Reflecting Reality on Nessa Barrett’s Diary-Entry-Style Debut

Nessa Barrett: Earth angel, showstopper, and slayer of full-length albums.

“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” This is a quote that many know and love, sharing meaning to what life is like and the way one reflects on how they carry themselves through it. After listening to the brand new debut record from Nessa Barrett, we cannot help but think that life is about the destination. The destination is not the end game, the be-all-end-all of who we are. The destination can be survival. The destination can be internal peace. The destination can be finding one’s self in art – as Nessa Barrett very clearly did here. 

It is the journey that brought us to now, to young forever, that is imperative to wholeheartedly absorbing the soundscapes and narratives at hand. Sure, the beauty in the twinkling instrumentation can (and will) bring you to your knees right alongside the sweet, borderline sultry serenity of Barrett’s voice (which becomes more powerful with every new release), but the gravity of these fizzing, feeling-filled tunes will be missed. Hardships, conflict, and struggles that have swirled around the young singer-songwriter are the building blocks of this album – the outcome that we are immersing ourselves into today. It’s intimate and stunning.

Listening to these songs is a magical, transcendent experience. Baby soft vocals are laid expertly over atmospheric musicality, allowing listeners of any age to feel comforted and fulfilled. Even if you can’t relate to the feeling of being trapped or pigeon-holed as drum-heavy “tired of california” expresses, Barrett can still remind us of our fragile hearts, minds, and souls. We cannot diminish the power of every minuscule moment in our lives because it makes us who we are and shapes every new memory we work to craft – “forgive the world” highlights this. Reliving negativity is rarely beneficial, but turning it into something to learn from and express yourself through is imperative to our growth as human beings… and Nessa Barrett is human, whether the internet wants to believe it or not. Just take one listen to “dear god” or “unnecessary violence” and you’ll see that she’s on fire, she’s burning, she’s effervescent and a star, and yet she is real. 

Everything Barrett has felt before and been part of pours wistfully out of her to create the alternative pop perfection that is young forever. This is the destination: this record, and it is just as important as the journey to get to it. Nothing is overlooked and nothing is off the table and nothing is forgotten. Single release “die first” picked up traction because of its understated groove and melancholy reality. As people, though, we work to keep moving forward, but need to take what is behind us to create something new and beautiful and hopeful for the future. As listeners, we are able to grasp this and recognize reality through Barrett in a way that is equally heart-wrenching as it is elegant. With notes of Billie Eilish, Dove Cameron, MARINA, and Mitski, this is the ever-evolving Nessa aesthetic.

By focusing on the bite-size, tolerable emotions that the record gives to us, we are not only able to digest it, but find ourselves in the airy artistry and dynamic storytelling. The slick back beats and sleek production elevates the rawness that Barrett gives off in a mesmerizing, vulnerable way. It’s the music of a generation, “too hot to cry” is a perfect example, and it is something to behold; especially for such a cohesive package. Still, standouts with this in mind are the aforementioned “die first” and “dear god,” but also the unfortunate warmth of “lovebomb” and the unfortunate truth of “gaslight.”

In just 35 minutes, the LA-by-way-of-NJ musician creates balance: a balance between where she comes from and where she’s going, a balance between soul-crushing contemplation and eye-opening dreams, a balance between dark and light, and a balance between the journey and the destination. What we have learned is that the perfectly imperfect human that is the moody and angel-toned singer can (and will) work to prove her worth as an artist and a human. It will turn into something vibey and comforting. You just have to give Barrett the time to reflect, a safe and creative space to work, and a microphone. Her heart is already on her sleeve to share with the world.