November 29, 2020

Bebe Rexha on the True Story Behind Baby I’m Jealous & New Album

6 min read

The idea of living in a different year (any other year) sounds pretty ideal right now. If for only a day, Bebe Rexha got to live out that fantasy in the time-traveling music video for her new single, “Baby I’m Jealous.” Alongside collaborator Doja Cat and cameos from the likes of Charli D’Amelio and Nikita Dragun, Rexha depicts envy through the eras, sporting a hot pink corset in the 1800s, a rhinestone go-go outfit in the ’60s, and a one-piece floral garment for the dawn of creation.

Watching the high-energy transformations is escapism at its finest, a concept that Rexha is no stranger to. She’s known for delivering stuck-in-your-head hits including “I’m a Mess” and “Meant to Be,” the type of song you don’t realize you’ve memorized every word to until it comes on the radio mid-road trip. These days, no one is going anywhere, let alone another age—but if you’re using music as a coping device, you’re not alone.

bebe rexha doja cat

Thom Kerr

“I feel like I’ve also been leaning on music a lot right now,” Rexha admits to ELLE.com. “I’m listening to things that uplift my mood or make me feel nostalgic. Even if I’m feeling sad, I want to listen to something that’s in that world.” Her surviving 2020 playlist is an eclectic mix of Frank Sinatra, Lauryn Hill, Dolly Parton, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Madonna. “I think music is always really important to get us through times we can’t control,” she explains. “It’s the one thing that pushed me to keep going and put one foot in front of the other.”

As the newly redhead Rexha preps for the release of her sophomore album, she talks about the ill-fated romance that inspired her latest song, her sisterly bond with Charli D’Amelio, and voting early in 2020.

What inspired “Baby, I’m Jealous”?

It’s based off a real story. I was dating this guy and one day, I was feeling a little insecure and decided to do the deep dive on Instagram. I saw him liking all these girls on Instagram—modelesque, super-fit, wide-eyed, beachy—perfect-looking girls, in my eyes. That made me somewhat insecure and I was like, “Am I not what he likes? Am I not his type?”

I got super jealous and went to the studio. I was speaking to my co-writers about it. They were like, “Let’s write a song called ‘Jealous.'” We wanted to make it empowering. The whole album was kind of based off of insecurities and accepting them.

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Dare I ask your status with the guy behind the song?

[Laughs] We’re still very good friends.

You visit so many fun time periods in the video. How did you choose that concept?

I originally wanted to shoot the video in the 1800s. I spoke to Hannah Lux Davis and she was like, “What if we showed jealousy throughout the ages?” We decided to do the cool opening Freaky Friday scene. I grew up watching that movie, it was one of my favorite movies ever. I think my favorite scene [in the video] is the corset in the 1800s when they’re making my waist super thin, because that’s what was considered beautiful for women back in the day.

What was it like working with Doja Cat?

It was so fun. She’s very professional. She knows what she wants. She’s a hard worker. She’s there when I need her. And I knew I wanted a female on the song because I haven’t had many girls on my songs. I was a really big fan of Doja because I love how she takes risks.

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Charli D’Amelio, Nikita Dragun, and Avani Gregg all cameo in the video. How did they get involved?

Well, I’ve known Charli for two years. I found her on Tik Tok when she didn’t have that many followers, and I was like, “This girl has something special about her.” I invited her to one of my shows when I was opening for the Jonas Brothers and she came onstage and danced with me. Her family and my family, we’ve gotten super close, and she’s like a little sister to me. I also feel like I have this duty to guide her and make sure she’s okay in this crazy entertainment business. I decided to have her come and she wanted to bring Avani because they were really close and they would be cool friends. Nikita Dragun, she has a beautiful story. She’s playing the game right. I love everything she stands for and her fashion and how open she is. She’s such a sweetheart.

Why do you think it’s so important to mentor younger people like Charli?

Because I knew how it felt growing up in the industry, not really having anybody to talk to. It can get very lonely and very scary. There were so many times I was crying alone and wished I had somebody to talk to. [I] had to just figure it out myself and make mistakes. But that comes along with the journey. Now I’m like, “I know how it feels. If I could help anybody in any way that I can, I would love that.”

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Your song “Meant to Be” with Florida Georgia Line was recently certified diamond, one of less than 50 songs to achieve that. How do you reflect on this accomplishment?

That song was a blessing and a really fun time in my life. It proved to me that I could do anything I put my mind to and love. First and foremost, it comes down to the music, and that’s my real love. It’s corny, but if something really is meant to be, it will be yours. If it’s not meant to be yours, you could do everything possible in your power, but it won’t happen.

What can fans expect from your new music?

I poured my heart and soul into this album and we’re getting ready to shoot some more videos. There’s so much more content coming, so many more songs coming. “Jealous” was just the beginning, to get everybody’s feet wet, but there’s so many thoughtful, honest songs on this album and I am excited but nervous for everyone to hear it.

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You’ve already voted in the 2020 election, a moment you fabulously posted about on Instagram. Why was it important for you to vote early and encourage your followers to do the same?

So many people have lost their lives to give us the freedom to vote and it would do them a disservice if we didn’t. So many people fought, so many people have spent so much, to give us this right, and I think we should use it. Every single vote matters and I wanted to send in my vote early because I wanted to make sure it was good, it was cleared, I’m safe. Now, more than ever, I’m seeing how important it is to vote.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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