Singular’s intermission is over!
Carpenter, who turned 20 in May, says that songwriting has become an avenue for her own self-discovery — and both acts of Singular are proof of it, as she wrote on every single track.
“I definitely felt that within the songs that I was writing, it wasn’t so much struggling with my identity, as struggling with coming to terms with who I am,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively.
“There’s been a lot that has happened in my life that made me want to reflect,” she adds. “I feel like this past year is definitely — ups and downs-wise — like a roller coaster. It’s taught me a lot, that’s for sure. But it also stretched me to different places that I didn’t think that I could go before.”
Act II comes just eight months after Singular: Act I, and though Carpenter originally planned to drop Singular as one complete album, the tracks in Act I “fit together perfectly.”
Carpenter is currently filming Work It alongside Liza Koshy and Love, Simon‘s Keiynan Lonsdale in Canada, which caused her to reminisce about her musical beginnings.
“I remember dropping my first album when I was filming a movie in Canada as well, when I was around 15,” she says, referring to Eyes Wide Open. “It’s really coming full circle.”
This week, it was also announced that the former Girl Meets World actress will star in and produce the film adaptation of The Distance from Me to You. Carpenter also told PEOPLE that she has already started to work on her next album and hopes to do a longer tour than she did for Act I.
In between nervous laughs about finding herself through the music — “It’s that phase that I’m sure we’ve [all] been in, where you’re like, ‘Where am I going?’” — and anecdotes about visiting home, the “Sue Me” singer broke down every track on her newest album.
Carpenter described the album’s first track and third single as “a cop out in a good way.”
“It’s funny, because by the title, a lot of people thought it was going to be a very sensual song,” she says with a laugh. “It ended up being about being in your head about everything and physically feeling like you cannot leave your bed.”
“I’ve definitely been there and I know a lot of my friends have as well,” she adds. “It gets you to this chaotic place where you start to lose control a little bit.”
Carpenter explained that the track “opens the door” to Act II and takes listeners through a range of emotions.
With lyrics such as “You got a way, you’re messing with my faith / You’re tryna paint a picture but you’re running out of paint,” the singer explores what it’s like facing other people’s opinions in “Pushing 20.”
“It’s dealing with a lot of negativity from the outside, and people telling you what to be,” she explains. “It’s about questioning who you are, because you question who you are when everyone is telling you who to be.”
The single artwork features a cake similar to Harry Potter’s birthday cake in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. On it, her name is misspelled as Sabreena Carpunder, echoing the misspelling of Happy Birthday on the wizard’s cake.
I Can’t Stop Me (feat. Saweetie)
The Hate U Give actress says she never thought she’d release “I Can’t Stop Me,” but felt that the song “fit perfectly” within the album.
“It’s like when you’re in a relationship, and someone is trying to tell you what’s good for you,” she explains. “When we first wrote this song, it was ‘I Can’t Stop You.’”
Carpenter and her team, however, decided to make the track into a confident and empowering song and re-worked it to be “I Can’t Stop Me.”
“I think that that’ll be something that my fans can remind themselves,” she explained.
“I really wanted a female rapper on it, because I just felt like it fit the tone of the record,” she says. “Saweetie took it to another level, and I love her. She’s really dope.”
For Carpenter, “I’m Fakin” is “such a fun song.”
On it, she sings, “Don’t forget the words that I’m saying / Every time I tell you that we’re done, I’m fakin’.”
“We say a lot of things that we don’t actually mean,” she says, breaking down the track’s lyrics. “And I don’t know why we do that, especially in relationships.”
“We say something to make somebody feel a certain way, even though we don’t feel that way at all,” she adds.
Carpenter says that this song started with the riff that distinguishes this track from the rest on the album. She was in the studio with her producer and co-writer Warren “Oak” Felder, with whom she worked on “Sue Me” from Act I.
“We could even kick it in the driveway because you know I’m not trying to over-complicate,” she sings on the track. “If showing all your colors led to heartbreak, then let it break on me.”
“It’s kind of like, ‘Stop trying to be something that you think is what I want you to be,’” she says of the track. “It’s about us being like, ‘Let’s just show each other our real self 100 percent, and we can get to know each other that way’ instead of trying to impress each other with false advertising.”
Carpenter slows things down with “Tell Em” — the last track she wrote for Act II and the longest one on the album.
“‘Tell Em’ is definitely my baby, like I love this song so much. It puts you in a different mental state than the rest of the songs on the record,” she explains. “It’s a nice, deep breath.”
Carpenter then jokingly backtracked, saying that “Exhale” (the next track) is the literal deep breath of the album. She describes the song as the warmest song and the one with which she experimented the most.
“I just got to really, really have fun with writing a song about not having to tell everybody everything, and not owing everybody an explanation for the way that you feel,” she says. “It’s our life and we’ll get created along the way.”
“Exhale” gives fans some insight into Carpenter’s struggles with mental health.
“This is a very important literal moment that needed to be on the album in order for them to feel like this really was a vulnerable place for me,” she says. “There’s a lot of confidence in being vulnerable and saying how you feel.”
Though the single is a fan favorite, she did think it through before releasing it as she didn’t want people to think she was simply complaining.
“I obviously always prefer to focus on gratitude,” she says. “However, it was definitely a moment that I definitely think my fans are going to appreciate and are going to be able to use to help whatever is going on in their lives, which is very important to me.”
“This is the cheekiest song on the record,” says Carpenter about “Take You Back.”
“I don’t know why I adopted the word ‘cheeky,’” she laughs. “Like I’m not Australian, but it definitely feels like a word I can use to describe that song.”
“Take You Back” is about realizing that “I don’t really need you.”
“It’s about having a person in your life that you thought you wanted, and then you realize you definitely didn’t,” she says. “Like, ‘I literally want to take you back to the store.’”
In her own life, the singer says people have entered her life with the simple reason to “teach us lessons and then they leave.”
Carpenter describes the song as the album’s dance record.
“I hope that it brings people full circle from feeling like they can’t leave their bed [at the beginning of Act II] to wanting to literally get up out of their bed and go and be in the world and find who they are,” she says.
Though Act I only featured eight songs, she “got a little crazy” and added this ninth one on Act II — “I was like, let’s throw in another one for the kids!”
Singular: Act II is out now.