Bella Thorne On New Song “Phantom,” Feminism & Censorship

Bella Thorne wants to be clear: she does not hate men. Sure, her new song “Phantom” is a scorching rap-rock taunt calling out the demanding “piggies” (read: past male partners) in her life, but as she also clarifies on the track: “I’m not a man hater / I just need a daddy that’s loyal, not a traitor.” Dressed in a T-shirt with a lit, freshly-rolled joint in hand, Thorne expanded on the lyric over a recent Zoom call. “All of a sudden, you feel afraid to say you’re a feminist in a room because everyone’s going to look at you like you hate men, like you want to kill them all,” she says. “That is not what we’re saying. That is not the point.”

“Phantom,” out Friday and exclusively premiering on NYLON below, is Thorne’s version of a feminist anthem — and she’s preemptively rolling her eyes at the backlash that tends to come with anything the multi-hyphenate does. Named after the ghost-like speed at which Thorne will drop a toxic relationship, the track responds to the many ways men have tried to control her and her friends’ lives, and how “I’m tired of them telling me how to live my life,” she says. (The newly-engaged singer did, however, say yes to her boyfriend Benjamin Mascolo.) “Girl, what he do? Thought I’d let him dress me / ‘How tight’s your top, isn’t it too sexy?’” she mockingly raps over a snarling beat. Thorne tapped veteran guitarist Malina Moye to seriously shred in the background, the crackling rip of her instrument acting as a final exclamation point to the song’s message. Altogether, it’s a brazen addition to Thorne’s rapidly-unfolding musical universe.

“Phantom” follows a string of recent releases from Thorne, including “Shake It,” a slinky, twerk-friendly song that stirred up some controversy itself; its music video, which showed Thorne making out with porn star Abella Danger in bed while dressed in bridal lingerie, was briefly taken down by YouTube following its release. It prompted the actor and singer to call out the platform on Instagram. “What’s that about?!” she wrote. “And you all wonder why I’m on OnlyFans.” Calling from Los Angeles, Thorne explained her grievance more clearly: “If I was having a fake sex scene with a man, you would [leave it up]. You wouldn’t take down that video because almost every pop f*cking song has a love scene with a male.”

Below, and joined in conversation with Moye, Thorne spoke at length about the censorship of her videos, empowering women with her music, and her new song “Phantom.”

Bella, you’ve been releasing many singles recently. How are you feeling about “Phantom”?
Thorne: I’m definitely most excited by “Phantom.” This track for me is definitely an artist track, to be appreciated by artists. I like to release fun music and “Phantom” definitely goes under the category of fun, but it’s also under the much bigger umbrella of “important.” I think when people really read the lyrics and they actually watch the video, it definitely is going to change their perspective, and hopefully this song changes people’s perspective when it comes to the female-male dynamic relationship. And hopefully it changes someone’s perspective when it comes to me as an artist.

Was this a remote collaboration or were you in the studio together?
Thorne: We actually have very, very different, busy schedules. So we weren’t able to get in the studio together to lay it down, but I know with Malina, it didn’t matter if I was in the studio with her or not, she’s going to send it back and it’s gonna be murdered. It’s going to be f*cking killed. [Laughs.]
Moye: Thank you! And Bella had put such a beautiful foundation down already so the record was already amazing. I heard the flow. I was like, “Oh, I get it.” And then I was like, “Hey, let’s add some of this.”

What I got from the song is that it sounds like you asserting your own agency in leaving a controlling relationship. Can you speak a bit more about the female-male dynamic you brought up earlier?
Thorne: Girl, I’ll bring it up. I’ll bring it up all f*cking day. I’ll preach this sh*t. I think as women in general, we’ve all been in a relationship with a partner, especially when it’s the female and male dynamic, we definitely feel that dynamic shift in our lives. All of us have dated someone who has told us the way we should dress, the way we should dye our hair, the way we should look. “Oh, are you sure you’re gonna wear that today, babe? I really like the other one though, your body looks really great in that one.” Like, there’s so many comments that you hear from men to women, and sometimes I don’t think they even mean it. They’re just raised that way and they don’t even realize what they’re saying, it doesn’t make us feel good.
There’s a lot of friends in my life who were in some very controlling-ass relationships. That’s exactly where that line comes from: “Is that skirt too short?” “Is it sexy?” We’re gonna make a song for every girl out there that’s like, “F*ck these men! I’m tired of them telling me how to live my life!” That was the theme when we were in the studio writing it. That’s also why it was really important to put the part about, “I’m not a man hater / I just need a daddy that’s loyal, not a traitor.”
Moye: Amen.
Thorne: Yes! That’s the truth. People have put such a bad connotation on the word “feminist” — [and] it’s a beautiful word — that now all of a sudden you feel afraid to say you’re a feminist in a room because everyone’s going to look at you like you hate men. Like you want to kill them all. Like you want no men on planet Earth and women run the whole entire world and want no men alive, and that is not what we’re saying. That is not the point!

