A new song, a “new” sound and a new video for the new year. Chelsea Collins “sacrifices the bad vibes” for 2022 in her new single “WISH U HELL.”
In 2019, Chelsea Collins captured the attention L.A. Reid, founder and C.E.O. of HITCO. She signed to his label shortly after and released her first single, “Tobacco and Tears.” 2020 saw her drop a string of tracks, including “Used to be (L.O.V.E.),” “07 Britney,” and collaborations with 24kGoldn (best known for his No. 1 smash hit “Mood“) and Andra Day, for a cover of Stevie Wonder‘s “Higher Ground.” Last year, she teamed up with Swae Lee on “Hotel Bed” as well as foster on “run away.” January 21st, 2022 marks the release of “WISH U HELL,” her brutal new single in which she welcomes the pop-rock sound.
The track was produced by Collins (a self-taught producer) and Nicki Adamsson – whose credits include work with Tove Lo and Charli XCX – and provides a new offering for her listeners. Reminiscent of early 2000s pop-rock, it’s a melange of sounds both past and present that pays homage to its predecessors while also firmly placing a foot forward into the future. “WISH U HELL” is her latest, and strongest, track yet, and bares strong promises on what’s to come from the pop-prowess.
Pop Crave caught up with Collins to discuss the track and its post-apocalyptic music video.
“WISH U HELL” is a new sound for you. What inspired that?
“Well, actually, when I first signed my deal two years ago I came in with a whole project in that vein. So it’s funny ’cause to the world it’s more new, but to me it’s the majority of what I actually make. I’m excited ’cause I feel like for a few songs, I wasn’t really putting out things that I would actually listen to, I would just put things out that my label would let me, so I’m really excited this time because this is what I actually want to put out – I would actually listen to as an angsty nine-year-old girl, jumping on my bed and screaming about some guy not liking me.”
Did you go into this song knowing that it was going to be a pop-rock track, or is it something that developed as you wrote the lyrics?
“I think down the line – it was a song that took a minute. It was me and my bother and my really close friend, we just had it on a guitar for months and I just had a session one day with a producer, and I was just like, ‘Wait I should produce that random song!’ and so we finished the lyrics, and as we rewrote some of them and made them darker and more edgy, the track kept getting more distorted – which I love. I love heavy, distorted, kind of industrial tracks too.”
When writing, do you have a melody first and then write to that? Or do you find a melody once you have the lyrics?
“I feel like there’s two common ways. The first one is when you think of a perfectly-crafted melody and you have to think of a concept. But now, I feel like recently it’s the type of thing when I’ll be walking at the grocery store and a melody, a title and bits of the chorus will pop into my head and I’ll go home and write it. That has been happening more frequently, which I love. It reminds me of when you didn’t have a schedule or anything, going back to when you created music as a kid and you could just have an idea and quickly go to your piano and flesh it out.”
Does it feel more ‘organic’ to have the lyrics first? Does it feel like you have more freedom in your writing?
“I would say no. Even if there is a lyric that comes in my head, if it’s a title – for example I have this song called “Safety Net,” I was like, “OK I like this title, but the melody just came with it when the title came into my head. It’s weird.”
For the new single, “WISH U HELL,” did you have the title before the song or did you figure it out after you had written it?
“We came up with the chords ’cause we were just playing on guitar, and then the title popped in my head.”
You say that songwriting is how you best express your feelings. Do you find that writing helps you to process what you’re feeling, or do you do that before you begin writing?
“Writing definitely helps me process what I feel. I’m, like, very un-vulnerable and bad at expressing myself around people, but I feel when writing a song you’re just, like, safe and you just get an icky feeling off your chest and not talk about it. If someone’s like, ‘How are you feeling?’, you can just be like, ‘Listen to this – I don’t know how to speak and be normal about how I feel!'”
Writing “WISH U HELL,” was it something that you were going through and feeling at the time, or did you write it looking back?
“It actually was in the moment. I just felt really numb, it had just been a rough year with a lot and there was one person who just the cherry on top, which the song is based around. I was just like, ‘I’m not gonna write another sad song about somebody I won’t even know in five years. It’s more fun. But, yes.”
You’re a self-taught producer. How did you teach yourself?
“It was mostly [because] me and my brother just locked ourselves in my room until we figured it out. What made it easier was as a kid I used GarageBand and Logic is kind of similar to it, and that’s where I started. And also, I did piano for, like, ten years so it wasn’t super hard to figure out notes. It’s actually really easy, I think it just seems scary. I was always scared to produce but then I hit a point where I was like: ‘I need to take matters into my hands! I’m not waiting for these weird men to give me bounces of my songs! I’m gonna be a girlboss!”
