“Closed-mindedness has everything to do with exposure, and I just want to be someone who can expose everybody to love, acceptance, and tolerance.”
Aussie popstar Betty Who has been secretly slaying the pop music industry since 2012, when she released her debut single, the synthpop/dance number, Somebody Loves You. Since then, she’s released pop anthem after pop anthem, with jams such as Heartbreak Dream, Human Touch, Ignore Me and I Love You Always Forever, the latter of which became a massive top ten hit in her native country.
Despite her ability to craft utterly fan-fucking-tastic pop music, Betty’s flown under the radar. She has, however, become a household name in the LGBTQ community, which is why it’s highly important for her to celebrate them through her art. “They’ve been my biggest supporters throughout my entire career,” she said. “If I can put gay couples in my video, then maybe some 12-year-old in a closed-minded household, who doesn’t know how to be themselves, will watch the music video and think, ‘Oh, that normalizes that for me. This makes it okay.'”
Betty’s last album – the very underrated The Valley – was released just last year, and is still receiving regular spins on our ‘popbops’ playlist. And because she’s a generous pop diva, she’s back this year with a brand new EP. The first two singles, Ignore Me and Look Back, are two of her finest to date. Here, we sit down with the Aussie hit-maker, to discuss all things Britney Spears – or as she would call her, ‘Godney’ Spears – her LGBTQ fanbase, and the inspirations for her brand new EP.
Hi Betty! Gay Times are loving Ignore Me and Look Back. How is work on your third album coming along?
Y’know, it’s coming! I got so excited when I found out I could put music out sooner than expected. I feel like I wrote two albums worth of music in a short space of time. So, I’m sort of weaving through the songs and figuring out what I want to put out. I’m actually thinking I might do an EP instead of an album. The best part about being independent is that I can make that decision now, and figure out what makes more sense as I go on. I do want to stick to what seems most appropriate given the way that people take in music these days. I feel like it’s a little different than it used to be and maybe, albums sometimes get lost on people, and that makes me sad. It’s like, why would you spend so much time on a body of work if you’re not going to listen to the whole thing?
Yeah. It seems like streaming has killed full-length, 12-track albums.
Exactly! I think the way electronic artists just keep their content rolling and being available, saturating the market, I admire that technique. Especially for someone like me where I think I have a small, but mighty core fanbase, of people who I know will listen to the music when it comes out. As opposed to screaming into the void, saying “Somebody, anybody, please listen to this!” And so, anybody who comes along the way, and starts to hear about my music through their friends, through their Spotify playlists, they’ll go, “Hey, I kinda like this!”
What are your inspirations for the EP/album?
I’m feeling really inspired right now. I’ve been really lucky because I’ve been working with a bunch of people. I have a small community of incredibly talented and influential gay men in LA, who are the best songwriters in the world right now. It’s an amazing queer community of people, who have sort of taken me under their wing a little bit! (laughs) Being in the room with these men, particularly, and listening to their stories and melodies that they can come up with, have inspired me and forced me to up my game a little bit! I feel like I’m really working on the songs being really crafted and good, and I really want the songs to be better than they’ve ever been. I’ve been working with Jay Hart, and Jesse St. John, who wrote Look Back. Brent McLaughlin and I wrote Ignore Me together, and two of my main collaborators, Pretty Sister and Peter Thomas are also the most inspiring men in my life. It’s a small crew of people who have been so involved in making this new music, and they have been the ones, up close and personal, inspiring me every day.
And you got engaged in November – congratulations! Has that influenced your songwriting at all?
Oh my gosh, of course! Of course it has. More than anything. It has really influenced my identity in a lot of ways, which I think influences my songwriting. I think it’s a strange place to be for the first time. I feel like a real grown up! I really have to figure out my life a little, and I think that’s a newfound inspiration to become a little more deliberate and organised within my life in general. It also ties into my becoming an independent artist, both of which happened within a very short period of time. Both of those things made me think, “Okay, I’m about to be somebody’s wife, and eventually someone’s mum,” because that’s something I’m really looking forward to. I’m not ready yet! (laughs) My manager and publicist are gonna scream when I mention being a mother! My manager is always like “Don’t do this soon!” But it’s started to make me think about those things, and being an independent artist, I’m so much more in control of my destiny. I’m a businesswoman now, and I have to make decisions, stick by my intuition and my gut. That has changed a lot of my music and what I’m putting out.
Since you became an independent artist, what would you say is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
It’s a challenge and blessing. Being the last person who has to decide everything and improving everything has gotten me into trouble these past couple of months. When other people were in charge, it did make it easier in a lot of ways. But, I prefer it this way, and I’m up for a challenge. I’m like a 26-year-old businesswoman who’s in charge of lots of people and lots of decisions to be made. It feels incredibly cool and totally terrifying!
So you’ve gone through quite a lot these past few months. You got engaged, you’ve become an independent artist…
It has been a crazy few months! It is a lot of pressure, most certainly! And I always joke that pop world years are like dog years. Like, 26 is like 50 in pop years! (laughs)
Which female artists are killing it right now, in your opinion?
I think there’s a lot of space now for quality pop music, and it’s really exciting to me. I’m so inspired by other pop music that’s coming out right now, like Kim Petras. I think it’s so fucking cool that people care about good pop music. I feel like there a lot of new, young people, who are coming in and dominating, like Dua Lipa. I’m obsessed with her, are you kidding? How cool is her domination of the top 40, particularly in America? There hasn’t been a lot of space recently for women to come up, and I think that’s changing, I really do. I think there’s a lot of competition, particularly between women in this industry. Between everybody, not just women. I fall victim to it all the time, where I compare myself to somebody else and this is for anybody in any lifestyle. It drives me crazy and totally insane, and I remind myself all the time, that nobody can do what I can do, and I can’t do what anybody else is doing.
