(Courtesy of Julie Ragbeer)

All it took for Julie Ragbeer to enter the spotlight was one promoted post on X. After popular culture account “Pop Tingz” tweeted a 12-word promo for her debut album, “Perplex” (2023), on Feb. 22, Ragbeer’s follower count exploded. Memes making fun of the quality of her music spread like wildfire across X and eventually found their way to Instagram and TikTok, resulting in several fan accounts, video edits, news coverage and even a Discord server, according to the star herself. Although the internet jokes seemed to imply that her stardom was dipped in a thin layer of satire, fans — self-identifying as “Ragdolls” — are undeniably enthralled by the artist’s honest lyrics and unapologetically authentic persona.

Ragbeer’s sound is inexplicably catchy. While the production varies from one song to the next, the artist’s vocals yield a distinct dominance that ties every track together. Her voice is consistently submerged under several layers of reverb, creating an echoing effect that bounces throughout her discography with all the drama of a werewolf’s resounding howl under the full moon. This in tandem with beat-driven, high-energy compositions develops a hurricane-like effect of sound, all swirling together in a chaotic storm of ear-ringing bedroom pop. On paper, it sounds like trouble. In reality, though, Ragbeer’s unique and amateur presentation emerges sonically victorious, and her simple yet relatable lyrics find a home in the heart of the listener.

Some may say that Ragbeer owes her social media virality to happenstance. Some may say the highly meme-ified musician’s success is the result of an online community that lives for ironic humor and a quotable joke. But make no mistake: Ragbeer’s fame is due just as much to her tenacious attitude and contagious positivity than to coincidence. Behind the sea of laughter and fascination, Ragbeer is more than just a social media sensation — she is a beacon of kindness in a ruthless internet culture and a creative both passionate about and dedicated to her craft.

Just one week after her dramatic rise to fame, Ragbeer joined The Emory Wheel for a conversation regarding all things music and memes. The 24-year-old pop-alternative musician from New Jersey reflected on her inspirations, sense of self and recent success.

A contagious smile spread across Ragbeer’s face as soon as she logged on to the Zoom call. She was postured comfortably in her bedroom, a tornado of unpretentious decoration and personality. She wore her signature magenta glasses, exuding a decidedly chic air that took shape through the computer screen, and she was more than willing to speak honestly without skipping a beat.

Ragbeer set the record straight about her identity. On Spotify, Julie Ragbeer is listed as the artist, while Victoria Ragbeer is credited for lyrics and composition. Not to worry, though, Victoria Ragbeer is no ghostwriter — the two names are the same person.

According to Ragbeer, the stage name “Julie” emerged as a result of a misattribution by a neighbor that stuck. Throughout her childhood, her siblings, cousins and dad called her by this fake name. When deciding her stage persona, Ragbeer chose Julie as a tribute to her late father.

“At heart, I’m Julie, and that’s who I am,” she said.

When asked how the infamous “Pop Tingz” post came to be, Ragbeer explained that she was searching for ways to spread the word about her debut album and garner an audience. She reached out to the account, which often posts about the glamor and glitz of celebrity gossip and new music releases. Ragbeer felt no reservations about purchasing the opportunity for a platform.

“At the end of the day, if you want your work to be on a billboard or at Times Square … you have to pay for it,” she said.

Ragbeer knows what she wants, and she is determined to get it. She said chasing a career in music was “scary,” but now her dream is coming to fruition. Her music is reaching tens of thousands of listeners on Spotify, and fans and haters alike have published social media posts about her. The media attention does not bother Ragbeer — it excites her.

“I feel like in general and in life, people don’t like it when you’re on top,” she said.

She prioritizes her mental health among the chaos of reaching social media icon status, turning off comments on all her personal accounts.

“At first, I saw some people being negative, but it looked like there was more love and positivity,” Ragbeer said. “I am grateful for that.”

Ragbeer’s fans and favorite artists heavily influence her. Musicians such as Beyoncé, Shakira and Britney Spears always echoed through the walls of her childhood home, Ragbeer recalled. She also cited Miley Cyrus and Amy Lee as musical inspirations. Her biggest musical hero, though, is Taylor Swift.

“I’ve been a Swiftie since close to the OG days,” Ragbeer said. “She’s more of a big sister to me than people who were in my family who I thought were sisters to me.”

Ragbeer emphasized that seeing women in positions of success inspired her and hopes she can do the same for others.

“I just love seeing these main pop girlies and queens of pop just being who they are,” she said. “When you see a woman girlbossing, it makes other women feel like, ‘Hey, I could do this field as well.’”

Despite her appreciation of fellow musicians, Ragbeer’s truest inspiration comes from God.

“[My faith] keeps me going,” she said. “It keeps me strong, it helps me and it motivates me.”

Ragbeer has her audience in mind when she makes music.

“I make music for people who feel left out and misunderstood,” Ragbeer said. “I want to make music for people who are in minorities and help them realize that they do have a voice and that they’re loved.”

The “Pop Tingz” promo said “Perplex” is about Ragbeer’s “19 year old experiences.” However, Ragbeer elaborated on the album’s themes, including the emotional turmoil and unwelcome change of growing into a young adult.

“I think 19 is a very confusing age for any human, and I was just learning that sometimes people grow, and things change, and you lose friends,” Ragbeer said. “You’re just learning how to balance everything out.”

The album cover for “Perplex” has appeared on all sorts of memes, becoming a cult obsession among the Ragdolls. Ragbeer explained that the sunbeam across her face symbolized the feeling of the album, adding that her stern facial expression was the icing on the cake.

“I know some people were saying, ‘Oh, she took this on an iPhone,’” Ragbeer said. “I actually took that on an Android.”

“Mary Whiton Calkins” is the most-streamed song on “Perplex.” With her signature reverb overload, Ragbeer’s fan-favorite takes the form of a cool-as-ice ballad with heavy techno-pop influences. “Mary Whiton Calkins” — named after the American philosopher and psychologist — is a surprisingly hypnotic ode. Ragbeer belts the titular figure’s name a total of 15 times.

According to Ragbeer, Calkins made a huge impact on her life. After reading about her story, Ragbeer felt inspired.

Ragbeer mentioned that Calkins never received her Ph.D. from Harvard University (Mass.) because she was a woman studying in the 1890s. Ragbeer expressed a great desire for Harvard to do Calkins, who died in 1930, justice.

“I hope [Harvard is] listening,” Ragbeer said. “I hope something good can come out of this song, and for her to get her degree.”

Ragbeer said she thinks deeply about her upcoming plans and the kind of music she wants to make, envisioning fame and one million followers in her future. But for now, she is planning to release a music video for “Mary Whiton Calkins” soon.

“I also have a more edgy side that people don’t really see,” Ragbeer said as she grinned cheekily. “They might see it soon in a new EP.”

When asked about any kind of message she had for her fans, Ragbeer was prepared.

“Thank you for the support and for helping my dreams come true step by step,” Ragbeer said. “More music is on its way, and let’s keep the Ragdolls momentum going.”

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Nathan Rubin is a Junior from the Carolinas double majoring in Film & Media Studies and English. Outside of being Arts & Entertainment Editor at the Wheel, Nathan is a Writing Editor for Alloy Literary Magazine and hosts a queer radio show on WMRE. When he's not staring blankly at a blinking cursor, you can find him watching way too many horror movies and drinking way too many Baja Blasts.