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If the Richter scale measures the energy released by an earthquake, Natasha Bedingfield must have a similar sense for pop songs.
"It is exciting when you write a hit, when you just go, 'Whoa, I couldn't add anything or take anything away from that,'" she told Insider. "It's that moment when you lose yourself in it. I think somebody who's skateboarding and does a flip would feel the same way when they land it."
Though Bedingfield attempted to paint her ability in democratic terms, from the outside it seems clearly inborn, not learned.
The 39-year-old Sussex native described her upbringing as "alternative Christianity," and said she wasn't even allowed to listen to the radio. And yet, she had a knack for songwriting from an early age.
"At age 18 or something, I started to have this inner confidence kick in. This feeling of, 'This stuff is good. I just know it's good,'" she said.
"Pop just means 'popular.' It's anthemic," she explained. "So I just think, 'Can people sing this?'"
The short answer: Yes.
Anyone who's heard a Bedingfield classic at a club or karaoke party can corroborate. And as Emma Stone demonstrated in that iconic "Easy A" scene, even if you think you're immune at first, you're wrong.
Since her debut single was released in 2004, Bedingfield has been calling to revelers with chants of raindrops, better days, and "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you." Her optimism remains mesmeric, timeless - such that, 17 years later, TikTok has embraced a remix of "Unwritten" for its most joyful dance challenge yet.
In fact, when Bedingfield met the original choreographers shortly before our phone call, they told her they'd been receiving messages about how the song has touched and changed lives.
"We need connection as humans. That's what entertainment is all about," she said. "You can feel it in your body. You get goosebumps. You want to move. You can't help but move."
"One of the great things about technology is that it's making people cross genres more," she continued. "While the world is so divided, maybe there's a space where we're actually becoming more connected through music."
Yes yes yhop! @rony_boyy and his team came to teach me the moves! @yvngflickk @digitalvibezinc @jubi2fye @iconicwill
♬ original sound - Natasha Bedingfield
The legend of "Unwritten" begins in 2003 with a "little poem" tucked away in Bedingfield's trousers.
She had just been signed by Phonogenic Records, a small division of RCA and Sony Music, as the first solo artist on the roster. Then just 21 years old, the young Brit traveled to Los Angeles to work on her debut album.
In the studio one afternoon, Bedingfield mentioned that she had written something for her younger brother.
"He was 14 at the time, so I was like, 'What does a 14-year-old need to hear? What do I wish that I'd heard?'" she explained.
The concept was simple: Life is a blank page and you hold the pen. But it was met with little enthusiasm.
"The writers that I was working with that day weren't really feeling it. They wanted to write more sexy songs," she explained. "So I just put the poem in my pocket and I thought, 'I'll save it for a different session.'"
The next day, Bedingfield had a session with producer Wayne Rodrigues and songwriter Danielle Brisebois, whom she'd never met.
"Danielle just bounced into the room with this really amazing energy and I was like, 'This is who I want to write the song with,'" Bedingfield said.
In a separate interview, Brisebois told a remarkably similar story.
"I'm always a bit skeptical before writing sessions. I don't have any high expectations usually," Brisebois told Insider. "And when I went to meet Natasha, this burst of sunshine just burst through the door. I immediately felt, 'Oh my God, I just met somebody really important in my life.'"
They got to work on a few different songs, but none quite met their expectations. Then, Brisebois heard Bedingfield say the word "unwritten" and something clicked into place.
"Everything just started flowing," Brisebois said. "Natasha and I are literally playing tennis together when we write songs. We go back and forth and it's like we can't get it out fast enough."
Despite the song's title and central metaphor, its most memorable moment hinges on a different metaphor entirely: "Feel the rain on your skin / No one else can feel it for you."
It's the kind of accessible, tactile imagery that brilliant pop music is built on. But that line doesn't just feel good to scream-sing in a crowd of people. There's a deeply personal reason for its inclusion. Rather, there are two.
"When I wrote that, it was about how I used to walk around Manhattan completely broke," Brisebois said. "I literally wouldn't be able to afford taking the subway home. So I would convince myself that if it was raining, it was OK because I was benefiting. I'd tell myself, 'I'm the lucky one. I'm walking in the rain.'"
"Natasha has a similar energy and feeling for that same lyric," she added. "It just made sense. It's like we both needed to learn a lesson at the same time."
Bedingfield's inspiration is quite literally an ocean away, and yet, both contain the create-your-own-destiny spark that makes "Unwritten" so irresistible.
"Mine is from my Mom. It started raining one day when we were in England, and she was like, 'Kids, quickly put on your swimsuits and we're going to dance in the rain,'" Bedingfield explained. "I was like, 'That is so embarrassing. Our neighbors are going to think we're ridiculous.' And she said, 'No, you have to trust me, you have to try this.'"
Beneath these lyrics lie a foolproof formula: Rodrigues' hip-hop-inspired beat, a twinkly guitar riff, and Bedingfield's rich vocals.
For the finishing touch, a choir swells to greet you in the bridge, as if all your loved ones have rushed to support you on your journey. In fact, that's exactly what happened.
A choir wasn't available, so Bedingfield enlisted a group of friends to record the layered harmonies. Her own sister delivers the high-pitched riffs, strengthening the song's bond to Bedingfield's family and childhood.
"One of the most intriguing things about songwriting is that you can make something that's very personal, and then the song takes on a life of its own," she said. "It becomes personal to everyone else and that's the best result."
"Right now, we're coming out of a pandemic, and I love that I'm seeing people online doing what the song was intended for - releasing their inhibitions, trying new things, experimenting and having fun," she continued. "I can see the song is still doing what I was hoping it would do."
Bedingfield's music isn't having a "resurgence" or "revival" so much as it's becoming relevant to a new generation. For those of us who remember Bedingfield's noughties reign, her songs have already melted into the undercurrent of everyday life.
"Unwritten," of course, is particularly ubiquitous. It became the theme for MTV's "The Hills" in 2006, received a Grammy nomination in 2007, and undoubtedly remains one of the most-played songs at graduation ceremonies.
"I am known for these positive songs," Bedingfield mused. "The reason they work is because they come from a place where I'm really questioning, and they have some depth to them."
"I have my own kind of pessimistic views that I have to work through every day," she continued. "I don't just decide, 'I'm going to write a happy song.' I want to talk about real stuff, and then I want to let that stuff change me into a better person."
Brisebois echoed that theory, noting that Bedingfield's 2008 hit "Pocketful of Sunshine" was partially inspired by a family member of hers who lives with alcoholism. After returning from a rehab facility, Brisebois remembers they kept a sobriety coin in their pocket to feel more centered.
"If you just start preaching, that's when positive songs are cheesy. Audiences will call bulls--- easy," she said. "If you do it the right way with the right person, the right singer - I mean, I can't imagine anybody else singing 'Unwritten,' because it is Natasha."
True to form, Bedingfield herself took far less credit, describing her songwriting as "nursery rhymes" and "dream language" with a modest shrug.
"Sometimes, your dreams come to you and they give you some truths, but they give it to you in a form that your subconscious can receive," she explained. "That's why metaphorical songs work. Because they go past your critical brain and they go straight to your heart."
Read the original article on Insider