Madison Beer’s new single, ‘Baby’, is a sex-positive, R&B belter. Filled with twinkling harp licks and hand-clapped beats that accompany lyrics oozing with confidence, it’s the sort of song you’ll listen to and feel bold enough to send that risky text to your latest Tinder crush.
As Beer explains it, she wants ‘Baby’ “to empower you and make you just feel like you’re that bitch”.
Speaking over Zoom from her home in Los Angeles, she reveals it didn’t always sound like this. “It was originally called ‘Prescription Love’. It was kind of this whole concept, about prescription love and refilling your prescription and how it could be unhealthy to be dependent on love.” But midway through working on it, Beer had second thoughts about the poetic lyrics she’d written.
“I felt like it should be more straightforward, and so we went into the studio and I was just like: ‘give me the mic and let me freestyle’. I have voice memos of the first time I sang [the chorus] ‘if you wanna be my baby / know I’m gonna drive you mad’. And everyone was like, ‘Woo!’”
The changes stuck, and those early voice notes became the latest cut of Beer’s upcoming debut album ‘Life Support’. For the latest in NME’s In Conversation video series, we speak to Beer via the power of Zoom (watch the full interview above), to discuss how her long-awaited debut album became a saving grace during the hardest time of her life.
Your new sing ‘Baby’ is really empowering – what’s it like for you when you sing it back?
“It’s a very empowering song. I definitely feel like I want to be sexy and embrace my sexuality and just dance. Everyone’s asking me: ‘What do you want people to take from this?’ And I’m like, ‘I want you to twerk and have fun. I want you to play this while you’re getting ready with your friends and just feel good about yourself.’”
Tell me about filming the music video for it…
“We actually reshot the video. We shot one in May of last year and it was just… not it. I was like, ‘I’m really sorry. guys, but we gotta scrap this whole video and redo it.’ And of course, everyone’s like: ‘We just shot a whole humongous video – what are you talking about? You can’t do that.!’
“That’s something that goes into everything I say and stand for: you’ve got to assert yourself when it’s necessary and stand your ground, and being a female in the music industry sometimes it’s hard to have my voice be heard. This was a really important moment for me to stand up to a bunch of people, including a bunch of powerful men in the industry and be like, ‘no, I don’t stand behind this video’. And now we have this great video that I love so much that I’m so behind.”
This is taken from your debut album, ‘Life Support’, due out soon. You’ve been releasing music since 2013. Why is now the right time for your first album?
“I mean, to be frank, it doesn’t [feel like the right time]. The album was supposed to come out in late March and I’ve obviously held it off because of the fact that we got hit with a pandemic and whatnot. I just wanted to be like sensitive with what I was doing, and a civil rights movement and a bunch of stuff happened. I just figured, ‘Let’s not put my album out currently’ It’ll be out as soon as I can get it out. It’s also not obviously completely in my control, but I would love nothing more than to have my album out. Like nothing more than the entire world.”
When you went into the studio on day one did you have an idea of what you wanted ‘Life Support’ to sound like?
“We had no idea, honestly. We just went in and we were like, ‘Let’s just make what we feel and think and what feels right.’ And it slowly started conceptualising into ‘Life Support’. I was going through genuinely a really, really tough time when we were creating this album. I had just been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and I was in and out of a lot of dark mental states, and I was in therapy three times a week. By the way: therapy is amazing, and everyone should be in therapy once a week, at least.
“I was in a really, really dark fucking place. I wanted to genuinely die. My team around me was super supportive. I would sometimes just go in the studio and we would be in there for eight or nine hours, and I would just be crying the whole time, ranting and raving about how I’ve never been this depressed and how I don’t know what to do. And they were just there to be a support system; that was another form of therapy for me. I genuinely believe that the time that I was creating my album and the time that I was genuinely suicidal and not wanting to live anymore were intertwined for a reason, because that was my life support. That’s why I called this album ‘Life Support’ – because it kept me alive.”
When you listen to ‘Life Support’ now does it make you proud?
“Absolutely. It makes me abundantly proud. I actually have my year anniversary, on August 26, of being a year clean of self-harm, and I just feel super proud of where I’m at and where I’ve landed, you know? And I try to take each day with a grain of salt and focus on the good that might come, and not dwell on the bad.”
You sampled adult animation Rick and Morty on a song called ‘Homesick’. Why did you decide to do that?
“It’s my favourite TV show, it’s my favourite cartoon objectively. So I chose to showcase my buddy Rick in the outro. And Morty’s in it too. I’m obsessed with the show and I just didn’t feel like my album was complete without [Rick and Morty co-creator] Justin Roiland on it.”
Did you have to ask Justin Roiland for permission?
“That’s actually how we became friends: I reached out to him and he was probably like, ‘Who is this chick?’ And then we became buddies and started DM-ing more frequently. He said: ‘Do you wanna hang in person and get to know each other?’. I’m like, ‘Absolutely. You’re literally my God!.’ And he’s amazing. Rick and Morty is my favourite show ever.”
– ‘Baby’ is out now