Indie singer-songwriter Dodie released her EP “Hot Mess” on September 29th, featuring four fearlessly honest tracks. “God, twenty-seven, still crying in cars,” she berates herself in the opening song, declaring, “I’m a hot mess,” as she walks – and then runs – toward the ever-moving goalpost of the camera. The track’s upbeat tune heightens the lyrical message of insecurity and self-doubt by creating a deceptive sense of ease and juxtaposing joy and misery. The effect is reminiscent of a 20-something laughing after an embarrassing mistake in order to cope, all while they continue to narrate the story’s every detail to their closest friends. With three EPs and a full-length album under her belt, the release is not Dodie’s first foray into the world of music.
After a decade of making videos, Dodie currently has a YouTube following of over two million. Her progression through her 20s has been public, with vlogs from over the years about haircuts, makeup, and her personal musings still alive at the bottom of her profile in a section titled, “Dodie old videos!” This archive may be the very reason Dodie stands out among other musicians – there is no image on display. Old versions of the artist are still accessible, with 2017 Dodie still grinning on the internet as her friend cuts her hair off and 2016 Dodie candidly talking about her depression and anxiety to viewers.
The feeling of a YouTube vlog flows through Dodie’s music and gives the listener a sense of raw, on-camera honesty. The video for “Got Weird” features her kissing glass as the music tells the story of an awkward date; one that we can all recognize from app experiences. “Babe, what’s the deal, do you like me? / Why do karma and girls love to bite me?” she asks over the bass. It is not overly produced or extensively costumed, as the camera never cuts away from the reflections on the planes of Dodie’s up-close-and-personal face.
The EP’s third track, “Lonely Bones,” brings in a wave of melancholy as she whisper-sings about being left behind. During the album’s midnight pre-release livestream, Dodie said to her viewers from her bedroom, “I actually cannot play this song. I know I am about to, and maybe I will surprise myself… I don’t know how this is going to go,” before gathering herself to sing a beautiful, painful rendition of the song. In the album version, as the end of the track approaches, the recorded voices of Dodie’s friends sing, “La la la la la,” with her in a disparate concert, tenderly infusing togetherness with a cry of loneliness.
“No Big Deal (I Love You)” brings the EP to a sad close. The song narrates the story of a shower taken with a man and the important words that have gone unspoken between the two. The lyrics evoke a tender vulnerability that comes from writing for oneself in a way that few musicians dare to do. Dodie’s EP presents a flawed singer – one who “got weird when we made out” or needed “a pep talk in the bathroom corner.” The album seems to say, You’re young, so you’re not going to be okay all the time.