Dove Cameron was around 12 years old when she realized she didn't really like a lot of popular love songs.
"I felt like I was the only girl on the planet who had nothing in common with a Taylor Swift song," Cameron recalls. "'Love Story' was big when I was growing up, and every girl around me resonated with her so much. I really remember strongly feeling like I'm never going to be that girl. I was like, 'What the fuck is wrong with me?'"
It doesn't come as a surprise, then, that the singer-actress prefers writing about the raw and occasionally ugly side of being in love. When Cameron launched her music career last year, she did so with the one-two punch of "Bloodshot" and "Waste," two decidedly un-sappy relationship songs. The same goes for her newest release, the moody and atmospheric "Remember Me," which arrived on Friday (April 10) alongside a fittingly cinematic lyric video.
"Everything that's beautiful is also really, terribly ugly in a lot of cases, and love is the ultimate example of that," Cameron told MTV News about her approach to writing love songs. "I need that to be reflected in the music I create. The ugly will be there, whether you pay attention to it or not, so you might as well write songs about it."
On "Remember Me," Cameron paints a picture of a passionate relationship, filling the verses with imagery of moonlit PDA, karaoke, and photo booth pictures. At the same time, she's anticipating the end of it all and asking her partner to, "Please remember me like this / Beautiful and delicate / 'Cause things get ugly way too quick / And right now we're just so perfect." The message of the self-described "villainy, quick-burning romance," according to Cameron, is, "time's ticking, so enjoy me as I am now."
"I feel really good about 'Remember Me' [because] you do get transported somewhere; I feel like it's a rainy night in Tokyo or New York," she said. "The sun's just coming up and you've been out all night on a bender. I love [the lyric] 'No shoes, dancing around your living room / Pulling off my t-shirt, putting on a show for you,' because it's very sexy and youthful. It feels very much like the dark, teenage-dream love story that people like me always dream about."
"Remember Me" is almost two years old; it was one of the first songs the 24-year-old wrote and recorded as she began to work on her own music. It wasn't always meant to be a collaboration, she said, but when rising rapper Bia sent in a verse for it earlier this year, Cameron said the song finally clicked for her.
"Her vocal quality happens to be such a fucking match for the song," she said of her collaborator. "When I heard her rasp, I was so sold immediately on her. She fits the fantasy of the song, and I can't imagine it without the feature now."
"Remember Me" marks the first collaboration in Cameron's arsenal, and that's completely intentional — it was important to her that her sound not get colored by anybody else as she began to release her own music and introduce herself as an artist. Because, as she points out, a lot of people already have a pretty good idea about who she is — thanks to her years starring in Disney Channel's mega-popular Descendants franchise — and that perception is probably incorrect.
"I know that basically the whole world associates me with Disney Channel. It's an interesting thing to navigate because I can understand why the world has a certain image of me, but I didn't really understand how strict those parameters were until I had completely grown out of them," she explained. "Then, I tried to show my authentic self and people were like, 'No, no, no. What are you doing? She's gone off the rails.' It's a very hard thing for people to accept you as anything other than their idea of you in their head."
Her music is already helping to dismantle that image. After "Bloodshot" and "Waste," Cameron released the rock-leaning "Out of Touch," as well as the confident "So Good," which was produced by Ariel Rechtshaid and co-written by Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. "Remember Me" only perpetuates her evolution. And while Cameron has never considered her work with Disney to be a limiting or negative experience, she's excited about the opportunity to open herself up and present herself in ways that fans haven't seen yet.
"It's been a really interesting time for me to start doing music because I think there's a disconnect between my fan base and my authentic expression, especially because people are very opinionated about Disney Channel and about the people they grew up watching," she said. "There's a disconnect between the people who I think would listen to my music and who they think I am. I do think that music is a great tool for changing that, hopefully."
It might be a slow burn to get there, but Cameron is fine with that — she doesn't shy away from the tough and messy stuff, after all.