It has been almost ten years exactly since Ashley Tisdale last released an album—the pop rock-inflected Guilty Pleasure, which I’m sure continues to be its namesake for many young adults that grew up on late-2000s Disney — and that amount of time can be daunting for just about anyone when plotting a return to the spotlight. Despite any trepidation that may or may have not occurred on her end, the singer has finally delivered her sonically on-trend third record, Symptoms. Over the record’s brisk nine tracks and twenty-five-minute pace, Tisdale attempts to articulate her life-long struggle with mental illnesses, with some songs working better than others.
Initially appearing to eschew the romantic themes of the singer’s previous releases, its clear by the end of the opening and title track that longtime fans will not feel ostracized by Tisdale’s new lyrical aspirations. While most songs here fall under the motif of detailing the anxiety and depression she has suffered from throughout her career (“Insomnia,” “Under Pressure”), they also infuse these personal lows with loving highs (“Looking Glass,” “Vibrations”), giving everyone something to enjoy as they listen through.
Though a valiant effort to put her tribulations to pen, Symptoms’ weaknesses lie in its clumsy writing. When the singer tries to capture the feeling of mental debilitation, it often veers into corniness or striving to be relatable; even when I have no doubt she has weathered the trauma anxiety and depression bring, it feels disingenuous in the tracks where they take precedence. Other songs, such as the post-EDM “Love Me & Let Me Go” and the “True Romance” that permeates the singer’s marriage, allow her to flex her ear for delectable hooks and production flair — the finale, “Feeling So Good,” does the best job of this, showing her resilience against these mental obstacles while also serving up pop perfection. It’s these tracks where Symptoms hits its own highs, making the decade-long incubation of Tisdale’s third record worth the lows.
Standout tracks: “Love Me & Let Me Go,” “True Romance,” “Voices in My Head,” “Feeling So Good.”