Let’s talk about Lindsay Lohan.
To me, her debut album, Speak, is a masterpiece—it’s one of the only albums that I think is absolute perfection from beginning to end. With its impeccable arrangement, 2004’s Speak tells a story of heartbreak, insecurity, and personal growth. It is an incredible work of art, and seriously one of my top 25 albums of all time, if not top 10. The album plays with genres, mixing party and dance jams with heavier rock-infused songs that drip emotion.
Though I first heard it as an 11-year-old, this album continues to be one I bump regularly, and I continue to argue for its timelessness and storytelling. Beyond being a severely understated work of creative musical fusion, Speak also worked as a platform for Lindsay, 19 at the time, to open up about her feelings and share her internal monologue, pain, emotions, and thoughts with the world. The album touched on some deeply personal subjects— like privacy issues and identity crises that come with fame—to more common themes of love and heartbreak.
Basically, we’re still listening to Speak almost 14 years after its release. Let’s analyze it track-by-track to remind you of why.
Lindsay’s album opens with the meta-titled “First,” a track that explores themes of jealousy—something we’ve all experienced in a relationship, whether we like to admit it or not—and so has Lindsay, because, after all, we’re all only human. Lindsay’s admittance of it is honest and straightforward, and sets the tone for the rest of the album, which bares a lot of more her life than she had previously chosen to expose to the media. Music, I think, is funny like that—while several of Lindsay’s songs on Speak deal with privacy issues and the need to be hidden away, she opens up more in “First” than in any of her interviews.
2. Nobody ‘Til You
On the second song on the album, Lindsay talks about a real love; “‘Til you,” she sings, “I was nothing but lonely nights/There was nothing but sad goodbyes.” As far as lyrics go, these are highly relatable—and they only became more relatable as I got older. As a kid, I didn’t know or believe in love like this; in love that could run this deep. The person doesn’t really matter in this context—it’s the message that’s important. Lindsay had clearly not been in such intense love before this, and a first love always hits the hardest.
3. Symptoms Of You
Have you ever loved someone so much it made you feel sick? Deliriously in love, like a fever? “Symptoms of You” takes the term “lovesick” seriously. Several of Lindsay’s songs on this album deal with this type of love—intense, like a stronghold, a chokehold, almost—and it’s important to note how in “Symptoms of You,” and later in “Disconnected,” Lindsay relies on poetry to help tell her story. Both songs talk about how she feels about the person in question, and both use oxymorons to describe what would otherwise be an indescribable feeling (“There’s a good kind of pain/ An insane kind of sane/ When I’m around you”).
The album’s title track stands alone. “Speak” has some of the best production on the album, TBH. It’s a bop, straight up. “Speak” encourages the listener to open up about their thoughts, feelings, and dreams; not necessarily to Lindsay, who would likely not be in your contact list, but generally. With what she had been going through before and at the time of its release, it’s no coincidence that Lindsay named the album after this track. She used the album and her music as a way to release her thoughts—her singing voice was a megaphone for her inner monologues. This may be my absolute favourite song on the album, with the exception of the criminally underrated “Magnet.”
I find that most songs called “Over” are really, really, really good. I mean, this is phenomenal, and the latest “Over” I enjoyed, by Syd featuring 6LACK, is also an unreal track. As of right now, these are my only two examples, but I know there’s more. There has to be.
“Over” is one of the best songs on the album, and it talked about, obviously, the end of a relationship. While Lindsay acknowledges that she can’t “live” or “breathe” without the person leaving her, in the beginning of the song, she says that she is watching the walls around her crumble, “but it’s not like [she] won’t build them up again.” Even though the relationship has ended, she knows she’ll come out of it stronger than ever.
6. Something I Never Had
A very well-written and painful breakup song, “Something I Never Had” echoes the distress and hurt of “Over.” If you’ve been following along with Speak‘s tracklisting, you’ll notice that Lindsay goes from taking ownership of her personality, emotions, and jealousy (“First”), to falling in deep, passionate first love, to falling out of love and dealing with rejection and heartbreak. In the latter half of the album, Lindsay discusses, at length, how tired she is of the media and paparazzi invading her privacy.
