After nearly a decade, Natasha Bedingfield is back with a slate of original songs. Her first album in nine years, titled Roll With Me, is also the Grammy-nominated singer’s most political. “Hey Papa” tackles the issue of gun violence, while “Everybody Come Together” (featuring Angel Haze) is about bringing a broken world together again. The woman behind megahit (and The Hills theme song) “Unwritten” hasn’t stopped being inspired by relationships — both with herself and others. “Kick It” is about the compromise one makes to stay in a romance.
For the exclusive premiere of the “Kick It” video directed by Jordan Rossi, Refinery29 talked to Bedingfield about how her career has evolved in the past decade, the legacy of “Unwritten,” and why she’s writing more political pop music.
Refinery29: It’s been nine years since your last album. What inspired you to release something now?
Natasha Bedingfield: “I’m working on new music all the time. I’m one of those people who doesn’t stop writing. I’m in the studio all the time. If I could go from the stage to the studio straight away, I would. I love those days because you keep that energy. One time on tour, I got a call from this brand-new artist called Nicki Minaj. The label was like ‘She is going to be the biggest star in the world,’ so I was like ‘Cool, let me hear this stuff.’ The label said that her album was closing in a few days so if you’re going to work on the album, you have to do so right now. We booked a studio [right away]. The last few years, I’ve been doing things like that. [I've been w]riting songs for other people. Charity events. [Collaborating] on songs with [other artists.] I’ve been waiting to get the right songs that go together at a body of work. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for an artist to go away for a while.”
What is “Kick It” about?
“It’s about a relationship. In a relationship, you have to compromise for the other person, but you can’t give up who you are — those two things are very, very important. Kicking it with someone is hanging out with someone, the first stuff you did when you first fell in love. It’s about doing stuff to make [a relationship] last if it’s worth fighting for.”
What was the inspiration behind the “Kick It” video?
“My videos have always been very complicated, intricate, like a little movie. I love that. For ‘Kick It,’ I wanted it to have a lot of energy, since the beat has a lot of energy to it. I wanted to show a lot of movement, because the song is a lot about moving. Movements are the things that are going to change the world.”
“There has been so much gun violence, even in the last year. If you say ‘Oh, that one shooting that happened,’ people will come up with many different ones in their head. I was talking to my friend one morning and thought ‘Oh, what terrible violence happened while I was asleep?’ For me, being relevant and in the time we’re in, you have to mention that part of where we are at right now, the challenges that we have, and how to fix them. There’s another song on my album called ‘Everybody Come Together,’ and we have to come together — all the countries in the world. In a time where we have so many issues to fix, we look to our metaphorical father figures to see how they’re going to fix it for us. What the song doesn’t say, but what I think is that we are those heroes. We have to look inside ourselves.
How is this album different from your previous work?
“There’s a lot that is similar, because it has that catchiness that anthemic songs will have. There’s a growth in me. It shows that I’m experienced, and that I care about stuff and I’m talking about it instead of shying away from it. I’m not just an entertainer. I’ve had a microphone in front of my mouth my entire life. I feel like I need to talk about some of the stuff that matters. But, there’s still some joy and uplifting qualities to it. I [want my music] to take you on a journey.”
Do you think it’s possible for pop music not to be political?
“I’ve made albums that are only about relationships for most of my life. I’ve shied away from the political stuff [in the past.] I was speaking about what I cared about at the time. In part, it was discouraged, especially with girls. It’s just ‘Look pretty and sing, don’t try to rock the boat.’ What’s different now is that we’re so much more connected to everything online. We can hear about everything that’s going on in the world and be much more aware. What I’m excited about now is that for this generation, the apathy is wearing off. They can no longer pretend that everything is okay.”
“Unwritten” is still such an iconic song. Did you know you had something special when you released it?
“All I knew was that ‘Unwritten’ said exactly what I needed to say. We knew we had something. There’s no way to know or predict that, though. It was fun to remix it for The Hills reboot. I appreciate how much The Hills means to people. For that reason, I wanted to do a remix...to show how far we’ve come. I still see videos of people going crazy for that song and it makes me really happy.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.