I’m Never Going Back To The Way Concerts Were Pre-Covid

One day, instead of war stories, we’ll tell our grandchildren that 2020 was a year in isolation where we became dependent on video chats, TikTok, and making homemade bread. With bars and restaurants closed during quarantine, our lives stood in purgatory with strict stay-at-home orders that even celebrities couldn’t escape. Artists such as Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish sadly (and rightfully so) canceled or postponed their shows until further notice (without a new date to plan an outfit for). With social media recently flooded with videos of crowded clubs and sporting arenas at full capacity, it’s looking like the end of the pandemic is in sight. This also means that my FOMO is making a swift return. 

I took my first flight in over a year to Florida (which could be a whole other article), where my hotel, the AC Hotel Orlando Downtown, had its grand opening during the pandemic. Their rooftop bar has been selling out $1,200 tables (not including drinks!) and the sight of girls sorority squatting to snap that perfect rooftop Insta means that nature is healing, my friends.

The first night of my trip I went to a COVID-safe Foreigner concert and NGL, it was certainly an ~unprecedented~ experience. For one, the sitting area looks a bit like pig pens. Yes, I’m talking pigs on the farm swarmed by flies on a hot summer day, packed like sardines within metal bars. If you got too drunk at the show you won’t have to worry about losing your friends since you like these piglets are confined in a metal pen. I’m actually squealing, because I low-key loved being in this pigpen. 

This contactless experience was a stroke of genius that really addressed the pain points of a pre-COVID concert. This should be happening everywhere, IMO. Let me explain why we should embrace the pig pens at outdoor shows and festivals post-pandemic.

Pushing Your Way Through Sweaty Crowds Won’t Be A Thing

While I do low-key miss the too-close-for-comfort crowds at a concert and scrubbing profusely in the shower when I get home, that soon will become a distant memory. When you purchase your tickets online, you get to select the location of your podwhich contains five seats and a small table. A lot of outdoor concerts and music festivals are usually standing room only, so it’s a game-changer when you can pick your seat before the show, and not have to worry about showing up hours before to stake out a spot. 

Forget Waiting In Long Lines For A Vodka Soda

It’s about f*cking time that venues got with the times. Instead of waiting in line while missing your favorite song, you can download an app to order food and drinks that will get delivered directly to your pod. This is organization at its finest; whoever had this idea this clearly understood the assignment. So go on, buy as many beers and vodka sodas as you want… we’ve got lost time to make up for, and you don’t have to worry about juggling them back to your seat.

You Won’t Lose Your Friends In A Drunken Crowd

In the pre-COVID era, going to a music festival was a true friend test. Why? Because when the crowds rush in, that’s the moment when you find out who is going to stick with you and who is going to leave to push their way up to the front. Being sober (or not drunk enough), when everyone around you is sloppy and spilling drinks, is basically its own level of hell. With each pod numbered, you won’t have to worry about losing your friends. Guests aren’t restricted to staying in their pod, but a mask is required to go make new friends out in the wild. 

There Won’t Be A Random Tall Guy Blocking Your View

There’s no buzzkill greater than when you get situated in a crowd (or have your lawn chair set up at an outdoor concert) and then some tall dude plants himself right in front of you. Like WTF man?! Then you’re left watching the jumbotrons, which is better than nothing—but if I wanted to watch a concert from a TV screen I would have stayed home.  With the pod seating elevated off the ground, even people walking by won’t get in the way. It’s great to pick where you sit beforehand, and you definitely should splurge for that amazing view.

This pod philosophy obviously works and should be here to staylong after the pandemic subsides. The new ‘make out with random strangers’ will be inviting them over to your pod. Will the opening line be ‘Pfizer or Moderna?’ Yikes. Maybe not. One thing that will make a comeback? Blurry IG Story concert videos. This is the one and only time we’ll give it a pass. 

