If you missed the TikTok drama, Fletcher’s latest single “Becky’s So Hot” is causing a polarizing stir among the LGBTQ+ community. The queer singer-songwriter didn’t just write a song about her messy feelings toward the current girlfriend of her ex, YouTuber Shannon Beveridge, but she called out the woman by name in the lyrics. While the drama helped propel the single to No. 31 on the Hot Rock and Alternative Songs chart, it also spurred intense debate about privacy, censorship, toxic behavior and feminism. While there’s certainly no easy answer to the questions posed by countless fans and critics on social media, Billboard invited two queer creators – Abby Diamond and Stef Estep-Gozalo – to engage in a discourse on the complicated issues “Becky’s So Hot” has brought forth.
Abby Diamond/Beverlee is a gay hit songwriter, producer, artist and composer of film music. Most recently, she co-wrote the theme song “Need to Be Needed” for the #1 box office film The Invitation and “In The Clouds” for O.A.R. Diamond’s acclaimed alternative pop project Beverlee is a celebration of unheard voices — featuring stories of women stuck in a liminal space, somewhere between who they are and who they’ve yet to become.
Stef Estep-Gozalo is a Queer Latinx actor, filmmaker, musician and writer. Her work typically centers on examining the intersections of race, gender and class within the context of history, pop culture and horror genres. Films she has produced and/or acted in have screened at festivals including Cinequest, Dances With Films and FrightFestUK.
Before jumping into the discussion, we (Abby and Stef) would like to make it clear that we think Fletcher’s “Becky’s So Hot” is an absolute bop! The song brings about questions on the ethics of naming and the ways that women, and especially queer women, are allowed to express themselves in the public eye. Neither of us know the parties personally, so we tried our best to navigate these issues with the respect, fairness and complexity they deserve. We also recognize the Black queer community on TikTok who point out that white privilege plays a role in the general acceptance of Fletcher’s song, and that Black women have not been allowed space to express anger publicly without severe scrutiny.
Abby: Stef, why do you think “Becky’s So Hot” by Fletcher caused an uproar in the LGBTQ+ community?
Stef: First off, we as humans really enjoy drama. We all love a trainwreck, we love a scandal. It’s entertaining and captivating to us. But specifically, within the queer community, we’ve never really had petty drama to talk about at this level. It’s kind of fun to be messy in this way. Why do you think we’re all obsessed with it?
Abby: Exactly. Most gay drama in songwriting has to do with being closeted or coming out. The most elevated way to be seen as a queer person is talking about the real-life human content versus only talking about that initial identity struggle. Fletcher’s song is refreshing also because it’s not a romantic song.
Stef: We deserve to have music that is not just, “we’re here, we’re queer, we’re proud.” I think we also deserve to have things that say “we’re here, we’re queer, and we are messy AF.”
Abby: What’s amazing about the song is how it has divided the community and also opened up conversations like this one. When I originally heard “Becky,” I had a women’s studies-styled thesis that “Becky’s So Hot” is a modern day “Jolene.” Both songs feel queer by calling the new woman of an ex beautiful. However, Dolly Parton’s classic feels more Southern and saintly. She is talking about an imagined scenario, notoriously exaggerating a bank teller flirting with her husband. The affair wasn’t real, and that allowed Dolly the distance to say “You’re so beautiful Jolene. I get it. Let me fall on my sword.” Jolene also was the name of a little girl she met at a show and not the actual teller. Fletcher’s song is real to such an extent that it is the girlfriend’s actual name. Fletcher gets into that messy emotion: she’s beautiful and I admire her because I’m queer, but also I’m so angry that my ex moved on that I could “kinda” hit her! The violence aspect is what made you twinge, and you had some feedback for me on that.
