Betty Who Is Dancing All Her Troubles Away

Betty Who Is Dancing All Her Troubles Away

Betty Who Is Dancing All Her Troubles Away

With a little help from Brazil’s most famous drag queen, Pabllo Vittar, the pair remix “She Can Dance” into the ultimate mood booster.

With a little help from Brazil’s most famous drag queen, Pabllo Vittar, the pair remix “She Can Dance” into the ultimate mood booster.

Text: Kala Herh

Betty Who just wants to dance. Ever since she was a young girl growing up in Sydney, Australia, she has always been compelled to dance. And although she shares she “wasn’t born to be a dancer,” the art form has always brought her a lot of joy–so much so, that her latest single is a celebration of this freedom in the body and the soul. Aptly titled, “She Can Dance,” Betty chronicles her love for movement as well as details the autography of her life. 

“Dancing is sort of a big metaphor, but also something that brings me joy,” Betty shares with V. “Music and dance, that celebration of art, to me, is a huge part of the life force of humanity. I genuinely love it, and I feel like it is a huge part of life.” 

Alongside euphoric synth-pop beats, Betty tells us the story of her youth. Specifically, those few years she was living in New York, trying to make a name for herself while pushing through early career challenges. No one said your early twenties would be easy, and yet in the face of all these obstacles, Betty encourages us, with a bright and sunny hook, to shake it all off and celebrate that “she can dance, dance, dance, dance, even when it’s raining, when the sky was falling down.” 

Today, Betty releases a remixed version of her track with someone who really can dance, Pabllo Vittar. As someone who’s no stranger to the dance scene, Pabllo joins Betty’s track to make a work of art that surely won’t be forgotten. The pair originally met at Coachella, where Betty saw Pabllo perform. Her set was so explosive that Betty says, “I was rocked, my socks were fully rocked.” Ever since, Betty has been looking for an opportunity to work with Brazil’ favorite drag queen and when it finally happened, like all acts of fate, the result was electric. Directed by Evgenii Shelkovoi and Anna Marenkova, the music video is set alongside trippy graphics and handwritten lyrics.

“I love entertainers who bring so much to the table like she does,” Betty elaborates about Pabllo and the collaboration. “She can actually dance and in the remix, Pabllo actually says, ‘Hi DJ you already know I can dance.’ When I first got the remix back and she said that I was like, ‘Oh my god. I'm screaming. I'm screaming.’ I also love how fucking gay it feels.”

“She Can Dance” and the accompanying remix gears up for the release of her upcoming album, Big!, out October 14 via BMG. As her first release since 2019, the album chronicles her life these past few years. Unsurprisingly, it was the isolation of the pandemic that made her realize how she truly wanted to exist. Abandoning all preconceived notions of her identity for what truly feels right, Betty ushers in an era of unapologetic self-confidence for herself (and her listeners). Filled with catchy affirmations, humorous anecdotes, and feel-good choruses, Betty shows us what’s it truly like to feel comfortable in our skin–and it’s thrilling. 

“A huge throughline of the album is about my level of self-awareness that grew in the last couple of years–specifically when we all took this time away from the world and away from other people's perceptions of us,” she elaborates. “It gave me a lot of time to really look at myself in the mirror.”

And as with every project she embarks on, Betty hopes her new album will inspire the next generation to chase their dreams while still making sure they feel seen: “I’m constantly trying to write music that makes somebody feel a little bit less isolated or alone in the world,” she elaborates. “So if you're listening to the album and you walk away with any feeling, I would hope it makes you feel like I really care about you.”

Betty’s latest project is filled with small, punchy anthems, which, when seen together, form a big, beautiful message. For more on Betty’s upcoming album, read below.  

V MAGAZINE: Thank you again for taking the time to chat with us this afternoon. We're super excited to share with readers your latest project, Big! To kick things off, where did you start with this project? 

BETTY WHO: That's a good question. Where did I start? It started with the end of a long relationship with my longtime collaborator and partner in music, Peter Thomas. We decided to do a record separately for the first time. My first three albums, my magnum opuses up until this moment, were always with Peter. He was the person by my side and holding my hand, and so when he and I broke up professionally if you will–we're still super close. He's one of my favorite people on the planet and is still very, very important to me. It feels like it was a necessary moment of growth for us to take some time to figure out who we are without each other, and I think that's really where it started. I think I had to stand on my own for the first time in a long time and figure out which instincts were mine and which instincts had been Peters’.

V: And how did you discover your true self and artistic sensibilities? 

BW: I think a lot of it was realizing how loud and confident I wanted my music to feel and to reflect the personality that I feel like I actually have. Peter is a lot more tasteful, I guess is probably the right word. And I am a lot campier. I think I've spent a long time really reeling in my own instincts and trying to do the "cool thing" or trying to do something that feels like everybody else’s. I think a lot of this sound and confidence that I feel when I listen back to the now-finished album feels like it was from that time of me going, "Cool, this is the music I love." I listened to ‘80s movie music–Kenny Loggins is at the top of my mood board for the kind of music that I really want to make. And so then ultimately finding a partner like Martin Johnson, who I ended up producing this record with, he has metaphorical cocaine running through his veins. He is a sober king, but that is definitely our energy together. I feel like he allowed me to really go there. He was like, "You want it bigger, let's make it bigger." I really appreciated this space to be able to make some pretty ballsy choices and commit to them and feel really confident about them. 

