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Natasha BedingfieldNatasha Bedingfield

Where Her Book Begins

by Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 12, 2006.

Pop music is, almost by definition, supposed to be a reflection of the moment, catchy, not too complex and perhaps even a little bit disposable.  It is meant for driving fast with the windows down and the radio loud.  It isn’t supposed to make you think – its effect is supposed to be more visceral, more primal. 

So when “These Words (I Love You, I Love You)” by Natasha Bedingfield hit the airwaves hard last year, it was almost shocking. Here was a song that was catchy and danceable, yet it had a quirky beat and structure and was smart enough to name check classic poets Byron, Shelley and Keats.  Bedingfield was not just a beautiful girl singer (though she is of course very pretty), she had a brain as well.  She can sing about love, but she also writes about literature, philosophy and psychology.

Not bad for a woman in her mid-20s who ended up dropping out of University to take a stab at a pop career.  She had been singing for years – she even had a family group with her brother and sister.  

“I’ve been doing it all my life,” Bedingfield explains.  “I grew up around a lot of musical people.  Just kind of got bitten by the bug, you know?  I had a lot of friends when I was in high school who had little computer studios in their house.  We’d just get together after school and make music.  Write it, and it just kind of grew from there.  It became not just a hobby but a passion, an obsession.”

Bedingfield was still in college when her older brother Daniel released his debut solo album – a lo-tech recording which he had created in his bedroom.  Amazingly, Gotta Get Thru This became a huge hit, spawning the hit title track and also the popular ballad “If You’re Not the One.” 

“He’s my older brother,” Bedingfield says proudly.  “Obviously we both did music and the whole family is musical.  I was in college and he released his stuff and it did so well.  I always looked up to him.  It was a great thing for him.  And it was a great thing for me that it happened to him.” 

Just a few years later, Natasha released her own first song and she and Daniel became the only brother and sister pair to have separate number one singles in her homeland of England. 

“That’s crazy isn’t it?” she asks.  “It really feels validating, because a lot of people will go, ‘Oh doesn’t that mean it’s easier because you’re his sister that you can get in?’  But it’s actually quite hard, because I think that there’s a lot of expectation.  The fact that we are the first brother and sister to do that… shows that it’s hard, you know?”

In fact her first two singles, “These Words” and “Single” stormed up the British charts in 2004 even though she had not finished work on her debut album Unwritten.  The disk would be released in Europe later that year and in the United States in the summer of 2005.

Natasha Bedingfield“I was writing and you have to have a bit of confidence in yourself.  I knew that I felt happy with it.  But, obviously, when it went straight to number one it was like – wow!  You know it was worth waiting to the right timing.  For me, I really wanted to be happy with what I was putting out.  It would be easy – not easy, but there were several opportunities where I could have released something that maybe someone else had written for me or something like that.  But it just wouldn’t have the same impact.  It wouldn’t have the same feeling as when I’ve written it myself.”

Lyrically Bedingfield often explores the act of writing and literature – particularly on the first two US singles, “These Words” and “Unwritten” – often as a metaphor for life or love. 

“Funny, isn’t it?  I mean, the whole album is called Unwritten, which is about writing and kind of seeing life as a book, and every day is like a page,” Bedingfield says.  “Why have I used that imagery?  I think it’s just that I love reading.  I’m fascinated by writing and literature.  That’s a form of communications and music is a form of communicating something, too.  It communicates emotions that we go through and the common things that we have to deal with.  I don’t know, for some reason that seems to be quite a theme in my music.”

Other themes in her music came from her past as well.  While at University, Bedingfield was a psychology major.  This was not so much because she ever wanted to be a psychologist, she just wanted to explore the mind and see how it would inform her art.

“One of the main reasons I went to studying in University is I was writing songs,” Bedingfield says.  “I was eighteen and I’m feeling like I didn’t have a lot of experience to really write something that I felt was worth writing about.  So studying something like Psychology was great.  It really did stretch my mind and let me see from other perspectives.  At the same time, I think it’s important not to get too serious about music, too.  I love [that] ‘These Words’ is a very fun song.  So it’s kind of just getting a balance, really.”

This balance is also obvious in her love-yourself song “Single,” a personal declaration of independence of a sort.  It is a celebration of the freedom of being on your own in the world.

“There’s just a feeling that you’re not complete if you’re not with someone else.  I think that [with] programs like Sex and the City [there] has been a big awareness [of the unattached lifestyle] in a way,” Bedingfield laughs.  “The fact is there are a damn lot of single people around and you know what?  We’re not sorry for ourselves.  Everyone has those moments where you sit down and put on ‘All By Myself’ like Bridget Jones.  But overall, it’s like; please don’t be sorry for me.  I’m actually really happy with where I’m at right now.  My validation doesn’t come from someone else.”

