SOURCE PHOTOS (CLOCKWISE, L-R): Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images, Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for Triller, Chris McKay/WireImage
Justin Bieber’s Sonic Evolution: How He Transformed From Bubblegum Pop Heartthrob To Mature, Genre-Melding Artist
In 2021, Justin Bieber unleashed perhaps his most authentic representation of his artistry, 'Justice.' Bieber's sixth album is his most GRAMMY-nominated work to date — and a celebration of his musical journey.
When Justin Bieber first came into the public eye in 2009, his mop-top hairdo, prepubescent falsetto and squeaky-clean debut single "One Time" screamed budding pop star. And considering the pandemonium that ensued shortly thereafter — aptly called "Bieber Fever" — it was evident that he was a phenom in the making.
Though he was only 15 at the time, Bieber had a pretty clear vision of what he wanted to be. "I see myself doing more R&B, sort of like Usher and Justin [Timberlake], or an old Michael Jackson," he said in one of his first interviews in 2008. But being so young, Bieber's initial releases were pigeonholed as pop, specifically catering to a tween and teenage audience.
Even so, Bieber never lost sight of his aspirations. He’s morphed his R&B influences with the commercial pop sounds that helped make him a star, culminating in his sixth studio album, Justice — which just might be his magnum opus.
Justice earned Bieber eight nominations at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards, a monumental personal feat for several reasons. Not only is it his most noms in a single year, it's the first time Bieber has been up for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Album Of The Year at once. What's more, he earned his first-ever R&B nomination ("Peaches," his Record and Song Of The Year contender, is nominated for Best R&B Performance).
The 22-track "Triple Chucks Deluxe" edition of Justice is the version that's nominated for both Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Album. Like all of Bieber's projects, Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe) features a hoard of collaborators — both on vocals and behind the scenes — bringing in familiar faces like Skrillex and Benny Blanco, and new voices like the Kid Laroi and Burna Boy. No matter the number of co-writers, Bieber is listed as the lead writer on all 22 songs — a throughline among his albums since 2012's Believe.
The anthemic single "Anyone" — a passionate ode to his wife and prime muse, Hailey — earned Bieber a Best Pop Solo Performance at this year's GRAMMYs. The other two nominated Justice tracks further show the album's diversity: the pained (and super personal) piano ballad "Lonely" is up for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance (it features Blanco); the thrice nominated "Peaches" is a wavy collaboration with R&B stars Giveon and Daniel Caesar.
What makes Justice different, though, is that it feels like a true artist's statement. Bieber navigated the pop machine as a teen and honed his R&B-infused pop style into his late 20s. Now 28, the superstar delivered a project that makes him feel more mature — and in turn, more connected to the music — than ever before.
Bieber's first musical maturing came as soon as his voice dropped — which began with his 2011 Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe, but really took hold upon the release of "Boyfriend" in 2012. The first single from his third LP, Believe, "Boyfriend" was the proper introduction to a new-and-improved (err, grown up) Bieber, his boyish chirp transformed to a sultry croon and his flippable shag 'do traded for a coiffed short cut.
That's not to discredit any of the work Bieber had put in up until that point. His My World EP and debut album, My World 2.0, established him as a proficient songwriter and hitmaker: Bieber co-wrote every song on My World 2.0, and five of the six singles from both projects landed in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. While the singles leaned more pop (particularly the hooky, upbeat smash "Baby"), many of the album cuts played on the R&B young Bieber yearned to explore ("First Dance" on My World; "Overboard" or "Up" on My World 2.0).
While "Boyfriend" ushered in an elevated vocal tone, Believe brought a much bigger sound as a whole. The bass was turned up ("As Long As You Love Me"), the dance beats were punchier ("Take You") and the production became more complex ("Thought Of You").
The lyrics also became more intentional — love songs were no longer referring to "shawty," they were about falling in love with your best friend. And while he had released a few ballads by that point, the fan-favorite acoustic track "Be Alright" put Bieber's vocals on display arguably more than ever before, foreshadowing the vulnerability he would later showcase on Justice cuts like "Off My Face" and "Lifetime."
