Steve Lacy salvages pride at the expense of heartbreak in “Bad Habit,” his viral single that accompanied his soulful track, “Mercury” and his highly-anticipated second studio album, “Gemini Rights.” Since its June release, Lacy’s song has “broken the Internet.” With over 10,000 TikTok videos of users belting their own heartache, “Bad Habit” reflects the coming of age crisis for our 21st century concept of love: fear of vulnerability.
Before the funky drums introduce Steve’s vocals, the song begins with an angelic voice with stronger feminine undertones that whispers, “I wish I knew you wanted me.” Although undisclosed, I interpret this voice as Brittany Fousheé, a co-writer and feature on the album as well as a long time partner of Lacy’s musical journey. Her delicate and soft tone juxtaposes Lacy’s bold and emotionally charged harmonies. Abruptly, the two intertwine until Lacy’s soothing yet strained words, “I wish I knew, I wish I knew you wanted me” drown the fragile whisper into the deep beats of the drum. The weak whisper symbolizes his once hesitant vocalization of his romantic feelings.
The song’s emotional progression is all over the place as the soloist’s regret transitions into contemplation of the future. He sings, “Made a move, coulda made a move / if I knew I’d be with you / is it too late to pursue?” Lacy’s lyrics reflect the hysteric emotions that accompany a re-emerging past love interest; there is deep frustration and internalized regret yet a hopeful narration of a potential rekindling of a once unrequited love.
Finally, referencing his song title “Bad Habit,” Lacy introduces being a victim of his own weakness in correlation to his unraveling love story. He sings, “I bite my tongue, it’s a bad habit” to redefine his fear of vulnerability as a more habitual flaw. As he dismisses the significance of his own emotions, Lacy’s song takes on a theme that many youth associate with, including myself: preservation of pride at the expense of emotional expression.
Shortly after, the deep bass and song-distinguishing drums pause. This slight, but powerful musical choice portrays this line almost as a confession. Immediately following, in a quicker manner, the R&B singer seems to be desperately justifying his past actions as the beat picks back up, “Thought you were too good for me, my dear / Never gave me time of day, my dear.”
Lacy embarks on this contemplation once again near the end of the track; abandoning the once decisive tone revealed in previous lines, he asks, “Were you not too good for me my dear?” He revisits a lyric that embodies his acceptance and alters it to show his inability to close the door on his feelings as he sings, “It’s okay, things happen for / Reasons that I can’t ignore, yeah.” Lacy’s lyricism coincides with the funky drums and hidden electric guitar notes to paint this psychological tug of war.
Additionally, in the R&B singer’s music video Lacy appears distressed, displaying unhinged abrupt movements as he glides across the screen. The uncontrollable spasms the artist is exhibiting imitate the delirium we often as viewers associate with instability and overwhelming emotion. When watching the scene Lacy paints in this video, I felt he completely captivates the essence of the conflicting emotions that accompany heartache.
“Bad Habit” is a heartfelt tune that not only demonstrates Lacy’s incredible diversity of beats but also to connect listeners to the growing generational failure to be open. Through his artistic choices Lacy illuminates the power of regret and conveys the chaos of untangling the past. The record breaking single’s upbeat drums and high-pitched harmonies contrast its agonizing lyrics to create a sense of duality in listening; this complexity speaks to Gen-Z listeners that recognize the debilitating vulnerability that “Bad Habit” mourns.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and contains subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.