Stef: I think some people who listen to Dolly Parton don’t really pick up on the more subversive aspects of not just her music, but who she is and the way that she has characterized herself. I don’t think she’s a saint and I don’t think she would call herself a saint. Well, I guess she’s a saint in the sense that I totally worship her. But not a saint in terms of being chaste and pure and sexless. Fletcher, specifically in this song, I actually see a lot more conforming to patriarchal standards in content and aesthetic. She’s written something where it’s like, yeah, you’re allowed to have feelings and you’re allowed to be angry. And I do think it’s important for women to be angry and share that side of themselves. But this is a song that I think is less about anger and more about a sense of possession of another person, which I think is rooted in this toxic heteronormative view of relationships.
Abby: Fletcher is speaking about Becky in the third person which is problematic. Talking to her though would actually be abusive and not allow for unhinged honesty; it would be a completely different song. As a songwriter, we are experts at imagining scenarios and characters of ourselves that we would never be in real life. She’s venting and confessing to us, the listener, and wanting us to condone her crazy thoughts like a friend would. And her feelings are valid! I’m a nostalgic person, and memory is different from possession. If you date someone for five years, there are parts of that relationship that are sacred. Precious moments and objects hold meaning. I wouldn’t want someone to be plopped into the exact scripts I was in. Ironically, that’s what makes Fletcher feel like an object is that somebody else has been substituted in this shirt. She feels replaceable. Fletcher’s reaction might be misplaced, but I have compassion for her. It’s easier to get mad at the new girlfriend than it is at the lover causing you hurt.
Stef: I have to disagree with you. Because I feel like that’s assuming a lot of sentimentality on Fletcher’s part, assuming a lot about her feelings in mining what the song is about. I think we have to be careful in assuming an artist’s intent. However, we can analyze the action and the effect. Intention is not nearly as important as the actual impact. But sure, for argument’s sake let’s say that maybe the shirt did really hold this sacred sentimental value to Fletcher.
Abby: She spends the second verse describing every detail about the shirt and her memories of it! It’s kind of like when you’re going crazy in a breakup and being like, “did I mean anything to you at all?”
Stef: Okay. I’m about to get very critical here so I should start by saying that I mean no offense to Fletcher, and I think the song absolutely slaps. When I heard it, my jaw dropped because it was so messy and raw and honest. And it’s super catchy. BUT! Here’s my first issue: Becky’s a real person. Dolly’s Jolene is a fictional person. “Becky’s So Hot” is confrontational, it’s just not direct. It’s passive aggressive whereas in “Jolene,” Dolly Parton is making a direct appeal, woman to woman. “Becky’s So Hot” is not woman to woman, it’s not a conversation on an equal level. I think it’s telling that Fletcher is talking to her ex, Shannon, but that isn’t who she names. I think it shows a real contempt for Becky, whose only “fault” in all of this is just having the audacity to date Fletcher’s ex, which is messed up. My second issue: Let’s take Fletcher’s lyrics: “Are you in love like we were” and “I used to wear [that shirt] too” and go back to what you said about feeling replaced. It’s not like a relationship is a play with a script and set characters and interchangeable actors. Every new relationship is different. I don’t think it’s possible to “replace” someone in terms of a relationship, so I have a hard time sympathizing with that kind of jealousy. So, I don’t care if Fletcher really is attached to the shirt, because that shirt doesn’t belong to her! It’s not hers to have an attachment to, she doesn’t have a say in what her ex does with the shirt. To me, it displays a level of entitlement and possessiveness. She wants to be considered, she wants to be thought of, but the reality is that this is a new relationship and her ex has absolutely no obligation to consider how she might be feeling.
Abby: I feel like not being able to move on is different from possession. Fletcher had The (S)ex Tapes about their conscious uncoupling. The music video features their home videos and captures a sad separation. There was grief of the initial loss, but fresh emotions flooded when the ex entered a new relationship. Feelings aren’t linear and we can feel a lot at once. It sounds like you’re saying, Stef, that people can’t be replaced. Shannon has every right to do what she wants with that damn t-shirt. But for me, this song is about the sadness of encountering her loneliness and failed relationship. It’s less about getting back her ex, or stealing Becky, so much it is getting back that feeling of being in love. There’s also a self-awareness to her own defectiveness, flip flopping lines of acceptance with anger. “Are you in love like we were? If I were you I’d probably keep her” goes to “kind of want to hit her when I see her.” Then she goes back to the “I want to know how she tastes” before contemplating hitting her again. I hear a queer woman tossing and turning in resentment, trying to let go and the loathing is targeted at herself just as much as it is the couple. The literal script you’d see is a woman getting hit two times in a chorus. I’m reminded of Zoe Kravitz’s montage in High Fidelity of imagining hitting the fiancée of her ex; is it misogynistic, or is it an animalistic urge that women haven’t been allowed to express even in their imagination? It’s philosophical if you see possession as releasing memories of your ex, too.