Eighteen months later, Bieber expanded on his R&B prowess with the 2013 compilation album Journals. The project took a step back from the star's commercial, pop-driven releases, serving up slower melodies and more provocative narratives. Now a cult favorite among Beliebers, Journals proved that he can be an R&B star as much as a pop star. Combined with the impactful sounds of Believe, Bieber hinted that he had just scratched the surface of his artistry.
He clearly laid the groundwork perfectly: Upon the release of his 2015 single, "What Do You Mean?" Bieber became bigger than he'd ever been. The bouncy trop-pop track debuted atop the Hot 100, marking a first for Bieber. Its two subsequent singles, "Sorry" and "Love Yourself," also reached the summit; the album, Purpose, went on to be certified five-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). (It was also the first Bieber album to receive an Album Of The Year nod, at the 2017 GRAMMY Awards.)
But Purpose was more than a commercial win for Bieber. The years leading up to the album's release saw Bieber make very public mistakes — including a couple of arrests — as well as a very public breakup. Presenting his most personal lyrics to date, Purpose was Bieber's chance to show the world his growth.
The same could be said for Justice — except with very different circumstances. Unlike the trouble-laden journey to Purpose, Justice was inspired by the love story that unfolded between Bieber and his wife. That narrative began with 2020's Changes, another R&B-driven project (or, as he called it, R&Bieber), but its lyrical content was largely written off by critics as surface-level and its production was considered to be lacking variety.
Perhaps seeing the difference in responses to Purpose and Changes sparked a creative lightbulb within Bieber. Whatever the inspiration, something clearly clicked.
Justice is a comprehensive showcase of Bieber's musicianship, blending all of his musical paths together: pop beginnings, R&B and hip-hop inspirations, dance/house collaborations, tender vocal stylings, vulnerable lyrics. Expanding on Changes' diaristic accounts of marriage, Bieber dives deeper both lyrically and sonically — ultimately making a greater impact.
Even Blanco, a longtime collaborator of Bieber's, admitted to Billboard that Justin is "singing the best I've ever heard." Their Justice duet, "Lonely," is arguably both Bieber's most vulnerable lyrical display and most moving vocal performance of his career, likely due to its autobiographical nature: "Everybody knows my past now/ Like my house was always made of glass/ And maybe that's the price you pay/ For the money and fame at an early age," he sings on the second verse.
But other than "Lonely," the rest of the album serves as a celebration of Bieber's journey, both musically and personally. And it's proving to have staying power: Eighteen months after the Justice era kicked off with the angelic (and Chance the Rapper-featuring) lead single, "Holy," the album is still making waves thanks to the longing synth-pop radio hit "Ghost" (which earned Bieber his 10th No. 1 at pop radio in February; as of press time, the song sits at No. 5 on the Hot 100).
Where he'll go from here is something fans — and maybe even Bieber himself — have likely been pondering. But if Justice is any indication, one thing is for sure: Justin Bieber the artist is here to stay.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Andrew Chin/Getty Images
New Music Friday: Listen To New Songs From SZA With Drake & Justin Bieber, Offset, Tate McRae & More
From highly anticipated collabs to long-awaited album teasers, take a listen to six new tracks that arrived on Sept. 15.
It’s yet another big day for music enthusiasts, as listeners were gifted with unexpected collaborations and fresh new melodies from artists of every genre on Sept. 15.
With an Instagram caption-worthy single from Drake and SZA , a playful, self-confident anthem from Tate McRae, and a chill, euphoric vibe from Noah Kahan & Lizzy McAlphine, there’s plenty of different sounds to dive into.
As you’re putting together your autumn 2023 playlist, add these six new tracks to the mix.
Drake feat. SZA - "Slime You Out"
Just hours after GRAMMY winners Drake and SZA announced they’d be teaming up for a new track, the pair unleashed "Slime You Out" promptly at noon ET on Sept. 15.
