According to the second sentence of her Wikipedia page, Bebe Rexha is “best known for her collaborations with other artists”. This observation may sound like a Drag Race-style sass, but it’s hardly misleading: Rexha’s biggest hits have been team-ups with EDM star David Guetta (‘Hey Mama’), rapper G-Eazy (‘Me, Myself & I’) and country duo Florida Georgia Line (‘Meant To Be’). But while she’s also jumped on less glittering singles like Louis Tomlinson’s boring electro bop ‘Back To You’, Rexha is no ropey rent-a-vocalist. If this hard-working New Yorker adds vocals to a banger, chances are she’s written it too, and her distinctive songwriting style shines through this debut album.
To put it mildly, Rexha’s lyrics are a bit bleaker than those you get from Jess Glynne. “Nobody shows up unless I’m paying – have a drink on me, cheers to the failing,” she sings on ‘I’m A Mess’, which re-imagines the chorus from Meredith Brooks’ ‘Bitch’ as: “I’m a mess, I’m a loser, I’m a hater, I’m a user.” The just-a-tad melodramatic ‘Ferrari’ sees Rexha compare herself to a “Ferrari pulled off on Mulholland Drive” because “living in the fast lane’s getting kind of lonely”. On ‘Sad’, she simply shrugs, “Maybe I’m just comfortable being sad.” If this makes Rexha sound kind of emo, that’s because she is kind of emo: before going solo, she was a member of Pete Wentz’s short-lived side-project Black Cards.
Though Rexha works with a range of producers here, ‘Expectations’ is generally pretty cohesive, with many tracks built around tropical or trap-influenced beats and guitar lines inspired by No Doubt. Recruiting Migos’ Quavo to rap about private jets on ‘2 Souls On Fire’ feels incongruous, and her cute country hit ‘Meant To Be’ ends the album with a loved-up smile rather than its typically gutsy grimace. But these slight aberrations are outweighed by catchy but anguished pop songs like ‘Steady’, about a toxic relationship, and ‘Shining Star’, on which she rhymes “fucked up ways” with “drunken gaze”.
‘Expectations’ isn’t flawless, but it’s a compelling re-introduction to an underrated artist – one capable of putting her own stamp on current pop sounds. On this evidence, Rexha’s Wikipedia page will soon be due an update.