Ashlyn “Ashe” Willson has long been writing songs about life, love and heartbreak. I’ve loved Ashe and her songwriting genius for a few years now, but her most recent rework of her 2019 single, “Moral of the Story,” feels like a fresh use of her talent.
Ashe looks like she could have stepped straight out of 1970 with long blond hair, Elton John-style glasses and high-waisted bell bottoms. Her voice is angelic — a touch of raspiness, impeccable high notes and something sweetly childish about it makes her symbolic of a time between adolescence and true adulthood. “Moral of the Story” gives us a look into her divorce from her former husband.
Co-produced by Finneas O’Connell, the title track of her 2019 two-part EP “Moral of the Story: Chapters 1 and 2” exhibits complex harmonies and background vocals to tell the story of fading feelings and the clarity that hindsight can bring. While she has been making music since 2017 — her first singles were collaborations with Louis the Child — she only skyrocketed into the spotlight this year.
Netflix featured “Moral of the Story” in its 2020 film “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” during one of the film’s most emotional scenes. The lyric “some people fall in love with the wrong people sometimes” perfectly captured the premise of the film and resonated with millions of viewers around the world.
Now, Ashe sings to 6.4 million monthly listeners on Spotify and released a new version of “Moral of the Story” featuring Niall Horan on June 17. The melody and lyrics are nearly identical, but Ashe and Horan reworked the second verse from the point of view of Ashe’s ex-husband. One line that Horan sings, “we burned down our paper house,” sounded familiar to me, so I did some digging until I came across the sixth track of his debut album, “Flicker,” called “Paper Houses.” The lyrics of this song touch on similar themes as in “Moral of the Story,” especially in describing a disintegrating relationship.
Horan adds new depth to an already heartbreaking song, not only with his verse but with his vocals, harmonizing with Ashe. While Ashe sings with rounded lips, producing an “ooh” sound for the background vocals, Horan sings “oh” to the same melody, creating musical texture similar to a harmony. The pain in Horan’s voice truly made me believe he was Ashe’s ex-husband, hurting just as much as she was through their separation.
“Moral of the Story” makes me hopeful for more reworked songs and heavenly vocals from this duo in the future. Turn this song up in the car, in your room or whenever you want to be in your feels.
Grade: 5/5 Stars