Los Angeles dark pop singer-songwriter Sabrina Teitelbaum only has three singles at her back under stage name BAUM, and she’s already gaining praise as a fierce hit-maker — and social boundary-pusher.
While debut “Hot Water” examines sexual discovery and depicts a lesbian couple in its music video, cheating ex-takedown “Effortless” includes the gut-puncher “honestly, you’d fuck me by the grave/ if I came to you half-dead;” the third premiering here on Billboard, “This Body,” tackles catcalling and body image.
But the way Teitelbaum sees it, she’s just writing what she knows.
“I was so young when I started writing, and I’m writing about what’s happening — I’m growing up,” says the 20-year-old over the phone from L.A. “I was always interested in writing about that coming-of-age aspect.”
Born in New York City, Teitelbaum began songwriting and taking singing lessons around age seven, learning to echo the storylines she heard on pop radio. “I was always trying to imitate what I heard, lip synching in the mirror,” Teitelbaum remembers. “What are you going to write about when you’re seven years old?” With a laugh, she recalls accidentally plagiarizing Madonna’s “Hung Up” in one of her first attempts at writing: “I thought I was coming up with it, but I guess it was just stuck in my head.”
Entering high school in the Upper East Side, then heading to study music at the University of Southern California, Teitelbaum found her writing material in the everyday experiences of a millennial teenager. While charting her path as a musician, experiencing heartbreak and confronting gender expectations (she identifies as queer), she also recalls being “aggressively” catcalled on campus, motivating her to pen new single “This Body” from a music practice room at USC.
Bursting with unabashed confidence and set to the tune of a finger-snapping, tropical-leaning soundscape, the anthemic song is Teitelbaum’s middle-finger-up reply to her aggressor, and comes with as many stinging bites (“do I look like I own a fucking thing in pink?”) as it does empowering mantras (“I call this body my home”). It’s her favorite to perform live.
“In that moment [of being catcalled], I felt like all my power was taken away. You get scared. You just get frozen,” she explains. “Now I use that song as a way of getting my power back.” But the track is also about a deep-seated frustration with beauty standards. “I still get those comments — ‘Oh, you want to be a singer? Well, you’re supposed to look like this, this and this,’” she continues. “A lot of it is about just realizing that that’s bullshit, and you can be attractive and beautiful and confident at any size.”
Similar themes weave through her five-track debut EP Ungodly, which is out March 16 and produced by Oak Felder’s The Orphanage — the same production shop behind Demi Lovato’s “Sorry Not Sorry.” It includes “Hot Water,” “Effortless,” “This Body” and two brand-new songs: “Dream Girl Takeover,” about letting the idea of a lover’s “dream girl” take over one’s true self, and the title track.
“Ungodly,” Teitelbaum says, is her favorite song off the EP, encapsulating all of her ruminations on youth and growth. In lieu of explaining the song, she sings its opening lyric through the phone — it’s easier to remember that way.
“Everything I do is ungodly, by design. But I do it all just to feel alive.”
Stream “This Body” exclusively below. Ungodly drops March 16.