Image: Ibai Acevedo / Stocksy.com

Talented People Are Younger Than You, Get Used To It

As a millennial, sometimes, when younger generations make fun of us, it feels unwarranted. An unwelcome attack. And sometimes, we bring it upon ourselves. The constant hand-wringing over whether we’re too old to listen to Olivia Rodrigo’s music is one of those latter times. In case you aren’t aware: Olivia Rodrigo is an 18-year-old who has had massive success in the music industry lately. Her song “drivers license” broke Spotify records for the most streams in a single day (excluding Christmas music), racking up over 285 million streams in less than a month. Rodrigo became the first female artist in the U.S. since 1998 to have her first song debut at number one. Her latest single, “good 4 u”, also debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. Rodrigo has 9.9 million followers on Instagram and has earned recognition from stars like Cardi B and Taylor Swift. The girl is massively popular. And still, millennials all over the internet—on Twitter, in articles—are freaking out over what our enthusiasm for her music says about our own maturity. “Olivia Rodrigo, Please, I Am 30,” begs The Cut. Vogue implores, “Help! Am I Too Old To Feel So Seen By Olivia Rodrigo’s New Album?” No, you’re not, and we don’t need two separate yet identical takes of this.

If the #girlboss aesthetic is cheugy, constant self-deprecation over aging (when you are, in fact, still below middle age) has got to be on the spectrum of cheug. Or if not, it’s at least cringe. Like, it’s one thing to come to the crushing realization that Shrek came out 20 years ago (even though you yourself are 29 and you saw the movie in theaters when you were about 9 years old, which is how math works) and tweet about it. It’s another thing to do this performance theater about feeling weird about the fact that you enjoy music written and performed by an 18-year-old. Billie Eilish is 19; did anyone spend significant brain energy on the moral quandary of admitting “Bad Guy” is a bop? We didn’t; we just jammed out (yes, I realize the phrase “jammed out” is so ancient it belongs in a museum, it’s fine, I’m leaning in) and went on with our lives.

I do get the hesitation. After all, in her smash hit “drivers license”, Rodrigo sings, “I got my drivers license last week / just like we always talked about.” The girl is in high school, and she makes no effort to hide that fact. Therefore, is it weird to be approaching your 30s, crying to a song that is clearly centered on 17-year-olds (give or take half a year, depending on the state)? You could look at it like that, or you could look at it like: Who better to relate to the feeling of getting your drivers license than people who’ve had it for so long they take it for granted? Millennials love 90s and early 2000s nostalgia; this is just that! Plus, as much as moody 16-year-olds think they know what heartbreak feels like, they don’t. Oh, your senior year boyfriend who you thought you’d be with forever dumped you because you’re going to colleges across the country? Right, I get how that feels like the end of the world, because it did when I was 17, but that’s the point—I was 17. Why don’t you date in a big city for a year, constantly get dumped at the 6-8 week mark, grapple with the very real possibility that you may be alone forever—or at least, until your eggs dry up—and then come talk to me about needing a cute little song to cry to. Suddenly, losing your boyfriend of six months who low-key tried to date your friend first and whose best attributes are his flippy hair and being good at basketball for a mid-sized high school won’t seem like the end of the world.

Then we get to “good 4 u”, which should be even easier to listen to without feeling creepy. It’s a good song, but ask yourself: do you really like “good 4 u”, or has it just been a while since you’ve listened to “Misery Business”? Again, it’s all just cleverly packaged nostalgia disguising itself as something new. Nothing weird about revisiting your youth! (Well, to an extent.) The same people who are acting #attacked by Olivia Rodrigo’s new album are the same people who tweeted a million times about crying to Folklore. How quick ye forget!

Not to mention, these lyrics are pretty mature. “Good for you, I guess that you’ve been workin’ on yourself / I guess that therapist I found for you, she really helped”? Most men I know wouldn’t have considered therapy until at least their 20s. (Being generous.) And calling your ex a sociopath because he dared move on before you? An insult I wouldn’t have dreamed of until, again, encountering the sociopaths moonlighting as finance bros in my mid-20s in New York City. Sociopath wasn’t even one of my SAT words! There’s also the line “Well, good for you, I guess you’re gettin’ everything you want / You bought a new car and your career’s really takin’ off”. At first glance, this might feel like more high school fuel, but think about it. What high schooler can afford a car working their minimum wage job at Carvel or whatever? What high schooler even has a “career” that can even take off? Yes, yes, massively famous high schoolers who starred on Disney Channel shows, but that’s not the point. Most teenagers can’t relate to buying themselves a car (certainly not a new one). Their parents buying them a car? Sure, but not buying their own car, and definitely not having a career. If you ask me, this is geriatric millennial bait. We get to feel hip and ~in the know~ (despite the fact that Rodrigo has over 43 million monthly Spotify listeners) as we relive our angst.

