Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's new home for exclusive music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
Cailee Rae emerged from the world of Vine, a flash-in-the-pan social media application that Twitter purchased and discontinued in 2016. In short videos, the Missouri native (she lives in Los Angeles now) sang to her viewers, often covering the latest pop song. (Compilations of her work can still be found on YouTube.) Now, two years after Vine's dismissal, she's mounting an official post-social media career. In her single "It's On You," which premieres today exclusively with Refinery29, she heralds the value of self-love and self-reflection, two things she thinks her perfectionism — a symptom of being a Vine star — prevented.
"It took me a long time to be able to relax, to be in the right mind space, and in the right space to create again — and create content that wasn't about getting the followers and the likes and whatever," she tell Refinery29. "It's On You," as the title suggests, encourages the listener to take ownership over self-acceptance. It's called "self-love" for a reason, you know.
In the video, Rae, 18, wanders in a dark room, safe in the shroud of shadow. She gives herself a hug. She lies on a mirror. At one point, she dips her head in water. She grasps a bouquet of dandelions. For much of the video, she's standing inside a yellow box drawn on the floor. All these things, she tells me, are symbolic.
"The box symbolizes keeping yourself from expanding and growing. Because that's something that I put myself in." Social media, with its sudden spikes of virality, can have that effect. As for the other aspects of the video: The water is "sadness and stormy times and just days you kind of feel 'bleh.'" The mirror represents "self-reflection." And the dandelions are a reclaiming of power. Rae has a thing for dandelions.
"It's a really cool flower," Rae explains. "There are so many cool meanings for it. Which is why I wanted to include it. My favorite one is that it helps overcome emotions in tough times; they say the dandelion is such a bright yellow that even in the darkest of rooms, you can see it. It brings light to any kind of darkness." The dandelions "bringing light" is mirrored by a single lone window in the video, which casts just the slightest amount of light onto Rae. It all harkens back to social media, Vine in particular, which Rae found limiting.
"I put a lot of expectations on myself that were unattainable, and that's really the dangerous part of [social media], for me at least," she says. That said, Vine gave her a platform, and, assuming Vine never returns, she's one of a select group who got to experience it.
"I'm grateful to have started with social media. It was interesting to be thrown into something that was new for people," she says. "You can post whatever you want, as long as you want, whatever song. It doesn't have to be really specific. You can be yourself." Being yourself gets hard, though, when the "self" gets so commodified. This is maybe why Rae found herself searching for self-acceptance.
This is the second single Rae has released this year, a follow-up to her single "Deeper." She doesn't have an album in the works, she says, but she'll be dropping a healthy line of singles this year. This push is her first musical effort since her 2016 EP Overthinking, and she's taking it slow. These days, she says, her career is about "having fun." She's making music she wants to hear, and she's ditching the constraints of the past.
Watch the video for "It's on You," below.
This interview has been condensed for style and clarity.