Concert preview: Viral video star Betty Who quickly making a name for herself

  • Photo by Alex Stern
By Columbus Alive
From the January 9, 2014 edition

Three of the four tracks on Betty Who’s debut EP, The Movement, deal with matters of the heart.

“There’s a pounding in my chest,” she sings on “Right Here,” her voice stretching cat-like across the gently undulating electronic backdrop. “It’s getting hard to breathe.”

It’s a topic that has served as a regular source of inspiration for the Australia native since she was a teenager. In a recent phone interview she said she first discovered her voice as an artist while writing about the demise of a childhood romance.

“Everyone has that boy where it’s like, ‘Oh my god, I was so in love with him,’ but it’s that 15-year-old love where you don’t really know anything,” said Who, born Jessica Anne Newham 22 years ago. “For me that was this boy named Shawn. I wrote a song about him after he had broken my heart, and I remember all of my friends being like, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing.’”

Still, it was a union rather than a split that provided Who her biggest break. Last fall Spencer Stout uploaded a video of his marriage proposal to then-boyfriend Dustin Reeser — a flash mob dance routine filmed in a hardware store and set to Who’s “Somebody Loves You” — and the video went viral. The singer recalled seeing it for the first time on a Thursday afternoon when it had just more than 500 views, and again the next day when it had surpassed a million. It now sits at more than 11 million views.

While that kind of overnight success might catch some off-guard, Who has always felt comfortable in the spotlight — even if she was sometimes loathe to admit it.

“I think I always wanted to be in the spotlight … but I didn’t want the other girls to hate me for taking the solo. Do you know what I mean?” she said. “I quietly wanted everyone to know I was talented.”

Audiences are surely catching on. The singer is currently working on a follow-up EP she hopes to release in April, and her full-length debut is expected out on RCA sometime before the end of the year. Until then Who plans to tour extensively, attend Spencer and Dustin’s nuptials (she recently received her invite and is hoping to make an appearance) and generally enjoy her time in the limelight.

“It’s like I’m playing in this fantasy world,” she said. “I’m living my own version of ‘The Princess Diaries.’”