For her debut album, she took inspo from Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus.
In Elite Daily's series Buffering…, musicians reflect on the songs and albums that left a lasting impression on them in their formative teen years. Here, TikTok phenom Dixie D’Amelio describes the artists that inspired her debut album, a letter to me.
Dixie D’Amelio was raised on Top 40 pop. As a 2000s kid, she gravitated towards the bubblegum sounds of Katy Perry’s One of the Boys and Teenage Dream. “I remember singing ‘Hot n Cold’ at a karaoke birthday party,” Dixie tells Elite Daily. “My mom helped me rehearse before I went. I was so nervous, and it wasn’t even that serious.” She was only 10 when Perry’s seminal sophomore record came out, so the campy and playful innuendo packed into songs like “Peacock” totally went above her head. “I thought it was about a bird!” she says. “I had no clue what she was talking about.”
Gwen Stefani (with Akon!) was the first artist Dixie saw in concert, and her parents bought her tickets for acts like Justin Timberlake and Ariana Grande. Her childhood pop culture diet also consisted of Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and The Jonas Brothers, plus Disney and Nickelodeon projects starring musicians as lead characters (think: Camp Rock). “Every song from the Hannah Montana movie is in my brain forever,” Dixie says, also referencing High School Musical as another favorite.
Ironically, aughts and 2010s TV shows and movies about teens and young adults navigating fame have heavily influenced her own work as an artist. “I never thought that would be the direction I’d go in, performing and having people watch me, but now I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of nice that I grew up on that. I have a little bit of guidance,” she says, explaining how storylines about fictional celebrities strangely offer a roadmap for her own presence in the spotlight. She pauses: “There’s no rulebook for this.”
Like Hannah Montana, Dixie’s straddling to find her balance between life as a household name, and that of just another 20-year-old coming of age. She remains one of TikTok’s most-followed creators, with millions of loyal fans, brand endorsements, and a Hulu reality series that chronicles her and her younger sister, Charli’s, ascent. It’s her debut album, a letter to me (out now), that captures this moment perfectly.
Across 15 synthy, dance- and disco-inspired tracks, Dixie reflects on that awkward stage between high school and college, when every decision reached feels like the wrong one. “I have no idea what I’m doing at all, and no one does,” she says about the album’s loose theme. “I have no idea what my next step is, but realizing that everyone feels that way was very comforting. I kinda put that in words throughout the album.” Those words are evident in deeply self-reflective songs like “Not Enough,” “Wild,” “Model,” and the title track, in which she searches for happiness on the eve of turning 21 (she’ll reach that milestone birthday in August). Most importantly, Dixie wanted to release music she’d actually listen to.
She’s acutely aware of TikTok’s impact on the music industry, and how artists like Halsey, Charli XCX, and FKA Twigs have bemoaned their record label’s alleged requests for viral hits on the app. “My label does talk to me about it a lot, but they give me the reins. They’re like, ‘You know what you’re doing on TikTok,’” she says. Despite this freedom, Dixie wants to be taken seriously as a musician — and the app makes that a challenge. “[TikTok’s] looked at in a very negative way and looked down upon,” she says. To combat that stereotype, she’s only promoting the album on social media in strategic bits, in order to let the music speak for itself.
When I chat with Dixie hours before the album’s June 10 release, she admits her parents “just got it,” and that Charli had only heard “a couple songs.” “I don’t play it for anyone. I get so nervous. I will not be in the room if someone’s listening. I have to leave,” she says, joking that it’s surprising she’s a Leo, considering how shy she is. “I’m not that person who listens to their songs to be like, ‘Hell yeah!’ I just crawl into my shell and get so nervous. I love the songs and I listen to them on my own, but I hate seeing other people’s reactions, even if they’re positive. I’m not a good person to accept compliments.”
In addition to exploring her confidence, a letter to me is also very much about first love and heartbreak. Inevitably, fans will tear into her lyrics in search of clues referencing her dating life, a truism she seems unfazed by. “I’ve said a bunch of times that nothing is about someone. I’m not trying to attack anyone. It’s just my life and things I love saying and love hearing. I just wanted to have fun with it and not have anything be too serious,” she says. “I would love to be like Taylor Swift and leave Easter eggs, but I cannot keep a secret for the life of me.”
Dixie has reportedly been dating TikToker Noah Beck since September 2020. In several interviews between February and May 2022, they’ve each vowed to keep their relationship offline, fueling breakup rumors and speculation about their status. When I ask what led to this decision, Dixie smiles.
“I think just being able to build our careers separately was so important for both of us. I mean, it kind of got to the point where everything was Dixie and Noah, Dixie and Noah, Dixie and Noah, and I didn’t think it was fair to either of us because we are in such a developing part of our careers,” she says. “We never wanted it to be like, if we were to break up, or we broke up or whatever, that it would just be about that, or Dixie’s ex or Noah’s ex. And that just isn’t fair because we both are working so hard in our own ways. I think it was for that, and also just for our own mental health, to not have people saying, ‘Oh, they didn’t like each other’s pictures, they’re hating each other’ — and just dumb little comments that really affected us.”
As such, Dixie’s laser-focused on establishing herself as a musician, and earning new fans. “I hope they love it,” she says of the album. “It came from my heart.” She’ll know what audiences think IRL beginning June 23, when she’ll hit the road as the opening act for Big Time Rush’s Forever Tour, taking the stage at iconic venues like Madison Square Garden through August. Though Dixie admits to being timid in rehearsals, performing is what she looks forward to the most: “It makes everything real.”
When her butterflies get the best of her, she knows exactly where to find solace. “I look at artists like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, who seem 100% themselves and put what they have out there and people love them, and that helps me,” she says. “I’m like, ‘I’m going to regret not showing my full self and not doing what I want to do because of nerves, or because of fear of what people say. That’s definitely the biggest inspiration — just to be myself.”
Dixie’s debut album, a letter to me, is out now.