UK pop pioneer, Jesy Nelson, is starting her solo debut with the release of single ‘Boyz’, which samples Sean “Diddy” Combs classic anthem “Bad Boy 4 Life”. Released via Polydor, Jesy’s comeback has been hotly anticipated by fans since her departure from BRIT award-winning girl band Little Mix at the end of 2020.
While she acknowledges that many thought her return would be a ballad – something to tease a new direction and get the tastemakers on-side – Jesy isn’t wasting any time on subtleties. Channeling the in-your-face swagger of the noughties US hip-hop and R&B that she grew up on, Jesy flips Diddy’s 2001 anthem ‘Bad Boy 4 Life’ into a reflection on the men she’s attracted to, complete with a verse from rap megastar – and former collaborator – Nicki Minaj who declares the reunion of “the UK baddie and the Barbie!”
The debut song was conceptualised by Nelson, co-written by Nelson, and reflecting on her painful break-up, it also comes packaged with a guest-heavy reimagining of Diddy’s original 2001 video for Bad Boys For Life, with the updated version co-directed by –you guessed it –Jesy Nelson. “The thought of giving it to someone and it being their vision and not mine really scares me,” she says of the video, but also of her entire solo project. “I want to start as I mean to go on.”
A well-timed text from Loose Change, AKA producers Patrick Jordan Patrikos and Sunny, who Nelson had worked with in Little Mix, regarding some studio time arrived at the perfect moment. But again there were no grand solo plans, with Nelson initially assuming being back in the studio would trigger some of her old feelings of inadequacy. “The guys were like ‘do youjust want to come into the studio and have some fun, maybe write for other people’. Then Boyz was the first song we wrote. I was so excited. I didn’t expect it at all because I didn’t realise I loved songwriting. So I started going in even more.” She alsogot to showcase a voice the world has only heard a fraction of so far. “The producers were like ‘Jesy we did not know you could sing like this –would you want to go solo?’ It was a really scary thought because I’ve had Jade, Perrie and Leigh-Anne with mefor ten years. To have your best mates onstage with you and have their support 24/7, it’s like they’re my right arm. But because I’m doing music that I love it’s not as scary. It’s fun.” She takes a deep breath and smiles again, something she does a lot now. “It’s so weird but I do believe that everything happens for a reason. I really feel like this is what was supposed to happen. It’s mad that the first session I went into is where my debut solo single was written.”
As with a number of songs still to come, it was inspired by a devastating breakup, with Nelson musing on why she’s drawn to men who seemingly “treat me like shit”. “All my exes before the last one have been so lovely, but [the relationships are] so short-lived because I get bored. Then I met my ex and it was the first time I’d been kept on my toes. It was a really weird experience for me and I got absolutely heartbroken. It was awful. I never want to experience that ever again.” A late-night period of sitting in her feelings got her thinking about “’Why do I like bad boys, what is wrong with me? Why am I attracted to anyone that looks naughty?’ So I messaged the guys and was like ‘you’ll think I’m a nutter but I really want to write a song about why most women like bad boys and I want to use the P Diddy song’ and they were like ‘let’s do it’.”
With work continuing on that album with Loose Change, and songwriters Abby Keen, Canadian duo Heartbeat and Dyo, there’s also been time to explore personal themes away from heartache. Nelson teases one “very dark” song that sounds like Billie Eilish and samples a mid-90s pure pop classic. While anothertrack (title TBC), is billed as “powerful” and “the kind of song I’d want to perform at the Brits”. In fact, so much of 2021 has been about exploration and experimentation. Of taking her time to work out who Jesy Nelson really is. “I just wantto be myself and be real,” she says. “I want my fans to hear that they’re my stories because they genuinely are. No one has come in and told me what to write about. This is the music I’ve always wanted to make.” Solo superstardom suits her.
You can listen to Jesy Nelson ft. Nicki Minaj ‘Boyz’ at all major streaming service by clicking here.