When Fletcher hops on a Zoom call with Billboard in the late morning, the week prior to her debut album dropping, she’s still getting her head together. The night before, she’d been in New York performing on The Tonight Show. Now, she’s back in L.A., reveling in her band’s antics on the previous night’s flight.
“I had to get on a flight as soon as I got off the stage, and we all watched it on the flight back and took a whiskey shot together,” she says, a smirk appearing on her sun-streaked face. “We were all in random seats throughout the plane; I was by the f–king bathroom in a middle seat, and we’re standing up and raising a shot to each other! Disrupting our Jet Blue flight, it was pretty fun.”
The 28-year-old star has plenty to celebrate aside from her second appearance on the NBC fixture; on Friday (Sept. 16), after six years of lead-up, Fletcher (neé Cari Fletcher) finally releases her debut album Girl of My Dreams. From start to finish, the 13-track album employs the techniques that helped make Fletcher a star in the first place; namely, candid lyrics set to catchy pop hooks.
But this time around, the focus has changed — while her album still explores the messy breakup dynamics that comprised the content of EPs like You Ruined New York City For Me and Finding Fletcher, Girl of My Dreams places Fletcher squarely in the center of her own narrative. “My writing has always mirrored where I’m at in my life, and the phases that I’m in — and so the track list very intentionally starts with ‘Sting’ and ends with ‘For Cari,'” she says. “I wanted to show what the growth process looks like for me.”
Girl of My Dreams operates as something of a “time capsule” for Fletcher, chronicling two and a half years of self-discovery and therapy (“I have a crush on [my therapist], which I feel like is problematic,” she admits at one point) that resulted in personal revelations that have reshaped the young star’s self-image. “This has been my narrative of growth over the last two years; the pain evolves from nasty heartbreak into some love for yourself.”
While Fletcher emphasizes the fact that healing from pain is “not linear,” the story told on her album is — the first 5 tracks pick up where her much-loved last EP The S(ex) Tapes left off; in the midst of heartbreak, pain and emotional chaos. Early standouts like “Guess We Lied” and “Better Version” map out a path of petty resentment and bitter dismissals.
Those feelings may not be entirely mature, something that Fletcher herself calls out on late album cut “Serial Heartbreaker” when she takes “accountability, saying ‘Fuck, why don’t my relationships work out? It’s because you are codependent and you need to look in the mirror and heal that person so you stop having these cycles of habits,'” as she puts it.
But that’s the point, as she tells it; everyone thinks messed-up thoughts every now and then. She’s just putting those thoughts to good use. “There’s never a recording session where I go, ‘Cool, the next two weeks, we’re writing for the album.’ No, I show up and say, ‘Listen up, I am a hot-ass mess, I just had the most unhinged thought, let’s make it a song,'” she says.
One of those “unhinged thoughts” came in a writing session when, scrolling through Instagram, she found a photo of her ex’s girlfriend wearing one of her vintage t-shirts. After accidentally liking the pic, she decided not only to leave the like, but to forever enshrine the moment in the song “Becky’s So Hot.”
Not only did the steamy single go on to earn Fletcher her first-ever entry on Billboard‘s Hot Alternative Songs chart, but it also opened the floodgates of Queer TikTok. As it turns out, “Becky” happened to be the name of her ex-girlfriend’s (influencer Shannon Beveridge) current partner; the pair made it very clear through a series of posts that they were unhappy with the song, and fans began intense debate over the ethics of Fletcher using Missal’s name in a song about thinking she was hot. “I can’t go on TikTok anymore — my algorithm has just become videos about me, which is so f–king annoying,” she says, chuckling. “Give me anything else aside from ‘Becky’s So Hot’ discourse.”
The singer concedes that making art out of her private life — and by proxy unofficially inviting outside audiences into it — is an active choice she’s made throughout her career, even if she finds herself regretting it. “Sometimes it’s like, ‘God damn it, Cari. Why did you set the precedent of telling everybody your business?'” she says, her eyes rolling up to the ceiling. She adds; “It’s just not that deep — I’m not actually out here trying to f–k anyone’s girlfriend.”
The name “Becky,” aside from being the name of Beveridge’s current girlfriend, carries with it a lot of cultural context that Fletcher is quick to provide. “The name ‘Becky’ is a pop trope that’s been used for decades. It’s ‘Becky with the good hair,‘ or ‘Oh my god, Becky, look at her butt, it’s so big,'” she says. “‘Becky’ is ‘the other woman.’ And the song is about the other woman!”
The singer-songwriter argues that part of her job is writing lyrics that people find their own truth in. It’s part of the reason, she says, why she got into this career in the first place. Growing up in the “conservative, religious town” of Asbury Park, NJ, Fletcher says that after spending years battling mental health, hiding her sexuality and being generally “burdened by my own existence,” she used songwriting as a means of expressing herself to others who might be stuck in a similar situation.
“It was all coming from the understanding of not wanting anyone else to feel so f–king crazy,” she says. “To be able to have resources, or even just a person verbalizing the crazy s–t that we think about, or the phases of our life that we go through; I desperately needed that, and I set out from day one to be that artist.”
But with the release of and subsequent discourse surrounding “Becky’s So Hot,” Fletcher noticed some online commenters shaming her for showing irresponsibility as a role model to other queer women in the world. That characterization of her, she says, is one she rejects.
“I never claimed that; I’m not a role model, I don’t want to be a role model, and I don’t think we should have role models,” she says. “Expectations are the root of suffering — I am not f–kin’ perfect, I make f–k-ups and mistakes, I have never been out here claiming to know what I’m doing, to be doing it correctly.”
Rather, she says, she hopes fans can find some modicum of comfort or relatability from her work. “If my experience can mirror back to someone that it’s okay to be yourself, it’s okay to be honest, it’s okay to live a life that feels truthful to you, that’s great.”
She’s certainly hopeful that Girl of My Dreams can do just that — especially with its title track, as well as songs like “Holiday” and “I Think I’m Growing,” on which Fletcher invests fully in her own self love, and leaving the past in the past.
Girl of My Dreams feels like a period on the end of a sentence — and for right now, Fletcher is happy to take a breath before she figures out what she wants to say with her next statement. “I don’t know what’s next, but this is sort of ending the current chapter,” she says, smirking once again. “We’ll worry about her when we get there. But not right now.”