Natasha BedingfieldTruthfully, she has said, the songs of Unwritten are all about taking what life throws at you and trying to make the most of it. 

“That’s my mentality in life,” Bedingfield says.  “Life isn’t always easy.  I mean the song ‘Unwritten’ is very positive; you can make a new start every day.  Really, I’m blessed.  Like my family… my parents are both together.  That’s cool, but it’s not to say that we didn’t have hard things happening while I was growing up in London.  Everyone has things that life dishes out to them.  The way that you handle it is the way that you live.  You can choose to let it pull you down, or you can choose to move on or use it or turn it around for good.  One of my songs on the album is called ‘If You’re Gonna Jump.’  Jump far.  If you’re gonna do it, then go for it.  I want to live life full on.  That seems to be kind of a theme.”

In her song “Stumble,” Bedingfield sings “I’m not the kind of girl you take home to mother; I’m not the kind of girl you kiss in public.”  Which brings up an interesting question – exactly what kind of girl does Bedingfield think that she is?

“Well, really when I’m talking about that song, it’s kind of talking about where I’m at right now.  Let me see, what type of girl am I?” Bedingfield laughs heartily. “I don’t know.  I like to be honest and I like to be quite free.  Enjoy life to the full.  I think really, to be honest, most mums would love me.  I don’t think that they would really have a problem with me.  But you know, I think there’s another sense that a mother could be afraid that this pop star girl is going to take away their son into the [crazy] kind of world…”   

The Unwritten album is not only lyrically diverse; it also mines a whole series of styles and genres to capture its groove.  There are rockier songs like “If You’re Gonna…,” traditional ballads like “Stumble,” “Drop Me in the Middle” is hip hop, “Unwritten” has a section with a gospel choir and lots of songs like “Single” have a strong R&B vibe.  This variety came naturally to Bedingfield.

“It reflects the fact that I come from London,” Bedingfield says.  “It’s a bit like New York – its demographic is really a mix of different cultures.  You can’t grow up in that and not be influenced by it.  So I was just trying to bring that.  I felt in the album that each song is like a character in that book, if we want to stay with that theme.  Depending on what the song is about, you want to reflect that.  ‘Wild Horses’ is just a ballad, because it’s simple.  Why put lots of bells and smells on it when it really just says it like it is?  But there are other songs that just are fun.  ‘Size Matters,’ for instance.” 

There are certain other ideas that recur often in the album.  For example, when the songs turn to love, a lot of the relationships are in trouble or dying.  This shows itself in heartbreakers like “The One that Got Away,”  “Silent Movie,” ““I Bruise Easily” and “Wild Horses.”  Yet other songs celebrate love – tunes like “These Words” and “Stumble.” 

Natasha Bedingfield“Relationships in general are very great, inspiring things,” she says.  “You can take whatever [you want] out of it.  It is easier for me sometimes to write songs that are quite melancholic, like ‘I Bruise Easily.’  I see that as a love song, because it’s talking about vulnerability and the fact that the more you love someone, the more you have to open your heart.  You could get hurt.  Relationships are definitely things that you can learn from and you want to express.  There are so many songs about love.  If you look at all the songs in the world, the theme that comes up the most, probably is love, because it’s such a strong emotion.” 

Bedingfield is also finding another way to express her emotions – she has dipped her toe into the acting pool.  Nothing too serious to start, but she was approached to do a voiceover for character in a James Bond computer game and decided it would be an interesting challenge. 

“It was really fun, because I was actually the voice of a CGI character.  So I got to do a little bit of screaming, because I get kidnapped.  I was really getting into it – just letting out all the tension from the road,” Bedingfield laughs. “I think I can be quite believable, like when I do music videos and things.  That’s the most important thing.  It’s more important than looking good, that you actually believe what the person is saying.  Sometimes I get other acting things across my desk, other scripts and stuff.  I really will consider them carefully, because I want to be in something that I would be able to do well.”

Meanwhile, as Bedingfield is working on her follow-up to Unwritten, it does not bother her at all that her career is currently exploding in the United States with an album which she recorded two years earlier.  In fact, she is savoring the experience of becoming a star all over again.

“It’s actually been really nice,” Bedingfield says, “because you know when you start out anything new it’s a bit of a whirlwind.  In Europe it really became [overwhelming]…  America is a whole different thing.  For me, when I came to America it was like I was able to do the same thing again, but enjoy it, because it’s not so new.  It’s not such a whirlwind.”

Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 12, 2006.

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Photo Credits:
#1 © 2005.  Courtesy of Columbia Records.  All rights reserved.
#2 © 2005.  Courtesy of Columbia Records.  All rights reserved.
#3 © 2005.  Courtesy of Columbia Records.  All rights reserved.
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Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 12, 2006.