Malina, when you were laying down the guitar, was it mostly freestyle?
Moye: I look at this as a hip-hop track. Bella said, “Do what inspires you.” I started thinking about Jay-Z and his “Death of AutoTune.” The E chord is the aggression of a woman saying, “Take this, now!” And then with the solo, I was like, man let’s just go off.

Bella, you write all of your songs. When you go to the studio do you have any rituals that you do to get in a creative headspace?
Thorne: Smoke f*cking weed, which is my ritualistic headspace when I’m writing. [Laughs.] In my studio I always have coffee, which is terrible for your voice. You shouldn’t drink it while you’re in the studio but I’m f*cking tired. I have hot water with honey, and then some type of vodka drink for fun. I have my writing book and my notes pad and then I have Sabir and me and usually an engineer or producer.

YouTube recently took down your “Shake It” video, though it’s back up now.
Thorne: Section 230 needs to be looked at again! [Editor’s Note: Section 230 is a piece of legislation that protects users and content hosting websites from being held liable for information published by other users or providers. It also offers protection to users and providers for removing material they consider to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally projected” as long as the action is “taken in good faith.”]

You called out the company’s double standards on censoring videos, and this is something they’ve been doing to women artists for so many years. I know CupcaKke has had her videos taken down and Mykki Blanco. Do you think there’s hope in changing that standard?
Thorne: Yes, I do. I want to also start my own platform for women. You know, people were like, “Maybe you shouldn’t post [“Shake It”] Bella, cause YouTube’s going to be mad at you and they’re gonna take down all your next videos too.” And I’m like, I don’t give a f*ck! They’re gonna do it anyway because clearly I’m a woman and I’m making out with a woman in this video. If I was having a fake sex scene with a man, you would put it in. You wouldn’t take down that video because almost every pop f*cking song has a love scene with a male. It’s just so much of our content that we view that we think that’s normal, but as soon as it’s two women, it’s, “Oh, it’s salacious, it’s so overly sexual, it’s so blah blah blah, oh my God.” And you’re just like, “What are you talking about?”
I have this song called “Mama I’m Proud.” And the whole song talks about how, when I’m looking in the mirror, I’m talking sh*t. “You a hoe, you a b*tch, you a failure, you should quit. You should sing like Taylor Swift.” Because that’s what everyone says. Why is it as women, that nothing is ever good enough for us, that we are never at the top of the chain? We never feel that we have done something amazing. There’s always something and it’s just so important to change the narrative. To change the mental narrative that we tell ourselves every f*cking day.
Moye: Being a Black woman and dabbling in the rock world, and playing guitar, one of the things I’m constantly saying is: “You have to change the narrative.” How come we don’t see more women on the cover of these guitar magazines? Why is it always men? Why are these people constantly regurgitating the same people when it’s 2021 and surely there are more women playing?
My mom and dad always said to me, “Malina, when you don’t see yourself represented, show up. When you think you can’t, show up. And always know you matter and you count.” So just by being there, you’re making change and making people feel like, “Yeah, if Bella’s doing it, then f*ck it, I’ll put my video up too. And if I want to do this with this person, that’s who I am. That’s what I’ll do.” Well, that’s important.


Bella Thorne on Therapy, Owning Her Pansexuality and Dreams of Building a Hollywood Studio

Bella Thorne isn’t one to lie. In fact, the former Disney child star (she appeared alongside Zendaya on “Shake It Up”) lives her life in the open. From sex-infused music videos to her tell-all memoir, “The Life of a Wannabe Mogul: Mental Disarray,” the 23-year-old calls honesty “the strongest form of currency.”

She recently dropped the video for her single “Phantom.” The look and feel, Thorne says, is inspired by Guillermo del Toro, Tim Burton, David Lynch and “The Twilight Zone.” It’s also a good look at how her mind works. “My first book was called ‘The Life of a Wannabe Mogul: Mental Disarray.’ I literally say this is what the inside of my brain looks like,” Thorne tells me over Zoom from her Los Angeles home. “Shit is everywhere. Thoughts are coming out from random places and orifices I didn’t even know I had. And it really works its way into my professional life, for sure. Whenever I’m doing videos, whenever I’m writing, I’m just like, ‘How do we push this,’ and me watching it to be so visually, I don’t know the word, in awe.”

Thorne, who identifies as pansexual, recently announced that she and Italian musician Benjamin Mascolo are engaged to be married. “I don’t even know what I want in my wedding. I’ve never even thought about, ‘What do you want at your wedding?’ she says. “We’re doing two weddings, one in Italy and one here. He lives in Italy. I think the Italy one will probably be more like flying in crazy things, just craziness. Let’s have some fucking fun. Then I feel like maybe the American one might be a little bit more serene, and a bit more traditional. Not that anything with me is ever traditional. I know what I want, for a fact, is hanging, dripping flowers and vines everywhere. Every orifice of every surface, everything. I don’t care where they don’t fit, fit them.”

