Jensen McRae wondered how Phoebe Bridgers would sing about California’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and more importantly, how she would be keeping herself busy while waiting in line.
“In 2023 Phoebe Bridgers is gonna drop her third album & the opening track will be about hooking up in the car while waiting in line to get vaccinated at dodger stadium and it’s gonna make me cry,” the 23-year-old rising artist tweeted Jan. 14 before posting a minute-long teaser clip of the song’s intro.
The practice comes from a songwriting game she plays with fellow musician Masiyn called “Indie Girl Improv,” in which the two trade made-up Phoebe Bridgers lyrics with each other. “The way she name-checks pop culture and stares despair in the eye makes it easy to craft tongue-in-cheek mimicries of her music,” McRae tells Billboard exclusively. “So I sort of did that, but by myself instead of with a partner.”
The irony certainly wasn’t lost on her, since the parody cover garnered more than 2 million views on Twitter and a note from Bridgers herself, who tweeted, “oh my god” while sharing the clip on her own account. The viral reaction and praise from other stars such as Justin Tranter and Best Coast encouraged McRae to hit the studio with producer Rahki (Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Syd) and make the song a reality. She recorded a full-length version of the tune titled “Immune,” which premiered Wednesday (Jan. 27).
“As the song took shape, it became less about parody and more about doing what I always do in my writing, which is fusing a cluster of influences to create something beyond imitation,” McRae says. “It was also sort of escapist for me — this vaccine rollout is going pretty poorly in California, so it’s nice to fantasize about the day I finally get the shot, even if it’s a fictionalized version of it.”
The “Wolves” singer will release her debut project later this year. She joins 20 other global musical acts including Brent Faiyaz and Yung Baby Tate as part of the #YouTubeBlack Voices Class of 2021, which was announced earlier this month.
Listen to “Immune” below.
Editor’s note: Jensen McRae attended USC with Billboard’s Heran Mamo.