How Natasha Bedingfield’s ‘Unwritten’ Inspired People on TikTok to Release Their Inhibitions
In Easy A, the 2010 coming-of-age comedy starring Emma Stone as Olive Penderghast, a running joke in the film sees the precocious teen scoffing at a musical greeting card sent to her by her grandmother. The card plays a snippet from Natasha Bedingfield's sugary 2008 single, "Pocketful of Sunshine." Before long, however, the earworm burrows in and Olive spends an entire weekend jamming out and singing along to the track with progressive passion.
Currently, real-life teens are having their own Bedingfield awakening, so to speak. But this time, it's soundtracked by another very catchy single from the British pop star, and it's not taking place on the big screen, but on our cellphone screens — more specifically, on TikTok.
Bedingfield has blown up on the popular video-sharing app thanks to a a viral remix and dance set to "Unwritten," the unyieldingly feel-good 2004 single which arguably put Bedingfield on the pop map back in the early 2000s. First, there was the remix by TikTok user Èsco Upp, uploaded in February before going increasingly viral over the weeks. Then, there was the viral dance by mysterious, colorful dance trio Gleefuljhits, uploaded in March.
In April, the trend reached a new pitch when Bedingfield herself got in on the action. She uploaded a duet of her dancing along to the remix, shaking her booty in neon green sweatpants while laughing joyfully. The video, a delightful culmination of five strangers from around the world releasing their inhibitions together on TikTok, has since been viewed more than 5.5 million times.
Below, Natasha Bedingfield talks to PopCrush about going wildly viral on TikTok, giving credit where credit's due, her favorite "Unwritten" memories and the new music she's working on. (Spoiler alert: It's a throwback!)
“Unwritten” is about 17 years old this year. When you released that song, did you have any inkling of the power it would hold over pop culture in the decades to come?
When I picture any song I’m working on, I picture it shooting out [of me] in a big stadium. And if I don't picture that, then I won't release it. I wrote that song with two other people: Wayne Rodriguez — he was like a hip-hop beats guy — and Danielle Brisebois — she was a child star on one of the most famous shows in America when she was a kid, All in the Family. I was just a new signee at the time. My brother [Daniel] had some hits and I had just signed a record deal. I was trying to write my first album and it was rapid fire, writing all these amazing songs. Danielle was one of the writers that we were introduced to and something really clicked when we were writing.
Anyway, I wanted to write a song that was kind of about my younger brother, who was 14 at the time. I think the reason it resonated so much is that we really captured that age with the song — it’s so pivotal, it's such an important age in determining who we're going to be, and there's so much pressure. I think we can all remember what that feels like.
Do you have a favorite “Unwritten” memory?
One of my favorite memories was just finding out that Obama used “Unwritten” in his first campaign. Then I got invited to The White House and I was shaking his hand and I was like, “You used my song in your campaign,” and he was like, “Yes, that's why you're here!” That was a really fun, really cool [experience]. I wouldn't have expected it when we wrote the song, but there's so many beautiful memories with that song. Even being on Sesame Street, singing the song with Big Bird...
Twitter and TikTok went wild when folks discovered you have, what the kids call, a “dump truck” booty. What was your reaction to all the love online for your backside?
It's definitely an ego boost. In England, with the Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham figure being the ideal when I was growing up, for me my butt was always something that I just didn't draw attention to. Instead I would wear clothes that would draw attention to my midriff or the “smaller” areas of my body. I think that — along with so many other women — I've really been on a journey of self-love and self-acceptance, just finding the strength and the sensuality in my own body and celebrating it. Just like women with big boobs, it’s hard because if you have a big booty I think that you get [sexualized] straight away. You really have to embrace your own sexuality and femininity.
But it was really fun [doing that TikTok]. I was in a very light space and meditating right before I went into that video. My neighbors probably thought I was crazy, out there in the dark. I wanted to match the energy of the girl wearing highlighter yellow from [the original viral dance video]. I just love that a very nice energy came with it, as well as all these great, positive affirmations.
Did you see a few weeks ago on Twitter that some folks were just putting two and two together that you and Daniel Bedingfield are siblings?
What? That's so funny! I’ve got to tell him. We’re like the original Billie Eilish and Finneas. [Laughs] Not really though, because they actually make music together, but we were also home-schooled.
The “Unwritten” viral trend is very much about inspiring people to release their inhibitions. It’s a joyful and poignant message considering everything the world is going through, especially over the past year. Why is it so important to find joy in these little moments? And what brings you joy in your day to day?
We’re all children inside, really. It’s just about not getting too serious and letting your inner-child take over sometimes. I've got a kid right now. He’s three but he's really letting me rediscover my inner child, so I'm playing with Legos and all these things, just running around and dancing and being goofy. When you get too serious, you think, “Oh, it's too embarrassing.” You also have to make sure you notice what the friends that are around you are like. I've noticed sometimes my energy changes depending on who I’m hanging out with. Though, it's tough because we're all hanging out with such a small circle at the moment of just our nearest family, so I guess that's not good advice right now. [Laughs]
Life is about what you put into it — so putting in fun stuff helps you put out fun stuff, you know what I mean? Like, just call someone who brings your joy up and notice what your vibrations are like afterward. Joy is infectious. [Sadness] is also infectious, so just be careful. When people keep bringing things down [around you] you, step out of the room and take a breath. You don't have to stomp out. The problem is we're afraid of causing a scene and stomping out the room and slamming the door, but you don't have to. You can slip away. Know that you're allowed to be on your own, you're allowed to go for a walk. Make sure you give yourself permission to do those things — rituals like taking a bath, or lighting a candle, or going out dancing, you know?
You also showed love for the TikTok user who created the “Unwritten” remix that went viral. What are your thoughts on the importance of giving creators credit where credit is due? We don’t always see that.
I think that it’s just all about respect. I want to give people credit. It's hard to remember everyone sometimes, particularly when you're young. When you're old, too, actually — it's hard to remember when you're in the thick of it. But I just feel really flattered. To see people taking a song that I wrote and dressing it up a different way and making it their own ... I just love it. It really is the best and it's the reason why I do [what I do]. It’s the biggest compliment ever. There's a lot of competitiveness within the industry, but on a real level right now, it's much more collaborative, and I love that.
There are so many incredible singers, dancers and artists on TikTok right now. I think one of the coolest things is that it’s taken away the gatekeepers; the people who you had to get permission from before. Now, you can make yourself a star. You can find your thing and explore it. That really is the theme of “Unwritten,” where you create your own story.
What’s next for you?
I've been in the studio. I've been working with my original co-writer Wayne Wilkins, who is also called Croydon Boy. We just wear our masks and work in the same room with an air filter on, and then I go into the vocal booth and sing. We've been making some really beautiful stuff. I think with everything that's been going on in the world and in my life, I've felt such a return to what my first songs were like, where they had that purpose to just uplift people.
I’ve been embracing that intention going into [the songwriting process]. It also feels like… You know, like I’m not trying too hard. It’s nice when music feels like it floats and flows and just says what it wants to say. Songwriters are like magicians, but we just put up an antenna and try and keep our energy pure and then the song comes to us.