What’s your second book going to be about? You really put yourself out there with the first one.
I figured out the name. I haven’t told anybody. I’m going to tell you right now, because I love the name. I think that I should call it “Mental Rehab” since the first one is “Mental Disarray.” There’s all these things that I talk about in the first book that are quite dark. With the format of this book and the messiness of the last one, I’m going to completely change the format so that at the beginning of the book, you can see what mental disarray I was still in. By the end of the book, everything’s so much cleaner, in place, like my brain should be by the time I’m at the end. It’s just going to be about me working on so much shit mentally. Finally, this will be my first time ever going to therapy as well this year. I have my first therapy session on Monday. So I’ll be writing a lot about that and just the mental changes I want to make to grow. I just don’t want to be myself, I want to be this better version of myself that I know I can be. And I just need to do the mental work to get to that place that I want to be, which is happy, not always dealing with depression.

You just got engaged.
He did it on our movie that we did together, which is his first time ever acting, and my first time working with someone that I’ve dated. It’s just such a big first for us, especially for our relationship, to see how we can actually really work together on set, all day long, talking about the stuff, going through these scenes, going through hard scenes. It was such a great testament to our relationship to really just see how easy it is for us to mentally give and take from one another and get on the same page. Then when we were doing re-shoots in Spain and he asked me on set. It was very, very cute. It was so sweet.

I talked to your ex Tyler Posey the other day and he credits you with getting him on OnlyFans.
My production studio Content X works with Tyler. We shoot his content. The company has just completely outgrown itself so quickly. I finance everything. And to have a company that completely finances itself within five months of being up, I’m like, “When have you heard that?”

When are you going to open a full-fledged studio? When are you going to have the Bella Thorne lot somewhere in Hollywood?
No one’s ever asked me that. You’re amazing. Hopefully, by the time I’m 27.

You’re 23.
I got four years to open up my own studio lot. I’m finally signing my production deal on my show that I wrote, that I created, that is my baby, that I’ve been writing since I was 18.

How often are you hearing from other young, queer kids saying, “Thank you for being you. Thank you for being out. Thanks for just living your truth.”
All the fucking time, but it makes me so happy. It’s usually the kids that have been soul crushed throughout time, told they couldn’t be themselves, told they couldn’t be this or that, and everything else but themselves. It just makes me just so happy that they feel this connection and that they feel heard. It’s every single reason why I put out the fucking book. I think honesty is the strongest form of currency. When I came out on Twitter was before it was super, super normal to be out, and especially in Hollywood. And I remember it was hard with jobs, it was hard with people in meetings. And I can’t even imagine being a gay man because people look at me and they go, “Oh, well, she fucks men too, so it’s okay.” Because I’m pans. And I’m like, “Okay.” And they’re like, “Okay, well, you know what? She’ll just basically fuck anything, I guess. So it’s fine.” I just can’t imagine the pain that so many people that I’ve looked up to and worshiped for years have gone through in this industry wanting to be themselves. I remember everyone calling me at the time when I posted that on Twitter, and everyone was saying, “Bella, do you know what you just did though? Do you know how this is going to affect you?” And I was like, “What’s it matter?” I was like, “Don’t be an idiot. They’re going to get photos of me. Someone’s going to pap me making out with that girl. Someone’s going to fucking say something. I’m not a liar. They’re going to see it. It’s going to blow up. You’re expecting me to lie my whole life. Is this what I’m hearing on the phone? What’s it matter? What’s it fucking matter? Even if it sucks for a little bit, at least I did it and I don’t have to lie anymore or worry about it.”



Hello. Bella released a new music video for her new song ‘Phantom’. Check it out!

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Gallery Links:
TV Productions > Paradise City (2021) > Screen Captures > S1x01 [The Best Thing He Ever Created]
TV Productions > Paradise City (2021) > Screen Captures > S1x02 [What’s Your Last Name]
TV Productions > Paradise City (2021) > Screen Captures > S1x03 [Don’t Let the Name Fool You]
TV Productions > Paradise City (2021) > Screen Captures > S1x04 [A Groupie in the Tabloids]
TV Productions > Paradise City (2021) > Screen Captures > S1x05 [The Man of the Hour]
TV Productions > Paradise City (2021) > Screen Captures > S1x06 [From a Friend to a Foe]
TV Productions > Paradise City (2021) > Screen Captures > S1x07 [A Couple of Shirley Temples]
TV Productions > Paradise City (2021) > Screen Captures > S1x08 [Sing It To Her Face]

Bella Thorne | Unlocked

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