By Shannon Carlin
Jessica Anne Newham is not the next Miley Cyrus. Nor is she the next Beyoncé, Katy Perry or Robyn, though she gets a kick out of people telling her she could be the love child of the latter two. No, Newham is Betty Who, an Australian-born singer who earned a degree in pop music from Boston’s Berklee College of Music and feels a lot of weird emotions when she sees Usher.
“I got the 8701 Tour DVD when I was probably too young to be watching Usher’s 8701 Tour DVD because he comes out in these leather baggy pants, shirtless with like a floor length fur coat and like a really dumb hat, and I remember seeing it and being like, ‘I’m confused and aroused, but I don’t know what these emotions mean because I’m 11,’” Who told Radio.com. “That was a really strange confusing time in my life.”
Betty Who is also a certified viral sensation after her song “Somebody Loves You” was used in a video where a man, with help from a flash mob made up of his friends and family, proposes to his boyfriend in a Salt Lake City Home Depot.
That 2013 clip currently has been watched over 11 million times and undoubtedly helped the lead track off her debut EP, The Movement, go on to earn the top spot on the Billboard Dance Charts this past February – the same month she would serenade the couple at their wedding.
Having a hit single is still something Betty Who has trouble believing though. “I think I was watching an old episode of Glee like in sweatpants,” she said about finding out she was No. 1. “And I was like, ‘What is happening to me? I need to get my life together.’” She then got out of bed, called a friend and went and got some fro-yo to celebrate. “I just ate until I wanted to vomit,” she said laughing. “This is the glamorous lifestyle of Betty Who.”
She however is not surprised by the reaction her music’s received from the gay community. “I was never making music and being like, ‘Oh, the gays will love this,’” she explained. “But I just think it’s in my blood. I think that I was almost raised as a gay man.” In high school,Betty Who says, she had many close gay male friends who would help her deal with love and heartbreak, often giving her advice on how to cope. ”I think that has been very healthy for me,” she explained. “I think that male perspective comes across in my music.”
Betty Who writes all of her own songs and tries to take an understanding approach when addressing failed relationships. She’s seen her female friends go through their fair share of breakups and she’s more than willing to be their shoulder to cry on, but she also knows love is a two-way street. “If they’re breaking up with you, they probably need as much care and loving as you do,” she said. “I’m on your side, being like, ‘Yeah he’s an a–hole,’ but also like, ‘He probably needed something different and like he was hurting just as much as you are now.’”
When working on her latest EP, Slow Dancing, out April 8, Betty Who had gone through her own breakup, but didn’t want to be vindictive so she decided to write her own bad choices into the single “Heartbreak Dream.” On that track she addresses an ex who she considered going back with, before realizing, it’s just not worth it for either of them, singing, “When you kiss me/ I know you haven’t missed me.”
This dichotomy of pouring your heart out while busting a move on the dance floor was a conscious decision early on. “I didn’t want to write songs that would always make you want to slit your wrists in the bathtub. I spent a lot of time writing those songs, I think those are the ones that come most naturally to me, How dark is that?” she said. “So I have always loved the fact that I can sing music that’s about [pain], but makes you dance, makes you feel good.”