“Something I Never Had” is one of two heartbreak-oriented songs, and like “Over,” it also touches on the theme of acceptance of the ending of a relationship and the beginning of something new. In “Over,” Lindsay leaves the song saying that she will be able to rebuild herself; in “Something I Never Had,” perhaps she’s started on that journey, but is finding it excruciatingly painful. Ultimately, however, Lindsay realizes that she can’t hold on to something that she never had or wasn’t meant to be.
7. Anything But Me
“Anything But Me” is one of the best tracks on the album and really wasn’t paid enough attention as a standout. Delving into Lindsay’s identity struggle since becoming a huge celebrity at a very, very young age, “Anything But Me” is Lindsay’s lament to her old self. “The girl that I used to be,” Lindsay sings, “is somewhere buried deep,” and no matter how hard Lindsay tries to reconnect to her old self, she’s still struggling to find her. Some of the most poignant lyrics from the album appear on “Anything But Me,” specifically these: “And it’s so hard to live a dream/ When everything they want you to be/ Is anything but me.” Clearly, Lindsay is going through some severe internal confusion and distress, and, going back to what I said about “First,” is finally able to properly express it here, through song.
A whole song full of poetic oxymorons, “Disconnected” touches on the ongoing identity issues Lohan referenced in the previous track. In “Disconnected,” Lindsay further alludes to losing touch with reality (“I just wanna live my life sedated/ ‘Cause I love driving myself away”)—while this track is an intense bop, it’s also a pretty strong statement about teenage stardom, and ties in nicely with the anti-paparazzi tracks that close off the album.
9. To Know Your Name
“To Know Your Name” discusses Lindsay’s desire for privacy. When Speak came out, she was only recently 19, and had already been in the spotlight for what felt like forever. As she got older, the pressure to maintain a perfect image mounted and grew, and so did the paparazzi’s constant coverage of her. This isn’t the only song on the album that discusses fame from a critical perspective—the classic “Rumors” also has Lindsay begging to be left alone.
10. Very Last Moment In Time
“Very Last Moment In Time” is a touching, emotional song about ongoing unconditional love. Lindsay’s lyrics discuss loving someone until the very last moment in time. A continuation, perhaps, of “Nobody Till You.” Once again, WHO the song is about doesn’t really matter—both of these songs are highly relatable, loving, and touching. Speak came out in December 2004, and Ashlee Simpson’s debut album, Autobiography, was released in July of the same year. While both of these amazing women were massive influences on me in my preteen and teenage years, it benefits to mention the interesting comparisons between both albums—while both Ashlee and Lindsay stylized their covers to look quite punk rock and edgy (Lindsay a little more liberal with the pink, of course), some of Ashlee’s songs from Autobiography dealt with annoying-as-fuck boyfriends, while much of Lindsay’s music encouraged a softer, more gooey, and intimate love.
This immediately became my favourite song on the album, and it still is—it’s just such a bop! The upbeat, self-critical track is an excellent standout piece that talks in an almost self-deprecating tone: “I don’t know whether I should hate it or should like it,” Lindsay sings about her conflicting feelings before describing her attempts to leave a person that she knows is no good for her. But like a moth to a flame, Lindsay is too drawn to them to leave. “You’re like a magnet,” she says, and that’s what makes this song so relatable; she simply doesn’t know if she should move forward with her life or follow her heart and body to be with someone she’s clearly uncertain about. I know that I have definitely been in not-so-great quasi-relationships with girls I knew I should stay away from, but honestly, truly couldn’t; every time she’d call me, I’d run to the phone, and any time she said she wanted to hang out, I was there, diligently waiting.
Yes, this was the song that started her music career, but it also contributed to an interesting discussion: this is the second song on the album that talks about her lack of privacy as a celebrity, and it’s a sentiment that was already spoken about and continues to be echoed by celebrities around the world—from Bieber to Eminem. When the song came out, Lindsay was tired of the paparazzi following her around and all the media backlash that surrounded her. “Rumors” took the world by storm; with its hard-hitting, infectious beat and karaoke-friendly lyrics, Lindsay made magic when she made this—and firmly left her mark on the music world as a result. Closing the album with “Rumors” was a brilliant idea, certainly no amateur move. Defiant, powerful, and raw, “Rumors” tells the media, in no uncertain terms, to Leave. Lindsay. Alone.