The Phenomenon of Ashe


Ashe sits surrounded by candles, burning her right hand. This image, captured by Dana Trippe, is part of the concept art for Ashe’s debut album, which came out May 7, 2021. “Ashe is a remarkably talented 28-year-old Californian singer-songwriter with melodies that skip from childlike simplicity to sophisticated complexity from one line to the next,” said Variety.

Katelyn Seamonds and Theresa Cullen

In early 2019, Ashlyn Willson, known publicly as Ashe, released her hit singleMoral of the Story” which drew listeners in with the heartbreaking truths of her toxic marriage and personal struggles. The beautiful single first began to gain attention when it was featured in Netflix’s To All The Boys: PS. I Love You. From there the song took off, becoming a global TikTok trend where users shared heart touching stories of their own personal experiences with abusive relationships and hardships. The young singer has since gained an incredible amount of fans and released subsequent and beautifully crafted songs that help to spread a message of self love and confidence.

Kate Peters, ‘23, was one of the users introduced to Ashe through TikTok and the song “Moral of the Story.” The song immediately captured Peters’ attention and drew her into the rest of Ashe’s work, with a spotlight on the popular song “Till Forever Falls” apart (which had its respective trend on TikTok). Shea Davidson, ‘23, had a similar media induced introduction to Ashe’s discography as she first heard the lead single when she watched To All The Boys: PS. I Love You on Netflix. However, it wasn’t until the singer announced a collaboration with former One Direction star, Niall Horan, that Davidson became more engaged with the singer’s music. Niall’s partnership with Ashe catapulted the second version of “Moral of the Story,” in which he was her co-artist, drawing a whole new spectrum of listeners. Peters was also drawn into Ashe’s larger discography through collaboration as she explained, that “I heard “Moral of the Story” first and then because I was also into FINNEAS and his music (Billie Elishe’s brother), and they did “Till Forever Falls Apart,” I was like ‘oh my god! This is actually really good.’” 

Peters also explained the power collaboration holds for an artist’s career saying that if she was a singer she would highlight collaboration with popular artists on her discography, “that means all of their fans that you collabed with would also listen to it [your song] and it would therefore be a gateway. That’s what happened with me.” Davidson also found herself becoming more of a fan after hearing the singers’ “The Moral of the Story” collaboration, “She is very similar to Niall Horan, who is one of my favorite artists. They both have an upbeat style, but also have more mellow songs,” said Davidson. This seemed to be the case for many other Niall Horan fans. Ashe’s collaboration with other artists has been a strength of hers as she picks people that not only complement her voice, but also her messaging and positive branding. Lexi Louise ‘24, who is an aspiring musician herself, finds that collaborations with “other artists (especially when they have a larger following) and their support for smaller artists is a huge part of [music] marketing.” This promotion is exactly what Niall Horan and FINNEAS did for Ashe. FINNEAS, who many might recognize as the brother of Billie Eilish, is also a common producer and close friend of Ashe. He helped to write her lead track, and was also featured on Ashe’s single “Till Forever Falls Apart.”

However, collaborations are not the only way an artist is recognized. Ashe’s debut album, Ashlyn (which came out 5/7/21), is filled with catchy ballads that are encircled with tragic lyrics about lost loves and learning from past experiences. “Her songs often start with a naïve, conversational, even corny melody, but then they climb and dip and pirouette as she triples the number of syllables per measure and effortlessly jumps up an octave before bursting into a big, effervescent chorus,” said Variety Magazine in their review of the singers debut album. Ashe is able to create this empowering “belt in the car” sort of vibe, while still including her truthful, sorrowful lyrics,Something that is admired by many fans and listeners. “[A music] career allows people who see the musician to feel something and become in tune with their emotions,” said Lexi Louis when reflecting on why a career in music is so special.

Additionally Ashe has worked hard on creating a personal brand. In an interview with Vogue  earlier this year about the importance of style when performing she said that,‘“that’s what clothing does, at least for me. It makes you feel a little braver—and bravery is pretty important when you’re about to go onstage.”’ Lexi Louise has a similar mentality about the importance of style while performing: “style and fashion sense are crucial to any performing arts career because people are looking at you for inspiration… If a musician wishes to catch people’s eyes, (which most of them do in order to be recognized) not only do they have to formulate their own signature style, but they also [have] to make people in the audience remember you.” Ashe personally chooses to define herself through colorful Gucci suits and flaring dress pants, which perfectly express her cheerful personality. Peters also agrees that fashion plays a role in the type of audience Ashe attracts saying that “style and her choice of clothing does affect the type of fans that she attracts… not only her but just in general like if you’re wearing ‘more hip’ clothes… and more bright colors, it will will be more appealing to more teen listeners.” Ashe’s personalization of her style choices changes the engagement of her fan base. “You attract a certain audience based on how you present yourself,” said Peters, and Ashe presents herself as an approachable energetic woman who genuinely cares about her fans and the content of her music. 

During her performances, Ashe can be found on stage dancing around to each song, with her barefeet jumping to the beat. In her recent interview with Vogue , she reflects on her first two tour shows in London, saying “they [her fans] were so loving and generous; they were screaming every word of every song. I must have cried on stage like four times!” As for the future, Ashe will continue her North American tour next April, singing songs from her debut album Ashlyn. Ashe will make a local appearance at The House of Blues in Boston in 2022.