Brave but outdated attempt at portraying mental illness

Given actress and singer Ashley Tisdale's breakout role as the sassy, spunky antagonist Sharpay Evans in 2006's High School Musical, it might come as a surprise that Tisdale has struggled with anxiety and depression in her career since.

For her first album in a decade, she has gone personal, talking about her battle with mental illness.

Aptly named Symptoms, each track on her electropop-laced third studio album tells a story about the internal strife she has faced.

Looking Glass is about keeping up appearances despite her "monsters and skeletons" in a world obsessed with social media, while lead single Voices In My Head is a strong affirmation of self ("All the voices in my head, always try to break me, **** me up and change me. But talk is cheap, this is the last time, I listen to the voices in my head").

However, we are now in an age where it is commonplace for female pop stars, like Ariana Grande and Dua Lipa, to share their personal struggles through their music.

But those pop juggernauts manage to do it in far less heavy-handed ways, and over catchier beats - like Grande's latest album Thank U, Next, which deals with the death of an ex-boyfriend and a very public break-up with her fiance, among other issues.

Tisdale's album feels like an amateur effort in comparison.

  • POP

  • SYMPTOMS

    Ashley Tisdale

    Big Noise

    2 Stars

Acoustic guitar tracks segue into overdone, syncopated electrobeats that would have been cool a couple of years ago.

She is also let down by the weak songwriting that seems most concerned with rhyming - like on Vibrations where she sings "used to hang at the clubs and go wild, now a glass of rose is my style".

Tisdale's effort is a brave one, but perhaps out of step with the current music landscape.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2019, with the headline 'Brave but outdated attempt at portraying mental illness'. Print Edition | Subscribe