ROSIE: a debut dose of happiness

April 29 2022, by Millie Cooper

Released in 2021, 21-year-old singer-songwriter ROSIE’s debut EP ‘20mg of Happiness’ goes through the motions of love and loss in seven beautiful songs. Written during the height of the pandemic, the EP gained a lot of traction from the 2020 single ‘Never the 1’ going viral, especially on TikTok, and listeners and fans anxiously awaited the EP’s arrival. It’s a passionate display of what it’s like to go through the stages of grief after a relationship ends but also touches on important themes of struggling with mental health, as well as how important expressing emotions are. I’m kind of obsessed with these songs and I give the EP a solid five stars – and I am a very tough judge.   

From Nyack, New York, ROSIE was struggling to get her dream career off the ground, having had only a few gigs. But when the pandemic hit, she was isolating from her parents because they were at high risk and she was “ready to give up on being a musician and being an artist”, as she told Insider in November 2021. However, she began increasing her posts on Instagram and singing on Instagram Live, as well as posting multiple times a week on TikTok, although these found little success. This all changed when she posted the chorus to ‘Never the 1’ on TikTok in September 2020 and it went viral – the post now has 17.7million views and the comments were instantly filled with people begging for the whole song to be released on streaming platforms.

Within weeks of the video being posted various record labels had reached out to sign her, but she signed with Arista Records and on 30 October ‘Never the 1’ was released as a single. She then released ‘Retail Therapy’ in February 2021 and later ‘To Get Over You’ in July and ‘Sad Sad Sad’ in August, all as singles. On 21 October, she released the EP titled ‘20mg of Happiness’, which featured the four singles as well as three new songs: ‘Screaming Underwater’; ‘All my favourite songs’ and ‘Idk you at all’. Now she gets 1,316,955 Spotify streamers a month on average and has nearly 105,000 followers on Instagram and over 713,500 followers on TikTok.

The EP itself focuses on the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, as well as sub-stages like “the withdrawal”, and it goes stage by stage. As you listen to it in order, you can hear how she deals with the emotions of going through a break up and eventually learns how to accept that it is over and focus on herself and her own mental health. 

Stage 1 is denial. ROSIE described in an interview with Ones to Watch that ‘Screaming Underwater’ is like the “concept of screaming so loud, but feeling like nobody could hear me”, reflecting how strangely alone you can feel when there is now one less person in your life. The lyrics portray her emotions pulling her down and she addresses her ex, asking him “if we end up at the bottom from the weight of all our problems will you let me go to save yourself”, which is enough to make anyone cry. The song itself is not overly complicated, showing how blunt it can all feel when the emotions are so raw. It’s a great opening piece – take note, people!

Anger is the second stage of grief. ‘Retail Therapy’ does not at first appear to be the angry breakup song we’re used to (see pretty much every song in Taylor Swift’s ‘Speak Now’ and listen closely to the instrumentation). It pays more attention to the transition between denial and anger and the lyrics have a balance between the two. She calls out how “you and your friends probably over drinking, that’s how you get rid of me” but also wish “you would call me and say that you need me”, showing how these stages aren’t definitive lines but you can easily bridge two at once, especially these two earlier ones that are so similar.

‘All my favourite songs’ is also the second stage as the lyrics convey how everything she once loved has been ruined because they bring back memories and “every lyric stings like a wound sterilized with alcohol”. It perfectly encapsulates how every little thing makes you think about them – even things you didn’t used to associate with them, such as songs released after you ended – but it really does get to you. The anger can really impact you and this is often the stage where things can get petty, particularly because how raw it still is, and so you “take more shots, hope they sting more than” the pain. It’s the “withdrawal” stage because you hate them for ruining your life, but you would still welcome them back because there is already so much linked to them. If only you could stay in this stage for only 2 minutes and 56 seconds.

Returning to the stages of grief because bargaining is next with ‘to get over you’. I’m going to let ROSIE’s interview do the speaking for this one… 

“This song is about the ‘give and take’ that comes with starting a new chapter without the person you thought would be in your life forever. Similar to ‘Screaming Underwater’, there is a sonic polarity between the verses and the chorus, emphasizing the massive push and pull of healing. Because this song is more upbeat and pop-oriented, it was a huge departure from the rest of the music and I am so glad I got to introduce this side of ROSIE to the world. You can expect a lot more of her in the future!” 

It’s a banger to say the least, although not her original vision for the song, with the lyrics listing all the crazy things she would do to get over the break up, such as “hike Mount Everest”. Needless to say, the upbeat vibe of the song meant that it very quickly got added to my (fairly unused) running playlist.

When the sadness starts to kick in, that’s when you have reached the sad, depression stage. In ‘Idk you at all’, ROSIE addresses how suddenly you realise that they weren’t actually who they were and perhaps you never actually knew them. It is by far the saddest song on the EP and a real tearjerker – not to be listened to at 12am! But it’s so beautiful how she and her producer have added live saxophone, piano, and trumpet to bring out how low you can feel when the image fades and there is no more blissful ignorance. 

My favourite song on the EP will always be ‘Never the 1’ which begins the long and final stage of acceptance. ROSIE sings of how you “could write 10 songs ‘bout 9 ways you f***ed me over” but that does not take away the fact that “I was never the 1”. The chorus cleverly counts down from 10 to 1 (in 23 seconds, just in case you were wondering), going over all the things that led to the realisation that it is probably for the best because if you weren’t their one, then they are probably not your one. Sometimes, it is just what you needed to hear and learn, even if that’s not what you wanted. It’s an amazing song and there is no surprise it went viral.

Finally, part of acceptance is finding that love in yourself. Don’t be fooled by its title, ‘Sad Sad Sad’ is “a reminder that sometimes there are certain scars that never go away and when sadness is accepted it can serve as a lesson to never repeat the same mistake twice,” says ROSIE. It is arguable that this does fit into the depression stage but accepting sadness, help and your own self-confidence is a crucial part of the fifth stage of grief. The lyrics make it know that it is ok that “It’s been a year, too numb to feel 20mg of happiness. But when I do the math It doesn’t add up, it doesn’t add up ‘Cause I’m still sad, sad, sad…”. Of course, there are major themes of struggling with mental health in this song, but I think that it serves as a reminder that acceptance is putting you first again and allowing yourself to feel everything you feel, even if its “sad, sad sad”.

ROSIE’s ‘20mg of Happiness’ is the essential guide to making it out the other side of a break up, even if it feels impossible. It’s a vital part of being human, especially when you’re around the ages of ROSIE and myself because that is when you learn your biggest life lessons. Whether you’re still nursing the pain from an old break up, beginning to navigate the stages of going through a new one, or you’re just sad that Benedict Cumberbatch married Sophie Hunter and not you, ROSIE’s ‘20mg of Happiness’ is the only map you will ever need to find your way out and into a world of acceptance and focusing on yourself.

Millie Cooper, L6

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