The era of social distancing officially has a new anthem.
At first glance of the song name, Hailee Steinfeld's new single "I Love You's" sounds like it's going to be another slow emotional ballad like her previous release "Wrong Direction." But the song, which debuted today, is actually much more upbeat, as the homage to Annie Lennox's iconic "No More 'I Love You's'" preaches self-love instead of jumping into any relationship before you're ready. And the inspiration comes from a very real place for the singer/actor, after she decided to stay single for an entire year.
"I went through a breakup and did not give myself enough time to heal from that before getting into another relationship," Steinfeld tells EW. "When that second relationship ended it became clear that I needed time and space to heal — I hadn’t given myself that to begin with that first time around. I didn’t realize the importance of that."
Committing to a new relationship too soon is one of many distractions that Steinfeld turned to while attempting to deny feeling any of the pain from her first breakup. "You look for anything to get your mind off of it," she says. But when she finally let those feelings in, she realized that what she needed most was time to be alone, which is why she sings, "No more 'I love you’s' until I’m okay," in the new track. "I told myself I needed at least a year before I even considered any kind of relationship. Everyone at that time told me it wasn’t going to happen, I would meet someone tomorrow and that I was jinxing it by saying I wouldn’t. But before I knew it, a year flew by and 'I Love You's' came into my life and it was the perfect way of expressing where I’ve been and what I’ve learned."
Both the "I Love You's" single and its music video that she co-directed with Sarah McColgan are the official "kickoff" to Steinfeld's new as-yet-untitled, two-part project (with Part 1 set for a May 1 release) that she calls "a good representation of what’s to come" from her this year. "It covers those emotions you feel when dealing with heartbreak, the anger and frustrations and independence that comes after it all." She's using these new songs to release everything she's kept bottled up for a while now, and also promises that "it's in the vein of my previous records."
"'Wrong Direction' was obviously more of a ballad than anything on these records," she admits of the track rumored to be about her ex Niall Horan. "And I know my fans were really wondering about that." Both "I Love You's" and "Wrong Direction" will be featured on Part 1 along with three additional tracks, with "I Love You's" as the lead single.
Pulling from Lennox's 1995 hit, Steinfeld wanted to "take something that is so classic and timeless" and put a modern twist on it, feeling especially inspired by the '80s and disco. "I’ve been in the studio making all these records and it’s so fun to pull from artists today but even more so deep diving into different decades of the past," she says. "There’s a little bit of this darkness that is in the other records coming out and it was so great to explore that. I am really proud of my ability to be vulnerable."
While Steinfeld admits that she still has a lot to learn when it comes to self-love, she's happy to see how much she's grown so far. "This whole experience that this song represents for me was such a learning curve," she says. "I’m still in that process of healing and learning and figuring things out. If people can listen to this song and realize the importance of having the ability to take control of your emotions and know that it’s okay to lay down the line for yourself and listen to yourself, it’s badass to be able to wake up in the morning and decide what’s best for yourself and commit to that."
That's why Steinfeld hopes her fans can listen to "I Love You's" and better understand where her headspace has been over the past year. "I have learned to be a lot more honest with myself," she says about how her music has evolved. "It’s such a release and a huge form of escapism. As scary as these moments have been for me it’s the biggest sigh of relief when it’s out in the world and I’ve learned to accept that myself. I’m constantly evolving and changing just like my music and it’s exciting. I’ve become a lot more comfortable and that’s what I wanted to show with these records."
She adds, "I have a tendency to disappear and get quiet when things in my life get too loud and I know my fans will pick up on that when I’m not as active on social media. They just know -- it’s weird. They can just tell. I hope these records can explain where I’ve been and what I’ve been going through while I’ve been away. It’s easier to talk and express myself through music than anything else."
And the music video for "I Love You's," which debuts soon, does just that. "This video represents where I’ve been and where I’m now," Steinfeld says. For the visual inspiration, her mind instantly went to the corner of her bedroom. "When I’m upset or hurt I don’t want to leave my room. So it starts in a confined space and breaks out into this chaos with all this movement and kicking and punching. Where I’m at now is this party of one and I wanted the video to represent that."
With a song dedicated to staying single for self-care and a music video set in her bedroom, Steinfeld really is killing the social distancing game.