As the song’s title insinuates, the duo seem to express their thoughts on someone "sliming" them out — which, in this case, refers to someone playing with their feelings. "Tryna build trust, showin’ me your DMS, how they tryna bag you / Ironic how the news I got about you ended up bein’ bad news."
Drake’s clever wordplay paired with SZA’s mellow, hypnotic voice make the single a memorable one. But perhaps it’s even more memorable because it’s been a team-up long in the making: according to Drake’s eyebrow-raising line in his 21 Savage collab "Mr. Right Now," the two used to date "back in '08."
SZA feat. Justin Bieber - "Snooze (Acoustic Remix)"
As SZA fans awaited her song with Drake, she gave them another high-profile collab in the form of a "Snooze" remix with Justin Bieber. An alluring, stripped-down version of the original SOS track, the "Snooze" remix sees SZA and Bieber passionately harmonize; added guitar chords add a dreamy touch to the song.
The remix also marks a full-circle moment for the pair, as Bieber starred in the original "Snooze" music video, which was released on Aug. 25.
Offset - "Fan"
Kicking off what seems to be his Michael Jackson era, Offset has released this newest single, "Fan." This song features an infectious, hype beat with lyrics presenting a nonchalant ‘IDGAF’ attitude: "You supposed to hold me down, but it didn't happen (You supposed to hold me down)/ Now I'm over it."
"Fan" is a taste of Offset’s forthcoming second album, Set It Off, which he will release on October 13. The LP follows his debut solo album, 2019’s Father of 4, which landed him a Best Rap Performance GRAMMY nomination for the single "Clout" featuring his wife, Cardi B.
In the "Fan" music video, Michael Jackson is heavily referenced, with moments including Offset transforming into werewolf and zombie, and dance moves like the reverse moonwalk.
Tate McRae - "Greedy"
self-confidence single "greedy." This song is a testament to McRae’s inner thoughts, as the lyrics let listeners know she’s not tolerating insecurities — and definitely not enabling any "greedy" men.
"I would want myself/ Baby, please believe me/ I'll put you through hell/ Just to know me, yeah, yeah," she sings on the chorus.
Noah Kahan feat. Lizzy McAlpine - "Call Your Mom"
Folk-pop favorite Noah Kahan teamed up with rising pop singer Lizzy McAlpine to create a new version of "Call Your Mom," an emotional track from his hit 2022 album Stick Season.
Kahan recently brought McAlpine out as a surprise guest during his sold-out show at L.A.'s Greek Theatre on Aug.11, where the two singer/songwriters performed the song for the first time together.
Written about giving unconditional support to a loved one struggling with mental health issues and depression, the moving song reaches new heights with two voices on it. Kahan’s and McAlpine’s voices perfectly blend together and capture the lyrics’ powerful emotions.
Maren Morris - The Bridge
Maren Morris dropped not one, but two new songs, "The Tree" and "Get The Hell Out of Here," which both seem to focus on a new chapter in Morris’s life. "The Tree" feels like a farewell, as she proudly sings,"I'm done fillin' a cup with a hole in the bottom/ I'm takin' an axe to the tree/ The rot at the roots is the root of the problem/ But you wanna blame it on me."
"Get The Hell Out of Here" has a more mellow country melody that also talks about growth and navigating different areas of her life. Both songs share a different story, yet share the same theme of a transitional period in her life — and tease what’s to come on her next album, which will follow 2022’s Humble Quest.
As Morris said in a statement, "These two songs are incredibly key to my next step because they express a very righteously angry and liberating phase of my life these last couple of years, but also how my navigation is finally pointing toward the future."
Photo: Ollie Millington/Redferns
9 Songs You Didn't Know Jon Bellion Wrote & Produced: Hits By Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez & More
Pop superproducer Jon Bellion is the man behind Tori Kelly's new ep, 'tori,' but he's also been involved with countless hits for more than a decade. Check out nine of Bellion's biggest songs, from Eminem to Jonas Brothers.
