The result is an unflinching self-assessment that hopscotches across pop, hip-hop, alternative rock and dance music, and pulls in a few of Rexha’s famous friends, from Lil Uzi Vert on “Die for a Man” to Travis Barker on “Break My Heart Myself” to Doja Cat on lead single “Baby, I’m Jealous.” A version of Better Mistakes was originally finished prior to the pandemic and resulting shutdown; in the interim, Rexha changed managers, signing to Wassim “Sal” Slaiby’s Sal & Co. last fall, where she joins artists like The Weeknd and Doja Cat.
During a Zoom chat a few days before the release of Better Mistakes, Rexha discussed what the project represents to her personally and professionally, battling imposter syndrome, and why she wants to dabble in metal music.
You had spoken about the focus of your second album in early 2020, and then the pandemic shutdown happened. How did the album change over the past year?
It’s funny, because I had this super-focused album that was all in the “Empty,” “Death Row,” “Break My Heart Myself” world, and “My Dear Love” was still in there to go a little more hip-hop. But then sitting on the album was driving me crazy, listening to all these sad songs. When you sit on an album for two years, two-and-a-half years, you’re gonna want to change it. So I had to fight myself not to change a lot — but I threw “Sacrifice” in there, and “Amore.” I threw in different genres, and that’s what I wanted.
I kind of got bored sitting on the album. And I could write over Zoom, but it wasn’t the same — I like being in the room with other collaborators. It’s not fun on the computer because you don’t feel their energy. One person is playing guitar at the same time as another person, and you’re singing, and it’s just a nightmare. I felt a little stuck, like I couldn’t even write. So we did change the album somewhat throughout, and at some point I had to say, “I have to stop, or I’m going to have 80 thousand genres on this album.” I really love Twenty One Pilots and No Doubt, and I wanted to take guitar-based stuff and mix it with hip-hop. Songs like “Sacrifice” came along the way, and “Amore.”
You take more songwriting risks on Better Mistakes — a song like “Death Row,” or the chorus to “Better Mistakes.” You flip Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore,” and then you add Rick Ross to it. There’s a sense of freedom.
What I tend to do is overthink a lot, and then I get to a point where I go “Aw, f–k it,” and then just do whatever the hell I want. I never want to do anything more than once. I like to do things that are a little different, that f–k s–t up a little bit. It’s more exciting to me, it keeps me on my toes, trying different things musically.