Stef: I think it takes a lot of work to realize that a person can never be yours to begin with. Even the phrase “let go” implies the physicality of possessing something. And this is where I see that heteronormativity, because that’s where we learned to conflate possession with love. “Becky’s So Hot” isn’t “Jolene.” It’s “Jessie’s Girl.” That song is about jealousy as well as lusting for the partner of somebody that you care about. Fletcher has that extra gay layer, where it’s not just a friend, it’s an ex. There’s an added complexity of being both jealous of the new partner and attracted to her. I think a big part of the reaction to the song has been because of the unique norms around exes and relationships within the queer community. As queer women, we often continue friendships with our exes, in a way that’s very different than in hetero culture. It’s kind of an inside joke that a lot of us ‘collect’ our exes as friends. There are rationalizations for that, I think a lot of women are like, “of course, I’m gonna be friends with my ex, they mattered a lot to me.” And because it’s two women, there’s this feeling that we continue to support each other, we stand by each other. We can take away the romantic aspect and still have the friend aspects. I understand all that, but I personally don’t think it’s healthy. I think there needs to be space and clear boundaries to heal. I’m a clean break person. And if I do have a friendship with my ex, it’s after a good amount of time. To really do that healing and to make sure that I deal with my envy and my anger and my hurt on my own. Because that’s mine to deal with.
Abby: Yeah, and your dependency on them to help you work through whatever was missing in yourself or in the relationship. It’s important to note that Fletcher has “Healing” which is all about the work she’s personally doing. But speaking to “Becky,” there is a swing from spiritual independence back to stuck in hurt. I can’t move on and I don’t want you to either. Is it selfish or is it grief?
Stef: I think it’s hugely selfish. And I think it’s something that’s a relatively normalized feeling and something that we all experience, but I think we need to call ourselves out on it. So I feel part of what makes “Becky’s So Hot” a compelling song is because it is like reading someone’s diary when they are working through that. The issue is, it’s not a diary. It’s on the radio. And there’s real people that have to hear it all the time. And even us discussing it? Like, they’re gonna know. So, I’m sorry, Shannon. I’m sorry Becky. We’re talking about you and we don’t know you. I’m sorry, Fletcher, I’m making a lot of assumptions about you and I don’t really know you. However, you wrote this absolute bop of a song and put it out into the world. And now we have this very personal thing being dissected and scrutinized in a very public way.
Abby: Coming from a songwriting perspective, she’s allowed to have ugly feelings and women aren’t perfect. So many people have felt what Fletcher has, that initial jolt of an ex’s new life without you. I love the raw emotion, and for me as a songwriter, our purpose is to capture every single emotion. Whether it’s good, bad or unflattering – especially that. I think the song is a bop precisely because she’s spewing reactivity.
Stef: I feel like Becky and Shannon are innocent bystanders in all of this. They’re just living their lives and being happy together. And somehow that happiness has resulted in this, like, super angry/horny response from an ex they’d seemingly been on good terms with. That’s a wild thing to have happen. But there’s a larger conversation on ethics happening here. Like, when is it okay to name someone? Is it ever okay? I’m personally pretty conflicted on this, because I’m so against censorship. I think you should be able to say whatever you want to say, sing whatever you want to sing. But I don’t think that that means there shouldn’t be consequences. I don’t mean legal ramifications, especially in this case, I don’t think this song is slanderous. I’m not sure it’s more dangerous to actually say her name versus not because like you said, we’d figure out who it’s about regardless. With Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” we know who that song is about without her actually using a name. So is the naming necessarily the problem? I think she has every right to say a name. But I also think people have every right to be upset with her about it. And I think Becky, more than anyone, has the right to say, “this is not cool.” For me this is an example of just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do something. And just because you can do something, doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences.
