Doja Cat might be this year’s host of the MTV Video Music Awards, but she’s adding another major gig to her belt — she’s the star of Pepsi’s newest commercial, in which she plays Sandy Olsson from Grease, and sings the 1978 movie’s classic track “You’re the One That I Want.“
But instead of thirsting after a leather jacket-wearing Danny Zuko lookalike for love, Doja pursues him for one thing alone — his can of soda.
Though Doja was tapped by the soft drink maker to perform a modern take on John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s “You’re the One That I Want” — which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after Grease was released — she tells Billboard that she initially struggled with making the track her own.
“I sing, but I feel like I have a lot of trouble singing certain things, even my own songs. This was one of those songs where I had to really push and find different parts of my singing ability to make it happen,” she explains. “Back then, music was so different and so carefully done. It wasn’t just loops and beats, which is why I feel like this was a bit harder for me. I can’t believe I was able to kind of hit some of those notes because it’s a very difficult song to sing. I’m happy about it.”
Doja revealed that she also contributed to the modernized version of “You’re the One That I Want” behind the scenes. “There were some tweaks needed for the production and that all came out amazing,” she says. “I was also working with a very, very close friend of mine for the song’s production, so I’m really happy and proud of it. It was fun laying all the harmonies and all of those came out really nicely.”
In the commercial, Doja is surrounded by Rydell High alumni. Gone are the Pink Ladies of the past — Doja’s new girls wear shades of bright pink, a possible nod to her second studio album, Hot Pink. Across the parking lot, Doja spots the T-Birds’ leader cracking open a can of Pepsi and becomes filled with desire. After losing sight of her love interest, Doja heads to the bleachers to track down her man and fails. She later goes to the soda shop and captures her guy’s attention after switching to a studded leather jack and pants, signifying her transition into “bad” Sandy. Doja doesn’t want to be with him, though — by the end of the TV spot, she takes his soda and leaves.
“I just remember seeing that Sandy as a kid and that just basically defining my existence, so in that moment, I was like, ‘I need to be here [doing the commercial],’” Doja tells Billboard, explaining her love of the “bad” Sandy look. “I love that movie so much.”
Todd Kaplan, vp marketing at Pepsi, also explains why the company felt Doja was the right fit for the commercial. “She’s just so magnetic and unapologetic,” he tells Billboard. “She’s just got a great energy about her and is also at the right point in her career where we thought it would be a really fun thing for her to take on a big song like that and bring her own twist to it, which she did in an amazingly awesome way.”
Doja’s Pepsi commercial is set to air during the VMAs on Sunday (Sept. 12). Watch it ahead of the official premiere below.
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