Baby Ariel Hearts You

The eighteen year old artist’s new song is a beautiful tribute to teen love.

Baby Ariel’s new single “I Heart You,” appropriately released around Valentine’s Day, details a relationship on the brink of becoming something more than puppy love. Ariel’s smooth and carefree vocals, permeated by plaintive emotion in the chorus where she sings “You hurt me // And I hurt you // ‘Cause you heart me // And I heart you” come through radiantly against the punchy beat of the track. But the philosophy the song reflects is much heavier than the danceable melody lets on.

Still a teenager, Baby Ariel (technically Ariel Martin) earned her celebrity from her previous songs “Gucci On My Body” and “Aww,” but “I Heart You” is a departure from her usual bubbly style. “My past songs have really been about the happy times in a relationship, which should be 90% of the relationship. But for this song, I wanted to get a little deeper and talk about the push-pull of a relationship, and the rollercoaster [of being in] a relationship,” she told V. “Even though you guys are in love, and it’s beautiful, there are going to be hard times, and it’s about working through those hard times together.” Drawing from her personal experiences, the song is not a lamentation of a dark-and-alluring romance so much as it is an honest contemplation of how the joys of young love always come with an equal-and-opposite reaction, and the true test of a relationship is how one deals with that. Ariel has experienced these challenges firsthand. “My past relationship, we were long distance, and there was a period of two months where we were just completely apart. I was on tour, and he was in his state, doing his thing,” she explained. “So we still [had feelings] for each other, but we had to work through that tough time together. It was hard.”

The lyric video for “I Heart You” also stands out in the context of Ariel’s other work. Trading her typically clean visuals for a gritty VHS look, the video follows Ariel and her friends through a series of quotidian antics, adding to the intimacy of the already heartfelt jam. “On social media, you see a lot of perfect this, perfect that,” she said. “Because this song is about struggles, I wanted to get a little more raw and real. I think the VHS camera really gives it that raw look.” Aside from a few shots of a dewy-eyed Ariel mouthing the lyrics, the video is mostly improvised, capturing the sensitive, candid attitude of the song. “We didn’t have any production team or anything like that,” she revealed. “It was literally just me and my friends. We grabbed a VHS camera and walked around LA and made this video. It was super true to us, and true to the song. I wanted to make it as authentic as possible.” The unstructured way in which the video was shot did have its difficulties, however. Ariel produced, directed, and edited the video herself, which proved to be a gratifying yet arduous task. “We had so much fun and filmed so much, that putting that footage into one video for me was super hard. I had to edit hours of footage,” she said.

Ariel confessed to never having been in love, despite it being the topic of most of her songs. This comes a surprise, considering the mature and eloquent introspection she presents in her lyrical content. “I don’t think I’ve ever been totally in love with someone. I think I’m in love with my dog,” she joked. “In sixth grade, y’know we had these relationships where you told someone you loved them, but it didn’t really mean anything,” she laughed. “But the first time I said I love you and in that moment meant it, was my most recent relationship like a year and a half ago. We were watching a movie, and it was night time and I just turned over and hugged him, and said ‘I love you,’ super quick and super fast under my breath. I think he said it back also which was great.” But there’s a difference between loving someone in the moment and being in love with someone. Still, Ariel asserted that this relationship (which is also the source of most of her inspiration for “I Heart You”) was the closest she ever came to love. “[It was] the most I’ve ever felt for someone, and that’s also why it hurt so much at the end, when we had to break up. But I don’t think I’ve ever been in love the way I could be in love,” she mused. She is able to write so expressively about love because she finds the illusion to be as creatively fueling as the real thing. “I’ve experienced what I thought was love. So for me, writing during that time, or even now going back to that time in my writing, it helps.”

Perhaps that’s what makes “I Heart You” seem doubly nostalgic. It’s remembering the feeling of almost being in love, of endorsing this self-deception and allowing yourself to be both fulfilled and hurt by it.

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