Abby: I think it goes back to celebrity artists’ ability to act out and if they need to be fair.
Stef: When you’re a public figure, or you put yourself in the public eye, people are going to talk about you. And that’s part of the territory with celebrity. But just because your job makes you public facing does not mean that you’re signing up for objectification, it doesn’t mean that you’re signing up for constant scrutiny. It’s simply your job. Celebrity doesn’t erase someone’s personhood. I don’t think that Fletcher endangered Becky by naming her, but it does seem needlessly hurtful. Maybe we need to just hold two seemingly opposing truths at once. It can be a great song, and also be a sh-tty thing to do. A lot of things are that way. Look at the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album! It’s an incredible piece of art. It’s incredible music. And it was also airing out dirty laundry for the world to see. I think a lot of praise for Fletcher is coming from the sense that yeah, these feelings that she’s having are relatable. But personally, it has always made me really uncomfortable when I’ve gone through a breakup and my ex is dating someone new, and a well-meaning friend will say something like “oh you’re prettier than her.” I hate that. It reinforces that idea of women being in competition, it reinforces the belief that our value is inherently tied to our attractiveness. I think it’s really sh-tty to take out your aggression and your envy on your ex’s new partner, versus directing that at the ex. Or just dealing with it on your own.
Abby: We have to hand it to Fletcher. It’s an unforgettable song that has started discussions on ethics and made queer issues more visible. Maybe I am an eternal optimist always seeing the greater good, but for me Fletcher’s song, even if flawed, is great for our community. Did she do it the right way? I realized talking to you where she went wrong with the violence. But she just released an alt lyric version on guitar where “hit” doesn’t feel as harsh within a subdued and more emotive musical context. I’d love to hear how she felt, seeing that TikTok video of her ex giving a refund on the charity shirt. Does she need to be responsible? Fletcher is in an angst phase now, but she is allowed to be immature and not always have an evolved “Healing.” It’s easier for me to look at this because I’m not the couple. I’m a writer saying this is an epic song. She’s pushing a lot of boundaries. Naming is something we all wish we could do in real life! Pop music is supposed to push the edge. She’s made some mistakes, and I do believe the next song she writes will be very different and I can’t wait to hear.
Stef: It’s a great song and it’s also bad behavior.
Abby: Yes, it’s bad behavior. And as a songwriter and producer, we also record bad behavior. We don’t want to be good all the time. But maybe we as queer people should think about the power dynamic of naming to make sure the platforms for rebuttal are at an equal scale. Fletcher doesn’t need permission to be angry, and the song does not need to be more nuanced. The metaphor and real-life image of the vintage shirt make for impeccable writing! If her reaction and tone were more subtle, it wouldn’t be a bop. I’ll also say Fletcher’s brand isn’t trying to be an a–hole but reflecting where she’s at, and she’s allowed to have immature moments. It’s raw storytelling on feelings we relate to — bitterness, resentment, anger and sometimes volatility and provocativeness. Which is attractive for publicity but can also negatively impact song subjects who don’t have the same access or voice.
Stef: Honestly, my only hope for Fletcher is that she continues to put out absolute bops. She makes really great music. I really like “Becky’s So Hot” and I really like “Bitter.” I think these are things that, as queer women especially, we can relate to these very messy feelings. And it’s cool to hear them spoken by somebody else, to feel less alone in our messiness. So I don’t think Fletcher owes anyone anything. I think if she wants to apologize to Becky and Shannon, then she could do that. But she doesn’t have to, and they also don’t have to forgive her. I also don’t think that she needs to change or handle things with more “grace” or more tact or anything or like that. I think delicacy is an unfair expectation of women. I think women can be a–holes, too. It’s not necessarily a feminist act to be an a–hole, but you’re allowed to be one.