‘pretty poison’ is an absolute masterpiece

Nessa Barrett releases chilling first EP


Warner Bros Music

The cover features a hand reaching out towards a bright pink poison vial | Photo Courtesy Warner Bros Music

Irene Tang and Abdullah Memon

Skyrocketing into early fame on TikTok in 2019, Nessa Barrett is no stranger to the public eye. Her sudden jump into the music industry began with her first debut single “Pain” in 2020, which showcased her unique voice and talent. She soon signed with music label Warner Music, whose artists dominate much of the industry, such as IU, Madonna and Ed Sheeran. In 2021, Barrett’s music career took off further with the release of “La Di Die” featuring Jaden Hossler, which appeared for 14 weeks on the U.S. Billboard charts, and has been performed on popular shows like The Ellen Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live. 

While many question the sudden shift of focus in her career, the 19 year old uses music as her artistic outlet to spotlight the many challenges and cyberbullying she faced through her quick rise to fame. Recently, Barrett opened up in a tweet about being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Barrett’s experience with cyberbullying and harassment has always been very public –– she was been a victim of cancel culture due to dancing disrespectfully to the Quran, as well being thrown into online drama with fellow TikTok stars. Her comment sections are often filled with hate, death threats, disturbing messages and public humiliation. Many have speculated this is the leading cause of her depression and disorder. Despite refusing to speak up and defend herself, Barrett soon announced that she would “tell everyone the truth” through her newest EP “pretty poison,” which was released on Sept. 10. 

“pretty poison”

“pretty poison” offers a slow but sinister theme, putting emphasis on her diction, a contrast to her previous works, which are often fast paced and mumbly. While most of her last three singles offer repetitive choruses and little to no individual verses, “pretty poison” seems to be Barrett’s personal poem, the careful but strongly written lyrics laden with spite. Barrett emphasizes strong emotions with loud beats and static-y ominous background chords, almost replicating organs playing in an abandoned church.

Graphic by Irene Tang | El Estoque

The title track opens with the lyrics: “I can tell you the real story, but I know you wouldn’t listen / I tried to tell you many times, but you always go and twist it.” 

Fans believe that these lyrics are directed towards Barrett’s ex-friend Madison Lewis, who “called out” Barrett for homewrecking relationships on a podcast that attracted millions of listens in less than a week. After its release, Barrett dealt with a huge amount of hate from the internet, many of her own friends even expressing their solidarity and support for Lewis. 

Similarly, the second verse seems to be directed towards her ex-boyfriend Josh Richards, whom the public believes that Barrett cruelly tossed to the side to date his best friend. “You think you kissin’ on my scars, whilе you rip ’em wide open / you sugarcoat your sharp teeth whilе you’re prayin’ on me broken” stands out due to its specificity. Describing much of their on again off again relationship, this line gives insight into the facade of happiness she had to put on while with him. 

In the chorus, Barrett curses Lewis and Richards, “If my name is in your throat, today I hope you choke,” referring to their constant public shade targeting Barrett. She signs off with “I hope you know I’m in your veins like pretty poison,” a vague but impactful metaphor of the deep grudges she holds towards how Lewis and Richards treated her.

Regardless of its dark meaning, the production and lyricism behind “pretty poison” opens up the album, leaving the listeners curious and excited for more. 


“scare myself”

“scare myself” starts off as Barrett’s very loud, desperate call for help. However, it’s contrasted with an upbeat and steady background track paired with Barrett’s vocals, which are reverbed to give an echoed but full sound, not synonymous with the pensive lyrics.

In her first verse, Barrett sings, “Cause I’m scared of the monsters that I swear are under my bed / Scared that they might just be all in 

Graphic by Irene Tang | El Estoque

my head.” This line is representative of her Borderline Personality Disorder, which can cause a person to be self destructive, experience extreme mood swings and temptation to self harm. Barrett has previously tweeted and later deleted a message about having to constantly “battle” her thoughts.

What stood out the most was her second verse, where Barrett gives more insight into her life. “Leave me all alone with the voices,” referring to feeling alone and helpless, followed by “Trying not to oop (accidentally overdose) with the poison,” a subtle but serious reference to the suicidal thoughts Barrett experiences. Barrett has often talked about her previous attempts at taking her own life, and her battle to stay alive while suffering from severe depression. 

“Ain’t it kinda funny how, Nobody can cut me down? Like I can.” 

Throughout, “scare myself” Barrett reflects on her constant internal battle, a personal memoir which further showcases her uniqueness and appeal. However, the production of the music did not properly reflect Barrett’s heartfelt message. It would have been more suitable if the song were a sorrowful ballad, such as “Pain.”


Graphic by Irene Tang | El Estoque

“sincerely,” a one and a half minute song and epilogue, comes full circle with Barrett’s emotional journey to happiness, as well as giving closure to the pain and hatred Barrett was consumed with in the past. 

Barrett starts off singing, “Guess I’m still not in the grave, Pretty far from the cage you left me,” in the first and only verse. In the album, Barrett repeatedly brings up feeling trapped and suffocated, referencing the second song in the EP, “keep me afraid,” with the lyrics “I’m in the corner of your cage, mascara running down my face.” However, Barrett shows character development as she says that she is now “pretty far” from where she used to be. 

She follows through with intense lyricism and ends the line with, “Yeah, I’m happy, I’m happy now,” following a voice recording of her mother encouraging her to stay true to herself, likely representative of the huge amount of support she found within her friends and family. 

The voice recording goes: “I’m happy that you’re, you’re finally happy / You just have to, you know, follow your heart / And be with the people who feel right to your soul / You know, ’cause all the people who say stuff, they don’t matter / You know that, they don’t know the real you / They don’t know what’s really going on”  

While this song is about Barrett’s personal experience, parts of it also encourage others to find happiness in themselves, especially in the monologue above, where her mother encourages her with uplifting words. “You just have to follow your heart, and be with the people who feel right to your soul.” Although the song isn’t very long, it is the perfect way to end her EP, a goodbye to a painful chapter of her life. 


final thoughts

Barrett’s music is one in a million. Some people may compare her style to other existing artists, however, Barrett truly pours her soul into making each song meaningful and equally important, something many artists cannot do. 

Using her talent to spotlight the personal struggles she faces, Barrett also creates catchy lyricism and provides insight into her shift from a traditional “influencer” to an up incoming musical sensation, breaking out of the influencer bubble with her innovative, passionate and hard-hitting music. 

The EP “pretty poison” greatly exceeded expectations. Putting more emphasis on her lyric choices, Barrett successfully grabs the attention of her listeners, first holding them tight in her grasp in “pretty poison” and then releases them with relief at the end of “sincerely,” despite being a novice artist.

“pretty poison” continues to follow a foreboding but chronological theme, almost parallel to Barrett’s personal pain and growth that she channels into her music, allowing her to build uniqueness and credibility in the music industry –– it’s safe to say that “pretty poison” is an absolute masterpiece, securing Barrett’s spot in the industry.