Who is Betty Who? You won’t be asking for long. The 22 year-old singer born Jess Newham is making waves with her debut EP, “The Movement” and its unstoppable single “Somebody Loves You.” Betty’s success is her ability to bridge past and future music trends, mixing classic synthpop production with her uniquely modern singing and songwriting voice.
Betty split her childhood between Sydney and her mother’s hometown in Northern California. Long-trained as a classical musician, she was accepted to her first summer cello program at the prestigious Interlochen music academy in Michigan at age 15. She applied full-time at her mother’s encouragement and was accepted soon after, uprooting to America just weeks before her 16th birthday. Three years at Berklee College of Music came after.
Betty writes all her song lyrics solo. The beats so far have been crafted in collaboration with producer Peter Thomas, who has previously worked with Victoria Justice and Selena Gomez. Platonic soulmates since age 18, the pair operate under the motto that “making something good is easy, the challenge is making it right.”
They hit the mainstream this September when “Somebody Loves You” soundtracked the viral YouTube hit “Spencer’s Home Depot Marriage Proposal.” The choreographed flash mob dancing to Betty’s beats already has over 10 million views. The dancing is great and the couple is adorable, but it’s “Somebody’s” infectious joy that really gets you. The track debuted at number 4 on Spotify’s most viral list.
Mixing earworm melodies with arena-sized production, The Movement (which has wracked up over 750,000 total streams) distills the best and most refreshing of today’s pop scene — lush synthesizers and sticky hooks, effortless atmosphere and open-hearted lyrics —through the spunk and boldness of Madonna’s early years.
“Somebody Loves You” opens The Movement with a canonic jolt of snappy synths and boisterous verses, making way for a massive chorus. “You’re in Love” adds a touch of shimmering house to Betty’s catalogue while “Right Here” chills the BPM and scorches the heart. “High Society” ends The Movement on a note of pure joy and subtle girl-power as Betty Who unmoors the material trappings of happiness from their misogynistic hip-hop roots.
“There’s nothing individual about recreating the sound of a past generation,” says Betty. “When I create something I want to make sure it has a lot of substance, a lot of emotional depth that reflects my life and experiences. A huge part of what I do is taking influences from [past] music and mixing it in with the emotions I’m actually living through. We’re all secretly wrecks and we’re all in love and all being heartbroken. Combining those things for me has been a huge tool to get the sound I want.
Billboard calls her EP “Deliciously fun” and Idolator has dubbed Betty “the next great pop star.” She gives the audience everything she has both on record and onstage, and they have paid her back with devotion. As she prepares for great things, Betty’s biggest concern is not chart placement or promotional sponsorships; her main priority is staying true to the people that got her this far.
“If I could define my artistry by anything, it would be the immediate personal connections I make with my audience. So much of my music is a plea to love me for who I am, because that’s all I have. I still want to play Madison Square Garden, but I get overwhelmed thinking about it —there are so many people that feel connected to you and I want to give something back to all of them.”
Betty is hard at work on her debut album, scheduled for release in 2014. She has been testing a new song, “Heartbreak Dream”, at her live shows to a more-than-enthusiastic reception.
The early video leaks of this song, combined with the promise that in-progress track “Alone Again” sounds like “Prince and ABBA had a baby,” keep the odds high that Betty Who is just getting started.