V: I love that, and as you talk about how the album is full of big, unfiltered energy, what are some other themes that you wanted to talk about in the album?

BW: A huge throughline of the album is about my level of self-awareness that grew in the last couple of years. Specifically when we all took this time away from the world and away from other people's perceptions of us. It gave me a lot of time to really look at myself in the mirror and be like, "Cool, who are you? What do you want, despite the news? Nobody's looking at you right now. You've been in your house for two years. Nobody cares. What do you really want?" And a huge part of that is about me coming to terms with the body that I was born into, I'm really tall. I'm six foot two. And so that has been something I think I've been running away from my entire life. When I wrote the song “Big!,” which is the title track of the album, I realized how many of my creative choices, how many of my personal choices, how many of my relationship choices I had made because I was really insecure about my body and my height and my presence and my stature. I've spent ten years trying to hide it and pretend like I'm everybody else, and this is the first time in my life where I'm like, "No, I'm really, really different." And that's the most important part, and I should have probably figured that out a long time ago.

V: Yeah, that's really powerful. And with that song “Big!” and then the resulting album that you've produced, what is the message that you hope to imbue? 

BW: As a writer, the thing I'm constantly trying to do is make sure people feel seen. I also want to put emotion that so many people have felt before but didn't quite know how to express into words. I think that's something that, as a culture, we're really on board with now. Everybody has felt the same way that you have, everybody has done the same shit that you've done. I think that is always evidence of how same we are, and yet there's so much that makes us feel different from each other and makes us feel isolated. But I'm like, "We're literally all the same.” We're all the fucking same. We’ve all had heartbreak, and felt insecure. We’ve all been lost. And I'm constantly trying to write music that makes somebody feel a little bit less isolated or alone in the world. So if you're listening to the album and you walk away with any feeling, I would hope it makes you feel like I really care about you.

V: Yeah, we’re excited to see the crowd's reaction to it. I read in an interview that you said, "I don't want to make choices out of fear. I want to make choices out of strength." Can you elaborate on that sentiment, and how the overall album gets at that point?

BW: Yeah, I think because part of this record is very much tied to my physical embodiment, I think that's something I've thought a lot more about. Specifically, the way that I use my body as my expression in my performance. It's very important to me that the way that the songs come through me physically from that strong place. It's like "shoulders back," a powerful stance. I'm creating space. I'm holding it. This is my time, and I'm using it. I'm here, and I deserve to be here. I think so many artists, particularly so many women, go through life with a built-in apology for their presence and their existence. You walk into the room, and you're like, "Sorry, I'm not trying to interrupt." I think I've spent a long time doing that, and a huge shift for me has been to stop performing for other people. All I need to do is perform for myself. Is it sexy because I want it to be sexy? Or is it sexy because I think that that's what men will respond to? It's unraveling all of my instinctive and usually insecure choices onstage in the music. So much of it has been about what other people want for me and not about what I'm actually really trying to express or the person I'm really trying to be. And so being really, really cautious and really thoughtful about those choices and making sure that they're all coming from the place inside me that's like, "This is for me, first and foremost. The person that I am when I'm on stage is the truest self as opposed to a character.

V: I feel like that's a really hard thing, trying to figure out the difference between who you really are and who the world thinks they are. How did you figure that out? 

BW: That's a good question. It took me so much time. I think a huge tentpole of my life is experimenting a ton right now. I don't think that I have it all figured out. And I hope to feel that I never do. I think it's fun to feel like, "Whoa, what's going to happen today?" I like the feeling of being that artistic spirit that can go wherever it wants to go. I need to feel like a free spirit. And so I think being really patient with myself while I'm in the transition, while I'm in the part that I'm like, "Cool, I'm sure about all of these things. I'm not sure about this thing, and I'm just going to try something and see if I like it", and then taking that information and learning and growing. I think I've been so hard on myself that when I try something, and it doesn't feel right, then I'm mad at myself, and it's like, "No, I just gained a bunch of information. I just gained experience points." This is really important work that I'm constantly doing just to hone and continue to find who I really am. It’s constantly like "staring at the blank page before me, open up the dirty windows," if you will, Natasha Bedingfield, "let the sun illuminate the words that you cannot find." It definitely feels “Unwritten” in so many ways, which I love and am trying to embrace and be a lot more patient about instead of so judgmental. It's so hard to live in that place of judgment of yourself. At the end of the day, we're all just doing our fucking best.

V: Yeah, for sure. And I want to get more into your song, “She Can Dance?” As you teased earlier, it was kind of an early release to announce the album. Can you just talk about that song and what you love about it so much?