When producing a song alongside someone else, do they influence what you do?
“I think it’s nice to have another ear, but I don’t think I’ve actually ever produced with anyone next to me. It’s usually just me in my little cave and then I’ll send the stems to whoever, and they can do their thing and send it back and I can finish. I’m never sitting next to someone doing it. It’s weird. Imagine someone watching you while you’re making a beat. It’s scary. With my stuff, it’s mine. But if I’m working with another artist, and they don’t produce and understand the process, I’m so nervous. I’m like, ‘They’re gonna think I’m ass ’cause they’re not gonna understand the process. Like yes, this sounds shitty now but in the end it will sound great! Just trust the process!'”
“I’m definitely gonna have to get over it and be able to do it in the room and suck it up. It also gives you time to sit with it and think of ideas. A lot of my songs, when I write it, I won’t produce it for sometimes even a year until the inspiration hits. There’s no point in trying to force inspiration, and also never a rush. Artists take so long to release songs anyway – usually if you write a song it won’t come out for at least a year.”
Do you ever write a song you love and just can’t produce it?
“All the time. Usually that’s when I’ll bring in another producer to start it ’cause I’ll be too uninspired to start it. Maybe whatever they do is what breaks me out of that. That’s been happening recently – producers block is such a thing! It’s so shitty when you write a bop and can’t do anything with it. It’s like, ‘What a waste!'”
The music video looked a lot of fun to film.
“At the core, I’m a troll. I wanted to do a thing kind of based on The Purge and we were sacrificing the bad vibes for 2022.”
Did you come up with the idea while making the song, or afterwards?
“I didn’t really think about the video to the song. It’s so hard when the corporate label doesn’t even know what’s coming out a lot of the time. I’m a huge animal person so I always wanted to do something with live performances where people wear The Purge animal masks, which I haven’t gotten to do yet – thanks COVID, being an asshole! But I wanted to do it in a video and another director helped flesh it out. We kind of just goofed around and went to random locations, it was fun!”
How much does the label/director influence your vision?
“I definitely think some of my earlier visuals, when my label was more hands on, I would change maybe two of them. I’m pretty awkward and they were very provocative and not really reminiscent of my personality. People give you as much power if you’re very blunt about it. Recently, in my ‘sacrificing the bad vibes year,’ I’ve tried to be really transparent about work stuff and visions and color schemes, and things that I think people don’t think matter when looking back. Your face is always gonna be attached to a visual, so you might as well make it what you want and not let an executive tell you who you are.”
You said you had a mood board for the video. Is that usually where you start when thinking of ideas for visuals?
“Yeah, I’ll usually do that and have separate ones for fashion and color schemes and ideas. Sometimes, I’ll put it in a PDF and write a treatment so somebody can take my treatment and add to it – if there’s a director and stuff. It’s really fun writing a video treatment. What you write can be different the day you get there, but even envisioning it is fun.”
Is there a side to a single that you prefer? The writing and recording or creating the video?
“Definitely writing before anything. I’ll love writing ’til I die. I feel like if I could go back in time and change one thing, I would’ve worn a paper bag over my head – so I could just write and not have to show my face. I didn’t get it as a kid, but I totally get it now. As I get older, I don’t want people staring at me!”
Do you feel more pressure with visuals than with the songs themselves?
“Yeah, it’s just natural to hate yourself on camera. Your imposter syndrome will pick you apart and you need to step outside of your head. It’s just doing it more. I took a break of not filming anything for a while and when I got back on camera I was like, ‘Oh my God what is this?’ But when I was on a steady streak of filming it was normal and fine.”
Are you excited to get on stage performing once COVID allows?
“I really wanna start performing and touring, and maybe like open for somebody cause I’m still smaller. But it does seem so magical. It seems scary but the second you get on stage and start performing – it’s like the movie Soul, there’s a scene where his brain goes into its element. You forget what’s around you. It’s fun and empowering and really cool.”
Will you make sure to bring the animal masks to your shows?
“Are you kidding? Yes! That’s gonna be a staple. My live show one day is gonna be sick: I’m gonna make beats on stage and I’m gonna have weird-ass animal bandmates. It’s gonna be really fun and cool and not serious. I haven’t done that many shows, I literally did my first show a few months before COVID hit. If I’ll mess up a high note or something, I’ll just laugh. It’s human – you fuck up and you keep going.”
Listen to Chelsea Collins‘ new single, “WISH U HELL,” and watch its music video now.