If the name Jon Bellion sounds familiar, it's probably because of his 2016 single "All Time Low." With its relentless "low-low-low-low-low" chorus, the electronic-fused pop confection scored Bellion his first major hit — as a solo artist, that is.
Prior to Bellion's breakthrough with his debut solo single, he'd already made a name for himself behind the scenes by writing and producing songs for the likes of Eminem, Jason Derulo, Zedd and CeeLo Green. And in the seven years since "All Time Low" became a top 20 hit, he's celebrated plenty of other smashes with some of pop's A-listers from Christina Aguilera to Justin Bieber.
This year alone, he worked with the Jonas Brothers to executive produce their statement-making record The Album, helped shape Maroon 5's "Middle Ground" — which is expected to be the lead single off the veteran pop-rockers' forthcoming eighth studio album — and teamed up with Switchfoot for an orchestral 2023 update of the band's 2003 breakout single "Meant to Live."
Bellion's most recent work can be heard on Tori Kelly's new self-titled EP tori, which dropped July 28. Along with producing the project, Bellion joined Kelly for a magnetic, electro-tinged track titled "young gun." Upon the EP's release, Kelly herself noted Bellion's impact, calling their collaboration "the start of something really special."
In honor of Bellion's latest project, take a look at nine songs you may not have known contained Bellion's signature touch — a roadmap to his becoming one of the most in-demand producers of the moment.
Eminem feat. Rihanna — "The Monster"
One of Bellion's earliest smashes came courtesy of Eminem — well, and Bebe Rexha. The pop singer penned the track's dark hook while working on her debut album, but it later made its way to Eminem and eventually shapeshifted into his fourth collaboration with Rihanna. The song became the duo's second No. 1 collaboration following 2010's "Love The Way You Lie" and remains one of most monstrous hits in Bellion's career.
Jason Derulo — "Trumpets"
Jason Derulo worked solely with Bellion on this top 20 hit from his 2013 Tattoos, which was later re-packaged as 2014's Talk Dirty. Built around an irresistible horn line of, yes, literal trumpets, Bellion and Derulo concocted a bouncy, flirtatious symphony to smoothly objectify the R&B singer's lady love, and manages to name drop Coldplay, Katy Perry and Kanye West over the course of just three minutes and thirty-seven seconds.
Christina Aguilera feat. Demi Lovato — "Fall in Line"
Bellion handled production on Christina Aguilera's fierce 2018 team-up with Demi Lovato, "Fall in Line," off the former's 2018 LP Liberation. Behind the boards, Bellion effectively captured all of the feminist rage and empowerment that the two vocal powerhouses lit into their lyrics, pairing their sneering vocals with a vamping strings section, rattling chains and a robotic male overlord futilely demanding, "March, two, three, right, two, three/ Shut your mouth, stick your ass out for me."
"Fall in Line" scored a nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 2019 GRAMMYs, marking Aguilera's twentieth career nod and Lovato's second.
Maroon 5 — "Memories"
To kick off their seventh album, JORDI, Maroon 5 enlisted Bellion to co-write lead single "Memories." The gentle ballad found frontman Adam Levine mourning the loss of a friend, pouring one out over a lilting reggae-pop line that cleverly samples Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major." While the heartfelt song is dedicated to the band's longtime manager (and namesake of the LP) Jordan Feldstein, who tragically passed away in 2017 due to a blood clot, the relatable sentiment of "Memories" helped it peak at No. 2 on the Hot 100.
In addition to "Memories," Bellion also worked with the band on two other songs from JORDI, co-writing fourth single "Lost" as well as Anuel AA and Tainy collab "Button." Three years later, he would reunite with the band to co-write and co-produce their latest, equally delicate single "Middle Ground" alongside the likes of Andrew Watt and Rodney Jerkins.