Being an Australian artist, how have you found it breaking through internationally?
I think, more than anything, I’ve had more difficulty sustaining a career in Australia, even though my biggest radio hit was in Australia. In America, I feel like I have way more fans and way more ability to tour. I can sell tickets in almost every state in America, because I’ve done it so many times. I’ve only been back to Australia to play shows a couple times, and even though I had this wildly successful song, it’s two different experiences. The artist who has the hit single at radio, but no foundation, is in Australia. Then the artist who works for a foundation for years and years, with no radio hit, is in America. It made me really grateful for me what I have in America. Because I love playing shows, and I love playing them for people who want to be there. It’s really disheartening when you’ve had this big song in Australia, and it should feel insane, but then nobody shows up, or people don’t know you from the next person, because it’s just a song they heard on the radio once.
Well, you have quite a big gay following here!
It starts with the gays, it really does! I don’t know what it is, particularly, about gay men. They have such a taste-maker quality to them. It’s really fascinating to me actually. The first show I ever played as Betty Who, in New York, was an 80 person venue. I thought nobody was gonna come, and there were like 80 gay men in the room, and they were all singing the words to Somebody Loves You, and I was like, “What is happening to me?!” It’s basically been that for the last six years of my life, which I honestly couldn’t be more grateful for. If that’s as far as I get for the rest of my life, cool, then I’ll be playing Somebody Loves You on Fire Island when I’m 80! (laughs)
Gay men are very loyal to their pop queens. Trust me!
Yes! I really do appreciate the solidarity, and I do feel like a darling of the gay community, in a lot of ways. And so many LGBTQ+ people come to my shows, which is almost the entirety of my shows. Recently, a couple more people outside of that community have come to my shows, and the gay men feel quite protective of me. Like, “She’s our girl, you can share her, and we’re really excited that you like her, but just so you know, she’s our girl!”
You’ve supported LGBTQ rights throughout your career. In your video for I Love You Always Forever, you cast gay couples. Do you think it’s important to celebrate the LGBTQ community?
Absolutely! They’ve been my biggest supporters throughout my entire career. When I started, I told my mum that I wanted to be a pop artist. My mum said to me, “Alright, so you need to start thinking about what your cause is going to be. When you have a platform, you need to use your voice for good, and think about what you’re going to use it for”. She asked me if it was for women, homelessness, the environment, and told me to decide. Then my first show happened, and the viral video happened with the guy proposing to his boyfriend in the Home Depot in Utah. I didn’t have to think about it, it literally fell into my lap. Of course, something that was always in my mind, in my day-to-day life, I thought about, “I don’t get why everyone can’t just get married, and why can’t that just be how it is?” Then, all of a sudden, I felt like I had been taken under the community’s wing a little bit, and I thought, ‘I’m going to do everything I literally can to support this community now’. If I can put gay couples in my video, then maybe some 12-year-old in a closed-minded household, who doesn’t know how to be themselves, will watch the music video and think, ‘Oh, that normalizes that for me. This makes it okay’. Because I think closed-mindedness has everything to do with exposure, and I just want to be someone who can expose everybody to love, acceptance, and tolerance. And I hope I can keep spreading the message that it’s okay to be whoever you wanna be.
Who are your LGBTQ icons?
As in, other pop stars that I stand for? Or people in the LGBTQ community, their supports and outspoken activists? Because I have a list of both! (laughs) Someone who inspires me all the time, who has been such an outspoken ally of the LGBTQ community – who I’m completely obsessed with and totally in love with – is Justin Tranter. He’s an incredibly successful songwriter who’s done a couple songs with me on The Valley. First time we ever met, he was like, “The gays love you! I had to be here! Are you kidding?” I was so shocked he wanted to write with me. I am so inspired by him, and he’s one of my favourite activists right now. Other LGBTQ icons I personally stand for? I am a Godney if you will, a Britney queen. I grew up on Britney. My favourite tour DVD of all time, is the 2001 HBO special of the Dream Within a Dream Tour. I could go pound for pound, with deep cuts on Blackout, like I am here for Britney! I actually have a Britney tattoo that says “WWBD?” which is, both, “What would Beyonce do” and “What would Britney do?” It is interchangeable, depending on the situation.
I use that as well, but for “What would Buffy do?”
Wow! So now it’s Britney, Buffy and Beyonce. You have changed my life, from this day forward.
Your video for Ignore Me slayed by the way. What have you got planned for the Look Back video?
We do have a plan for the Look Back video. Because Look Back came out when I was on tour, and we’d been performing it before it came out, I decided we should film a behind-the-scenes. So many people come to see my show, that’s where so many people have fallen in love with me and my music, and it’s where I make the biggest impact. Since the very beginning of my career, I’ve gone out of my way to make a difference and be involved. I want everyone come and see the show and I want everyone to come and be with me! So I wanted that feeling to translate to the Look Back video, because the choreography is so fun and so sexy. In Chicago, we had a sold-out show with this really iconic venue, and so I had a film crew come and film Look Back live. So, the video will be the choreography from the live show, plus some behind-the-scenes tour stuff.
When it’s done right, some of the best videos are tour videos.
The mashup of the Glastonbury End of Time performance by Beyonce… That’s everything I want to be, any of Beyonce’s live tour videos. It’s my goal in life.