Renforshort Encapsulates the Messiness of Youth

A soundtrack for teenage angst.

Dancing alone in your bedroom, you belt out lyrics dripping in angst, your body moving spontaneously to pop-punk guitar riffs. You feel the rage and euphoria and confusion of youth. You feel alive.

This is how it feels to listen to the honest, energy-laden, and distinctly Gen Z songs of renforshort (the moniker alludes to her real name, Lauren Isenberg). At 19, the Toronto-born singer and songwriter is creating music that plays like the personal diaries so familiar to adolescence. Her standout single “i drive me mad” details her experience with anxiety and the inescapability of self-deprecating thoughts. The track is the third off her 2020 debut EP, aptly titled teenage angst, which features songs she wrote between 17 and 18—though she had been making music privately for years before that.

“Fourteen was a fundamental age in music discovery for me,” she says. “I believe that is a similar case for most people. The music you find as a teen will stick with you forever and remain nostalgic and safe. I thought, why not talk about the things that aren’t talked about so much in mainstream pop, like mental health and body image? That way people at this age will feel heard.”

Indeed, listening to renforshort’s music feels nostalgic and yet modern. Her vulnerability reflects Gen Z’s open approach to discussing mental health, but her musical influences are an amalgamation of era and genre, with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Amy Winehouse, Lou Reed, Bon Iver, and Jake Bugg a few of her inspirations.

Renforshort’s successes have been piling up since the release of her first album, which went viral during the early days of the pandemic. She even found a fan in Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, who remixed “i drive me mad” and has become a mentor figure. “It was surreal working with Mike. He’s a genius and a legend,” she tells me, explaining how she first received a direct message from him while she was in her high-school English class. “We would talk on the phone, and Mike would give me tips on how to navigate the industry.”

Her second EP, off saint dominique, released in 2021, introduces a fuller, more developed sound, with grunge, punk, folk, and pop elements working in tandem. Retaining her honest approach, it journeys through the aches of unrequited love in “lust to love,” pandemic-induced claustrophobia in “virtual reality,” and the cathartic release of rage in “wannabe.”

Renforshort is poised to take over the music industry this year; her latest single “moshpit” is a harbinger of music to come. Back from a U.K. tour as the support for the pop-punk artist Yungblud, the singer is ready to keep making music that will be screamed right back at her.