Look at Betty Who — all grown up! Here at Billboard, we’ve followed her from baby pop star to fresh major label signee to today, the day she drops her first full-length album. Back in April 2013, she premiered her EP The Movement via Billboard; it contained the single “Somebody Loves You” which soundtracked a viral, flash mob marriage proposal that led to a deal with RCA.
Betty Who Live: Watch The ‘Slow Dancing’ Billboard Studio Session
On her debut album Take Me When You Go, the Australian Brooklynite writes from the perspective of a millennial learning to navigate breakups, loves of all shapes and sizes, and coming to terms with her own growing maturity.
“A lot of the relationships that inspired this record ended with me coming to terms with [the fact] that I love myself far too much to be anybody’s second choice,” she tells Billboard. “That was a huge growth for me that led to the arc, the storyline of this record.”
All this makes for a modern synthpop album that’s often euphoric, but — like the twenty-something that made it — not without its somber, reflective moments. To get a closer look at the stories behind Take Me When You Go, Billboard chatted with Betty Who and got her track-by-track take on her debut.
1. Just Like Me
When you go your separate ways with somebody you’ve been in a relationship with, it’s really hard to be friends again. And sometimes you can’t.
For me the song is about trying to be an adult and wanting to stay in contact… but knowing that it’s not the right time and it may never be: “I am totally broken hearted about us breaking up and I know you are too, and I’m sure you could come over but then we’d end up drinking too much wine and probably hooking up again. We don’t know how to be friends. That’s fine. I just wanted to drop you a line and say, ‘I love you and I miss you but we don’t work. And I hope one day we can figure this out.’”
2. High Society
I wanted there to be a moment on the record where I acknowledge that this song didn’t get its true moment in the sun… It was on my first EP and as a song it didn’t really have its moment because we released “Somebody Loves You” and “You’re In Love” as the two singles.
It’s a fan favorite, too. At every show I play, it’s like everyone’s favorite song.
3. Glory Days
I wrote this with Martin Johnson. He’s one of my favorite people in the whole world. I was so, so lucky to spend some time together… He has one of the craziest and most interesting minds I’ve ever been in a room with.
He came up with the title: “I think the title of ‘Glory Days’ is amazing and we should go with it.” We were talking about the Bruce Springsteen song. He was like, “What time in your life would you call the glory days?” I was like, “If it isn’t now, it’s the summer of senior year of high school.” All of my friends worked at the summer camp of our high school so we got to be together all summer… We got into so much trouble… We broke every single rule we could possibly break without getting fired.
4. Somebody Loves You
It’s definitely the first single off the album because we’ve been working it to radio the past couple months. We had a conversation at RCA about it some time ago: “Do we go with a new single that’s on the record?” I put my hand up and I said, “I truly think that ‘Somebody Loves You’ is the song that has been the song for the past two years. And if we’re going to be introducing a whole new group of people to me through my album, we should do it with ‘Somebody Loves You’ — a song about nothing but being in love and telling someone that you love them so much… Whether it’s your mom, your cat, your boyfriend, your girlfriend or your best friend, someone always cares about you in this world.”
5. Missing You
This is probably my favorite on the record right now… I have different favorites; I keep switching… This song I wrote with Claude Kelly and Peter Thomas. I had gone into the studio with Claude right after I had left L.A. — which is where my boyfriend lives — so I was a total wreck. I was missing him so much… I broke down in front of everyone who was in the studio… I was like, “I love this person so much and it hurts because I can’t be with him.” Claude was like, “Well, write about it!” After having four songs in a row that are all high energy, major key banger-ville, coming down and having this tortured moment in the album… I kind of love it even though it feels a little cruel.
This is the song on the record that I wrote with Starsmith and Baby Daddy. I had been listening a lot to the new Beyoncé record when I went in. I think the bridge is that moment for me. I also wanted to have a song that’s taking charge like, “I want to have sex with you right now and that’s what we’re gonna do.” You know it by the tone of my voice. That song is partly about that and also partly that there are so many times you can tell someone you love and really care about them.
7. All of You
“All of You” is a song about loving someone with your whole heart and then despising them with every other part of your body. That juxtaposition is so passionate and interesting, because even though you sometimes can’t stand somebody, you can still want to be with them desperately.
So we had this moment of intensity and darkness and I wanted to counteract that by bringing it back with a song that, to me, is driving down to Mexico in the middle of the night, not telling anybody, and sleeping in your car at the side of the beach with somebody you probably shouldn’t be running away with. I had a string, about a year ago, of people who were no good for me, but I think that was the exciting part.
This was a song Peter had written a long time ago with a friend of his from Nashville. It got tossed around to a couple different artists and then I finally put my foot forward and said, “I would actually really like to sing this song.” So I re-wrote 99% of the lyrics and made it my own.
9. A Night to Remember
I wrote this song with Martin Johnson as well. He’s all about making everything symmetrical, and that’s a challenge for me… As a songwriter, you take a step back and say, “Wow, the writing is so well done.” I give all the credit for the construct of it to Martin because he really pushed me in that way. It was a song for me about looking at somebody you used to love a lot and saying, “How incredible was that? I always thought we’d be together and it’s fine that we’re not, but we really loved each other and we at least had a night together I will never forget.”
10. Heartbreak Dream
“Heartbreak Dream” and “Alone Again” are back-to-back, which is how they were on my second EP as well. I tried to split them up and put them in different parts on the album but I was like, “No way, they sound so great having ‘Heartbreak Dream’ finish and go into the drum intro of ‘Alone Again.’”
I wrote this with Peter in his bedroom in Los Angeles, telling him about an ex-boyfriend of mine. Sometimes it’s so hard to let go even though you know you’re not right for each other. You want to be together and it’s passionate and it’s intense, but it’s like, “We are awful together. You don’t treat me well. I don’t treat you well. I drive you crazy. You make me an insane person. We need to let this go. And that’s okay.”
11. Alone Again
I actually wrote this sitting at a piano at my parents’ house. I was having a little Prince/ABBA moment and listening to a lot of music from them. I sent the piano part to Peter and he was like, “This is the coolest thing ever.”
With that guitar solo played by David Ryan Harris, this is one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever been a part of creating… It doesn’t have to be sad when you’re saying, “I’m tired of falling asleep alone. When you’re ready to come over, hit a sister up!” … It’s one of my favorite songs to perform because I get to do a little two-step dance with my keys and bass player.
12. Dreaming About You
This was the last song I made on the album with Martin… I put it so far in the back of the record because I wanted to make a statement of, “I’m not front-loading this album with singles and then the rest don’t matter. I think that happens a lot in pop music — people write singles and the rest are throwaway songs. With “Dreaming About You” being one of my favorite songs, which I think is single-worthy, I didn’t want to put it so far forward on the record that it looks like I put all the singles at the front and don’t care about the second half. I hope people listen to the whole thing and hear “Dreaming About You” at the end as the closing out the energy on the record, going into “California Rain,” which is like a lullaby.
13. California Rain
I put “California Rain” last on the record because I had to; there really isn’t any other place for it.
Peter and I wrote it when I was staying at his house in L.A. I woke up from sleeping on the couch and it was pouring rain outside. He lives in the valley, where it’s dry and always 110 degrees… It never rains in California and when it does, everyone’s like, “What do we do?” Peter was like, “We should write a song called ‘California Rain.’” Immediately I was like, “That’s exactly how this person in my life makes me feel.”