Track Review: Z Berg Gives Us a First Kiss to Face a New Year of Music with “The Bad List“
Z Berg did not intend to begin 2019 on a light note as she released “The Bad List” on the cusp of the New Year. Featuring Ryan Ross (Panic! At The Disco, The Young Veins), this song tells the chilling tale of two souls growing apart. The ballad begins with Z’s delicate voice portraying the role of a carefree spirit looking at her partner’s life from her own perspective. She builds the lovers’ relationship from the ground up, describing them as “young and dumb” as she insinuates with the line “[taking] acid on Topanga Beach” that they used recreational drugs for fun. The verse goes on to explain that “winter never turned to spring,” suggesting that the occasional drug use turned habitual, thus driving a wedge in their relationship.
Disaster strikes as the song builds into the chorus and Z brings her audience to a dark Christmas Eve night. The foundation they built their relationship on is up in flames, the river of love has run dry, and it’s snowing in the middle of Los Angeles. She begs, “So let me set you free, let me help you, please” before finally letting him go on a would-be joyous holiday.
The narrator role passes from Z to Ryan for the second verse, and we get another view on their crumbling relationship as Ross describes a heavy, hollow feeling. “All the lights are on/but no one’s home/out cold on my frozen feet/with nothing lying underneath the tree,” paints a picture of loneliness and emptiness. As much as he longs to keep the relationship alive, he also acknowledges that it’s taken an unhealthy turn. The lyrics change in the second chorus as the relationship worsens and ultimately breaks apart in the bridge, where Z and Ryan collectively bellow “but there’s no bandage/there ain’t no ballad/to fix the sadness/so happy Christmas.”
Although macabre in its tale, “The Bad List” comes to a hopeful close as the lovers say goodbye to their relationship with a kiss of encouragement for the New Year.