Eclectic singer-songwriter RENÉ unveils the official video for her latest single ‘Better U’, a candid critique of knowing your worth and having the courage to leave a relationship when things turn toxic.
Directed by Carrie Hajny, the official video for ‘Better U’ channels a dark, industrial vibe that ideally complements the empowering energy of the track itself. Released earlier this month, it marks her first release of the new year and follows 2020 singles ‘Uncharted Waters’ and ‘Space In Between’.
Born to Mauritian Creole parents and raised in London, RENÉ was surrounded by music from a young age. With R&B, soul, and hip-hop in constant rotation, she cites the likes of Aaliyah and Timbaland as inspiring her innovative and layered sound. Seeking to blend past and future sonics, she burst onto the scene in 2017 with lauded singles ‘I.N.T.O.’ and ‘Voices’. Four years later, RENÉ has established a unique sound within her work, ‘Better U’ combines forward-thinking production with RENÉ’s confident and powerful vocals.
Written about the emotional internal process you can go through after learning a toxic ex has changed for the better, RENÉ shares an insight into her motivations behind recording ‘Better U’, songwriting as a form of therapy, and words of wisdom for anyone that can relate.
Your new single “Better U” is out now, congrats! What’s the response been like for you?
Thank you, the response has been amazing! I’m truly grateful for all the love and support so far. It’s definitely a little challenging transitioning from the creative process into the world of marketing and social media with your brand new ‘baby’, especially as an up-and-coming independent artist. However, the feedback has been really positive; I love when people share how it makes them feel in detail, or their favourite parts of the song.
What is your creative process when it comes to music?
Typically I’d sit with my producer and normally talk about how I’m feeling that day and what vibe or key phrases / words come to mind. We’ll create a skeleton track, with just drums and chords, to which I’d start writing lyrics. The production + melody would pretty much evolve from there in-line with the concept. I do find I need to be in that creative space when writing songs without too much outside distraction. However, I will get a lot of my inspiration from day-to-day life. Snippets of melodies or lyrics come to me sporadically, so I’ll record a quick voice note to use when I am back in the studio / writing environment. The key thing for me when composing is to make sure the song sounds just as amazing when stripped back to the basics – voice and accompaniment, whether that be piano or guitar.
Does it change depending on the nature of the song?
It can do – for instance if I’m writing more of a ballad or slow-tempo song, with a lot of lyrics, I sometimes find I’m better doing this alone in my own space and then bringing it to life in the studio. Some people prefer coming up with melodies before the concept / lyrics, but I need to know roughly what it is I’m trying to communicate first, and then melodies will come.
You say the message behind ‘Better U’ is when your ex changes for the ‘better’. What emotions does this ignite in you?
I acknowledge that leaving the relationship was the best thing to do at the time and in that respect, there are no regrets. However, deep down, there is a yearning for some sort of closure; did all that time and effort amount to something, only for someone else to benefit? Would that person be who they are today, if it wasn’t for me, and my love? So it definitely stirs up a mixture of emotions in me, but I would want to clarify it’s not a case of me wanting that person back in my life!
Do you feel this song helped you to heal?
It’s interesting to me, as answering questions like this really does makes me realise how much I relive the experience in my head when writing my songs, and the therapy that comes from just putting pen to paper. So on the surface the song definitely gives more of an air of confidence, knowing your worth, with a hint of self-importance, which was definitely my feelings at the time of writing and even recording the song. But delving deeper reveals this might be more of a defence mechanism and despite not being ‘bitter baby’, perhaps there is still the question of ‘why not me?’ Bringing all those unanswered questions to the forefront of my mind, gives me another chance to work through it and perhaps more easily now with more hindsight and wisdom (hopefully!)
Is it daunting releasing a track like this?
I think releasing any music is daunting. Particularly because I write my own songs and usually from personal experience; it’s like you’re inviting total strangers in to listen to your innermost thoughts, hoping that it resonates in some way. However, with that said, it’s also a very exciting and incredible thing to be able to do, which I’m learning to focus more on!
Do you think your music helps others?
I would most definitely hope so, as that is genuinely one of the main reasons I have such a passion for it. It’s no exaggeration to say music has helped me through some of my darkest times and I’m sure that’s the case for many people across the world. So if my contribution in this life is helping one or two people by telling my story through song, that is such a gift which I don’t take for granted.
What artists have influenced you the most?
Growing up in and around London, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to many different cultures and types of music, so I think many artists have influenced me in different ways. This is why I don’t really like to be boxed into one genre; music transcends all boundaries and I like to feel free to do the same. There is no denying however, that the great vocal powerhouses have had a heavy influence on me vocally, so the likes of Celine, Toni, Mariah. You may also hear influences from the late 90s to early 00s Hip-Hop and R&B era – I’m still obsessed with artists like Aaliyah and Lauryn Hill to this day.
What are your other passions in life?
Travel and food (cooking, but mainly eating) are two great big passions of mine. I feel so lucky to have been able to travel and eat my way through parts of South and South-East Asia for six weeks right before the pandemic hit. Also more recently, I have a thing for motorbikes; I was able to do my CBT last October so looking forward to buying my own little 125cc and riding around this summer!
What did you learn most about yourself after the last year?
I never realised how much pressure I put on myself to do and be ‘all things’ for myself and everyone around me, but also how much of a constant the voice of doubt in my head had become. The lockdown initially amplified this, but in the end gave me the time and space to address this destructive behaviour. So in learning that about myself, I just strive to be kinder to me now and my no.1 fan – self-love is key.
Who would your dream collab be?
I always struggle with this question as there are so many talented artists and producers I would love to work with. I think there will always be my childhood dream collabs with the likes of Pharell, Missy & Timbaland, but I guess more recently I would absolutely love to work with Koffee and Aya Nakamura.
If you could choose anywhere in the world to live, where would it be?
One of the places I visited during my six-week trip was a small island in the Philippines called Siargao – where I learnt to surf for the first time! It literally is heaven on earth, and I would definitely love to settle there one day, if I could. For now though, after the year we’ve had, I couldn’t imagine moving away from my family in London, so I’d probably choose to stay here and continue making this music for now.
Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone in a similar situation to ‘Better U’?
I think we can easily apply the great social media lesson here, in that people only share the good parts or at least the parts they want to share, but you never know what the case is behind closed doors. So all we can do is process those relationships as experiences that have helped mould, shape and grow us. Good or bad, it served its purpose and we need to take the fact that we’ve come out the other side wiser, stronger and striving towards better versions of our own selves, as the win! It’s ok to have moments of weakness as is the case with ‘Better U’ but we also keep it moving!
Any up-and-coming artists you want to shout out?
I’d actually like to shout out two very talented up-and-coming producers Oscar Moos and Mr Prosper. Check them out!