A Review of My Positive Self-Talk by My Negative Self-Talk

Zach Zimmerman’s début album, which featured a trio of Billboard-charting singles (“You’re Ugly,” “You’re Not Talented,” and the ballad “You’re Completely Devoid of Value and Worth”), introduced the world to a young, hip iconoclast. Even the lesser-promoted songs (“You’re a Worthless Sack of Shit” and “You’re Going to Wear That—in Public?”) proved that we were in the presence of a trailblazer.

But if “Negative Self-Talk” spoke to a generation, Zach’s sophomore album, “I’m Trying Really Hard to Be Happy Now,” panders to one. Where lyrics once popped with painful truths (“Look beneath the surface / There is no purpose”), now they are but cake pops (“I’m putting my baggage up on the shelf / I’m trying really hard to love myself”). Pardon me while I put my vomit in a toilet. The album’s singles (“Therapy,” “Cry for Help,” and “Heal Your Trauma, Momma”) are not earworms—they make me wish that my ears had been devoured by worms.

My big question (besides “Why, God, why?”) is this: Was the first album the fluke, or is the second? How can the same mind that created such hits as:

  • “Hi, My Name Is Garbage”
  • “You’ll Never Know Love”
  • “You’re Not Conventionally Attractive”
  • “Alone, Alone, Alone, You’re So Very Sad and Alone”
  • “You’re Not Funny, You’re Just Tall”

Plus, the bonus “Hypochondria” EP tracks:

  • “Am I Having a Heart Attack? (You Are)”
  • “I Think I’m Dying (You Are)”
  • “Hypochondriacs Always Believe Something Is Wrong with Them, and the Sad Pill Is That They’re Right”

Also generate this fluff:

  • “I’m Trying to Be Gentle with the Idea of Myself”
  • “Art Might Be Unhealthy for Me to Make Right Now”
  • “While I Rationally Understood My Trauma, I Needed to Feel the Healing in My Body”
  • “Have You Read Any Audre Lorde?”

When the album turns meditative with “Cognitive Distortions” and “Lexapro, Wellbutrin & Other Lifesavers,” I had to turn it off. Fans will be upset, enemies will be delighted, and the Wiggles will be disappointed to learn that they have a new competitor in the saccharine-kids’-music space.

I won’t say that Zimmerman is completely devoid of value and worth (we were duly warned in the first album). I’ll just say that, if I were charged with reducing the maximum human suffering on Earth with a single act, I would develop time-travel technology to go back and burn down the recording studio that gave birth to this pathetic, navel-gazing, self-help nonsense of an album. Zimmerman might be “trying really hard to be happy now,” but his work makes me—nay, all of us—anything but. ♦

This is drawn from “Is It Hot in Here (Or Am I Suffering for All Eternity for the Sins I Committed on Earth)?

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