Sure, Rodrigo is young, but she sings about things we can relate to, which is kind of the whole point. It’s not like she’s JoJo Siwa, who has singles titled “High Top Shoes”, “Bop!”, and, most tellingly, “Kid In A Candy Store”. It’s not exactly marketed for kids. Did anyone act like this when Ariana Grande made the leap from Nickelodeon star to pop singer?

A part of getting older is accepting that the new, fresh talent is going to be younger than us. That’s simply the way it is. What do you expect, a 35-year-old phenom to bust onto the scene? It’s not unheard of, but most of the household names we know had their talent cultivated from a young age. Much like running into your ex while you’re out on a date, enjoying this music is only weird if you make it weird. So stop making it weird. It’s not weird to like music enjoyed by over 43 million people. If anything, dare I say, it’s kind of basic.

Image: JMEnternational/JMEnternational for BRIT Awards/Getty Images

Sabrina Carpenter’s Diss At Olivia Rodrigo Misses The Point

At my ripe old age (29) keeping up with what’s going on in pop culture becomes increasingly arduous as the days pass by. (Perhaps this is why my parents barely bother to keep track of my friends’ names, let alone what I do for a living—it’s all simply too much to remember.) Most of the time, I’m able to cobble together a sense of what people on Twitter are talking about by skimming headlines, checking a few Insta stories, and trusting that the news cycle will move on as quickly as it arrived. Such was the case when Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” burst onto the scene (read: TikTok). I was like, “okay, a 17-year-old wrote a love song about a guy who dumped her for another girl. He came out with an unconvincing response track.” And I thought that was it—until Sabrina Carpenter, the aforementioned other girl, responded with a song of her own, and suddenly, I found myself needing to keep up with the kids.

I’m not a music critic (not professionally, anyway, but I’m real fun at parties), but I think what made “Drivers License” such a hit is the innocent relatability and raw emotion of it. Rodrigo is 17, and it shows—she’s singing about being heartbroken and driving past her ex’s house, experiences many of us can relate to from high school. And it probably would have remained just that, i.e. a poignant (if not a bit melodramatic) post-breakup song to cry to, were it not for the following lines in the second verse: “And you’re probably with that blonde girl / Who always made me doubt / She’s so much older than me / She’s everything I’m insecure about”. Fans quickly surmised the “blonde girl” in question was Sabrina Carpenter, fellow Disney Channel actress, singer, and current costar of Rodrigo’s ex, Joshua Bassett.

Seemingly in response to the success of “Drivers License”, Bassett released a song called “Lie Lie Lie” a few days later. The song appeared to be about Olivia, but fans say was actually recorded about a dishonest friend two years prior and simply released at an opportune moment. It definitely sounds like it could be a dig at Olivia, with lyrics such as “And you’re acting oh so innocent / Like I’m the only one to blame” (it takes two to form a relationship, after all) and “So you’re telling them it’s all my fault / You’re the victim this time, oh” (Rodrigo certainly does position herself as the victim of a broken heart). The only problem with that, though, is that “Drivers License” is really about Rodrigo’s feelings, and you can’t really lie about your feelings. The only potential “lie” here would be if Rodrigo was actually the one who ended the relationship, which doesn’t seem like the case, because if it were, that would have been made into a much bigger deal.

But the real drama started when, on Friday, Sabrina Carpenter came out with a definitely-a-response-track of her own called “Skin”. It opens with the lyrics “Maybe we could have been friends / If I met you in another life / Maybe then we could pretend / There’s no gravity in the words we write,” sooo okay, this is definitely about Olivia, or at the very least, about another songwriter. And in case we aren’t convinced, Sabrina follows that up with: “Maybe you didn’t mean it / Maybe blonde was the only rhyme”. First of all, did she even listen to the song? “Blonde” was not used in the rhyme scheme, but whatever. She’s definitely referencing the “Drivers License” line.

