What’s Up With “Espresso,” a Mysterious New Song Shared by Maren Morris?

Shortly after this article was published, “Espresso” was removed from Apple Music. However, the song remains on YouTube.

Maren Morris has been something of a chameleon since emerging in 2016 with the R&B-tinged country of her major-label debut, Hero. The Arlington-born star veered into full-on dance-pop in 2018 with the single “The Middle,” a collaboration with producer Zedd and electronic music duo Grey, then brought that sound back with her to Nashville by inflecting her sophomore album, Girl, with a pop-country vibe in 2019. Later that year, she went rootsy, teaming up with Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, and Amanda Shires for the Americana supergroup the Highwomen. As most of the world was emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, she filtered a strong country aesthetic through a nineties Lilith Fair lens, channeling Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette on her third album, Humble Quest. When it comes to self-reinvention, if she’s not quite David Bowie, she’s proven uninterested in fitting into a single box as an artist.

Still, when a mysterious new single popped up online under her name over the weekend, it was a bit of a shock: inexplicably titled “Espresso,” the new song sounds unlike anything Morris has ever released before. Dropping into the world without so much as a press release, the record art features a woman with green hair who looks nothing like Morris, the word “GIRL” appearing in a bold, sans serif font emblazoned over her body. It’s full of orchestral sounds and soaring, Florence Welch–esque vocals, with high drama drums and a whole friggin’ choir.

Take a listen below, and then let’s get into the questions.

Question 1: Is this really Maren Morris? 

To be clear: the song was posted to Maren Morris’s YouTube channel and appears on her page on Apple Music and Tidal. (It’s not on Spotify, but it’s not unheard of for official releases to appear on one streamer before another.) If it’s not Morris, somebody screwed up somewhere along the way. But given how much of a deviation this is from Morris’s existing body of work—even by the standards of someone who seems to enjoy reinventing herself frequently—it’s worth double-checking.

We reached out to both Morris’s label and her publicist on Monday morning to confirm Morris released the song, but we did not receive a response by publication. If this is a new direction Morris is embarking on with the intention of building intrigue around a spooky sound, we wouldn’t expect one anytime soon. On the other hand, if it was a mistake or a metadata error—say whoever was responsible for inputting the artist information on the track had an auto-complete mix-up that populated Morris’s name on another artist’s song—the issue has gone uncorrected for more than 24 hours, which is an eternity in PR time.

Question 2: Why is the song called “Espresso”? 

One of the more ubiquitous singles of the summer is Sabrina Carpenter’s “Espresso,” a pleasantly poppy bop about how the singer, like a caffeinated beverage, keeps a smitten fella up all night thinking about her. Cute! Releasing a song by the same name while that one is still near the top of the charts would be a curious choice. But it’s even weirder, because the song published on Morris’s channel has more of an ethereal, Gothic feel than a “drinking coffee and staying up late” vibe.

The “Espresso” that bears Morris’s name should be called something like “Arwen’s Lament” or “The Siege of New Phyrexia.” It should play over a movie trailer in which an army in chain mail charges up a hill swinging swords over their heads to take on a regiment of goblins. It sounds more like something out of Game of Thrones than the actual song Morris recorded for the official Game of Thrones–inspired album.

Question 3: Just what is Maren Morris up to? 

The last single Morris announced and personally promoted was a cover, released in February, of Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself.” It’s good! She slows it down and finds a little more sadness than Idol put in the original. The track also fits in with what we know Morris does musically—it’s got a specific viewpoint but is a mainstream pop song that makes sense on first listen.

Morris is on tour at the moment; on Saturday, in Phoenix, she celebrated Pride during a performance, waving a rainbow flag around onstage before sharing on Instagram, “happy to be the B in LGBTQ+” in a caption for a carousel of photos. The singer, who also finalized a divorce from ex-husband Ryan Hurd earlier this year, played a 21-song set that included “Dancing With Myself,” a bunch of songs from her first three albums, and a new, still-unreleased track called “Cut” that she debuted in San Francisco at the end of May. That one sounds like a typical Maren Morris song. She did not play “Espresso.” Is it because it’s not her song and somebody screwed up, and then everyone at her label fell asleep for 24 hours? Or is it just because she didn’t have a full orchestra and Gothic choir to back her up and really deliver the drama of “Espresso”? We can guess which answer is correct, but absent confirmation from Morris’s label, we just don’t know for sure. If Morris is the artist behind “Espresso,” all bets are off when it comes to her next album. It could be a weird, Tori Amos–like thing. It could be operatic doom metal. It could feature a duet with Travis Scott. If this is where she’s going, anything is on the table.

Update: Running the artwork for “Espresso” through a reverse image search turns up a large number of other songs with different titles, and in different genres, attributed to other artists. While it’s unclear what trick the creator of these tracks used to get “Espresso” placed on Morris’s pages, or what purpose any of this serves, at the very least, we feel confident that Maren Morris has nothing to do with this. When we checked to see if “Espresso” was AI generated by uploading a portion of the song through Ircam Amplify’s AI music detector, it found that the track likely was created by AI, returning a ninety percent confidence interval.

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