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Why Listening to Tessa Violet’s “Bad Ideas” is a Very Good Idea

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Utah chapter.

On October 25th, 2019, the world (and by the world, I mean my world) came to a screeching halt when Tessa Violet released her sophmore album, Bad Ideas. I had been patiently awaiting its release since she blessed the world with her single “Crush” (2018)—the first single from her new album. The glitchy pop anthem tells the story of an obsessive infatuation Tessa experienced with a boy at the end of 2017. This song was my first encounter with the pop artist. Separate from the album, “Crush” exudes nervous flutters that showcase the excitement that accompanies a new love interest. In the context of Violet’s album however, the innocence of the single is lost as Tessa weaves together a narrative of unhealthy behavior, mental discomfort, and vulnerability.

Bad Ideas is reminiscent of Lorde’s Melodrama, a pop album that offers listeners a glimpse into what makes good pop: fresh, syncopated beats and lyrics that cut deep. The similarities are not surprising, as Tessa has mentioned on several occasions that Lorde and Jack Antonoff (Melodrama’s co-writer and pop producing legend) are huge musical inspirations. Rhythmic syncopation carries the album as Tessa lyrically divulges it all. The subject matter—raw and painful—had me deep in my feelings, while the production—electric and engaging—had me dancing around my room, full sweat. 

The album kicks off with the lyrics, “I’m insecure/of that I’m sure,” (Prelude) accompanied by a gentle acoustic guitar and Tessa’s small, sweet vocals that set the tone for the rest of the album. Bad Ideas is brutally honest and vulnerable, leaving little room for a sense of security. This anxiety manifests in “Bad Ideas,” (the title track of the album) and “I Like (the idea) of You,” as Tessa grapples with the complex balancing act that is relationships. Tessa admitted these songs are “two halves of the same coin” providing different perspectives to the same story, both ultimately concluding that the bad ideas were, in fact, bad ideas. 

This back and forth relationship comes crashing down in “Games,” as the tone shifts from lighthearted synth-pop to a heavier, more mature track that highlights the manipulation and dysfunction tainting a once exciting connection. This song builds effortlessly, using a bright electric guitar to set the pace and keep listeners interest while Tessa paints a picture of resentment and anger. You feel Tessa struggle, fighting with denial and what seems like a classic case of gaslighting, with lyrics like, “I’ve been telling everyone I’m fine/but I feel like I’ve lost my mind/am I the only one?” She captures the feeling of being manipulated, the excruciating insanity of it all, shifting the narrative and altering the trajectory of the album.

The latter half of the album is a more complex, inner battle happening inside Tessa’s mind, mirrored loudly in the eleven-track album. You have songs like, “Words Ain’t Enough” (best listened to with a bottle of wine and tissues on hand), a no-frills, acoustic emotional bullet that drives straight into your heart, paired next to “Bored,” a track driven by a loud bass drum and a chorus of horns that accompany Tessa’s (relatable) screams echoing in the void. “Is this all there is?” repeats several times before the song’s abrupt, bitter end.  This seems purposeful; a juxtaposition of hard feelings given to listeners both lyrically and rhythmically, a consistent strategy utilized throughout most tracks. 

My favorite track off Bad Ideas is “Feelin” (followed by the other ten songs, they’re all exquisite) because it captures the overarching feeling of the album: that being a human who experiences human emotions is confusing and uncomfortable. This track is held together by conversational lyrics purposefully paired with syncopated beats that accentuate the pulsing feeling of uncertainty running through the veins of this album

Bad Ideas is a cohesive piece of art: each song feeding the other as Tessa moves her way through an array of emotions. She discusses addiction (Wishful Drinking), the harsh reality of self-reflection (Honest), and feeling stagnant and numb (Interlude III). Bad Ideas’ conclusion isn’t that of triumph and perseverance; instead, Tessa finishes her eleven-part story on a somber note. The closing lyrics, “I woke up today knowing no one really knows me/don’t know what to say all I know is that I’m lonely,” are resolute in their own way, as a new Tessa comes out the other side. Bad Ideas is a piece of pop art, bringing together intricate rhythmic synchronization and conversational lyrics that roll off the tongue. The album kept me on my toes with brilliant production and clever, intentional lyrics. Tessa is relatable and vulnerable, a pair that is often hard to come by, which is why I think it’s a good idea to give Bad Ideas a permanent spot in your music library.

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Rachael Jenkins is a junior at the University of Utah.
Her Campus Utah Chapter Contributor