Toxic gambling – Winnipeg Free Press
Can we say that a musician who has sold 10 million copies of a single is still struggling to release?
Bebe Rexha had a certified diamond smash with Meant to be, her 2017 pop-country collaboration with Florida Georgia Line, and she scored other big hits with G-Eazy (me, myself and me) and Martin Garrix (In the name of love). Prior to that, the Staten Island native performed in a short lived dance-rock group called Black Cards with Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz and wrote The monster for Eminem and Rihanna.
However, Rexha, 31, didn’t quite define herself as a solo pop star, perhaps because she never chose a single sound or a single attitude; Expectations, its debut in 2018, sounded like a collection of demos aimed at higher-powered artists. She still covers a lot of ground on her new album, Best mistakes, which floats among the sparkling retro-disco (Sacrifice), woozy emo-rap (To die for a man, with Lil Uzi Vert) and low-profile electro-funk (Baby I’m jealous, with Doja Cat). But the material is stronger and her song has a spiritual sensuality that ultimately feels distinct.
Which does not mean that she is not jostling herself yet. Reached Zoom in on a recent afternoon, Rexha is relaxing by the pool at her home in LA – “Oh my God, I look crazy,” she said as she caught sight of her unkempt hair – until her glamorous team arrives to help her get ready for a concert at Charli D’Amelio’s 17th birthday party.
“Her mom asked me to perform two songs for her,” Rexha says of influencer TikTok. “I’m taking out the cake.”
Q. On Baby, I’m Jealous, you talk about wanting to let go of paranoia and insecurity. But you said you wrote the song about an ex who was acting really fishy behind your back. Doesn’t that mean you were right to be wary?
A. Yes, but I don’t like to be jealous. As a woman in this industry, I was taught this competitiveness, and when I wrote the song, I was going through it – comparing myself to everyone else, which is so unhealthy.
Q. Does the competition ever feel toxic?
A. Are you kidding me? It is the most toxic industry there is.
Q. So why participate?
A. I don’t know. Because I love to make music, and unfortunately I do music in LA And working with the people I want to work with – people at the level they are at – it’s like a game.
Q. When did you find out the truth about the music business?
A. I was signed – and he knows it, I don’t care, I’m telling the truth – I was signed by Pete Wentz on Decaydance Records, then Black Cards was signed to Island through LA Reid. And one day after two years of being in the band and traveling and literally having no money, I got a call from management. They were like, “Pete doesn’t want you in the band anymore.” He didn’t even have the balls to call me. I’ve never heard of him.
Q. To date?
A. No, we spoke. We are better. I kept running into him on every radio show when Fall Out Boy had their Centuries moment and I was starting to go. I’m not going to be a d — about it. But it was a really tough time for me. I was depressed for years but didn’t know it. At that time, I didn’t have a therapist. My father would force me out of the house during the winter to go for a walk with him.
Q. Were you writing songs at this stage?
A. The monster.
Q. So it came from a real place.
A. When I was depressed I started looking for quotes on Tumblr that would make me feel better. I posted the quote I found on Instagram; it’s still on my page if you scroll all the way down. He says, “When we stop looking for monsters under our bed, we realize they’re inside of us.”
Q. Would you say you are in a happier place now?
A. One hundred percent.
Q. Describe your wellness regimen.
A. Cut out all the a–? No, I play sports, I drink water. I try to meditate every now and then.
Q. Do you like social media?
A. I lived for the post. Each day was simply devoted to publication. Now I don’t do that. I know it’s probably bad. The # 1 thing is that you have to stay in front of people and you have to constantly post things. But I do feel healthier when I’m not on social media so much. It’s hard because I want to be my real me, but I also feel stressed about being perfect with makeup. Like, I wouldn’t post a photo like this just yet. It’s a little too real.
Q. What is the correct amount of real?
A. I posted a video of myself in a bathing suit a few weeks ago and it ended up entering that Albanian channel and they called me lopë – a cow. It was hard.
Q. You have read the comments.
A. Yes, but then I stop. Katy Perry told me, “Don’t read the fucking comments.”
Q. Did you know anything about country music when you wrote Meant to Be?
A. Nothing. I always feel a little weird about country song. It helped me a lot in my career, but I didn’t feel like it was me as an artist. I thought it would be just a good song that I would release, and how about some country fans? I didn’t think it was going to be as massive as it was.
Q. You do a lot of different things, but do you ever feel like pop rewards artists with more focused skills?
A. I have written with a lot of artists, and a lot of them write over and over again in the same style. For me, it is rather boring. I have so many layers for myself. I grew up listening to No Doubt and Lauryn Hill. Then I had a year where I only listened to Stevie Wonder. Then I got into classical music and started to fall in love with opera. Then I played the trumpet for eight years.
Q. Maybe these layers make it difficult for some people to get a clear idea of what you are doing.
A. Well, I was listening True blue by Madonna the other day because I wanted to hear La Isla Bonita. And you know what the first track is on True blue? It’s fucking Papa Do not Preach. Do you think Papa Do not Preach is the same as La Isla Bonita? Check out Rihanna’s album who has Stay above and then also Pour it, pour it / Watch it all fall. One is a Grammy-like ballad and the other is meant to be played in the strip club. Not all of my favorite artists have been locked in by sound.
Q. How were you in high school?
A. I was so worried that I didn’t even want to eat in the cafeteria.
Q. Where did you eat?
A. I ate in the bathroom or in the adviser’s office. I just had really bad social anxiety; I still do it to this day, I just figured it out. Even when I go to industry parties now, I only have 15 minutes left.
Q. Your parents are from Albania. What’s the word on Albanian music?
A. When you go to a wedding there, you’ll have a fat guy hitting a bass drum and then you might have a clarinet or accordion player – that’s it.
Q. Not much.
A. Yeah, but it’s on. The drums are like boom-chick-boom-chick-boom-boom-boom.
Q. What is the most Albanian thing about you?
A. When people come, I have to serve them something, even if they work for me – like, my housekeeper will have a full meal. In Albanian culture, when someone comes, there is a step-by-step system of how you serve people. Let’s say you had to visit my mother’s house. She would welcome you, and we would have a little chocolate thing, really good chocolates, and we would go see everyone in the room – from the oldest to the youngest, everyone gets a piece of chocolate. Then I will serve soda or water or juice. Then you take out a big nut tray – all of those kinds of nuts. Then I’ll probably make coffee and serve coffee with a cake. And then you finish it off with fruit.
Q. It’s a certain hospitality.
A. You have to do it. If someone from Albanian came to my house and I didn’t, it would be very disrespectful. They were talking about me.
– Los Angeles Times