And then there are some more seemingly pointed lyrics: “Want my heart to be breaking, breaking, no / I’m happy and you hate it, hate it, oh / And I’m not asking you to let it go / But you been telling your side / So I’ll be telling mine, oh”. So, Sabrina is happy and isn’t going to sit by and let the prevailing narrative be the only one out there. In the hook, we get the most damning lyrical evidence: “You can try / To get under my, under my, under my skin / While he’s on mine / Yeah, all on my, all on my all, on my skin”. Like, okay, relax. This has big “Misery Business” energy, and I thought in 2021 we were past acting like being with a man is an accomplishment.

Don’t get me wrong, the song is a bop, and I will be listening to it on repeat all day, but when I hear these lyrics, I can’t help but cringe. For one, Sabrina Carpenter is 21 to Olivia Rodrigo’s 17. It feels a little weird to be gloating about snagging some high schooler’s boyfriend. (Also a little weird that they’re even fishing from the same dating pool, if you ask me.) It’s just very like, pick on someone your own age.

Not to mention, “Drivers License” wasn’t even about Sabrina. It was about Rodrigo’s own feelings, mostly, and about getting dumped. The “blonde girl” is mentioned basically for effect, to illustrate Rodrigo’s own insecurities and underscore her loneliness. As many Twitter users have pointed out, Rodrigo’s mention of Carpenter is akin to expressing admiration. With “Skin”, Carpenter brought a bazooka to a knife fight when the knife in question was made of plastic.

Olivia Rodrigo: you have blonde hair and I think you are cooler than me

Sabrina Carpenter: how does it feel that I’m fucking your man

— it’s just meera (@meeracleshappen) January 22, 2021

I can’t help but be reminded of the iconic Mean Girls line, “you’ve got to stop calling each other sluts and whores; it just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores”. Except in this case, it’s more like, you’ve got to stop rubbing it in other women’s faces when you get with a guy they like; it just makes it okay for guys to think they’re hot sh*t when they are supremely mediocre.

Three days later, Carpenter apparently could no longer take the heat, because she uploaded a selfie to Instagram, writing in the caption, “i wasn’t bothered by a few lines in a (magnificent) song and wrote a diss track about it. i was at a tipping point in my life for countless reasons. so i was inspired to do what i usually do to cope, write something that i wish i could have told myself in the past.” She closed with, “the song isn’t calling out one single person. some lines address a specific situation, while other lines address plenty of other experiences I’ve had this past year..”

 

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A post shared by Sabrina Carpenter (@sabrinacarpenter)

In other words, “Skin” isn’t about Rodrigo (despite lines that seem improbable to be about anyone else), but a combination of people and events. I guess I would believe that if the lyrics were not written in what appears to be a linear narrative and if the song hadn’t been a surprise release. I’m reminded of another Mean Girls line, “I just wish I could bake a cake of rainbows and smiles and we could all eat it and be happy”, except in this case it’s being said by Regina George after she threw the copies of the Burn Book into the air, and not by some rando who didn’t even go here.

So let’s call this what it is: a bunch of Gen-Z stars coming together to milk the popularity of one song (“Drivers License”) to promote their careers. In a few weeks to a few months, I’m sure Rodrigo and Carpenter will release their own girl power anthem together, and all will be right in the world.

In the end, while Gen-Z may be better at TikTok, and infinitely more skilled at trolling politicians, at least one thing hasn’t evolved, which is the misguided belief that getting a guy to like you makes you superior to other women. We’ve got to start teaching this to girls earlier, because Taylor Swift has since apologized for “Better Than Revenge”, and Hailey Williams has also acknowledged that “Misery Business” has not held up. On the one hand, my old, curmudgeon-y millennial heart is somewhat comforted to know that some things don’t change, and this is all a lot more easy to understand than it initially seems. On the other hand, for the overall betterment of… everybody… let’s leave the petty girl-on-girl drama in 2008.



Images: Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com; sabrinacarpenter / Instagram; meeracleshappen / Twitter

Ranking The Best Songs On ‘Evermore’ To Cry To

Ladies and gentlemen, she has done it yet again. Yesterday morning I woke up to Taylor Swift announcing her second surprise album of the last six months, evermore. Like many of Taylor’s fans, I’m still not quite over folklore yet, but it’s cool. I’m not freaking out, you’re freaking out. 

