It should almost go without saying that a good pop album will touch on universal themes, particularly those involving love and romance. These are the foundations of the genre. But most pop albums are limited in scope—there are breakup albums, there are falling in love albums, and there are albums that focus on moving on to the next stage. Limiting songs to those particular powerful moments can make a great album, but it’s rare (and difficult) to create a pop album that attempts to hit on all of these milestones in one go. However, Betty Who’s new album Betty attempts to do just that.
Listening to Betty in track order can be a confusing journey. The opening track, “Old Me,” holds both the message of moving on and the nonlinear nature of getting over an old love. “I guess you’re not alright/Til you are/I went to bed last night with a broken heart/Now something’s different/I’m feeling like the old me.” The joyous, bubblegum pop styling that winds its way through the entire album is particularly appropriate for this track. It puts words to that strange feeling of suddenly being over a broken heart, a feeling that lacks logic and often closure. Given this mature beginning, other tracks can feel like a step backwards in terms of personal journeys. But honestly, isn’t this what being a human capable of love is, in a nutshell? When it comes to emotions, we are walking, talking paradoxes. Like the rest of us, Betty Who learns lessons, doubles back, and then relearns them.
In particular, on “Taste,” the openly bisexual singer speaks to an experience that most of us have felt, that of willingly diving in to a sexual situation that we know will be regrettable. “But he’s already on his way/You know the worse they are, the better they taste.” This sultry track somehow captures the feeling of being under the influence of alcohol and that craving for the person we absolutely know is wrong for us.
But it’s not all bad news and regret. There is a three-track run on Betty that rivals the best of any pop album you will hear this year. On “I Remember,” one of the four released singles on the album, Betty Who is looking back to a love that she can’t quite put in the rearview mirror. “I remember/Dancing under the stars/Kissing you in the dark.” On the other hand, the next track, “Marry Me” takes an obvious look forward. Betty Who is not the first pop star to sing about marriage, but this may be one of the most forward and direct. Unlike most songs of this type, it is not a woman being wistful and waiting for someone to pop the question. Instead, it is her forcing the point. “Think that we’re meant to be/So I’m like, do you want to marry me?” The rhythmic, striking drum beat that accompanies her voice drives this aggressive tone, which is a refreshing change.
Finally, on “Language,” she is done with talking and is demanding action out of a prospective partner. “I don’t need another minute with you talking/Don’t use your language, just use your mouth.” That feeling of being just slightly out of step at the outset of a physical encounter is palpable. It’s the torturous moment when the mutual flirtation and wordplay has reached its limit, but the other party just hasn’t quite realized it yet. “Language” puts, well, language to what we have all wanted to say in that situation.
Betty may not break any barriers when it comes to pop music. Betty would feel just at home in the late ‘90’s as it does today. Honestly, one of the last tracks, “The One,” feels like it could be sung by The Backstreet Boys, so your mileage may vary. However, what it does, it does well. Betty is a very good pop album rippling with emotion and danceable music. But more importantly, Betty Who refuses to limit herself as an artist in terms of subject material. Like all of us, when it comes to love and relationships, she contains multitudes, and so does this album.
Follow Betty Who on Spotify and stream Betty now.