Rexha ignites a ’70s disco inferno

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NEW YORK, May 16, (AP): Bebe Rexha’s eyes welled with tears after hearing Dolly Parton on her song “Seasons” for the first time. Recruiting the music icon for the record, which Rexha initially thought was a “shot in the dark,” was now reality. “The first time listened to it, I cried,” said the Grammy nominee. “It’s just so beautiful. I cry every time — I get goosebumps all over my body.” “Seasons” was the first song created for Rexha’s new album, “Bebe,” which released recently. “I was really inspired by Fleetwood Mac, and they have a song called ‘Landslide’… ’Landslide’ is one of the greatest songs of all time, but I just loved how it talked about change. And I was like, ‘I want to write my own version,’” said Rexha. “Growing up with immigrant parents, I never thought that I would have Dolly Parton on my song, you know? She’s an icon. Not only is she an incredible artist, but she’s a songwriter, which is how I started. Yeah, it’s surreal.” “Bebe” is the third studio album from the New York City-raised, Albanian- American songstress, following up her pandemic-released “Better Mistakes” in 2021.

With the bulk of the production handled by Ido Zmishlany (Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello, Demi Lovato) along with contributions from Joe Janiak (Britney Spears, Ellie Goulding) and Jussifer (Kelly Clarkson, Kim Petras), Rexha channeled the energy and musicality of the ’70s for her self-titled project — as well as her glam and vibrant album art. Rexha didn’t know much about the era until she and Zmishlany conducted a musical a deep dive by listening to artists like Parton, Donna Summer, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks and more. “We’re like, ‘How could we take all of our favorite sounds of the ‘70s and put it into a project?’” said the 33-year-old. “I just love the freedom when it came to music… And I love the aesthetic, I love the fashion of it — everything that it encapsulates.” Parton’s collaboration is an outlier on the 12-track album, since much of it centers around dance music, led by “Heart Wants What It Wants.” Rexha said she wanted to create feelgood music as the world entered a post-coronavirus pandemic phase. “I wanted to do something a little different… There are thoughtful songs and slower records, but the majority of the songs are definitely feel-good and very uplifting and dancey,” explained Rexha, who also serves as the executive producer. “That was really important to me.”

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She was able to channel “Saturday Night Fever”-esque vibes on songs like “I’m Not High” and “Miracle Man,” which she sings, “I need a miracle man/Who can make me believe in love again/Say amen (yeah!) amen (yeah!).” “I love the musicality of it. And it just instantly puts me into this like zone and this vibe,” she said. “It’s about having high standards and knowing your worth, and looking for another person that can be on that level with you.” There’s also “Call On Me,” which has reached No. 13 on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic songs chart. It’s less about lending a hand, and more about depending on yourself. “When you look at the title, you think automatically it’s going to be like, ‘Oh, if you need a friend or if you need something, just call on me.’ And the hook is actually a fl ip,” explained Rexha, who had a role in writing every song on ther album. “I’m going to call on me. “ Rexha also managed to bat 1.000 for album icon-recruitment after securing music’s chief-green leaf ambassador, Snoop Dogg, her only other feature for the fun, THC-themed “Satellite.”

Rexha said the partnership developed after sending the rap legend a message on Instagram, with the Dogg Father returning his guest verse less than 24-hours later. “I’m always sliding into other celebrities’ DMs, constantly,” she said. “I think that sometimes you can create friendships like that, and I think it never hurts to reach out.” Other notable songs include “Visions (Don’t Go)” and the previously released David Guetta-collab, “I’m Good (Blue),” a song she initially laid vocals for around five years ago — and actually forgot about — until it was unearthed last year, reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s Radio songs chart and No. 1 on Pop Airplay after going viral on TikTok. Rexha will also bring her platforms and disco ball on the road by embarking on a 28-show tour starting in May, her first in six years. One of concurrent themes on this album is freedom, a defining characteristic of the ’70s. Never afraid to speak her mind, Rexha says whether it’s in her music or how she lives her life, she just wants to exist in authenticity. “What I’m learning is that not everybody is going to connect with you and understand you, and that’s OK. And I feel like you have to just be your realest, truest version of yourself because, at the end of the day, if you try to change yourself to be liked by other people, you’re not really being yourself,” said Rexha. “I just want to be my truest form.”

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