Authenticity is an oft-discussed concept when we’re chatting away about music, isn’t it. Whether it’s the ‘authentic guitar-licks’ of Smiling Boy Jake Bugg‘s ninety percent co-written work, or ‘authentic troubadours named James’ like those with the last names Blake, Blunt and Vincent McMorrow, to ‘authentic chanteuse’ Lana Del Rey, it seems to be something that people misconstrue the meaning of quite a lot.
It would be very nice, however, if authenticity came about from someone doing what they genuinely want to be doing and involve the creation and associated promotion of songs they actually enjoyed making, rather than concerning the instruments used and the genre they end up falling into. Betty Who makes the most fabulous and unapologetically polished pop music, but it is authentic, in both the anecdotal nature of her lyrics and the Missy Higgins style #trueblue drawl to her accent, which remains despite having spent the best part of her career working out of Los Angeles. She honestly just sings what she wants to sing, in the way she wants to sing it and that’s what makes her authenticity shine.
Her latest release comes nearly a year after the first one and it’s executive produced by the same bloke, Peter Thomas, who we’re quickly realising is one of the most talented pop producers around right now. He’s got a bunch of his own songs around too, including a French electro inspired one that actually features Betty on vocal. Check out All For You.
The Slow Dancing EP begins with a bold, reverb-soaked single called Heartbreak Dream, which follows the single from her last EP – Somebody Loves You in its size and romanticism. It’s real ‘close the curtains, make sure the door’s locked and jump around your room singing it’ stuff. “In a moment, you were everything to me. In this moment, we’re living in a heartbreak dream,” Betty wails over a massive pop jam which would stand an entire Allphones Arena up to sing and dance along.
Alone Again pulls things back a little bit and draws on the sort of stuff you would hear when you walk into Maccas to get a coffee and they’re playing MAX’s Top 200 Pop Songs Of The Eighties. It’s then got a massive, unexpected and brilliant guitar solo towards the end – all of this, of course – run through the Betty Who Reverbatron 3000.
Giving Me Away is pure pop perfection. Dark, stabby synths overlay Bet banging on about her heartbeat which, she’ll have you know, is “pounding right beside you, giving me away”.
Lovin’ Start, which has Ghost Beach to thank for some additional production biz, starts off with a simple clap which you can do a bit of a shuffle to, before a Seinfeld bass fills in the low-end. Occasionally all the instruments drop out to let Betty just say what she needs to say before she lets you dance again. One of the moments this happens is when she chucks a key-change in towards the end. No harmonies please – she just needs to have a bit of a warble about “when you fall you light up the sky” if that’s okay. The last thirty seconds really shows off Thomas’s ability to produce vocals with a soundscape of pitch shifting and robotic lols.
But holy fucking shit, did she save the best til last. The only song Betty entirely wrote on her own for this EP, Silas, has one instrument. A slowly plucked guitar. It’s beefed up with vocal effects – seriously stunning harmonies, haunting echoes, no low frequencies and the classic BWR3K. It’s easily the most vulnerable song she’s ever done. You’ve just got to listen to the lyrics, which she sings slowly so they seep in nice and deep and make you feel ALL THE FEELS. “How could I deserve him, when I could never earn him? All that I can see, is how kind he is to me.” The self-confessed “hopeless romantic” just sits you there for nearly five minutes and absorbs you in the story. It takes someone really fucking special to make you think their story’s authentic like Bet manages in this one.