Joshua Bassett Is One Complicated Guy

Whether you’re traveling this summer to one of his shows like I did, or reading a J.K. Rowling book, or listening to Kanye West’s music, nothing feels the same when your favorite artist lets you down.

“It’s freaking cold outside,” Joshua Bassett yells on the stage of The Fillmore, a theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during night eight of The Complicated Tour. The audience shrieks in agreement. 

When you’re already on the fence about going to a concert, becoming a human icicle doesn’t improve the experience. Maybe it was a sign from the universe that I should leave. I don’t agree with Bassett’s recent actions outside of his music. I wonder what this says about me as a person that I’m here anyway, under some pretty extreme conditions, too, huddling next to strangers and jumping frantically to relieve the numbness crawling up our bodies. 

I guess Minneapolis didn’t get the spring memo. A chorus of screams flood the sidewalk as the wind threatens to knock us down. Comments of “poor girl” become our mantra as fans walk by in tank tops and skirts. I am one of Bassett’s devoted fans waiting outside in the freezing cold. And I’m disappointed in myself for supporting him right now.  

Bassett has a lot going against him. I’m not just referring to his messy history with teen angst pop queen Olivia Rodrigo. Bassett’s recent appearance at Bethel Church, which supports conversion therapy and other controversial beliefs, is just another strike against the young musician in my book. 

After years of standing by Bassett amid relationship rumors, my loyalty is faltering. And Bassett isn’t just aware of his influence over young fans, he flaunts it. Social media and cancel culture level the power dynamic between celebrities and their fans — as in, I can choose with eyes wide open whether to support this guy.  

So technically, I shouldn’t be at this show, contributing my measly ticket purchase, which I bought before the Bethel Church controversy, in my defense. But here I am. And I’m uncomfortable. 

If you’re wondering what kind of people Bassett’s fans are, the reactions to the pre-concert music sum it up. The excitement over That’s What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction was almost as loud as the screams that follow Bassett’s entrance.  

Bassett’s fans pride themselves in their fandoms. You know the type, they make their Harry Styles obsession a part of their personality. Bassett isn’t just a guy who makes music. He’s a guy who understands the power of fans who makes music. And I wish he was more responsible with his power.  

He begins his concert not walking, but tumbling chaotically onto the stage. As he sings his coming-of-age single, Feel Something, he jumps around, never staying in one place for too long. We’re selfish, we’re meltin’, we’re talkin’ shit just to tell it / We’re stupid, we’re doin’ anything just to feel something, he sings into the mic, clearly out of breath before the end of the song.  

“I have two rules,” he tells the roaring crowd. “The first, have the most fun you’ve had all year. The second, don’t have your voice by tomorrow.”  

He keeps the energy alive with Secret. As with most of his recent songs, this one hints at what happened behind the scenes with Rodrigo. At times, it’s nearly impossible to hear Bassett’s voice over the crowd screaming the lyrics. And I join in a few times. After years of being a devoted Bassett fan, it’s hard to turn it off.  

I really hope you had your fun / Good for you fooling everyone, he sings, pointing the mic to the audience as we yell the allusion to Rodrigo’s song good 4 u. Die-hard Rodrigo fans may want to keep their distance. For someone who preaches spreading kindness, Bassett sure likes poking the fire. While I always considered myself an equal fan of both Bassett and Rodrigo, my heart isn’t quite in it tonight. Bassett’s recent actions have me questioning if I should have been supporting him this whole time.  

He slows things down with Doppelgänger, LA, and Used To It. Bassett’s songs that reflect his experience with mental health are what drew me to his music. When I became a fan several years ago, I commended his mental health advocacy. But after the recent controversy, I question his sincerity. When I was young / My father told me not to cry in front of my mom / Said, ‘It’s time to grow up,’ he sings from the piano.  

When Bassett hops into the crowd and accepts a bouquet of white roses from a fan, he walks to the other end of the stage and hands them out to the audience. If you take one thing away from his concert, it should be that Bassett knows how to make his fans feel seen. He makes me feel seen, which makes me even more conflicted — I wonder how this goofy, lovable guy could be the same person who crushed me just a month ago. Was it genuinely a mistake, or is the guy I’m seeing tonight fake? 

He treats OG fans with a medley of songs from his first EP released in 2021 at the piano, and at times it sounds like he’s fumbling with the keys, the notes not sounding quite right. “Well, lately I’ve been questioning my faith. More or less,” Bassett corrects himself while singing his lullaby love song Heaven, drawing attention to his recent controversy. While he tweeted that he doesn’t endorse all of Bethel Church’s beliefs, the video of him speaking at the church is still posted on his social media. I wonder if all his young fans here tonight understand the severity of conversion therapy.  

During his song Common Sense, Bassett goes into the middle of the crowd to do an intimate acoustic rendition. Fans become frantic, jumping up and down trying to see over one another. I crane my neck. I want to look him in the eyes, see if he’s a good guy or not, but all I glimpse is his messy, curly hair.  

Back on stage, he leads us through three deep breaths, though he seems to need them more than us. He introduces his song Lifeline, which is about his 2021 battle with septic shock and heart failure. He urges fans to talk out differences with others. But that’s easier said than done.  

“Not everybody knows they have a lifeline,” Bassett says. “I was fortunate that I could call my mom but not everyone feels like they can or that they have someone, so please reach out to somebody today.” Bassett’s music used to be a lifeline to me, but now I no longer feel like I can trust him.  

As Bassett moves to the end of his concert, he leaves the stage and makes his way to the balcony. He spends two songs up there, Different and Smoke Slow. The floor watches and cheers as he circles above us. He takes his time, taking pictures, shaking hands, connecting with fans. If I was witnessing this scene several years ago, I would be completely smitten. I mean how could you resist that smile? But now I see someone who is constantly trying to defend himself to the public eye, and I wonder how much of his connection with fans is just a performance. 

Bassett finishes with his emotional ballad Set Me Free and comes back for an encore with his new single, SHE SAID HE SAID SHE SAID. He leaves us with a reminder to “Be good to yourselves and be good to others.” And now I feel angry. He should take his own advice. 

Bassett’s music was there for me when I was going through hard times, and I almost felt like he’d become a friend. But we don’t know celebrities. So maybe part of the blame lies in me for putting so much faith in a person I will never meet, someone who could never live up to the hype. That’s what’s dangerous about idolizing someone. Celebrities are just flawed humans, like all of us. They make mistakes. They’re complicated.  

While I was unsettled and confused leaving the Fillmore that night, I do know one thing: his music has changed for me. What used to be an escape left me feeling isolated in the crowd. Maybe being uncomfortable and questioning the people we look up to is always the right place to be.