Review of Nessa Barrett’s debut album, “young forever”
By: Kristine Pascual
Nessa Barrett’s debut album, “young forever,” encompasses a wide range of themes including young love, death, fame and religion. On the album’s cover, the TikTok star turned pop star is pictured with fairy-like angel wings and is surrounded by a glowy white haze. Sitting in a field of grass, Barrett looks mythical and ethereal, reflective of her enchanting voice. Her album is experimental, with songs teetering between alternative rock, emo and pop. Her lyrics are angsty and emotional, making for an album that’s more like a musical diary.
Track one: “tired of california”
The opening track of Barrett’s album is an upbeat start. Barrett sings of her experiences living in LA, the toxicity and fakeness of the environment and the people living in it. Her opinion on LA culture is nothing new, with many other songs hovering over the theme of LA being a fantasy land, rather than a city of reality. She compares LA’s lack of rain to the amount of realness in the area, which is little to none.
She sings, “I keep saying that I’m leaving, but it doesn’t work that way.” Possibly an ode to the Eagles’ hit song, “Hotel California,” which is another track that delves into the dark, nasty reality of LA, Barrett too feels as if she can never leave.
Like many other influencers, Barrett did not originate from LA. She actually grew up in New Jersey, on the other side of the U.S., so she probably experienced culture shock. In an interview with Billboard, she said that though living in LA has provided her with many career opportunities, she feels trapped. The track is catchy and upbeat, and those who live in the city know the ongoing struggle of losing your identity in the artificiality of LA.
Track two: “gaslight”
In “gaslight,” Barrett opens up about being gaslighted by a former partner as she slowly figures out that he is cheating on her. She explains what it is to be gaslighted, something that more and more people are experiencing in toxic relationships.
Despite her partner reassuring her that everything is OK, Barrett knows better, singing, “Caught in a lie / I can tell by the look in your eyes.” Right off the bat, she mentions signs of a lying partner, including avoidance of eye contact.
This gaslighting leads to Barrett questioning herself, asking, “Why am I jealous if I’m yours? / Why do you make me insecure?” Despite being with this person, Barrett feels as if he is focusing his attention on every other girl but her. As Barrett is increasingly gaslighted, she feels more and more like she is going crazy, second guessing what she knows to be true.
Track three: “talk to myself”
“talk to myself” has a stronger beginning compared to preceding tracks. Background electric guitar builds up in the chorus to create a true rock sound. In this track, Barrett opens up about her struggles with self-deprecation. In her head, she struggles with negative thoughts about herself, fueled by the hurt she causes herself.
“If you talked to me like I talk to myself / I’d give you the finger, I’d say, ‘Go to hell,’” she sings, revealing how hard she is on herself. The tune is upbeat and happy, contrasting with the sadness of her words.
Track five: “dear god”
One of the slower tracks on the album, Barrett writes this song in the form of a letter to God.
She expresses how she’s experienced so much mental and physical anguish, telling God, “I’ve taken more than my share of pain.” She pleads for Him to listen to her, but feels unworthy because it seems as if God is choosing not to answer her prayers.
The chorus is: “Angel wings / Sewed on to my back with black ribbon / I know You know it hurts my skin / I was just trying to get into Heaven / I’ve been dying to fit in.” Angel wings represent innocence, purity and goodness. They’re also a nod to the album cover. Typically white, Barrett juxtaposes them with black ribbon, possibly a symbol of false inclination of goodness. She tries her best to fit in and to be good, but having to sew on angel wings is fake enough.
This track delves into themes of innocence and religion, something different than the other tracks. It feels a little creepy, mysterious and dark.
Track seven: “too hot to cry”
In “too hot to cry,” Barrett sings with confidence. The tune opens with piano, giving off a dark academia vibe. It sounds upbeat but also feels grunge and grotesque, similar to how Barrett physically presents herself. She feels trapped by her partner, as if they are controlling her every move and decision. Yet, she is also aware that no one is in charge of her but herself.
“Sometimes it’s hard to tell / Am I a mess or just a mess with you?” Barrett sings, referring to the confusion she experiences with her toxic partner. She cannot decipher whether she herself is a mess or if it is her relationship to blame. In a toxic relationship, it becomes difficult to see things clearly.
Track 12: “die first”
This is certainly the catchiest and most popular song on the album. It sounds like a classic pop hit that you would hear on the radio, or in this case TikTok, nowadays. The lyrics are honest, sincere and sweet. The song was released just a few weeks after the passing of one of Barrett’s good friends, Cooper Noriega.
After his passing, Barrett said that this song became much more meaningful to her; in fact, Noriega told Barrett that this was his favorite song on the album.
She sings, “But if one of us dies / I hope I die first / ‘Cause I don’t wanna live without you.” According to GENIUS, these lyrics reference Barrett wanting to die before her mom, because living without her would be too painful.
Barrett takes influence from Y2K rock bands and singers like Avril Lavigne. The lyrics behind this album sound like they were written by a teenager, for teenagers, which may have been the goal. It is no surprise that Barrett’s music is catchy, but it’s not monumental. Overall, this was an average album, with its content and sound being nothing out of the ordinary, but Barrett showcases potential to shine in future albums.