Who the heck is … rising pop singer Betty Who

December 12, 2013
Rising pop singer Betty Who plays the Rock and Roll Hotel on Saturday (Alex Stern)
Rising pop singer Betty Who plays the Rock and Roll Hotel on Saturday (Alex Stern)

Who? It’s OK. Twenty-two-year-old Australian Jess Newham gets that a lot these days. Her stage name — a nod to ’50s slang for housewife and the title of the first song she penned in high school — gives a hint to why 2014 will be the year of Betty: She’s got a knack for blending sounds of yesterdecade with words that resonate with the masses now. Far from her classical cello roots, this New York City transplant is hitting all the right notes.

In-Depot Proposal

Betty’s first single, the bouncy “Somebody Loves You,” got a boost in September when a Salt Lake City man used the song to soundtrack his flash-mob marriage proposal to his partner at a Home Depot. Video of the proposal — with family and friends dancing in the store’s aisles — immediately became a hit on YouTube, where it has since racked up more than 10.8 million views. Find it by searching for “Spencer’s Home Depot Marriage Proposal.” (Spoiler: He says yes!)

Progressive ‘Movement’

With its ’80s pop sheen, Betty’s four-track EP “The Movement” smartly evolves the sound currently dominating playlists. She worked on the cuts with composer-producer Peter Thomas, who co-wrote recent songs for Selena Gomez and Victoria Justice. Beyond the “Teenage Dream”-like “Somebody Loves You,” the ethereal ballad “Right Here” echoes like a Charli XCX or Sky Ferreira B-side. On the mid-tempo “High Society,” lines like “We’ll drink chardonnay through the day cause we say so/ A silk lapel suits you well, baby you know” come off more endearingly than those delivered by 17-year-old Lorde. “You’re in Love” recalls “Oracular Spectacular”-era MGMT.

The Next Stage

Friday night won’t be Betty’s first D.C. show: She played at LivingSocial this summer with British electronic act Bright Light Bright Light. Fans at Friday’s show can expect to hear “Heartbreak Dream,” a gem that should find its way onto playlists next summer. (Performances of the song from previous shows are on YouTube.) Betty signed with RCA Records and is working on her first full-length for a 2014 release — at least when she’s not remixing songs, like Demi Lovato’s “Neon Lights,” or singing on her producer Thomas’ first track of his own, “All of You,“ which dropped this week.

Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE; Fri., 9 p.m., $15; 202-388-7625.

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read
Next Story
Jon Wolper · December 12, 2013