Bebe Rexha is celebrating her freedom. Not from a relationship necessarily (that’s complicated) or politically-speaking, but rather, she’s still glowing from a video shoot with Doja Cat that allowed her actual human contact and the chance to leave the house for the first time in months.
Like practically every citizen of the world, COVID has been an adjustment for Rexha, who, during non-pandemic times, is typically criss-crossing the country or the globe daily — performing, writing songs, lending her name to causes and brands and just generally working around the clock.
An untenable pace in hindsight, the Great Pause has been good for the 31-year-old Rexha’s creativity, as it’s opened the door to the sort of introspection and self-reflection that brings out great songs. Her latest: “Baby, I’m Jealous” (Warner Records) is a confessional that reveals Rexha’s own social media insecurities — the kind that would prompt her to “deep dive” into a lover’s Instagram drawing conclusions and indulging paranoia.
For “Baby, I’m Jealous,” written with Justin Tranter and Jussi and produced by Jussi and Jason Gil, Rexha brought reinforcements: a guest turn by Doja Cat came by way of Rexha’s new management, SAL&CO, and cameos in the video, which was directed by Hannah Lux Davis, include social media personalities Charli D’Amelio, Nikita Dragun and Avani Gregg.
“It’s the most colorful song on the album,” she says of her as-yet-untitled and -unscheduled sophomore release. “It’s uplifting, like the video, which was tons of fun. You know me, I love my sad, dramatic, angsty songs — we will get there on the album.”
Indeed, Rexha’s track record runs the pop gamut. Chief among her hits: “Meant To Be” with Florida Georgia Line, which was recently certified Diamond marking sales of more than 10 million units. Rexha’s canon also includes collaborations with David Guetta and Nicki Minaj (“Hey Mama”), G-Eazy (“Me, Myself & I”) and her own “I’m a Mess.” Variety caught up the singer.
“Baby, I’m Jealous” — who is Baby and what’s causing your envy in the song?
I was in this one relationship and I got caught up in the deep dive because I had a fishy feeling after I saw some weird s–t on this guy’s Instagram — some comments and likes, then I see the same thing with this other girl and another girl. And they’re all, like, models — super fit, long, beautiful, blonde hair, blue eyes. It started really affecting me. I know I’m beautiful, and I love myself, but I’m not f–king 5’9”. I’m a woman; I’m a human being; I got so insecure. … Anyways, I went to the studio with Justin and was, like, “I’m so f–king over it. I love social media, but I hate social media. It’s hard to have a relationship on social media because now people can just slide into DM and everything is accessible.
Justin does this thing where he just relaxes me and says, “Take a deep breath; let’s write about it.” And I was like, okay, I don’t know how this will come out without being corny, and then we just did it. It’s so funny that I wrote a song based off of me being super insecure and jealous, but in a sense laughing at it and making that empowering.
There’s a reason why we all feel that way, and it’s natural and even healthy to be jealous as long as you can you understand where it’s coming from and then you don’t let it overtake you. Because especially in this society, women are kind of taught to be competitive with each other. When I was in my early 20s, it was always a competition — do or die. Now if I see a girl and think, “Wow, I wish I had her body; I’m a little jealous,” I’ll say, “She looks fire,” and try to focus on myself. I’m doing my best to be healthy and happy on every level, from eating healthy to working out to showing myself some real self-love.
The video has you traveling back in time to the dawn of man. What was the thinking there?
I wanted to show that, as women, we’re jealous throughout history. … Originally I wanted to shoot a video that was in the 1800s because I love “Pride and Prejudice.” Hannah suggested we jump through time. I was down with that and said, “Can we go into caveman age? [Because] I want to eat a big turkey leg.” And my team was like, “No, that’s not cute.” And I was, like, “Yes it is.” So I got to eat a big turkey leg on set. Like one of those from Disney World, they’re so good. Honestly, with this , I just wanted to have fun. I feel like I’m always overthinking everything.
Charli D’Amelio appears in the video. How did that come about and why do you think she’s as popular as she is?
I know Charli and have followed her journey from early on. We talked about having her in a video for a long time, since the Jonas Brothers tour [in 2019]. I think Charli is as big as she is because she’s just being herself; she’s that girl next door — her young, real self. And she’s actually an amazing dancer, like beyond the TikTok stuff. She studied contemporary dance and hip-hop and ballet. She’s incredible!
How were you able to pull off a video with all the COVID restrictions?
We needed a bigger budget, that’s the first thing, because we had to pay for testing for everybody [before getting on set]. Then when everybody got on set, they got tested again and had their temperatures checked. There were people on set who were strictly there to watch and make sure that everybody was wearing masks and six feet apart. We all had to be really careful, but it’s worth it because, God forbid, somebody gets sick. And then fittings were different — with seamstresses coming in, we had to do it in a safe way where we had a certain amount of people in the room — and glam, too.
You had been managed for several years by Sarah Stennett at First Access. What made you switch to Sal Slaiby in 2020?
I think I just needed a change. [Sarah and I] did a lot of great things together, but I felt like I was growing up in my career and needed to get to the next level. I was really ready to do more. And I met Sal with one of my friends at his house and we got to talking. I played him this one song, “Sabotage,” and he fell in love with it. So we talked, and I was asking a lot of questions about music and advice and what he thought. And then it just became natural, where I could call him and ask about records and he’d give me his honest opinion. It felt like the right move at the right time.
In addition to The Weeknd and French Montana, SAL&CO also manages Doja; is that how you two connected?
Yeah, I really love Doja. I think she’s just so cute, I love her style and everything she brings. When she did her part, I was, like, “Wow, this is amazing.” She’s very easy to work with and super hard working, like no diva bull–t. It was a fun experience, which for me is really important right now. I just want to have a good time and enjoy the moment.
Anything else you can tell us about the new album?
The whole album comes from my insecurities. Whether it’s the song “Sabotage” or “Break My Heart Myself,” which talks about my mental illness, or songs about my jealousy and trust issues with relationships, or me thinking that I’m going to f–k up everything in my life — most of the album follows this theme. It starts fun and gets a little bit darker. I have a song with Lil Uzi Vert called “Die For A Man,” which I wrote after a breakup and it was more of an empowering song for me.
“Meant To Be” just went diamond, congratulations!
I don’t know where to put the plaque, it’s too big! But wow, such a cool moment. I didn’t know that not many songs get to diamond. When they told me the number, I felt very emotional. People really connect to that song. It has that magical feel to it.
What song is your jam these days?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Other Side” is my f–king jam. That song makes me feel a certain way. I love it so much.
You’ve been in L.A. during quarantine, do you miss the East Coast?
I really do. I miss my family a lot. My grandma and mom had a little get-together at the house [recently] and the pictures got me teary-eyed. I miss New York. I miss fall weather and that certain smell in the air. I can’t explain it, but I know I miss it.