The news of Cady Groves’ death at the age of 30 is particularly devastating to anyone who had followed the singer-songwriter since the start of her career at the beginning of the 2010s. After originally carving out a niche in the pop landscape with a biting sense of humor and an understanding of radio-ready melodies, the Oklahoma native soon developed as a songwriter, releasing an impressive string of singles and the excellent 2015 EP, Dreams.
Groves had to fight for her music career — after a troubled childhood, she scored a dream contract with RCA Records, only to have that major label deal fizzle out a few years later — but that tenacity was what helped endear her voice to her many fans, and what informed her later music. Though Dreams is to date her last official release, according to a statement from her label, Vel Records, Groves was still actively working on music and had prepped a new EP for a summer release.
“I don’t want to do anything else,” Groves said of making music to Billboard in a 2014 profile after leaving RCA. “At least it’s taking another step toward what I want instead of giving up. I’m trying again.”
While Groves’ discography is filled with gems, these five songs best nod to the ideas and personality that the singer-songwriter channeled into her work. On the heartbreaking occasion of her passing, revisit Cady Groves’ five standout tracks.
“This Little Girl” (2011)
Groves’ major label breakthrough resulted from the singer-songwriter signing to RCA Records, moving to California, becoming romantically involved with a producer, and finding out that that producer was married. “This Little Girl” features the same seething anger as Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” although Groves was furious enough to imagine more than keying a car: “This little girl is capable of murder, ‘cause you hurt her,” goes the chorus.
“Love Actually” (2012)
At a moment in mainstream music which artists like Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift were serving up major hooks on the regular, Groves unveiled a wallop of her own with “Love Actually,” a maximalist pop showcase. Helmed by Swedish producer Kristian Lundin (*NSYNC, Celine Dion), the tale of starry-eyed romance conserves its energy for its chorus, and then explodes into a large-hearted sing-along.
“Forget You” (2013)
Groves followed “Love Actually” with the single “Forget You,” which followed a similar formula as its predecessor but offered more mature, fleshed-out songwriting. The euphoric romance of the refrain remains in place, but the details of the verses here (“This is our bedtime story that we’re gonna tell our kids/ And I’ll watch you fall asleep, while holdin’ all three, but until then/ I won’t forget you,” Groves sings) prove more notable and even touching.
“Crying Game” (2015)
“Crying Game” is a painful story, and expert storytelling: Groves wrote with an unflinching honesty about two of her older brothers passing away, visiting her father in prison, and the unexpected bonds that she formed with her remaining family members as a result of all of it. The message of the country-pop song’s coda — “Life is fragile and can slip away/ And let me tell you when it does it’s such a shame” — sounds even more poignant today.
“Oil and Water” (2015)
“Oil and Water” represents the culmination of Groves’ world-building in her songwriting, a carefully crafted story about a man and a woman attracted toward each other even as they each restlessly try to pull away. With its heavier drums, subtle piano flourishes and especially the echoing harmonies on the post-chorus, “Oil and Water” demonstrated Groves’ personal growth as an artist over a compressed period of time — it’s arguably the most accomplished track of her career, and closes out her final EP on a triumphant note.