An Analysis of Noelle Stevenson’s Catra Playlist

An Analysis of Noelle Stevenson’s Catra Playlist

Reading Time: 8 minutes

A couple of weeks ago, we took a look at Noelle Stevenson’s Adora playlist on Spotify (thanks for being cool with us analyzing them). And as promised, it’s time to look at Catra’s. Her playlist sounds much more grim than Adora’s, with more punk tunes and downright depressing lyrics, but that’s no surprise. It’s pretty indicative of their characters, including Catra’s inability to move on from the past. But maybe there’s hope hiding behind it all. Let’s take a look at each song and figure out what’s going on behind that mask.

In the first song, I Miss You by Blink-182, the title says it all. We get a closer glimpse at what Catra is feeling those first few days after Adora defected from the Horde. The lyrics, “I cannot sleep, I cannot dream tonight/I need somebody and always/This sick strange darkness/Comes creeping on so haunting every time” reminds me of their shared bed, and Catra’s destruction of it early in season one. Without Adora, Catra is lost and alone, with no one to stand between her and Shadow Weaver. At this point in time, that loss manifests as sadness and betrayal, the beginning of her downward spiral.

Look What You Made Me Do by Taylor Swift doesn’t exactly fit that ‘edgy’ mold, but the song certainly pertains to our favorite feline. “But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time/Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time/I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined.” These are the words of someone who’s been knocked down countless times, but always manages to make it back up–for the sake of revenge. Sound familiar? No matter how many times She-Ra leaves her and her troops beaten and bruised, Catra always picks herself back up so that she can try harder next time. Her only goal is overcoming Adora.

Never Say Die by CHVRCHES addresses what we see in the episode Promise. Catra feels so betrayed by Adora because they were always going to be there for each other. Adora promised her that nothing bad could happen when they were together, and that they’d always look out for each other. Once that’s no longer the case, it seems, to Catra at least, that Adora is flourishing while Catra struggles more than ever. “Weren’t you gonna be sorry and weren’t you gonna be pure?/Weren’t we gonna be honest and weren’t we gonna be more?/Didn’t you say that?” is her way of internalizing that betrayal, and using it to fuel her anger.

The Violence by Rise Against takes us away from thoughts of Adora, and brings us into the mind of a very depressed Catra. The lyrics, “Are we not good enough?/Are we not brave enough?/To become something greater/Than the violence in our nature?” make it seem like Catra really does want to be something more than a conqueror hell-bent on destroying her best friend. Deep down, she wants to become something greater, but doubts that she even can.

By now we all understand that both Adora and Catra were irreparably affected by Shadow Weaver’s abuse, but that’s not how Catra sees it. Welcome to My Life by Simple Plan exposes her deepest thoughts on their upbringing. “Everybody always gave you what you wanted/You never had to work it was always there” has some truth to it. Adora was often rewarded thanks to Shadow Weaver’s favoritism, but she never slacked on her work. In fact, she was always pushing herself harder to live up to the expectations put on her. But all Catra sees is herself being pushed down while Adora is raised up, as evidenced by:  “You don’t know what its like/To be hurt/To feel lost/To be left out in the dark/To be kicked when you’re down/To feel like you’ve been pushed around/To be on the edge of breaking down.” This exposes some serious lack of communication and understanding between the two, surely part of the reason Catra refused to join Adora in leaving the Horde.

Second Child, Restless Child by The Oh Hellos expands on this. “See, I was born the second child/With a spirit running wild, running free/And they saw trouble in my eyes/They were quick to recognize the devil in me.” Catra was always seen as second best, merely a shadow of her friend. Shadow Weaver made sure of it. Their guardian saw potential in Adora, but dismissed Catra as weak, without giving her the chance to prove herself.

The next couple songs showcase the resentment Catra feels towards Adora, both for her better treatment and choice to join the Rebellion. Raise Hell by Brandi Carlile presents conflicting feelings of love and hate. Catra is telling Adora that she gave her heart to her, only to have her leave with it, and now she’s out for vengeance, made clear by the lyrics, “I dug a hole inside my heart/To put you in your grave/At this point it was you and me/And mama didn’t raise no slave.” Shut Up by Simple Plan is another example of this rancor. “Don’t tell me who I should be/And don’t try to tell me what’s right for me/Don’t tell me what I should do/I don’t want to waste my time/I’ll watch you fade away.” Catra doesn’t want to join Adora just because it’s what she wants. And because Adora left, she plans to watch her fade into obscurity while she makes her own success. We see this mindset clearly in season four.

A recent, apt addition to the playlist is No Children by The Mountain Goats. The lyrics are dismal, to say the least, and demonstrate the deep depression Catra faces, a result of so much mistreatment and emotional neglect. Catra’s given up on happiness. All she wants now is to stop existing, and bring Adora down with her. “You are coming down with me/Hand in unlovable hand.” This mentality is clearest at the end of season three when Catra says “I won’t let you win. I’d rather see the whole world end than let that happen.” Catra has truly hit rock bottom, and will stop at nothing to bring down those who hurt her, even if it means her own destruction. Noelle Stevenson even drew a piece based on this song, which you can find here.

