On December 11th, Skylar Grey will release "C'Mon Let Me Ride," the lead single from her debut album Don't Look Down. The playful pop tune, which Grey calls "an X-rated kids' song," features Eminem singing a famous refrain: the hook of Queen's "Bicycle Race."
Grey tells Rolling Stone that idea of including the chorus came from Eminem, who executive-produced the album. "That was an Eminem move. The first time I heard his verse, he had added that part in as well and it made me laugh, so we kept it," she says. She also opted to keep his vocals instead of Mercury's originals. "I love hearing Marshall change his voice like that and just, like, be a character, play a character, so I thought that was funnier, personally."
The satirical song, a jab at "overly sexified music, media and the girls who try and imitate it," may surprise many who are familiar with Grey from her more modest days recording as Holly Brook and her Buried Sessions of Skylar Grey EP. She credits Eminem partially for that.
"I've learned from Em I can have more fun," she says. "He's very sarcastic and makes me laugh all the time and there are parts of my attitude I have in person but I've never shown in a song. I feel like he showed me I don't have to be afraid to show that side." Previously, Grey performed with Eminem and Dr. Dre at the 2011 Grammys and wrote Eminem's smash single "Love the Way You Lie."
"I'm grateful and blessed to have [Eminem] on my side because not only is he one of the biggest artists in the world, but I also really trust his ears and sensibilities, which is a hard thing to find," she explains. "Marshall can hear gold through the shittiest-sounding recordings."
Eminem has faith in Grey, as well. "When I was working on Recovery, I was introduced to Skylar by Alex Da Kid and I was blown away with her talent as both a songwriter and vocalist," says the rapper in a press release. "This album is really going to give her a chance to connect with the fans who probably know her music but might not know her yet. I think they will be as impressed as I am."
The title of Don't Look Down comes from the song "Tower," one of four holdovers from Invincible, an album she originally intended to release as her debut under the Skylar Grey moniker (it was ultimately scrapped). "I think a song that can make it through the past year that I've had of writing new songs and throwing ones away is worth having the album title named after," she says.
"I put out [the single] 'Invisible' and I was feeling like I was so busy promoting an album and a song and I felt like I hadn't finished my album yet," she says. "So I kind of took a step back and had a conversation with Jimmy [Iovine] and he was totally on my side. He said, 'Look, this is your first album; it has to be exactly what you want it to be.' So we mutually agreed to slow down the whole process and let me take my time finishing the songs until I felt like it was there."
Grey found her comfort zone again by collaborating with hit songwriter J.R. Rotem. "He had invited me to come to the studio to sing something for him and it was the first time we met," she says. "We really hit it off and a couple of the best songs on the album ['Wear Me Out' and 'Back From the Dead'] came from those sessions."
Don't Look Down, Grey says, explores the breadth of her musical abilities. "I think the album is a bit more playful than people are expecting, but 'C'Mon Let Me Ride' is about as far as I take that," she says. "You get to see the full spectrum of my multiple personalities. There's definitely a good balance between all the dark stuff that I do; that's what everybody knows of me."