Natasha Bedingfield's New Album Is Her Most Political Yet, But Still Stays True To Her Roots
One of the first things Natasha Bedingfield mentions over the phone is that she's doing "really great," as the result of actually getting a chance to rest. "When the baby sleeps through the night, then I do," she says with a laugh and her British accent. But her 1-year-old, Solomon, has impacted way more than just her sleep schedule — the themes of Bedingfield's new album Roll With Me were majorly inspired by her son, who she lovingly nicknamed "Solo."
Having a child helped push Bedingfield to speak out and make songs with a more political tone, including one about gun violence and another about sexism. "It made me want to be more socially aware and less willing to ignore that stuff... I just feel like I had a new kind of courage," she says of parenthood.
Considering the news cycle can be hard to bear at times ("So many tragedies happen before you even leave your own bed"), Bedingfield believes, "That's when you really need music. Music helps you get out of the panic." She always throws herself into music in more difficult times. And while she knows this may seem like a departure from her earlier, more "lighthearted" music, she doesn't want to be limited one way or another. "Entertainment can be both — it can be entertaining and it can be about things that matter. There's been a microphone in front of my face most of my life, and it'd be terrible if I didn't say some stuff that really mattered."
Of course, that light, poppy vibe of her early '00s hits — ranging from "Pocketful of Sunshine" to "These Words" — is still woven into the new album, her first in nine years. Bedingfield's a pop music enthusiast through and through; she especially loves all the layers of pop songs. "I geek out over double meanings and rhymes. It's just like the greatest joy," she says.
Below, the singer-songwriter dives into the meanings behind her biggest hits, as well as newbies from Roll With Me, which she worked on with Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee, Linda Perry. Since Bedingfield recorded the album, out now, with a live audience in mind, fans can get ready to see her on tour and sing along, all while proudly knowing the tracks' backstories.
"Roller Skate" (2019)
After going roller-skating with her brother Daniel recently, Bedingfield says she "locked into that feeling" to write this new track. "When you roller-skate, or when you're on wheels of any kind, it's a very freeing feeling."
The theme of the song "Roller Skate" also ties into the album title, Roll With Me. Both are all about "freedom," and she wants fans to take a chance by following her lead. "There's something casual about [the phrase] — like just roll with me... Come along for the ride. And there's a trust there." She goes on to explain, "When an artist comes out with new music and they're kind of exploring new sounds, you have to take a few seconds or a minute and just open your mind."
As anyone who's watched The Hills can attest, "Unwritten" is a universal bop. The lyrics are all about embracing the unknown, and as it turns out, Bedingfield needed that message just as much as anyone back when she wrote it. While "Unwritten" actually "started off as a poem," she recalls, "We just had this moment where it felt like the heavens opened" when writing it. She worked with Danielle Brisebois, a former child actor, on the song, and essentially they pieced words of encouragement for themselves that went on to inspire many others.
Even today, she's motivated by those lyrics. "I try and live up to that song because I'm not always a fearless person," she admits. "Would I just jump off a rock into the water every time? Not always." But surely the song helps as an extra push.
"King Of The World" (2019)
From her new album Roll With Me, "King of the World" is all about seeing yourself from someone else's incredibly positive perspective. She sings, "When you look at me, oh, nothing matters / 'cause I've got everything in your eyes." Not only is her son the subject of the song, but he also inspired the title.
"It's a play on his name, King Solomon," she says, before explaining, "There's something about the pure innocence of a child, the joy that makes you feel like your best self. And you really want to continue to be your best self." She even pinpoints a favorite lyric that rings true to that sentiment: "I like the way I become when you're around."
"Hey Papa" (2019)
While the sound may be upbeat on this song from Bedingfield's new album, the message is a somber one. The very first lyric is, "Kids and guns / started out so young / We normalize and empathize / and hold our hands over our eyes." Meanwhile, the chorus highlights how unfair and prevalent ongoing gun violence is, especially when it seems like no real progress is being made.
The subject matter hit close to home for the singer, whose close friend lost her son to gun violence. That mother, who Bedingfield describes as "a ray of light," wanted something positive to come out of that tragedy, asking her, "Help me see through this."
While the titular "Papa" of the track is supposed to embody the "father figures" and "traditional male heroes" that society tends to look to in tough times, she actually believes it's up to all of us to step up. "I feel like the heroes are us, so we don't need to wait for some hero."
"These Words" (2004)
"These Words" from Bedingfield's debut album is an undeniable love song, but it actually came from despising over-the-top displays of affection. "When I was single, I was very independent," she recalls, "You know romantic movies and all the things that they say? It's just so icky, like, ugh. When people kiss on screen, ugh."
Nevertheless, as she fell in love herself, she realized those sappy rom-com moments make a lot more sense. The previously cheesy movie quotes became "very, very relevant" to her situation. All in all, she explains, "'These Words' is about that quest to try to say 'I love you' in an original way, and sometimes there is no better way than 'I love you.'"
"No Man I See" (2019)
If you've ever been underestimated, this new song is for you. "I've had a lot of people try to tell me what not to do, as if they're protecting me. It just makes me want to prove them wrong. I hate being discouraged." She explains the title "could just be about 'no man,' as in no one, telling you that they're better than you."
Not only is the track about sexism, but the singer also connects it to ageism, mentioning Bebe Rexha's recent Instagram about a male music exec telling her that she's getting too old, even though Rexha is only just turning 30.
"Once you're over 30, like that's not even half your life... and then suddenly you have to think about retiring," Bedingfield says, who can totally relate to Rexha's experience, even though both of them have proven the concept of being "too old" is BS.
"Pocketful Of Sunshine" (2008)
Who would've guessed such an upbeat song was written when Bedingfield was feeling "grumpy"? Apparently she was just about to leave for another studio session — jacket on and everything — but then got pulled back into work. Since she hates being late to anything, she was definitely "in a mood" about it, but it ultimately worked out for the best.
"Suddenly, they played this beat ... and Danielle [Brisebois] started singing a line, I started singing a line, and they locked the door and wouldn't let me leave," she recalls lightheartedly. "They basically kidnapped me and made sing for another 2 hours... because they knew we had something."
Despite that 2-hour impromptu session, the lyrics were written in only 15 minutes. As for the meaning? "The song is about finding an escape, finding something that takes you out of the emotions or the pain that you're in right now."
"Real Love" (2019)
While Bedingfield admits she's still figure out what "real love" is, she's closer than she's ever been. In fact, "Real Love Now" was almost the title of her new album for that very reason. She admits that finding love is a "big search," not necessarily an easy path. Tying in faith, she explains, "Love, it's like God. Sometimes you doubt God, sometimes it's like, oh, there can't be a God if there's a world like this."
Of course, that's not always how she feels. "Sometimes you need there to be a God," she continues. "Love to me has that dynamic. Sometimes I lose faith in love. Sometimes I love people and they hurt me, but there's so many different forms of love." Whether romantic love, the love of family, or self-love, there's value in each.
Reflecting on her new album as a whole, Bedingfield says, "I feel like I'm more experienced and I want people to experience that." And when fans listen to the tracks above, they'll definitely see firsthand how far she's come.