Natasha Bedingfield performs as she opens for Train during the kickoff of their Play That Song Tour at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 12, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)
Natasha Bedingfield knows people are ready to release their inhibitions again.
“Maybe everyone’s been cooped up too much,” she says with a laugh in a recent interview, calling in from her car in a CVS parking lot in Los Angeles. It’s a moment of respite (“You’ll find many people who escaped from their family and they’re doing their office calls in the parking lot,” she jokes) from a busy yet isolating year, as she’s worked on new music and mothered a toddler while the pandemic raged.
As people relied on social media to connect when COVID-19 made it increasingly difficult to do so in person, dance challenges and viral clips gave new life to old songs.
Bedingfield (who got her second vaccine dose just before our interview) was among the artists whose music found a new fellowship thanks to TikTok. Her 2004 hit song “Unwritten” skyrocketed back into the pop culture stratosphere in March. The country was slowly reopening, vaccine rollout was in full swing and her lyrics telling listeners that “today is where your book begins” and “live your life with arms wide open” hit a nerve.
TikTok “feels like it truly is about releasing your inhibitions. It really is a way to connect with people, and to show a side of yourself that you don’t always show,” the British singer says.
Natasha Bedingfield visits SiriusXM Studios on July 22, 2019 in New York City. (Photo: Mike Coppola, Getty Images)
Bedingfield tapped into the “Unwritten” TikTok craze after joining the app in February, stunning fans with her rendition of one of the dances popularized by creator @gleefuljhits, and even doing an acoustic version of the song, encouraging fans to use the app’s “Duet” feature to sing along with her.
She says her friend singer-songwriter Andy Grammer was one of the people sending her the endless memes popping up about the song. “He called me and I was on the beach, and he was like ‘You need to respond, and like people are waiting for you to be part of this.’ “
‘Unwritten’: Natasha Bedingfield has social media in a frenzy after doing TikTok dance
But it was the viral choreographed flash mob dance created by @rony_boyy (over song “Like Yhop” from budding artists Esco and Shawn P, which remixes the pop hit over a trap beat) that helped spark the resurgence, reaching millions of viewers.
Bedingfield met up with creator Rony Boyy, who works with Florida nonprofit Digital Vibez to promote healthy habits in kids through dance and activity.
“I felt like I had goosebumps while I was talking to him, because he talked about his desire to help kids,” she says. “It really fills me up, and he says that he’s getting so many amazing comments from people of how the song has been helping them.”
She joined forces with TikTok stars @jubi2fye, @yvngflickk, @iconicwill and Rony Boyy to learn the dance moves, and she performed an a cappella version of “Unwritten” while they did the “Like Yhop” choreography. She’s giving credit where credit is due: to the Black creators who helped revitalize the song’s legacy.
“I just respect each person as a creator and as a force that has genius and has ideas,” she says. “I want to shine their light, and I’ve done a lot of in my career just trying to draw all the light onto myself and I find it much more rewarding to… give credit.”
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Bedingfield fondly remembers creating the bright and poppy track, which she co-wrote with Danielle Brisebois and Wayne Rodrigues.
“There was a moment in the song where we’re like, ‘Whoa, this is amazing,’ ” she says, noting they took a break between writing the verses and writing the chorus. “As soon as we’d written (the chorus), we kind of stepped away and we’re like ‘Don’t touch it anymore!’ This said what we wanted to say so perfectly.”
The song was everywhere in the early to mid 2000s, and it became a touchstone in entertainment. For fans of MTV’s 2006 reality series “The Hills,” the track featured prominently as the original show’s theme song. And when MTV rebooted the series in 2019 – another cultural classic in the midst of a revival – Bedingfield was on hand at the premiere party. (Bedingfield says stars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt are her favorites, in a moment of throwback nostalgia).
Bedingfield reveals when original “Hills” star Lauren Conrad was an intern, she came to the studio where she wrote her first album and “that’s how we even linked up with MTV” to get the song on the show.
The cast of "The Hills: New Beginnings" Justin Bobby Brescia, Jennifer Delgado, Frankie Delgado, Brody Jenner, Kaitlynn Carter Jenner, Jason Wahler, Ashley Wahler, Brandon Thomas Lee, Audrina Patridge, Whitney Port, Mischa Barton, Stephanie Pratt and singer Natasha Bedingfield attend the party for the show's premiere on June 19, 2019 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Amy Sussman, Getty Images)
“Unwritten” also landed on the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” soundtrack and Bedingfield performed the track on the Season 7 finale of the early aughts Canadian teen drama “Degrassi: The Next Generation” (and the excitement is clear when she remembers Drake starred on the show during that time).
It’s resonating with teens now, much like it resonated with teens when it first released.
“I wrote it thinking about what I would want to know when I was 14,” Bedingfield says. “It is for that stage of life where you really are pressed upon to try and figure out who you are, and it feels kind of premature because you’re just stepping into adulthood.”
Bedingfield is back in the studio working on new music with producer Wayne Wilkins, with whom she worked alongside on “These Words,” “Single” and “Love Like This.” She says she’s looking forward to where “Unwritten” continues to go – its full legacy is ultimately, well, still unwritten.
“I like trying new things and when you try new things that makes you feel like you’re a beginner, so the song relates to me now in every stage of life,” Bedingfield says.
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