If you, too, find yourself inexplicably mired in the drama between two high-profile young stars, known best as Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett, let me warn you: Things only get stickier from here. On Thursday, Bassett released three new singles, “Crisis,” “Secret,” and “Set Me Free,” as part of his new EP, and each song seems to take a thinly veiled shot at his ex, “Good 4 U” singer Rodrigo.
Bassett is apparently determined to set the record straight on what he views as a one-sided approach to their break-up story, which many fans believe was the focus of Rodrigo's smash-hit album SOUR. Songs like “Good 4 U,” “traitor,” and “drivers license” were widely interpreted as scorned letters to her High School Musical: The Musical—The Series co-star Bassett, who allegedly started a relationship with fellow Disney star Sabrina Carpenter shortly after ending a romance with Rodrigo. He told GQ that in the days and weeks after the release of Rodrigo's “drivers license,” the discourse around his apparent betrayal grew so intense he could barely go out in public.
“I would see TikToks with like 50 million views and 10 million likes saying, ‘If I ever see that kid on the street, I'm going to fucking kill him,’” the singer, 20, told the outlet. “It's hard to see that and then be living in New York and walking down the street.”
On the first song of the EP, “Crisis,” Bassett takes advantage of the advice his record label gave him in the wake of the “drivers license” drama: Use the attention. The first few lines read, “My label said to never waste a crisis/And here I am, guitar in my hand, in the middle of one, hmm/And, honestly, I didn't wanna write this...And if you get to tell your truth, then so do I/And it's cool if you want me to play the bad guy.”
But Bassett also revealed to GQ that he struggled with how to respond during the initial fervor around SOUR. “[Rodrigo] hasn’t spoken to me since “drivers license” came out,” he said, before describing that, even away from the internet, the hate from Rodrigo fans was difficult to avoid. At one coffee shop in particular, the staff would allegedly play Rodrigo's songs back to back until Bassett grew so sick of it he was forced to pack up and leave.
Bassett hints at these occurrences in later “Crisis” lyrics that seem directed at his ex, including, “My mama called 'cause she hеard I got death threats/Oh, what the hell am I supposed to do with that?/Oh, I wish that I could open my eyes and the nightmare be over/But you sensationalize, keep fannin' the fire for the headlines.”
In the next single from the EP, “Secret,” Bassett elevates the drama. The singer didn't state for the record whether the message is meant to be hurled at Rodrigo alone, but by including the line “good for you,” his intentions seem obvious.
“I shoulda seen it comin', mm-mm-mm-mm
Swore that you only had a crush
You told me that you would cut him off...
I rеally hope you had your fun, good for you foolin' everyone
You had me tricked for sixteen months
Oh, your smoke and mirrors had me hypnotized
Right in front of my eyes
Well, I heard the truth last night.”
And yet—lest anyone accuse Bassett of self-pity—there is certainly a quieter, more introspective tone to some of the lyrics on the new album. “Set Me Free,” in particular, eases back on the anger and asks what all this vitriol does to serve anyone, including his ex.
“I don't know what I did to deserve all of this
I don't wanna be rude or on the defensive
But I've been goin' through it too
And I know you feel used, I know you've been hurt
Anything I did to make you feel worse
I'd take it all back if I could
And nothin' I say will ease the pain
But why must I hurt for you to feel okay?
I hope you know that I still care about you dearly
But I've gotta lock the door and throw away the key
And I hope you know that I still care about you, darlin'
I won't ever let you hurt me how you hurt me
Again, ever again”
Such pain and loneliness is illustrated throughout Bassett's GQ interview, in which the 20-year-old describes collecting self-help books and regularly attending therapy. “I went to Spain with a couple of friends,” he said. “There was one night in particular. I finally let go... I scream-cried for three and a half hours to the point where I lost my voice for two weeks.” Spending so much time processing has allowed the singer to explore other points of trauma, including, he said, the sexual abuse he experienced as a child. These moments help to explain why Bassett has become such a vocal advocate for mental health; proceeds from “Crisis” will be donated to mental health organizations.
Asked to explain both his candor on the EP and his openness during the GQ interview, Bassett responded that the pain of the past year had finally pushed him into action. But, he seemed to argue, he isn't trying to hurt Rodrigo's reputation. “I’m not here to expose people,” he said. “It was eating me alive, and I couldn’t keep it in anymore.”
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