Miley Cyrus — "Midnight Sky"
Miley Cyrus came raring into her glam rock-inspired album Plastic Hearts on the back of "Midnight Sky," an unapologetic statement of independence following her split from longtime love Liam Hemsworth. Dripping in sultry synths, the power ballad took a page from '80s rock icons like Joan Jett, Debbie Harry and Stevie Nicks.
The sound was an entirely new one for Cyrus — which is one of Bellion's tools when working with a new superstar for the first time. In a 2023 Billboard interview, he likened his approach to inventing a new kind of ride for the given A-lister. "They have already built an amazing theme park: millions of people go to it and experience their roller coasters," he said. "They put me in charge of revamping or creating a new section of the theme park, and they let me be the foreman of it all." The new style worked in Cyrus' favor, and earned Bellion yet another top 20 hit on the Hot 100.
Justin Bieber — "Holy"
Bellion's fingerprints are all over Justin Bieber's 2021 album Justice, starting notably with its Chance the Rapper-assisted lead single "Holy," which he both co-wrote and co-produced. The superproducer contributed to six other songs on the pop-driven LP — including the pop radio No. 1 "Ghost," which was inspired by Bellion's late grandmother — as well as three deluxe tracks. And though Bellion didn't have any credited features, his voice can still be heard: he offered background vocals on seven of the songs.
Justice earned Bellion his very first GRAMMY nomination, as the project was nominated for Album Of The Year at the 2022 GRAMMYs (Bieber also received seven other nods).
Selena Gomez — "My Mind & Me"
Bellion first collaborated with Selena Gomez on Rare album cut "Vulnerable" alongside Amy Allen, Michael Pollack and The Monsters & Strangerz. Two years later, the entire team reunited for the title track to the pop singer's Apple TV+ documentary My Mind & Me.
Bellion and co. helped Gomez tap even further into the most vulnerable side of her psyche to date. "Vulnerable" saw Gomez letting her guard down with a new flame, but "My Mind & Me" allowed her to completely lay bare her mental health journey. "Sometimes I feel like an accident, people look when they're passin' it/ Never check on the passenger, they just want the free show," she sings. "Yeah, I'm constantly tryna fight somethin' that my eyes can't see," over spare guitar and piano.
Jonas Brothers — "Waffle House"
After the success of their 2019 comeback album Happiness Begins with producer Ryan Tedder, the Jonas Brothers recruited Bellion to helm the boards on their 2023 follow-up The Album. The producer helped the hitmaking siblings tap into a new facet of their pop-rock sound, finding inspiration in the '70s music their dad raised them on. (As Joe Jonas told GRAMMY.com upon the album's release, Bellion "was saying exactly what we were hoping for" when they first met to mull over ideas.)
While Bellion had a hand in every song on The Album, second single "Waffle House" is the latest to earn both him and Jonas Brothers a top 15 hit on pop radio. Bellion also serves as the one and only featured artist on The Album, coming out from behind the boards and into the vocal booth for bombastic closer "Walls."
Tori Kelly — "missin u"
Tori Kelly first linked up with Bellion thanks to Justin Bieber, as the pair worked together with the Biebs on tender bonus cut "Name" from the Justice sessions. So, when it came time to launch a new era with her self-titled EP tori, the songstress turned to Bellion to help bring her vision to life.
On lead single "missin u," the two-time GRAMMY winner throws the guitar-driven singer/songwriter vibes of her past work out the window in favor of a sleek R&B sound reminiscent of the early 2000s. The sonic gear shift is a natural fit for her lithe voice as she replays a romance that "was rainin' purple skies in my room." Somehow, Kelly even manages to outdo the vocal acrobatics of "missin u" with a deliriously brilliant "R&B edit" that adds even more layers, soul and vocal flourishes to the single.
"When I first started working with Jon Bellion, we were just beginning to scratch the surface on a new sound that truly felt like my own," Kelly explains in a video celebrating the release of her self-titled EP tori. "I know that I'm gonna look back on this collaboration as the start of something really special." As for Bellion's thoughts on his latest project? "Tori Kelly's the greatest vocalist of all time!"