Like all of her albums, this one really worked best when listened to completely, from front to back, so I did just that, twice, to write this. I want to preface my thoughts by saying that I am a huge Taylor stan and I do actually like the album a lot. I love literally all of her work, but I hate change, so it typically takes me a few days to process and fall in love with a new album. That said, I’m not exactly sure which ones are my favorites yet. 

Honestly, and I hate to say it, but evermore is like folklore’s younger and slightly less cool sister. It’s a good album with some really great tracks, but folklore is the perfect album to cry to for no reason and evermore is just missing some of that emotion and anger. However, like all Taylor albums, there are still plenty of cathartic songs and devastating lyrics, so here are the best ones to add to your breakdown playlist. 

willow

It’s not actually a super sad song, but it’ll push you over the edge if you’re feeling a little more single than usual. It’s a really cute song that’s definitely meant to be a love song, but it is a little emotional.

Most devastating lyric: “I’m begging for you to take my hand / wreck my plans / that’s my man”
Cry vibes: 2/10

champagne problems

It took me three listens to, like, really get the song. Though I initially was lukewarm on it, I’ve really warmed up to it. The lyrics have major “afterglow” vibes and the song has beautiful instrumentals that make it very catchy. All in all, I’m really excited to add this to my list of songs that I have no way to relate to through life experiences but still make me cry in the car. 

Most devastating lyric: “‘She would’ve made such a lovely bride / What a shame she’s f*cked in the head,’ they said / but you’ll find the real thing instead / she’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred”
Cry vibes: 6/10

‘tis the damn season

I know for a fact that this is joining my playlist of sad songs I like to scream-sing in the car. Between “the one that got away” energy and the seasonal relevance, the vibes are immaculate. 

Most devastating lyric: “I won’t ask you to wait if you don’t ask me to stay / I won’t ask you to wait if you don’t ask me to stay”
Cry vibes: 6.5/10

 

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tolerate it

As a track five, we knew that “tolerate it” was going to be emotional AF. It isn’t on the same level as “All Too Well”, but it’s a heartbreaking song. Granted, I’ve never been in a relationship, but I’ve been in just enough failed talking stages to know how sh*tty it is when you can feel someone drifting or getting bored with you. 

Most devastating lyric: “Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life / drawing hearts in the byline / always taking up too much space or time”
Cry vibes: 9/10

happiness

Despite literally being called “happiness”, this song is literally anything but happy, which is to be expected when it comes to Taylor. This might be her most mature breakup song yet in terms of general aesthetics, but the lyrics themselves are very self-aware. 

Most devastating lyric: “When a good man hurts you / and you know you hurt him, too”
Cry vibes: 7/10

dorothea

“dorothea” seems like it tells the same story of “’tis the damn season” but from the opposite point of view. It’s a cute song with a lot of the same feel as “betty”, but with an older vibe. It’s an easy listen and not her most complex or deepest work. And, tbh I hope the boy I was obsessed with in high school thinks of me the way Taylor sings about Dorothea. 

Most devastating lyric: A tiny screen’s the only place I see you now / and I got nothing but well wishes for ya”
Cry vibes: 3/10

coney island

So, Matt Berninger’s (of The Nationals) vocals are a little jarring in this song just because they’re more country than I was expecting. BUT, it works really well as a duet and is similar to ‘exile’ in that the conversational aspects are really clear.

Most devastating lyric: “Did I paint your bluest skies the darkest grey?”
Cry vibes: 6/10

 

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marjorie

As of right now, I think this may be the strongest song on the album. In folklore, “epiphany” did an incredible job telling her grandfather’s story. In evermore, Taylor focuses on her grandmother, Marjorie. Even sweeter, both of these songs were track 13, because Taylor’s mind knows no bounds. 

Most devastating lyric: “I should’ve asked you questions / I should’ve asked you how to be / asked you to write it down for me”
Cry vibes: 8.5/10

closure

Going into this, I knew “closure” was going to be my favorite track. It’s really soothing to know that Taylor also imagines running into an ex and totally winning an argument. Stars: they’re just like us. 

