The Real Meaning Behind Ily (I Love You Baby)

The viral hit “ily (i love you baby)” features an airy, infectious beat from producer Surf Mesa coupled with melodic lyrics from singer Emilee Flood, who fans know simply as Emilee. Similar to scores of other people, Mesa — whose real name is Powell Aguirre — came across the earworm vocals while scrolling through TikTok, per Billboard.

Mesa was inspired by Emilee’s work, and he went home that day to create the beat which featured a sped-up version of the singer’s vocals. “I finished the whole thing in one sitting … it took a full night. I uploaded the track to SoundCloud at 5 in the morning,” he told Wonderland. He told Billboard that he sent a direct message to Emilee with a link to the song, and the duo soon had a viral TikTok hit with “ily.”

Mesa was signed to the label Astralwerks shortly after, but they encountered an issue with the title. “We found that because of the way it was titled, ‘ily,’ the search terms ‘Surf Mesa I Love You’ weren’t finding the song,” Toby Andrews of Astralwerks told Rolling Stone in April 2020. The label added “(i love you baby)” to the title so users could easily find it on services such as Spotify or Amazon. “Users are gravitating towards a certain phrase, a certain lyric,” Andrews added.

Keep reading to see which classic song inspired “ily” and why that created further issues.

Surf Mesa made the song in his bedroom

Emilee’s lyrics on “ily (i love you baby)” are simple, and Surf Mesa grabbed them from a video of the singer covering Frankie Valli’s all-time classic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” (via Genius). The lyrics, “I love you, baby, and if it’s quite alright/ I need you, baby, to warm the lonely night/ I love you, baby, trust in me when I say,” are from the chorus of Valli’s original cut (via Genius).

Mesa comes from a musical family, with a dad who routinely played the saxophone, and he told Wonderland that it was his parents who first introduced him to the Valli ballad. The producer wanted his own version to be light. “When I was working on this song I literally just wanted to make something fun and dreamy that sounded like it came out of a bedroom (which it did),” he said. A breezy atmospheric vibe is what the producer aimed for. “Honestly, I want my songs to have a heartbeat … I want them to live,” he told Spindle magazine in June 2020.

Making the song accessible through streaming platforms was a difficult process for Astralwerks. Not only did the label have to clear Emilee’s vocals, but they had to clear the original Valli sample which Emilee had performed a cover of. Natalie Dodge, the senior director of A&R at the label, described the process to Rolling Stone as “the most challenging signing [she’d ever] done.”

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