Supercut by Lorde is the closest to a hopeful song you’ll find on this playlist. “’Cause in my head, in my head, I do everything right/When you call, when you call, I’ll forgive and not fight/Because ours are the moments I play in the dark/We were wild and fluorescent, come home to my heart.” Catra is recognizing her faults, reflecting on the various things she could have done differently. Catra really does miss Adora and what they had together. She has regrets, and blames herself for losing her. In later seasons, Catra can no longer ignore this as more people leave her behind. This song is her imagination, perhaps even the ‘perfect’ vision we see inside the portal, where she does everything right, and no one leaves her. How to be Alone by John-Allison Weiss also showcases these regrets with the lyrics, “I still think about that day,/how I let you disappear/how you let me get away/No, I’ll never understand the things/that you could never say.” Unfortunately, Catra blames herself for Adora’s leaving, when in reality it had nothing to do with her and everything to do with the Horde.

“Everyone comes, but only I stay/Nowhere to look, nowhere to turn to fall away/What if I should call it off?/Hold up my demands with my heart uncrossed.” These lyrics from Keep You on my Side by CHVRCHES are another example of the utter loss Catra feels as everyone leaves her behind. She wonders if only she had done something differently, things would be different. However, she truly believes it’s too late to make it right. This mentality can also be seen in One Foot by fun., in which Catra is facing the effects of her actions and is sent into deep depression. “I put one foot in front of the other one/I don’t need a new love or a new life/just a better place to die.”

We Sink by CHVRCHES shifts back to Catra’s ever-changing relationship with Adora, “I’ll be a thorn in your side/Till you die/I’ll be a thorn in your side/For always/If we sink/We lift our love.” She refuses to stop fighting her until she gets what she wants, and what she wants is for them to go down together. She’s given up on herself, and given up on repairing things with Adora. Everlong by Foo Fighters follows. Catra reminisces about what they had, understanding it will never happen again. “And I wonder/When I sing along with you/If everything could ever feel this real forever/If anything could ever be this good again.” 

Here’s where things start to get really dark. Towards the end of season four, when we can see the effects of mental illness hitting Catra the hardest. She’s so deeply traumatized, and continuously depressed, that she sees no worth in herself–or anything else. These last few songs don’t shy away from telling us about some of Catra’s darkest thoughts.

The first, Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, explains how Adora has grown and changed and gathered friends, while Catra is still in the Horde, achieving what she thought she always wanted, but it’s a hollow victory without anyone to share it with: “You are someone else/I am still right here.” Again, she’s regretting her choices, and harshly criticizing herself for them. “What have I become/My sweetest friend/Everyone I know/Goes away in the end.”

We see another example of Catra’s remorse in Lying Beast by Run River North. She’s been blaming Adora for so long that she couldn’t see that she was putting herself in an awful position. “Lies! Lies that I couldn’t see!/I couldn’t see that the liar was me!/And so I flew away with myself/I was the beast all alone in my hell.” She admits that it’s not just power she wants. It’s recognition, something she never got under Shadow Weaver’s tutelage. “Cause my lies take me far away/Take me to a place where everyone will know my name.”

Love is All by The Tallest Man on Earth demonstrates her regrets once more. “And now spikes will keep on falling from the heavens to the floor/The future was our skin and now we don’t dream anymore.” It also relates to her one-sided conversation with Scorpia in Boy’s Night Out, in which she says that her success in the Horde is a hollow victory, with the line: “I bet this mighty river’s both my savior and my sin.”

Next, in I Really Wish I Hated You by blink-182 Catra can tell that Adora has given up on helping her, and it tears her apart. “I can see that you’re giving up on me/I hate the way that you’re better off, better off.” She thought her eccentric actions might convince Adora to come back, but she finally understands that won’t happen. The lyrics, “I don’t really like myself without you/Every song I sing is still about you/Save me from myself the way you used to” also tell us she doesn’t like who she’s become without Adora by her side. It would be so much easier if she could give up on Adora too.

To leave off on a bleak note, the last song on the playlist is Long Way to go to Die by LP.  I think, “It’s a long, long, long way to go to die,” accompanied by, “missing you from dusk to dawn,” perfectly sums up her darkest thoughts. In her eyes, she’s been so irreparably damaged, and done so much irreparable damage, that she’s dug her own grave. She’s worked so hard towards what? Being captured by an intergalactic conqueror alongside the leader of the Rebellion? She sees her life as forfeit. She’s just counting the days until she fades away, abandoned by everyone she ever loved.

Despite the grimness of this playlist, I remain hopeful that Catra will regain happiness. If these songs say anything, it’s that Catra is truly remorseful for her actions, and wants to make things better. She just needs proof that she can. If Glimmer can teach her anything on Horde Prime’s ship, I hope it can be that Catra is worth something, and convince her to fight. Considering how both her and Adora’s playlists contained plenty of songs about missing each other, I have no doubt that, once they find each other again–and finally listen to each other–they will start on a path of forgiveness. It may be a long path, but they’ll get there.

What do you think of this playlist? Who do you want to see next? Let us know in the comments and on Twitter!


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