TW: Before you start this podcast, be aware that this story revolves around heavy subjects like depression and suicide.
Perhaps one of the most unique podcasts of 2021, “Unread” is a story of friendship, a battle with depression, and Britney Spears of all people. It’s about her fans that stuck with her through thick and thin, the fans she made while she battled with her mental health and her conservatorship, and everything that transpired because of it. It’s about how Britney still managed to connect with her fans and how we all saw a little bit of Britney within us. But no one saw more Britney in them than Alex did.
Host Chris Stedman created “Unread” not only to find out more about his friend Alex’s death, but to honor his friend in the way he would have loved best. It’s just four episodes that are about 45 minutes in length that tell the story of Alex.
Stedman spends the first part of the first episode describing Alex; he describes his huge, fearless personality, how he did not care whether he was too much for some people. He describes his confidence, his propensity for creating memes and most of all, his love for Britney. Stedman shares voice recordings Alex would send him, typically of him singing one of Britney’s many hits and sharing a supportive message for his friend.
But the story sadly starts on a December evening in 2019, when Stedman received a final email from Alex. It arrived in his inbox at exactly 7 p.m., a scheduled email. It told him that by the time he received it, Alex would no longer be alive. And it tragically was the last communication Stedman would ever have with Alex.
When some of the dust had settled around his friends’ death, he reread the email and noticed a private link to a SoundCloud at the bottom. Alex had written “here’s Alice recordings.” Stedman knew who Alice was, a woman Alex had befriended in a Britney fan forum years ago. In fact, a lot of people knew who Alice was; she had become a legendary figure amongst Britney fans as she sounded just like Britney herself. From her voice, to her laugh, to even her mannerisms, she could impersonate Britney like no one else.
But why did Alex include these recordings in his email? Who was this mysterious Alice? And what had she meant to Alex? Could she help Stedman understand why Alex was gone?
“Unread” is Stedman’s attempt to track down this curious figure. Along with Alex’s friends and family, he goes down a Britney rabbit hole to better understand his friend. He hears stories about Alex from the people who loved him and finds out even more about the inner workings of his friends’ mind. It’s not an ominous true crime story of an investigative journalist hunting down a potential killer, but a writer trying to find acceptance and closure with his friends’ passing.