More power to us Albanian females: Bebe Rexha

PHOTO: DENNIS LEUPOLD
PHOTO: DENNIS LEUPOLD

Just hours before her first live performance in Singapore at Kilo Lounge yesterday (Aug 21), American singer Bebe Rexha is live streaming on Instagram from her hotel bathroom as she warms up her vocal cords.

The 27-year-old Brooklynite - dressed in all black, complete with her shock of bleached blonde hair in a messy bun and her trademark gold "Bebe" necklace - belts out her hit single with Dutch DJ-producer Martix Garrix, In The Name Of Love.

Even with the echo of the bathroom walls, her voice sounds flawless as she hits the high notes with the ease of a seasoned pop star.

Then she stops to reply to fan questions from the live stream. "I want to find a boyfriend but all the boys treat me bad," she says with a sad face, as she bats her bedroom eyes and makes kissy faces into the camera.

That unguarded, candid Bebe is the same one who speaks to The Straits Times the day before - albeit made up to the nines and sporting red-framed sunglasses - spilling that a tough break-up influenced the choice of tracks on her EP, All Your Fault Pt 2.

The five-track EP, which was released two weeks ago, also includes the catchy pop number The Way I Are (Dance With Somebody) that is currently receiving heavy airplay.

Speaking about the break-up track (Not) The One, which she also hints might be her next single, she says: "It's about being scared to have my heart broken again, because I've had it broken before, and that is probably the worst pain ever.

"I think we all want to be loved and we all fear being alone, and I was in that headspace at the time."

She has since toughened up, emotionally: "Now I'm like, you can love me and I may be into you, but don't fall in love with me or hold me for too long."

As for her love life now, she says "there is none". She also hints that she is off-limits.

"I'm still working on myself and I'm kind of like - don't come next to me, there's caution tape everywhere," she says, miming an invisible barrier around herself.

While she has been in the music industry as a songwriter for more than 10 years, her big break on the charts came courtesy of consecutive hits. The first was a feature on David Guetta's Hey Mama in 2014. Then she climbed the charts with Me, Myself & I in 2015 and then In The Name Of Love with Garrix last year.

What has probably opened her to the wider pop market is her recent feature on One Direction member Louis Tomlinson's Back To You.

She admits that she was "a little bit hot and cold about it in the beginning, because he's from One Direction", but she just could not get the song out of her head.

"Working with him was so pleasant, he's so cool and not what other people in the music business are like sometimes," she says. "They think they're the s**t, and he's so nice, that's refreshing," adding that she could text him for anything and he would respond immediately.

At the moment, Rexha is one of three popular female singers with Albanian roots; the others are British singers Dua Lipa and Rita Ora.

Referring to her culture, she says: "I got asked for my hand in marriage at 16 and that's normal. But I didn't go that route and fought for what I believed in, because I really wanted to be in this industry and I gave up so much to get to this point.

"The fact that we can all do that as Albanian females to me is really empowering and cool, and shows that we're very strong."