Alexander 23 Invites His Ex to ‘Hate Me If It Helps’ on Single Co-Written by Olivia Rodrigo
Alexander 23 doesn’t mind if his ex makes him seem like the bad guy. On Thursday, the singer released the guitar-backed, breakup track “Hate Me If It Helps.” And who better than Olivia Rodrigo to co-write the single?
Opening with some slow guitar strums, Alexander reminds his ex that he doesn’t mind if her friends think he’s evil as long as it helps her heal. “So tell your friends I’m evil/Write songs that say I suck/And roll your eyes when people ask about us,” he sings on the track.
The lyrics are a reflection of the singer’s real-life experience with his last relationship, which “ended in a really tricky way.” “I still really loved her, but there were some existential factors that forced me to make a really hard decision,” Alexander admits to Rolling Stone. “In theory, I want her to do whatever she needs to do to move on, even if that means hating me. But in practice, whether it’s fair or not, I’m really hurt by the idea of her feeling that way about me.”
The personal lyrics are paired with a cinematic visual meant to “represent the breadth of the emotion of the song.” The video simply follows a denim jacket-wearing Alexander as he wallows in the sadness of his relationship’s end — backed by a mountainous landscape. “I didn’t want to do anything narrative or complicated, just something that would let the listener conflate their own story in with the record,” he says.
Alexander penned the lyrics with his close friend — and heartbreak songwriting expert — Olivia Rodrigo, whom he helped co-produce “Good 4 U” alongside Dan Nigro. For Alexander, there was no one better than the Sour singer to help write the emotional track, which features a “Déjà Vu”-reminiscent bridge. “As good of a songwriter she is, she’s an even better listener and friend,” he says. “This song is about a super personal and complicated topic, so I needed to write it with someone I really trust and feel emotionally safe with.”
“Hate Me If It Helps” serves as a taste of the singer’s “firstborn child”: his debut album out later this year. The singer explains that the upcoming LP mirrors the growth in his life as not only a musician but as a person. “It’s as honest as I’ve ever been, both lyrically and sonically,” he says. “I’ve poured everything I have into making this over the past year and I hope people can find some answers they’ve been looking for in it.”
Most of the forthcoming project is produced by Nigro, who’s behind Rodrigo’s Sour and Conan Gray’s Kid Krow. “Dan is someone I’ve looked up to for a while and I’ll forever be grateful for his part in making this record,” Alexander says. “Dan really brought out the best in me and there’s no one else in the world I would have rather worked on these songs with.”
Alexander jokes, “Please don’t let Dan see this answer I’d hate for him to know I feel this way!”
The song comes just days before Alexander’s “dream come true”: He’s set to hit the road as an opening act for John Mayer’s Sob Rock tour from Feb. 17 to Apr. 29. “I learned guitar by playing all of his songs; he’s the reason I started writing songs of my own,” Alexander says. “I have vivid memories of playing ‘Neon’ in my childhood bedroom for hours on end until I finally got it right (almost smashed my guitar many times along the way).”
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