YDE discusses her new single and music video that grapple with wildfires, gun violence, and losing sight of humanity.
In the music video for “People Can Change,” premiering Friday morning exclusively on Boardroom, YDE stares straight into the camera. Anguish ripples across her tear-stained face, a range of emotions emphasized by swelling strings and acoustics. The 19-year-old Facet Records/Warner Records signee didn’t want extravagant filmmaking to distract from her message.
“The entire video is just one take, one shot,” YDE tells Boardroom. “When we were on set, there was a lot of debate of whether we would have a dolly for the camera to move back and forth. I was adamant and passionate about the idea of just having one shot. No movement. Having it solely be about the story that I’m telling. It’s not about how I move in the frame or how the camera’s moving and how the lighting looks. It’s really just about the lyrics.”
YDE co-wrote “People Can Change” with Justin Tranter (Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Julia Michaels), founder and CEO of Facet Records. The evocative, unflinching single was initially inspired by the Amazon deforestation and subsequent wildfires in 2019. “There’s another fire today, and this one is bad,” YDE sings in the opening line, calling out politicians later in the verse: “We’ve been screaming, we’ve been walking, hoping that they would do more than just talking.”
The Australian-born, Filipino singer/songwriter and producer further shows off her deft, natural ability as a storyteller with clever, cohesive wordplay. But it’s the chorus where YDE’s eternal optimism shines through.“I need to believe that people can change / Or else this life has all been in vain,” she pleads.
YDE has never made music in vain. October 2020’s pop-rock single “Stopped Buying Diamonds” found her defying the false stereotypes perpetuated about Gen Z. And last month, she released the bouncy, reflective “Old Her,” where she sees the error in wanting to grow up too quickly because adulthood is tougher than she once imagined.
Through it all, YDE has refused to let external circumstances, bleak as they may be, steal her hope. The totality of the human experience served as YDE’s north star when writing and executive producing her debut EP, SEND HELP, due in September. “People Can Change” doesn’t shy away from either end of the spectrum — expertly conveying the best and worst of us.
Pre-save SEND HELP here. In the meantime, read what she had to say about “People Can Change” below.
MEGAN ARMSTRONG: What line from “People Can Change” resonates the most with you?
YDE: I love the line in the hook, “What’s the point in fighting if we’re fighting for a lie?” At least for myself, I’m finding that the less self-aware you are, the more room there is to forget that we’re human. And I think we just get so wrapped up in all the little things.
We’ve reached this point in time, in human evolution, where we are getting our basic needs met — for the most part. And so, now, we’re just getting wrapped up in all the little silly s–t. At the end of the day, we forget that we’re all just humans, and we’re all in the same journey, and we’re just trying to figure our s–t out. When we lose track of that, when we forget that our existence is our purpose, that’s when we run into trouble.
MA: Why did you choose to specifically address wildfires and gun violence in this song?
YDE: I wrote this song about three years ago, which was when the large amounts of fires were happening in the Amazon due to deforestation. I remember coming in to write the song with Justin, and we both were just feeling so hopeless about the whole situation. Yet, at the same time, we were feeling extremely hopeful. We wanted to find examples of when we tend to forget what we’re fighting for.
I think fires are an amazing metaphor that can go in any direction. You know, when you’re talking to somebody, and you get in an argument? That metaphorically, to me, feels like a fire. It’s one of those things where, in the moment, it’s really heated and intense. And then, it kind of burns off. Your emotions settle down. That was very metaphorical, but at the same time, extremely literal because the whole song was literally catalyzed from the Amazon fires.
But I love the idea of bringing in another political talking point. We all just get so wrapped up in our political views, or almost like a “team” perspective on the issues. Nobody wants people dying, right? Nobody wants wildfires, nobody wants these things, but we get so wrapped up going, ‘Oh, well. This is why it’s okay, because this is what my side says. This is my team’s perspective.’ At the end of the day, nobody wants this s–t.
