It’s quite stunning to see where Betty Who’s career has gone. It’s also amazing to know that I first started seeing Betty Who live in concert in 2013 after the release of her debut EP The Movement. After Somebody Loves You became a viral sensation due to a Home Depot engagement video, Betty’s star began to ascend and I was so glad. She had the talent, was unique, and was also a genuinely nice person.
What I loved about those shows (I saw her two times at Schuba’s in Chicago with a handful of other people – the venue holds at max 200) was the surprise, the humble demeanor that Jessica aka Betty, exuded. Much like Taylor in her younger years, Betty was just so thankful that people came out and spent their money to see her and support her music. At Schuba’s she would stay to say hi to and take pictures with every single person in the room. I mean, I even met her parents at her first show in Chicago. I made shirts, I totally fan-boyed. I have the pictures to prove it.
Her music was fresh, it was energetic, it was romantic, it was hopelessly enamored by optimism even though hearts were breaking at times. Her voice was also extremely serviceable and on the quiet numbers, she truly excelled.
After being snatched up by RCA and going for the big time with an official debut album release in October of 2014 (Take Me When You Go), Betty turned up the volume and was all over the United States promoting her music. Mostly produced and co-written by Peter Thomas, the sound of the album was in the vein of the Movement and Slow Dancing Eps. There was a major misstep during the release of the album which is a larger conversation (half of the album’s songs had been released in 2013 in both EPs). Either way, the excitement faded and then came The Valley in 2017.
In between albums, Betty Who kept touring, but the venues and the star became larger. Betty wasn’t who I remembered and loved. I understand, this is my problem and my perception, but the shows weren’t the humble productions that I knew. It was all a little too big-time now. Back then it was just us and Betty, but now it was Betty and the crowd.
After avoiding her music for the better part of a year, a friend invited me to see her (for free) at the Chop Shop in Chicago. I initially said no, but changed my mind after listening to Wanna Be. It reminded me of the Betty I knew. I also read an article in the Chicago Tribune where Betty recalls issues with RCA and their wanting to control her music, and being told that “[the execs] knew better”. Betty left RCA shortly after the Valley was released.
Who I saw performing at the Chop Shop was the Betty I remembered. I wore the shirt I made for the concert in 2013, and I danced around while embracing the uplifting mood she finds in both love and heartbreak. Did I get a picture with her? No (you have to pay for that now). Did she remember my shirt? No (she couldn’t have possibly seen it in the crowd). But I have to remember that she’s been everywhere and in between, and also fought her own battles, and is only 26.
She just released two brilliant singles this year: Ignore Me and Look Back. It’s a different sound, but it’s still so Betty in an interesting way. Betty performed in two sold-out shows in Chicago this March.
DO YOU WHO? YES I DO.