Joshua Bassett captures raw truth about working through trauma in new EP

Reya Mosby, Life & Arts Reporter

Joshua Bassett spent 2021 with the internet against him. The subject of dramatized, false narratives, the 21-year-old “High School Musical: The Musical – The Series” star turned to song to express his struggles with his mental and physical health. 

His EP, Crisis / Secret / Set Me Free, released in early December. A beautiful recounting of all he endured that year, the three-track EP shows off Bassett’s admirable vocal ability, lyrical eloquence and production expertise.

The first track, “Crisis,” starts off with soft guitar strumming that sets up a mellow track. His voice wavers in the beginning, showing off his vocal imperfections, making the piece even more emotional and vulnerable. 

The lyrics make this song powerful, honestly discussing his public villainization with lines like “I wish that I could open my eyes and the nightmare be over” and, “Was it an act to love me or an act to hate me?”

“Secret” captures a different vibe. While more upbeat, Bassett’s choice to set it in a minor key makes it darker and more fitting with the song’s premise — knowing a secret about his former significant other.

The verses start with vocals and minor instrumentation. The pre-choruses then build by beginning to layer vocals to add different textures, and the choruses erupt with full vocals and instruments.

Contrastingly, the bridge, slow and low, strips down to just Bassett’s vocals, piano and strings as he finally confronts his ex-girlfriend. The last chorus then picks up time, fuller than ever and switches to half-time, giving it a unique groove.

The epic highs and impactful lows of “Secret” attest to the skills of Bassett and his production team.

“Set Me Free” can only be described as an anthem. Bassett revealed that this song revolves around enduring people holding pain and power over him. It’s about finding closure, peace and freedom in letting go.

The ballad starts off with soft piano, making Bassett’s apologetic and reflective first lines exposed and vulnerable. He then sings one of the most hard hitting lines of the entire EP: “Why must I hurt for you to feel okay?” The elongated pause that follows this line hangs in the air, leaving listeners holding their breath in anticipation.

During the chorus, Bassett shows off his breathtaking falsetto followed by a choir singing, “You don’t get to take all of me / Set me free / I don’t need your apologies / Let me be.” These soaring notes and big chords along with this sentiment give listeners chills. 

During the second verse and chorus, percussion gradually comes in, increasing the song’s intensity. Despite the addition of drums, the instrumentation remains smooth and connected, providing nice contrast.

Bassett eventually slows the bridge, bringing it down to the vocals, piano and strings. He then hits listeners with another impactful line, singing, “I won’t let you hurt me the way you hurt me again.”

He brings back the full instrumentation for the last chorus, making it resonate. The music then fades to just the piano and Bassett’s voice, similarly to the beginning, as he softly sings “You don’t get to take all of me / set me free” one last time. 

This song fulfills the fundamental purpose of art — it evokes emotion. It makes listeners truly feel. 

Overall, this EP reflected on trauma, heartache and the discovery of one’s strength in a strikingly honest way. Although he addresses issues specific to him, a lot of the emotions he uses music to articulate are universal to the human experience, making the EP a good listen for all.

5 out of 5 grand pianos on the beach