These are people dying, these are people struggling, and these are people who are impacted by the fires. And you remember that you yourself are a person trying to survive. That is the common thread to all sides of the argument. Those are two very, very intense [and] strong political points, but also just traumatizing things, no matter where you stand. This isn’t a political song by any means. I wanted to just talk about two things that are so typically debated, but all come to the same conclusion: we’re humans, and none of us want this… If we remember that, then we can actually work towards a solution. And that’s where the hopefulness comes in.
MA: How have you seamlessly evolved from a child actress to addressing serious, vulnerable, and “adult” subject matter in your music?
YDE: I booked my first TV show when I was nine, so I was extremely young. I feel like being in the industry, you see so many things so much more directly. The amazing thing about Nickelodeon was they were typically doing lots of work for charity and work that was really good for the world. And so, I was really brought to confront so many bigger issues in the world at such a young age. Meeting so many different people and going to so many new places. I mean, with Nickelodeon, I had the opportunity to go to Africa at 15 or 16 [years old], which most kids who live in the U.S. don’t get to do. That was really an eye-opening trip that I’m forever grateful for. Working at such a young age, you’re exposed to so much globally that typically you wouldn’t be exposed to.
I wouldn’t say that [this transition] was a terrible shocker. I’m lucky enough in that I wasn’t necessarily kind of thrown into the deep end of the industry where it’s super intense. I was in a really happy, medium spot where I had the platform to express ideas that really mean something to me while also having the space and time to grow as an individual — to really learn my own perspective on things.
MA: From “Stopped Buying Diamonds” and “Old Her” to “People Can Change,” you’ve quickly become a voice for Gen Z. You’re never afraid to call out the flaws of the generations before you, or even your past self. How do you hope to see the music industry change for the better throughout your career?
YDE: I think that the industry is really just a massive metaphor for the rest of the world, [as is] any industry and any career path. We get so caught up in the competition of the world — and in just silly arguments, really. In the music industry — in the film and TV industry, in the sports industry, and in your basic 9-to-5 — I think it all comes back to the revelation and the remembrance of the fact that we’re all humans. And I think, you know, there’s no real superiority. We are all the same, in that aspect. With that comes a lot of empathy and compassion. I think that’s such an important idea that we tend to forget just because we get so wrapped up in all the other bulls–t of it all. That’s where I’d really like to see growth, just as a society in general.
MA: The big-budget music video is becoming more and more popular. We are, after all, hardly a month removed from Drake staging a wedding to 23 women for “Falling Back.” So, why did you choose to just have a very simple close-up shot of your face for this video?
YDE: Honestly, for that exact reason. This video is playing a massive role in a bigger video that I’m rolling out in September with my EP. The whole concept for the entire video, and really, all the music and the entire EP that I’m putting out is simplicity. I really just wanted a single shot straight to camera: no cuts, no changes, no crazy CGI, no dances. Just completely stripped back as this reminder that, yeah, we’re humans. We all f–k up. There’s love — and there’s also sadness and guilt and shame and questioning.
There’s so many facets of the human experience, and that’s what I wanted this video to represent — that that’s okay. You don’t need to have this perfected makeup, and this crazy, glamorous outfit, and this amazing stage that has these wonderful lights that are portraying straight into camera to create these interesting shots and cinematic pieces. That’s amazing. I think that’s so cool. But the whole point of my entire EP is to strip back to our fundamentals. I think that the visuals and the music are tantamount to each other, and I wanted the visuals to tell that story. The story that the song is telling, which is that we’re humans, and that’s the only way we’re gonna get through this.
MA: What gives you hope that people can change, and the best can still be ahead?
YDE: My hope is people. I do my best to carry as much empathy as I can for everyone. Because at the end of the day, we are all just trying to survive. It’s the basic human premise: the second we’re born, we are innately just trying to survive, and that’s all that we’re all doing. The more we recognize that, and the more we have empathy for everybody else, the more that we can move forward as a society. With love and light.