Nessa Barrett Picks Her Poison

Since first breaking into the music industry, the genre-blending artist Nessa Barrett has plunged further into her own inner darkness with each new release. She plays a ghost in the music video for “I Hope Ur Miserable Until Ur Dead,” haunting an ex-boyfriend in lingerie and opera-length gloves, appearing in mirrors and watching him as he sleeps, like a lingering curse. In “I Wanna Die,” the singer is an acrylic-nailed corpse being made up for a funeral by a handsome undertaker. “If I’m being honest, I’ve never felt more confident than when I had dead makeup on,” she tells MTV with a laugh.

But for 19-year-old Barrett, who is MTV’s Push artist for November 2021, the journey into those depths has been one toward authenticity and self-discovery. The takeaway for the revenge anthem “I Hope Ur Miserable Until Ur Dead,” for example, is to be true to yourself and your deepest feelings, even when it makes others uncomfortable. “There’s no wrong in showing that you’re hurt or bothered by what someone has done to you,” she says. “I feel like I was tired of hearing, ‘Oh, I wish them the best no matter what.’”

Indeed, the singer today, with her often bleak lyrics and raven locks, is barely recognizable from the brown-haired girl from Galloway, New Jersey, who quickly shot to fame on TikTok. Barrett first became known to the world for the clips she shared to the app beginning in March 2019 in which she would mouth lyrics and dance to old-school hip-hop songs. But social media stardom casts a long shadow, and so she charted a course across the country to Los Angeles last summer, setting her sights on a successful career as an artist.

The gamble paid off. After releasing her debut single, the piano-led ballad “Pain,” she soon signed with Warner Records. And earlier this year, in September 2021, Barrett dropped her first EP, Pretty Poison, a collection of tracks that tackles her experiences with mental health, romantic relationships, and coming of age in the public eye through a quintessentially “dark, moody” lens. It also swerves into new territory, as on the grunge-colored sound of “La Di Die,” and into the genre of love songs. There are two on the project (though you wouldn’t know by their gloomy titles alone), “I Wanna Die” and “Grave,” which were inspired by her relationship with Jaden Hossler, better known as the artist Jxdn.

“I got the idea and concept [for “Grave”] from a conversation I had with Jaden. He said something that was so cute, and I was a creep and I was like, OK, I’m going to write this in my notes because I know I’m going to use this in a song later. He said he would take his love for me to the grave and I was like, My heart, and also, [That’s a] song.” She performs this track, as well as “I Hope Ur Miserable Until Ur Dead,” as part of her MTV Push interview above.

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