Tessa Violet’s ‘Bad Ideas’ showcases surprising depth

With fantastic lyricism and production, Tessa Violet's new album pushes the boundaries of pop music

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Tessa Violet’s ‘Bad Ideas’ showcases surprising depth

Tessa Violet establishes a distinct musical style and aesthetic with her new album

Tessa Violet establishes a distinct musical style and aesthetic with her new album "Bad Ideas."

2018 TAG Music

Tessa Violet establishes a distinct musical style and aesthetic with her new album "Bad Ideas."

2018 TAG Music

2018 TAG Music

Tessa Violet establishes a distinct musical style and aesthetic with her new album "Bad Ideas."

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The chorus to Tessa Violet’s “Crush” has been ringing in my ears since I first heard it last year. The song, with its catchy melody, upbeat tempo, and relatable lyrics, instantly garnered the attention of many, including myself. It’s been over a year since that song was released, and she has finally dropped the album “Bad Ideas” to accompany it. 

Violet has been releasing music since 2013, and debuted her first album, “Maybe Trapped Mostly Troubled,” in 2014. The album got little media attention at the time, and it would not be until 2018 with “Crush” that she would have her first breakout hit.

I’d like to first clarify that I have not heard her debut album and that I have only been exposed to her discography after “Crush.” 

The new album, “Bad Ideas,” moves quickly at a half-hour runtime, which brings me to one of my few complaints about the album: it’s just too short. There are only 11 tracks, including a prelude. This leaves only 10 full songs, including the four singles that were released in advance.

On top of that, the amount of time she spent dropping each single spanned as long as seven months — from title track “Bad Ideas” last fall to “I Like (the idea of) You” this spring — which also inhibited my excitement. I almost forgot that the album was being released until earlier this week. 

However, this didn’t stop me from being able to enjoy the album to the fullest when it came around. Each song was a treat in itself and I loved every minute. 

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Quality over quantity, right? 

I appreciate how, in only 32 minutes and 39 seconds, she cultivated a distinct musical style. I was instantly able to get a glimpse of who she is as an artist, even if I was unfamiliar with her previous work.

Usually, when a singer has a hit song such as “Crush,” they follow with an album that tries to remake that particular song’s success. However, Violet does not tread down the same path.

The album subverted my expectations, and it was refreshing to listen to as a result. She settles comfortably into her own voice and sings with confidence. 

I’m interested to see how she will evolve musically beyond this point. It’s safe to say that I will definitely be looking out for her future releases, and I’ll be searching for “Maybe Trapped Mostly Troubled,” wherever I can find it. 

There were a few tracks in particular that stood out to me, one example being “Games.” It was released as the fourth official single in September, but I hadn’t heard it until now. As soon as the song was finished, I struggled to keep myself from playing it over and over again before listening to the rest of the album.

Production-wise, the first chorus is light, while the second takes it to the next level; by the end of the track, the instrumental reaches a satisfactory conclusion. The vocals, lyrics, and production all come together to form a perfect pop song. 

“I hate the way you break, and you take, and you tear me down / Boy, you really ought to knock it off right now,” she sings. 

I found myself bopping my head along to the track without realizing it.

“Bored” was another song that was love-at-first-listen. The triumphant horns and Violet’s animated voice contrast deeply against the song’s message, but they elevate the track to the rest of the album. 

“I’m so bored, I’m exhausted by my heart / I’d feel good if I could finish what I start,” she sings. 

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With the exception of “Bored,” the second half of the album after “Games” takes a more mellow route. Violet chooses to opt for more minimalistic choruses in songs such as “Feelings” and “Wishful Drinking,” which ultimately work in the songs’ favor.

Although I liked quieter tracks such as these, they definitely work better in the context of the album rather than alone.

Melodically, this album is stellar and achieves what all pop artists attempt to do: put some chords together and make the most infectious choruses possible. Oh, and write a couple of verses to boot.

Although the album plays off of this pop formula, each song comes out sounding entirely unique. Despite it being such a short record, Violet still manages to tell a complete story.

Another favorite of mine, “Honest,” provides the album with both lyrical complexity and emotional profundity. 

“I try and hide from what’s inside you / you can run but you can’t hide / oh, where would I go / where would you go?” she sings. 

In this song, Violet battles with her imperfections. The verses illustrate her self-consciousness, while the chorus sees her admit to herself that she’s not “doing well.” The bridge affirms that she’s “okay,” or at least she will be soon.

“Wishful Drinking” also deals with dark subject matter in an equally mature manner. 

“Wishful drinking / Tell myself that I’m not thinking / about how I could drown,” she sings. 

Pop music is certainly heading in a darker direction and this album encapsulates that transition.

The album ends on a somber note with “Interlude III.” Like “Wishful Drinking,” it also offers a surprising amount of depth for what I had initially pegged as a typical pop album. 

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“God, I want a piece of something new / something I can hold / all I know is holding back won’t help me learn to let it go,” she sings. 

Compared to songs such as “Crush” earlier in the album, which sounded like they were written by a hopeless romantic, this seems like a 180-turn. Although it works, it still feels abrupt, as the album leaves it major conflict unresolved. 

“I woke up today / no one, no one really knows me / don’t know what to say / all I know is that I’m lonely,” she concludes. 

Whether you’re a regular pop music fan or just a casual listener, I would recommend this album to you. It encapsulates a wide variety of themes that I would say make it one of the best albums of the year. I expect to be hearing more about Tessa Violet in the future, and I’m not complaining.

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