Sabrina Teitelbaum is a fuckboy.
Or rather, she was.
A lot has changed since the Manhattan born LA-based singer — better known as BAUM — released “Fuckboy” in May, her big ol’ “fuck you, I can have casual sex, too” banger that flips the sexual script. It’s the first single Teitelbaum self-produced after her freshman EP Ungodly in 2018, and now the alt-pop singer is back with another summer smash. It’s a huge pivot from the colorful, glitter-scattered “Fuckboy” music video.
After emerging from the darkest period of her life — a lost parent, a broken relationship, and a split from her former manager — the 22-year-old hasn’t strayed from her trademark spitfire lyrics like, “Honestly, you’d fuck me by the grave/if I came to you half-dead” from “Effortless,” or comparing cat-callers in “This Body” to howling wolves waiting for her in the corner of an alley.
But “Bad Kid” is different than Teitalbaum’s previous work. While Ungodly is soaked in body positivity and self love, her new single is riddled with remorse, regret, and suffering. The bisexual artist has written about self-destructive behaviors and navigating her sexuality, but her newest hair-raising music video reveals an intimate corner of Teitelbaum’s world previously reserved for family and friends. And it is chilling.
Filmed in Iceland just five hours outside Reykjavik, the icy atmosphere in “Bad Kid” juxtaposes BAUM’s fiery lyrics: “I got my fire from you burned me when you passed it down/never easy carrying somebody’s flame around.” But the scenery is symbolic of something more than a contrast in heat. It’s the “isolation of grief and the physical journey of going through a loss,” Teitelbaum recently told me over the phone.
Donning golden ringlets with the voice of a dulcet angel, BAUM is anything but the “gumdrop Barbie” her cat-callers bark at her. Since dropping out of the University of Southern California just before her junior year to focus on music, the iridescent badass babe with the Jewiest bagel order — scooped everything bagel with onion chive cream cheese — BAUM has blown the fuck up. We chatted about her latest single, navigating her bisexuality, and why Judaism is so important to her.
Your song “This Body” is about something most women can relate to — cat-calling. Can you tell me about the process of writing it?
I wrote it right after I was cat-called, and I was so frustrated by how often it happened. I live right by USC and my friends and I were just constantly getting cat-called. I got chased into my apartment once.
I know, I know. I was just so frustrated. I was maybe 18 when I wrote “This Body,” and I’m 22 now. You just feel so shitty when that happens. And I’m such an outspoken person so it’s very frustrating for me when I get my power instantly taken away. I wish I could turn around and be like, “Fuck you, don’t speak to me like that,” but when you’re alone you just freeze and get scared.
I’m not very feminine, and when people cat-call you, they say things like “sweetie” or “honey,” and I’m like wait… what the fuck? I’m literally like, not that… There’s just so much gender stuff associated with that and I’m like, “Why are you doing this… literally fuck off.”
Speaking of gender stuff, let’s talk about “Hot Water,” the song that catapulted your career. I read in Billboard that it’s your “coming out” song. Is that how you would label it? Do you even like to label it?
I would not label it that at all. I came out in high school and wrote that a few years later LMAO.
So what was your actual coming out story?
I came out when I was a junior in high school and I don’t think anybody was surprised. I’m bisexual, so I guess some people thought it would be easier to come out as bi, but I don’t think so. I think people get very confused by bisexuality and don’t take it seriously. They’re like, “Oh, this is a phase” or something like that, and I’m like, “No… it’s not…”
It seems like coming out as bi is even harder because there’s so much judgement within the queer community.
That’s so true. It’s really tough. Sometimes I have to work a lot on self-acceptance because of that. In the past when I’ve dated a girl I’m really into, and know she’s a straight up lesbian, I’ve found myself not wanting to tell them I’m bisexual because there’s so many preconceived ideas about that. They think you’re just going to leave them for a dude.
So I looked up the lyrics to “Hot Water” on Genius.com and this is the interpretation they gave for the line, “No, I’ve never done much at all, I’m in hot water”: The last line could be in reference to a form of female masturbation, using “hot water” from showerheads or hot tubs as a way to self-pleasure. If this is indeed what the artist intends, she may be saying that the only sexual experience she has is with herself. What do you make of that?
Um… excuse me?? What the literal fuck? I’m violently offended. I don’t even know where to being about that. I’m contacting someone. Like there’s definitely someone who hates me who is fucking with me. Oh my god, that’s so funny. Honestly, I’m posting that on my finsta the second I get off this call.
Haha, I’m glad to provide you with content. Alright, let’s talk Judaism. You grew up culturally Jewish and went to synagogue, and I just need to know what your bat mitzvah theme was.
The ’20s, LOL. I wore a flapper dress.
That’s incredible. So what is your relationship with Judaism like now?