How Madison Beer Broke Free From Pressures Of Internet Fame & Created Her New Album 'Silence Between Songs'
Three years in the making, Madison Beer started her next chapter with "Home to Another One," the first single from her second album. The singer details her "freeing" journey to creating 'Silence Between Songs.'
In today's viral era, internet personalities are not always hard to come by. But what isn't so easy to find is an internet personality with longevity — and Madison Beer has proven she's more than a fleeting viral star.
Beer started posting cover songs to YouTube in 2012, showing off her pop prowess and ethereal vocals at the age of just 13. She briefly went on the teen pop star trajectory after Justin Bieber signed her to Island Records that same year, but first found her true musical voice on her debut EP, 2018's As She Pleases. And once she took full control with her debut album, 2021's Life Support — co-writing and co-producing all 17 songs — she fully settled into Madison Beer the artist.
Now on the cusp of releasing her second album, Silence Between Songs (due Sept. 15 via Epic Records), Beer aims to expand on the mix of unflinching vulnerability and infectious melodies she's showcased since stepping into her own. She first gave a taste of that with "Home to Another One," an airy track that's a mix of Lana Del Rey and Tame Impala — two of her biggest inspirations, the former of whom even gave Beer feedback on the album.
Del Rey's approval is one of many reasons Silence Between Songs is special to Beer, along with the fact that she once again co-wrote and co-produced every song. But perhaps the most important aspect of the project is the freedom she found through the nearly three-year process.
"As an artist, sometimes we're told that if we take a break someone will replace you, someone's gonna be coming up right behind you," Beer says. "I don't subscribe to that anymore, and I think that's been a really freeing thing."
Beer spoke to GRAMMY.com about how becoming more grounded in her personal life inspired the new music, and why, despite her online fame, she's "actually quite terrified of the internet at times."
Congratulations on the release of "Home to Another One" and the album announcement. I would imagine it's nerve-wracking because one is never really sure how things will be perceived. What's it like finally starting to get everything out there?
"Home to Another One" I actually only just made six months ago, so it was one of the last additions to the album before I turned it in. It hasn't been too painful of a waiting process like the other ones. But I think the reveal of the album title was actually kind of the most intense for me. I've been sitting on it for three years, so to have it out there feels pretty surreal. But people's responses have been really positive and people feel excited, which I'm so grateful for.
It is a bit of a new sound for me; it has a different energy from my other songs. But the real fans who listen to my interviews or see me on tour, they know my music catalog of things I listen to is quite electric or different; there's not just one genre I love. There's nothing I can do that would really surprise them, because they know I love all kinds of music.
Album titles, and titles in general, are always tricky. Tell me how you came up with yours, Silence Between Songs?
I was really young when I first saw a poem or a book about this kind of idea. It was about missing someone, and it said "I miss you so much in between the time it takes for the next song to start."
I always thought that was such a cool concept, and wanted to do something with that idea for my debut album. But when we started creating the album in 2020, the song "Silence Between Songs" was one of the first that we created, so it was the first title I had in mind. We worked off of that, and now three years later, it has proper meaning for me. I've grown so much since I started creating it, and the album is really about how you can grow by tuning the noise out.
It's a testament to the title that you stuck with it for three years and nothing overtook it. How have you found that you settle down and tune the noise out?
Definitely, the title has been non-negotiable for me since. But coming off of tour, it's hard to decompress and settle down. I actually did have a hard time coming back from my last tour, and coming back down to reality; you're just so crazy busy, and it's such a dopamine hit every day. It was a bit hard to settle back down, but it is in those moments that I learn the most about myself.
Now I prioritize my alone time and down time; I let my body rest and don't feel pressured to go out and do things all the time. If I want to stay home and relax in bed the whole weekend, I'll do that. I'm trying to understand and not feel guilty for the downtime and rest times.
As an artist, sometimes we're told that if we take a break someone will replace you, someone's gonna be coming up right behind you. I don't subscribe to that anymore, and I think that's been a really freeing thing.
