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Bebe Rexha taps into her roots as MTV Europe host

Update: October, 18/2016 - 11:00
Pop singer Bebe Rexha poses for a photo on October 17, 2016 at the MTV headquarters in New York. — AFP Photo
Viet Nam News

NEW YORK — The force behind a string of hits for other artists, pop singer Bebe Rexha was named the host of the MTV Europe Music Awards on Monday before her first album has even been released.

The honour reflects the 27-year-old’s fast-growing stardom and the connection she feels to Europe.

Born in New York to Albanian parents, Rexha will take centre-stage on November 6 in the Dutch city of Rotterdam for a gala geared to a more global audience than MTV’s signature Video Music Awards.

With a sizable fan base in parts of Europe as well as Mexico, Rexha said she always immerses herself in local music scenes when traveling.

In Europe, "it kind of feels that sometimes they’re a step ahead, and I think they’re open to different-sounding music, and I like that," she told AFP.

The singer said with a mischievous look that she was practicing pranks for the internationally televised awards night, whose performers will include Bruno Mars and Shawn Mendes.

"I just want to be myself and be real and be funny," she said.

Part of being true to herself is expressing her Albanian heritage. While her sound is consistent with R&B-tinged mainstream pop, she said there are underlying Albanian influences, including sounds she heard at weddings.

"When I was first starting out, I didn’t know how to grasp that, how to intertwine that in my music," she said.

But she eventually realised that "the more real you are" the better.

"I want to show every part of me, and every colour of me," she said. "And I think, growing up Albanian, I wanted to bring that to light."

Young veteran songwriter

Rexha’s next single will feature a "big drum that has a very sexy feel to it," she said, adding that she sees it as an inheritance from Albanian music.

The song comes out ahead of her debut full-length album, the cryptically titled A.Y.F., which will be released in January.

Rexha entered the Top 10 in the United States and several European countries last year with Me, Myself & I, a collaboration with rapper G-Eazy.

She has already enjoyed a prolific career as a songwriter at her young age.

She was discovered after she won a national contest for teenage songwriters run by the Recording Academy, which administers the Grammy Awards.

Rexha co-wrote The Monster, the chart-topping 2013 hit by Eminem and Rihanna, as well as songs for Selena Gomez, Iggy Azalea and Nick Jonas.

Blessed with a voice that can go into high soprano range yet maintain a soulful texture, Rexha said recording her own album was a new experience.

"You need to know when to surrender the album," she said.

"It’s very nerve-racking because you want people to like it and you want to like it, and sometimes you have to put your foot down and say this is what it’s going to be," she added.

"I can’t sit here forever — for another 10 years — doing this album."

Reaching into emotions

The album was also highly personal for Rexha, who poured emotion into songs about a breakup.

"The writing process was very tough," she said. "What you start learning is that to get over a breakup, you kind of have to live through the emotions and not run away from it because then it lasts longer."

But the approach is not always cathartic. Performing her early single I Can’t Stop Drinking About You a year later when another boyfriend split with her, Rexha said she would cry on stage.

"I feel weird — you don’t want to cry on stage!" she said with a laugh. "The fans are like — what’s happening? But it’s life and I can’t be perfect every day." — AFP


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