I really care about Judaism and I really identify with it. It’s just really important to me and my family. Like my whole family was bar and bat mitzvahed, it wasn’t really an option [not to]. We really care about the traditions. I don’t know if I personally believe in God. I’ve talked about it with my grandparents who are really religious and they say it doesn’t really matter as much. I perceive Judaism as a more open-minded religion where you don’t really have to follow all of the rules. It’s mostly about the community, traditions, and family.
Do you have a favorite holiday?
Passover. My family has so much fun on Passover. We always get together and my family is absurd. Everyone is outspoken and ridiculous. I honestly don’t keep kosher for Passover; I eat bread. And one time I left my second seder early to go to a dude’s house.
LOL I’ve done the same. So in a Huffington Post article, you wrote about the support system you built in LA and how your friends helped you navigate your eating disorder, your sexuality, and difficult losses. Community is a huge part of Judaism, and I’m wondering how that network uplifted you during your lowest moments?
The friends I made at USC are like my real family. I feel like the difference between family and friends is that your family loves you completely unconditionally, but my friends and I also love each other in that way. We’re really like a family. I was dealing with a lot of hard stuff like my eating disorder and my sexuality, and when I went to school it was the first time I wasn’t with my family. So creating that community was the most important thing for me. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
There are so many Jewish LA kids at USC, and I realized so many community things that I have in common with them. Like there’s just a sense of humor and attitude towards things, the way we eat certain foods. Things like that make me feel at home. I feel like there’s a Jewish history of self-deprecation and humor, and I found that in common with other people that I met there.
Your songs are dripping with body positivity, autonomy, and feeling sexy and comfortable in your skin. As someone who struggled with an eating disorder, how do you maintain that confidence?
I definitely don’t feel great every day. I think it’s always a journey, and everyone has ups and downs with confidence. I think before I really figured it out, to the extent that I have now, I just kind of thought confidence is something that happens to you, but there’s so much more work you have to do every day. Literally, before I go to bed I make lists of things I’m grateful for and things I love about myself. And those are physical things, too. You have to build that up in your brain where you look in the mirror and say the things you want to hear. It really takes a lot of training your mind to feel confident, because everything around us tells us not to be. Since you’re little I feel like you just get it wired in your mind: If you’re not skinny, you’re not hot.
In terms of body positivity, I’ve been bigger my whole life, and I [used to be] like, “Oh, I’m just not the hot one of my friends, I’ll be the funny one, or the self-deprecating one.” When I got older, I just didn’t want to feel that way anymore. It’s a lot of work.
On the track “Fuckboy” you call yourself a fuckboy. How do you define fuckboy?
I describe myself as a fuckboy on the song, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a fuckboy now at all. I think I have been in the past, everyone has been. A fuckboy is someone who will have sex with someone and not care, and I wrote that song because I wanted to say that women can 100% be that way, too. I’ve met a ton of women like that, and there are too many people who say “women are going to be in love with you if they hook up with you,” and that just pisses me off. It’s just another one of those tropes that’s like here’s what women are, and they’re all kind of the same. But so many people my age are women who don’t want to be in a relationship and can have casual sex. So I wanted to write a song about that.
After you wrote “Fuckboy” you told Billboard that “shit hit the fan.” Your mom passed away in January, you broke up with your long-term boyfriend, and you split with your manager. Can you talk to me about your grieving process and how your sense of self has changed from then to now?
I lost [my mom] in January of 2018, and you don’t even realize it at the time, but the shock just changes your whole perspective of the world. It felt like there was a cloud over everything for six months. And now it just comes in waves. Everybody says that about grief, but it’s so true. It’s sort of a one foot in front of the other thing when you’re at the beginning stages of grieving. It’s just so weird. But also interesting and a shitty place to be in, because you’ve never been there before and you don’t understand what’s happening.
So I didn’t want to write about [the loss]. I had no intention of writing about it, especially because I had a very complicated situation. But then I had a session one day. Somebody was just playing something on the piano and it was so beautiful. I just started writing, I was like, “Oh, okay, well I guess I have this now.” But I’m really happy because it’s kind of a new song that I’m putting out. It’s like that silver lining — to have music you got out of something that was so horrible.
How would you describe the mood of your freshman EP, Ungodly, compared to your upcoming music? And what emotions do you want to evoke in your listeners?
It’s just younger. Those were a lot of songs I wrote when I was 18 and 19. A lot of that was specifically about what I was going through in high school and being self-destructive. I grew up a lot in the last couple of years and I think the new music reflects that. I’ve been much more confident with my style, production and lyric wise. It’s a bit darker because there’s been a lot of stuff that’s happened in the past couple of years. It’s not poppy and exciting as it is darker and deeper. I’m working on finishing a cohesive project right now and there’s definitely still some fun songs, but it is for sure overall darker.
For my upcoming songs, there are a lot of different emotions I want to evoke. The most important one is a sense of comfort and release — beauty in a song that talks about such a shitty thing. That’s what I love about music. It’s just so beautiful and makes you feel so good to hear it. I guess music just helps some people feel less alone.
Image via Sabrina Teitelbaum