Being petty is the songwriter's forte. The fact is, being childish pairs awfully well with the very stupid, very childish act of making art (what, you think you can sing?), so pettiness makes for great songs. It's what gave us "You're So Vain." It's what gave us "Since U Been Gone." Pettiness gave us practically all of Taylor Swift's discography.
Fittingly, it also gave us "H8U," a single from Liz Huett, Swift's former backup singer. In the song, Huett, who was born in Riverside, California but lives in Nashville, even cops to being petty.
"You know that I'm petty/You don't have to tell me," she sings."
Huett toured with Swift for almost three and a half years during Swift's Fearless years, and the internet has a lingering fascination with her, as is what tends to happen when you're Swift-adjacent. On the YouTube lyric video for "H8U," one fan begs Huett to cover one of Swift's new songs.
But, despite the emotional similarity, Huett's sound is entirely different. She's California cool with the vocal stylings of a country star like Alison Krauss. The music video for "H8U" isn't dissimilar to the music video for "Speak Now," in which Taylor Swift interrupts a wedding. In "H8U," Huett grabs the mic from the minister at a wedding and says her piece. But where Swift's version is self-righteous and romantic, Huett's is direct — reconciliation isn't exactly on the table here. In advance of the music video premiere, Refinery29 spoke to Huett about her burgeoning career, Alanis Morisette, and, of course, being petty.
Refinery29: Okay, why is it that the word "petty" is so rich for great songwriting?
Liz Huett: "It’s cool that you dig that word. I think that the word was just necessary for the song, because usually I try not to be so on the nose. Usually, I try to make you feel the emotion behind the song, not just tell you, but for this, I thought it was better to give into the immaturity and to the way it feels when you’re being petty. Owning it was the best bet here —it’s the shameless inner dialogue you have when you see your ex moving on. It's the overall summary of what the song is about."
But that inner dialogue makes such great music!
"Yeah, and I feel like a lot of people ignore it, or reject it. But what happens when you give into the angst of seeing your ex move on before you do? It’s like one of my favorite songs, 'You Oughta Know' by Alanis Morissette. She’s really just going for the jugular there."
Is the song based on personal experience?
"It’s not not based on it. I'll say that."
So far, your two singles have internet abbreviations: "STFU & Hold Me" and "H8U." Is this a theme we can continue to expect from you?
"It was definitely something that I thought would be cool to keep consistent. But it was actually unplanned. Now, I'm like, maybe I'll keep this up. It reminds me of some of my favorite songs from the late ‘90s and early 2000s that have titles like that."
Yes! Like "Sk8erboi!"
"Yes, let us not forget the classic song 'Sk8erboi.'"
You toured with Taylor Swift for years. What's one thing you gleaned from all that time with Taylor?
"The biggest takeaway for me was that you have to mean it. When you’re preparing this art to put out into the world, if you don’t mean it, and you don’t care about it, how can you expect someone else to? Every bit of the art that I put out in the world, I mean it 200%."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Watch the full video for "H8U," below.
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