L.A. pop artist Chelsea Collins was just 8 years old in 2007 when Britney Spears had her nightmare year, yet the infamous head-shaving meltdown clearly made an impact on the fledgling star. “They took my soul as a souvenir but the show goes on,” she sings on latest single “07 Britney,” written when she was 19 to find solace by comparing a difficult year she’d just endured to Brit’s tragic and public breakdown.
Chelsea Collins’ “Nightmare Year”
“That year of my life was a nightmare year for me,” Collins says. “I was at a turning point where I could continue to let my life be kinda what it is, or I could take my own voice back. Embrace the low points, get through them and push through them. As I was writing it, I was watching Britney Spears videos. We were watching the paparazzi videos of her, she had so much attention. It was crazy. It seemed out of this world. It’s incorporated in the song. But generally the song is about my experience and relating to her. So it does show that, no matter what low points she did go through, she was able to get through it and come out more iconic.”
That 2007 low for Spears now serves as a valuable warning to musicians of just how cutthroat the pop world can be. Image-focused, the tabloid press are hungry for sensational stories, and seedy flashes of underwear as said star tumbles out of a cab, drunk or high or both. The whole “build up and tear down” thing. Meanwhile, the teen star is surrounded by people telling them how amazing they are and giving them everything they ask for. It’s a recipe for disaster, and the tabloids are rarely disappointed. One can only be grateful that up-and-comers such as Collins are more aware. She does, after all, have much to offer already, at 21.
“I was super, super young when I started singing,” she says. “I feel like I revolved my whole life around music since I was born. So I started theater when I was 4 or 5. Eventually, once I realized that I loved the musical aspect of performance more than acting, I started doing local performances. That turned into going to middle school and becoming obsessed with writing. Forcing my friends to talk about their problems or whatever problems 11-year-olds have.”
Collins moved to L.A. and predictably found the music world to be intensely competitive. She realized that she needed to make a move that would give her a leg-up. To that end, she taught herself how to produce.
“I locked myself in my room and made that happen until I felt I was good enough to send songs to people,” she says. “I think what’s hard is not the sound but the technical side. But I’d say after two months I got the hang of it. I’m happy I pushed myself because, literally, all day and all night I wouldn’t come out of my room. My mom would bring me food and say, ‘Can you eat please?’ I’m so grateful to have a setup and know how to do it because most of quarantine I’ve just been in my cave, making songs and finishing songs. I want to inspire people to be able to do it because it’s not as complicated as people think.”
Collins’ sound is undeniably pop in the best possible ways — infectious, sugary melodies and singalong choruses. But there are hints of pop-punk bite in there, and some Kanye-inspired hip-hop beats. Lyrically, she has a singer/songwriter lean to the stories she tells. But pop is clearly the overriding vibe.
“Literally when I was 2, I remember my parents asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I answered, ‘A pop star’,” she says. “I think ever since I could walk, I loved pop music. I just gravitated towards it. Any time a song would come on, I’d ignore everybody and run around my living room. Stand on the table and dance to it.”
Pop is enjoying a renaissance too. Only 10 years ago, it would have been considered taboo, certainly “uncool,” to admit to liking pop music. Now, artists such as Gaga and Ariana are performing at Coachella. Collins still thinks there’s a ways to go though.
“Even now, especially out here, you have all these cool kids who like indie music and stuff like that,” she says. “It’s OK for them to say that, but I feel like there’s a stigma when you say that you love pop. But when you look at a lot of the biggest pop songs, they have influences from other genres. I just feel like the whole concept of the song is hooky and memorable. I’m at a point, and I think a lot of people are at a point, where you should embrace it. Look at TikTok. A lot of the songs that are still popular on there are super poppy. Kesha’s songs from my childhood are on there, and it’s really cool to see it resonating with younger kids.”
After dropping a string of songs, Collins is figuring out her next move. There’s an album in the works, though it might be preceded by an EP or two.
“There’s definitely enough songs for an album and I feel like I’ve been working on this project since I just turned 19,” she says. “I’m 21 now so I’m just so happy to share stuff. When you have these songs on your computer, it’s so exciting to hear the reaction.”
Before that, Collins has to cope with lockdown like the rest of us. Besides music, she’s kept herself busy creating graphic tees.
“If you Google graphic tees, there are a lot of cool ways to do that,” she says. “So every time a friend would say something funny, I’ll write it down in a notepad. I’d also been trying to learn how to do streaming and YouTube stuff, getting ready to do more of that. I like making content, but making sure you know how to do all of it is the hard part. Just like producing — you have to get the technical stuff before diving in. It’s all creative and fun. There are so many outlets. I feel like if we were in quarantine 40 years ago, and we didn’t have all the creative stuff, I don’t know what people would be doing.”
Chelsea Collins’ single “07 Britney” is out now.