Photo: Hunter Moreno
By no means is coming-of-age easy, a fact made all the more salient when the world's eyes are firmly trained on you, criticizing your every movement and word. Such is the case of Nessa Barrett, the 19-year-old emo-pop wunderkind and TikTok star. Rising to fame in the span of a couple of short years, Nessa is no stranger to the joys and pains of a distinctly modern youth, and it is this unique yet universal set of experiences that defines her debut EP, pretty poison.
pretty poison sees Nessa at her most raw and vulnerable, tackling themes relating to mental health, self-harm, the façade of fame, and more with a fearless passion. The opening and titular track wastes no time in addressing the subject on everyone's mind, as Nessa details the toxicity of a life lived online in a moment that calls to mind a reality where an alternative Billie Eilish was let to run free at Warped Tour. "Nearly every morning that I cry / Waking up to words to throwing knives / … You couldn't hate me more than I hate myself," confesses the viral star and growing pop phenom.
Such flashes on painful honesty are a regular occurrence on pretty poison, yet they never feel overwrought or merely dangled forth as bait for easy pity. Often juxtaposing these instances of vulnerability are resounding moments of intoxicating audaciousness, like on the effortlessly confident "scare myself" and the viral hit single "i hope ur miserable until ur dead." The latter in particular serves as a standout moment for Nessa and her infectious amalgamation of biting emo-pop lyrics and cathartic punk-pop instrumentation.
As Nessa closes things out on the short and bittersweet "sincerely," she seems to emerge as a new person, one who has truly found some form of happiness in spite of it all. That is not to say her scars have magically disappeared or the reality of strangers online prescribing a narrative to a teenager they've never met will suddenly come to a halt, but the one finally in control is Nessa.
Listen to pretty poison below: