Stars. The entire lyrics are as follows: “O, the blood and the treasure/And then losing it all/The time that we wasted/And the place where we fall/Will we wake in the morning/And know what it was all for/Up in our bedroom after the war.” This is a grim reminder of what we have to look forward to in season 5. Both the Rebellion and the Horde have lost everything at this point, and no one knows what will happen next. If they can make it out alive, maybe they’ll look back and trust that all the bloodshed was worth it.

Noelle sure knows how to hype us up! We’re so excited for season 5, and these playlists are making the wait unbearable. What do you think of our analysis? Who’s playlist do you want to see us pick apart next? Let us know here in the comments or on Twitter!

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