Battling her personal monsters of anxiety and depression, Bebe Rexha revisits her vices on her debut studio album, Expectations, released Friday.
It’s been a long time coming for Rexha to compile her own thoughts into an album she can call her own. After writing “The Monster” originally for her own debut album and instead delivering it to Eminem and relinquishing her vocals to Rihanna (“I just had a gut feeling that [Eminem] would relate to the spirit of the lyric, and my gut was correct”), she’s following her gut by pursuing an entire track list longer than an EP or a slew of remixes for “I Got You” first featured on her 2017 All Your Fault: Pt. 1 EP or her earliest single from 2014, “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You.”
The song secured the No. 31 spot on the Billboard Pop Songs chart that year and became her first charting single as a lead artist, a title Rexha usually doesn’t celebrate on her own. Now, Expectations sets out to extend the 28-year-old singer’s hand to her struggling fans in an empathetic move only executed by brutally honest lyrics.
Rexha’s electro-pop tracks take listeners inside her therapy sessions, and house music beats encompass and comfort the “Sad” fans who relate to Rexha’s brokenhearted and open-book, open-bottle journey. Since her “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You” days, she spirals, crumbles, drowns and drinks for 14 self-medicating songs. Here are the six most intoxicating lyrics from Bebe Rexha’s Expectations.
1. “Shining Star”
Head underwater, no one could save her
She played with death, she held her breath, she liked the pain
Her world was crumbling, but she did nothing
She numbed herself so she would never feel a thing
But he fell in love with her fucked up ways
With her drunken days, yeah, he still stayed
Yeah, he fell in love with her twisted dreams
And all in between, and he’d still sing
She flips the script on the classic good girl-bad boy narrative for a tale of a girl with “drunken days” and “twisted dreams” who seems helpless. She’s drowning in an amnesic liquor that causes her a pain she likes, but the guy Rexha describes doesn’t abandon her in spite of her habits.
2. “Self Control”
Got no self control
And I don’t mean cigarettes and alcohol
‘Cause when it comes to you, I can’t say no
I don’t want a taste, I want it all
Rexha extends a double entendre in her music: Intoxication refers to not only common vices of “cigarettes and alcohol,” but the inebriated feeling she gets when she’s with the guy in the song. She compares herself to an animal in the song by way of losing control when it comes to love, which is often compared to drugs by its pull and potent sway over someone under its spell.
Do you ever sit in silence all alone
Drowned out by your thoughts
Trying to get a grip but just keep on spiraling down
Voices getting loud
— Bebe Rexha (@BebeRexha) June 25, 2018
She tweeted part of the first verse on Sunday, and without the context of her latest track, it reads as a late-night thought socialized to seek understanding from outsiders. Love is not the only emotional force capable of making Rexha enter a “spiraling” conceit: Sadness carries just as much power, but the chorus speaks to a beacon of hope that the singer feels comfortable with her state. The five-beat electronic sequence playing against the verses assure listeners that her long-term intoxication with this type of way does not always require a cry for help.
Look at you, looking up down on your knees
Treading in the sacred waters
Waiting ’til the high gets stronger
Yeah, yeah, I’ll keep you begging, begging, ooh
I’m your fetish, ooh
Come and get it, ooh
The ninth track of Expectations ditches the electro-pop genre for a trap-pop production. This time around, Rexha inflates herself with the braggadocio common of male rappers and tells the story of a man infatuated with her, his desperation spilling over in the “sacred waters” of her love. She calls herself his “fetish” in the meta concoction of Rexha’s music: She’s constantly fixated on the idea that she’s intoxicated with her own emotions — love, sadness — but finally she’s taking the reins of who gets to feel more, in a similar way that she’s taking the reins of her music as a lead artist.
5. “Steady” feat. Tory Lanez
Drinking the love that they pour in the cup ’cause it eases the pain
And he’ll never change, she’ll never change
Breathing the hope that they find in the smoke ’cause it eases the pain
Rexha treats listeners to another trap-pop delight, but the dark undertones contradict the slightly upbeat melody “Sad” ironically carries. The love she alongside featured artist Tory Lanez sing about is muddied by their alcohol and drug usage. Unlike ‘Shining Star” where she liked the pain, Rexha abuses her vices to ease her discomfort in a very reminiscent way that “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You” discusses drinking.
I need a minute to breathe you in
Just a second to taste your skin
I just gotta, I just gotta
Feel you here right next to me
The delicate piano medley paints a quaint picture of Rexha laying still in bed without her lover while clutching the spare pillow, the desolate feeling of his absence greeting her in the morning. She begs “I need a minute to breathe you in,” an image that can also be affiliated with inhaling a drug that produces that euphoric feeling she’s craving but is not satisfied with enough. It’s an obsession formulating with a petition (“I just gotta”) for his presence signaling she won’t stop asking for him until her thirst is quenched.