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Last week, I whipped open the door to this grungy little rock & roll bar with not a second to spare. I had sweet-talked my way into watching the soundcheck of rising pop sensation Betty Who. I figured I’d be waiting around a while before sitting down with her, but I still didn’t want to be late. I took a seat at the bar and before I even had time to catch my breath, she walked through the front door.
A lot of things surprised me about Betty Who, the first of which was that she was actually on time, the way that she greeted me, confident and gracious, and most unexpected, the fact that she still came off more of a fan than an artist. All of this was pretty unexpected, considering I was talking to the next big name in pop. She's just finished a whirlwind year that included countless performances, releases, and placement in just about every blog and magazine including ELLE and an upcoming feature in Cosmo. If last year was any indication, there’s a good chance that 2014 will be the year that she makes her dreams of pop stardom a reality.
As always, I came unprepared, so we simply started shooting the shit about her breakout year, and what it’s like to be an artist on precipice of stardom.
This time last year, Betty Who had recently introduced herself to the world with her first single “Somebody Loves You,” released in November of 2012.
The song became an instant hit and gained overwhelmingly positive feedback. While the single was picking up steam, she and her producer, Peter Thomas, were “clarifying the sound of the project,” as she put it. By the time she dropped her first EP The Movement last April, they had apparently found whatever it is they were looking for.
At a mere four songs, The Movement is an almost alarmingly flawless collection of glistening dance floor anthems that are so incredible, so ready for radio, they’ll leave you asking yourself how this is just the first offering of her promising career.
Of her writing process, especially in terms of preparing her debut project with producer, she says “It doesn’t matter if it was good, it had to be right, and I think that’s what kept us working together and not putting anything out for like three years.”
One listen to The Movement and you’ll agree it was worth the wait.
While her career was picking up steam much quicker than anticipated, she spent most of the year unsigned, by choice. Betty was gaining so much momentum on her own that she didn’t need an entire team behind her trying to get us to pay attention, we already were.
She finally signed her first major label contract RCA this fall, saying “The people at my label understand my vision, and in every moment I feel so confident in exactly what I’m doing, and that it translates really well.”
With one of the most talked about EPs of the last year and a major record deal under her belt, what’s next?
“I desperately want radio.” She says earnestly, “And it’s not ‘I want to be famous,’ it’s because I grew up listening to the radio! I want that experience of sitting in my car and hearing my song for the first time. I’ve always thought you have to be kind of crazy in the way that you speak about your career because if you don’t, you won’t ever get where you want to be.”
Her new single comes out in February, with the EP coming later this spring. She describes the sound as a natural progression from the The Movement and a more mature sound. But what about her first debut album, tentatively slated for Q4?
“The album will be strange because I’m working with a lot of new people for it,” she tells me, looking more excited than apprehensive. I’ve heard whispers of just how big some of these collaborators are, without any specific names. I can’t hold myself back any longer.
“Are they like...Britney level?” I ask, quaking.
“Uh…some of them. Yea.” She coolly replies. “I think it’s very easy to put a female pop vocalist with a bunch of people and have it go really horribly because no one understands the vision, but my label has been very specific with who I write with, and the sound of the album could really go any way at this point.”
Speaking of Britney, I’m wondering where Miss Who sees herself in an industry so dominated by powerful, polarizing women.
“For me, I first and foremost want to make really great music that I think is high quality. I’d rather not be on the radio doing something I believe in, rather than something that is not good, but that I know will get me there.”
“Everybody’s like, what does your music stand for? And I guess it’s joy. It’s about love and loving each other, but more than anything it’s about being happy.”
Keep an eye out for Betty Who's new single out in February, and her new EP coming this spring.