Popping Up: Betty Who

Sam Lansky | May 8, 2013 6:00 am

Betty Who is the next great pop star. (I say that a lot, but I mean it this time.)

Born in Australia, the synth-pop glamazon (she’s 6’2″!) moved to America with her family as a teenager to attend a performing arts school, then continued her education at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, where she hooked up with producer Peter Thomas. Together, they cooked up a vibe that’s somewhere between Robyn (the lyrics are frequently as heartbreaking as the melodies are infectious) and Katy Perry (there’s plenty of spunk and the hooks are simply massive), with a throwback sound that evokes early Madonna.

If those feel like big names to be invoking, it’s fully deserved: What’s remarkable about Betty Who is that the music sounds so relentlessly sleek and expensive, but full of feeling; if you’d told me these songs were penned by Bonnie McKee, I’d believe you.

Still unsigned (she hasn’t even graduated yet!), she’s making waves with a first set of live shows and her debut EP, The Movement, which has been on heavy rotation for me pretty much nonstop. Most outrageously, she’s also an incredibly cool person: Funny and bright and full of charisma.

Don’t be surprised when she saves pop music.

HOMETOWN: Sydney, Australia

SOUNDS LIKE: Running through a field with all your best friends on a balmy summer night.

INFLUENCES: Unsurprisingly, given how ingenious her lyrics are, Betty cites Joni Mitchell and Carole King as songwriting influences, but sonically, she says that she and her producer are drawn to the alt-leaning synthpop of M83 and MGMT. “The one with ‘Kids,'” she said. “The first album — that was really big for us.” (You can hear it.)

Betty Who — “Somebody Loves You”

DISCOVERING THE RIGHT SOUND: Betty worked with producer Peter Thomas for nearly two and a half years until they found exactly the right vibe: “We started making pop music and getting really into this ’80s vibe,” she explains. “Kind of a throwback sound — what we have now. It took us maybe two and a half years to figure out what we really wanted. And the second he figured out the right drum sound for ‘Somebody Loves You,’ that was it.’

SOMEBODY LOVES “SOMEBODY LOVES YOU”: Her lead single, “Somebody Loves You,” has garnered almost universal acclaim — and with good reason. Betty chalks it up to the song’s emotional core: “It got such a positive reaction because, even though it has this underlying melancholy to it — which is totally classic me — it has a lot of hope in it,” she says. “It’s a very hopeful song. It’s kind of sweet and sad, and I didn’t really mean for it to be.”

THE ULTIMATE HIGH: Even though performing is brand new to Betty, she’s taken to it quite well: “Nothing feels as good as when I’m backstage and you hear the sample start to play,” she says, “and my whole band starts to dance and get ready and I get to walk on stage and all the lights are low and it’s like, ‘This is it, man.’ It just fills your body up. It just resonates all through me. And it’s loud, man. You play that music loud and it just bumps.” Indeed it does.

Download Betty Who’s The Movement EP for free. Do it right now. You have no excuse.