BW: It's funny, my relationship with “She Can Dance” is actually quite tumultuous. I went through loving it and then fully hating it. With “She Can Dance” specifically, the people around me and people on my team were really reacting to it. The thing that really brought me around and loving it again was making the choreo for it. We are rehearsing for the video–and there are a few things that I love more that I get to do than go into a room and play with dance with my choreographer Khasan Brailsford. Not only because he is a genius and is so talented, but because he provides me with such an incredible space to be free. I wasn't born to be a dancer. I feel like I was born to be a singer, but dance is the thing that brings me a lot of joy. “She Can Dance” is literally a metaphor about that thing where I'm constantly trying to figure it out. You know, in high school, I was trying to be the funny kid, the class clown. And then I get a little older, I moved to New York, and then I broke some hearts. I was trying to find myself, and I'm dealing with my sexuality in a new and unusual way. And so, I've made some tough decisions and mistakes along the way. Here I am 30 years old, being like, "Cool. I thought I was going to be Britney Spears by now." But now, I am being like, "I have to think that this is enough because it's where I'm at." I just want to have fun. I'm just trying to figure out how to make the most of it. And dancing is sort of a big metaphor, but also something that brings me joy. That was something nobody else told me to do, and there were no stakes in it. Music and dance, that celebration of art, to me, is a huge part of the life force of humanity. I genuinely love it, and I feel like it is a huge part of life.

V: Yeah, you can definitely tell in the track. And Pabllo Vittar is doing a remix of the song. How did that collaboration come together?

BW: Well, I'm obsessed with Pabllo, so I had been trying to figure out a way to get her to do something with me. I saw Pabllo at Coachella and I was rocked, my socks were fully rocked. She is one of the best performers on the planet. I think she's incredible. Brazil already knows this, and so many people already know this about her. I love entertainers who bring so much to the table like she does. She can actually dance, and in the remix, Pabllo actually says, "Hi DJ, you already know I can dance." When I first got the remix back, and she said that, I was like, ‘Oh my god. I'm screaming. I'm screaming.’ I feel really, really grateful that it all worked out and that she said yes. I also love how fucking gay it feels. I just want to give the people what they want. And it feels very clear and very in a club, everybody doing their thing, and I really love that about it. 

V: That's very exciting. A couple more questions before I let you go. You talked about “Blow Out My Candle” before, can you talk about why you wanted that song to kick off all of your other releases? 

BW: Yeah, “Candle” was very much the song that I felt was the most accurate and perfect song for where I'm really at right now. All of the music is where I'm at right now, obviously, but I think the subject matter of “Candle,” the fact that the chorus says, "I won't stop running down that road. I'll keep dancing 'til I die. You can blow out my candle, but you'll never put out my fire." That alone is enough for me to be like, "This is the first thing I want people to hear about." It's been a long time. It's been years, two, almost three years since the release of my last album. That's a long time in music to take away, and I felt like the statement that I came back with felt really important to me. I wanted the music to really feel very uplifting, very motivational, and encouraging. I think I just want to create a space for people that you can really do it.

V: I love that, and then the last question that I have for you is, throughout this whole process of creating the album, what is your favorite memory?

BW: Yeah, this album's been a real journey. I think there are different parts that I'll never forget. Of course, me and the boys, who I made the album with, were all in Utah at Martin's house. We really put our teeth into this record and lived in Martin's Utah house and worked day in day out for two weeks trying to finish the album and put it all together. We wrote everything incessantly, and I think one of the moments that really, really sticks with me is the last night. We were recording a bunch of vocals, and Martin brought his wife in, and all of us knew that the end was near. And we started to get loopier and loopier and more excited, and now when I listen back to the music, I hear the boys' voices in the background of so many of these songs, screaming things and being silly. We were laughing on some tracks, and you can hear us just having fun. That's the thing that I love, every night when I'm on stage, and I hear in the speakers when we're sound checking, I hear the boys screaming through the back of the track as we're getting the show ready that really warms my heart. I will never ever forget that night and forget that feeling.

V: How’s your relationship with music changed since you first started making music? 

BW: When I booked The One That Got Away as a TV host, it was obviously my first time doing [TV], and I was totally out of my element. I was like a baby, being like, "I know nothing. Everybody has to tell me how to do this." And I think the experience of doing that changed my relationship with music fundamentally. Because there were no stakes for me in making this TV show. I booked a job, and everybody came in and was like, "We want you to be a part of this thing." And I was like, "I love to be a part of things." Being a part of this TV show, an experience I was lucky enough to be a part of and never in a million years would have expected to be a part of, showed me how much fun I can actually have when I let go a little bit. I remember sitting on set on the last night making The One That Got Away, and I was like, "I think I've learned something here." I think I have to hold onto this and try and bring whatever this energy is of, "No thoughts, just vibes. I'm here to work." Because I'm always here to work hard, I always want to show up and do my best. That's never off the table. So then, if I'm going to show up and do my best, does all of the stress and drama also have to follow me? Probably not. I think I could really enjoy myself. And so I'm working on doing that more, and it's been going really well. It's making me have a lot more fun with music, and I think it might change my life. It's pretty cool. 

UP NEXT

Fall-Approved Shoes to Step into the Season on the Right Foot
From Campbell to Coach, V won’t let you miss a thing