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On December 3, 2021, Joshua Bassett released a trilogy of new songs. A lot of people are speculating who and what these songs are about. The rumor spiraling? This new release is Basset’s response to the recent media attention he has been receiving within the past year. 

If his name sounds familiar to you, you may know him from Disney+’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series or the other half of the widely discussed relationship between his co-star from the same show, Olivia Rodrigo. 

Rodrigo has become a household name after releasing her debut album SOUR in May of 2021. Admit it, at least one of her songs made your Spotify Wrapped Top 5. If you need a refresher, many songs in SOUR were rumored to be about Rodrigo’s relationship with Bassett. However, there is no confirmation about either which has created more assumptions.

As for how the two of them are doing, they have kept their lives relatively separate, at least online, as they both still keep their professionalism while working on HSMTMTS. 

Their relationship, which was never confirmed, has taken flight in the public and everyone is eager to hear what Bassett has to say about it. 

His first of the three singles from the new EP is called “Crisis”. It details how Bassett and his record label took advantage of all the media attention in the wake of “Drivers License”. Rodrigo’s songs gave a lot of clues about the boy who broke her heart, most of them presumably leading to Bassett. This resulted in him receiving bullying, death threats, and a “cancel” movement among young teens on social media. He proved he wasn’t going to let a few silly rumors wreck his career, but instead build it. He’s also not going to let his pain from a breakup go unnoticed. Through his lyrics, Basset proved rumors were not going to wreck his career. He writes, “But don’t you dare act like I didn’t love you/Don’t go thinkin’ that I didn’t hurt too.” Later in the song he sings, “You’re messin’ with my life as a career move.” While it sounds like a direct jab, Bassett is taking a stance on his feelings and no longer staying silent on the matter.

His second single is called “Secret”. This one speculated rumors on Twitter and TikTok about Bassett’s relationship with actor and singer Sabrina Carpenter, as well as his fling with Rodrigo. The song quotes, “I really hope you had your fun, good for you foolin’ everyone”. This includes the line “good for you” which is the title of another one of Rodrigo’s hit singles. This song throws a lot of punches but I found myself more engrossed by the catchy tune. 

The last single in the release is called “Set Me Free”. At first glance, the lyrics may seem like a direct response to Rodrigo’s album and the rumors tied to it, but there is a much deeper meaning. Bassett sat down with GQ and came clear about his experience with sexual abuse. He wrote this song as a part of processing it, calling it an “anthem for me and the sort of people who’ve held pain and power over me my whole life.” 

Sure, it seems like a lot of what Bassett released has to be some sort of indirect response to Rodrigo. There are plenty of lyric parallels between Bassett’s new songs and Rodrigo’s SOUR. However, we must understand that both are songwriters. Their job in their songs is to portray a story, one that is biased to their own experiences. It doesn’t mean either is more true than the other but we can’t pick sides based on song lyrics. 

So then, what is it about these three singles? What is it about Joshua Bassett? These songs have a lot more story to tell than people may realize. They represent him standing up for himself, telling his truth, and putting out the feelings he regards as important. 

Joshua Bassett is more than the brown-haired, brown-eyed, heartbreaker we made him out to be after listening to “traitor” on repeat. He is part of the LGBTQ+ community and an advocate for those who are hesitant about their coming out journey. He is an advocate for mental health and has been open about his own health after being hospitalized earlier this year. He even raised over $13,000 for mental health organizations that fans could choose from, by donating $1 for every pre-save of his new singles. 

Instead of arguing about who broke up with who or who should take the blame, we should praise Bassett like we praised Rodrigo. With SOUR, she showed us all how it felt to feel hurt and every listener found something to relate to within the album. Bassett is honestly a breath of fresh air in the broad spectrum of men in the music industry and isn’t talked about enough. He’s giving a little bit of Billy Joel and Harry Styles, which is both the best and strangest duo I’ve ever pictured. He’s not afraid to share feelings, be masculine and rock a feminine style, and be a voice to encourage the younger generations to talk taboo. His lyrics are also heartfelt and true to him, which is all they’ll ever need to be. He doesn’t owe us an answer to his personal life at all. But he’s giving us a glimpse into his thoughts with these songs. 

There is a hazy line between music and life. We can each take our opinions and use that to channel our support for artists. It’s fun to read about and be invested in celebrity drama. However, it takes maturing to stop ourselves from picking sides, commenting “gaslighter”, or claiming who is the better songwriter on TikTok posts. So stream “Crisis,” “Secret” and “Set Me Free.” And stream SOUR. Their personal lives and drama shouldn’t hinder us from enjoying music from one talented artist to another. 

Annabel Park

Rutgers '25

Annabel is a sophomore at Rutgers University majoring in Marketing and minoring in Health Administration. Besides writing, she enjoys baking, going to the gym, Harry Styles, and walking around NYC hoping to run into celebrities! IG: @annabelpark3