I remember the first time I heard a snippet of Leith Ross’ “We’ll Never Have Sex” — it was unpolished, it was unfinished, but it was utterly gripping in all of its raw emotion and simplicity. Like 7.5 million other TikTok users, I found Ross’ near-whisper voice and methodical guitar playing utterly captivating; it was like pure poetry in sound. The one-minute-15-second video features Ross just barely peeking over the body of their Waterloo acoustic, singing some of the most heartbreaking and striking lyrics I had ever heard — I was so bewitched that I downloaded the snippet into my phone library for fear that I would lose it to endless scrolling.
“We’ll Never Have Sex” is so universally understood — it spins a story of grief and resignation, but also promises a whisper of light at the end of the tunnel. Each note plucked out on Ross’ acoustic guitar reaches deep into the heart, chasing away shadows and healing what once was broken. “We’ll Never Have Sex” managed to tell my own story better than any words I could have dreamt up — feeling deeply for someone who dilutes your worst parts, making you better and kinder than you could have ever been on your own; never pushing, never pressing, and always loving without expectation. Leith’s song became equal parts me and a girl I was madly in love with — fragments of all of us bleeding into one another, both begging to be loved and not knowing how. Lyrics teeming with hushed intimacy detailed everything that I wanted — to be given permission to love someone who wasn’t sure that I was what they needed. Honeyed-sweetness and light mix with the murkiness of grief and heartbreak in a moment of poignant humanity.
“We’ll Never Have Sex” is a song about love for the sake of love, a quietness within the heart that could be overlooked if it didn’t burn so brightly. That truth and rawness carry into the finished studio recording; it still holds all of that hypnotic lightning-in-a-bottle quality that it had upon first listen. The ambiguity of the lyrics and the poeticism of the storytelling allows listeners of all kinds to find healing from the melancholia of love and loss.
Even after all this time, “We’ll Never Have Sex” hurts in all the best ways — and perhaps listening to this threatens to send me spiraling back into the pits of heartbreak. But no matter how it aches, such a deep exploration into the heart is worth the pain of listening.
Daily Arts Writer Claire Sudol can be reached at email@example.com.