Bella Thorne is the latest Disney Channel star primed for a mainstream pop career, as the “Shake It Up” star unveiled her debut single, “Call It Whatever,” last week. The bubblegum track has earned 153,000 views on YouTube since its May 13 release, and previews a debut album that Thorne says will not follow in the path of former Disney stars like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.
“I don’t think about anything close to that,” Thorne tells Billboard when asked about the inevitable comparisons. “I don’t think, ‘Well, Miley went this way, and Selena went that way, so I have to go in the middle.’ That’s not it. I’m just being me. My song is called ‘Call It Whatever.’ You can call me whatever, if you like me or not like me. I really don’t care.”
The release of “Call It Whatever” — which was produced by Paro and co-written by Par Westerland, Rickard Goransson and Skyler Stonestreet — comes roughly a year and a half after Thorne signed to Hollywood Records, the home of Gomez as well as young female stars like Lucy Hale and Demi Lovato. When the deal was finalized, Thorne was already starring on the Disney Channel sitcom “Shake It Up” along with Zendaya, whose single “Replay” became a Hot 100 hit last year. Thorne released the song “TTYLXOX” on the “Shake It Up: Live 2 Dance” soundtrack in 2012, but for the Florida native, a full-fledged pop career was always going to take a bit longer to kick-start.
“I really wanted to work on my voice,” says Thorne. “I never sang before, and I didn’t want to put an album out that I wasn’t proud of, or that was Auto-tuned or anything like that. I waited so that I could take a lot of vocal classes, so that I could work on my voice every day.”
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The music video for “Call It Whatever” will premiere on May 29, and was filmed in Los Angeles — at the same location, Thorne points out, that Kelis filmed her “Milkshake” video. Thorne’s debut album is due out later in the summer, and won’t necessarily feature the kid-friendly vibe of its lead single.
“‘Call It Whatever’ is my youngest-sounding song,” she says. “This song is definitely for my younger audience. I don’t want to eliminate them, but my album is geared a little bit older. I have some more indie type of songs, some hip-hop, some with an 80s feel, and I have dance music on there.”
While Thorne hopes to tour extensively behind her first album, she has a handful of other projects to promote: she co-stars in the new Adam Sandler comedy “Blended” and the upcoming film adaptation of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day,” among several other film projects. Her first book, “Autumn Falls,” is due out in November, and is featured in a Neutrogena beauty campaign.
“I want to try everything,” says Thorne. “And I want to be great at everything, if it’s the last thing I do.”