Is that why you felt like you had to keep going?
I think in the past it was that thing of whether people I worked with or people online; this notion who's always going to be willing to do more than you and do everything, and if you aren't you're gonna get replaced. That was a real fear I had for a long time. I don't let that happen anymore, though. I've been dropped from a label and I've been replaced, so the fear is real, and for a long time I was quite scared of that. But I'm not anymore.
Do you ever worry about revealing too much or too little of yourself? As an artist, too much may seem like oversharing; yet too little, you're not being totally honest. Where's the balance for you, and how have you struck it?
It's definitely interesting to discuss, because in this day and age of social media a lot of us have this pressure to be relatable and likable. But again, I don't put that pressure on myself, because I think that I'm not the kind of person who wakes up every single day and feels the need to make a video about these personal things. I'm down to do it when I feel like it, but I feel it's inauthentic to force yourself into doing it just to be liked. So I try to just post when I feel like it. I think my fans know me and my fans love me. I don't need to win over the hearts of the general public in order to get my music out there and to be received. I don't want to ever force myself into doing anything I don't want to do.
"Home to Another One" is a melancholy anthem with a breakdown. I'm wondering what the genesis of that song was?
Well I thought, "What is my pop sound?" In the past when I've made upbeat songs, they've kind of been maybe not so authentic to me, or songs that I wouldn't get in the car and want to listen to. So I thought, "What can I do that is poppy and fun, but still is me, and not selling out to make a song that's classified as upbeat?"
When I heard it, vocal-wise, it reminded me so much of Lana Del Rey. Would that be fair to say?
Definitely. I'm a huge, huge fan of hers and I feel she's integrated in me in ways I can't even pinpoint.
When you're writing music, as a co-producer, do you know where your songs are going to go style-wise off the bat? What's your process?
I am a co-producer on all of the songs, which has been another awesome endeavor of mine. I'm lucky to work with my amazing producer Leroy Clampitt who's willing, and actually eager, to hear my opinion, and wants me to co-produce everything.
It's not really calculated, I don't think. It just really flows. It's kind of a bummer that we didn't have a camera in the room when we were making it, because I was really involved in every single sound that you hear. My relationship with Leroy is really special because I can make a sound like mmmmm and he'll know what I mean. Everything is very meticulously planned, but it's not like, "I want this type of synth." We let the song flow. and build as we go.
A lot of artists are credited as co-writers on songs, but not many are credited as co-producers. Why was it important for you to be credited as a co-producer on your own tracks?
Working with the same producer for five-plus years now, I feel like I can voice my opinion and it not be weird. Leroy was the one who was gracious enough to say he thought I should get a co-producer credit. He said, "You've done just as much as me." All of the ideas stem from me and us, and we do everything together.
Your debut album came out a couple years ago and you started working on this in 2020. Why such a long process?
It wasn't supposed to be. Time gets away from you, and I definitely went back in the studio many times to redo things and edit. We've had multiple test pressings of the vinyl, and many times I thought it was finished and then went back in.
I don't know, I feel like this is kind of how I am. I'm never really overly satisfied. But my goal now is to try to get an album out within the next year or so after this one drops. I want to get into a groove of dropping music more frequently and not taking three-year gaps between all of them.
You have such a massive internet footprint, with 34 million followers on Instagram alone. Is a following like that a gift or a burden? How do you grapple with that in your mind knowing you can pick up your phone and post something for an audience of millions?
I've been steadily gaining flowers for 12 years, so it's something that didn't happen overnight for me. There's a big difference in the way I go about it now than a couple years ago. I don't force myself to be engaged all the time or posting every single day.
I'm actually quite terrified of the internet at times. The way it moves can be really scary and I think we don't give each other room to make human errors. If I do state an opinion online or want to say something, It's not that I don't care what people say about it, but I know my intentions are. I'm never going to appeal to and please everyone, but I do know when I want to speak and share, it's authentic and it's coming from a good place.