Most devastating lyric: “It wasn’t right / the way it all went down / looks like you know that now”
Cry vibes: 9.8/10

evermore

Both the titular track and the last one on the album, excluding the bonus tracks, “evermore” leaves me with a lot of mixed feelings. It’s not that it isn’t a good song, but I’m just kind of confused by the choices that Justin Vernon makes. 

Most devastating lyric: “Can’t remember / what I used to fight for / I rewind thе tape but all it does is pause / on thе very moment / all was lost”
Cry vibes: 7.5/10

Some More Highlights

Joe Alwyn’s Writing: During the Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions special on Disney+, we learned that mystery songwriter William Bowery, who was credited for “exile”, is actually Taylor Swift’s boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. Alwyn/Bowery wrote “champagne problems” and “evermore” and, apparently, is an incredible songwriter, because everything he has written with Taylor is a full 10/10. 

Marcus Mumford’s backup vocals: Before the album was released, Taylor said that someone she is a huge fan of was responsible for the male backing vocals in one of the tracks. That someone was Marcus Mumford, the lead singer of Mumford and Sons, and his performance on “cowboy like me” is incredible. 

Haim: When Taylor announced the album and said Haim was going to be featured in “no body, no crime,” I wasn’t really expecting them to just be doing backing vocals, but they literally sound amazing and this may be one of my favorites on the album. The main character in “no body, no crime,” is named after Este Haim. One of her sisters, Danielle, is also referenced and sings backup in the song. 

@haimthebandOur dream of singing on a COUNTRY FOLK SONG with the one and only queen of storytelling, miss TAYLOR SWIFT is our second Hanukkah present to you!♬ original sound – haimtheband

At the end of the day, I am a huge Taylor Swift fan and truly believe she rarely releases bad content (except for “Me!”). Evermore is no exception to that, but I don’t think it’s as good as folklore, just because it feels like there’s a little less of the raw emotion that folklore had. That’s not to say that my opinion about the album won’t change 100 million times while I re-listen and process the tracks, but for now, I’d say it’s a solid A-. 

Imagse: Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com; taylorswift / Instgram (2); haimtheband / TikTok

Ava Max Is Sweet, Psycho, & Ready For Pop Domination

Ava Max is cool. Almost too cool and chill to be the same 26-year-old who has a global smash hit already under her belt and a highly anticipated debut album, Heaven & Hell, out now on Atlantic Records. In a pop music climate that is currently filled with whispers over beats, Max brings a flare of the classic pop music you know and love from B.T. (before TikTok) with a modern twist. Her premiere album, Heaven & Hell, feels like the perfect introduction to who Ava is both as a person and an artist: fun and feisty, with zero plans of slowing down any time soon. 

There have been multiple times where a debut single skyrockets its singer to an unexpected level of instant success—like Instant Ramen, but Instant Record Deals. These overnight sensations seem to just happen by sheer luck, but what you don’t usually hear about is the hard work that predates it: “It’s weird because I’ve been trying to make it for a very long time, and at the end of the day, I’m just grateful people actually care about my music and relate to my music and I just want to inspire people.” Another thing that oftentimes is missing from these stories? A follow-up release to continue their momentum. Here, Max can sleep easily with “Kings & Queens” making its way up the charts and raking in over 244 million streams on Spotify.  

“Once ‘Sweet But Psycho’ came out I didn’t really have time to work on an album because I went straight to tour,” Max says. While many artists recently, like Ellie Goulding and Katy Perry, talk openly about the inevitable fatigue that comes from the ride of celebrity, it seems that Ava is already taking the steps to make sure she doesn’t burn out: “It’s all about taking it easy and not forcing yourself to do something at that moment. I really believe in manifesting and if you’re not feeling it at the moment, let it go.”

Letting go may be easy when it comes to putting the proverbial pen and paper away for the day and taking a break from work, but a tad bit harder when it comes to getting over that person you can’t just seem to get over, a topic that we all definitely face, and one that Max faces head-on in her art. She revealed that one of her new songs, “Rumors”, “was a last-minute addition—it’s a fun song on the hell side, about how I hear so many rumors about this person but I’m still ending up in his room .” Who can’t relate? She also gave some slight hints that if, after this album, you’re already begging for more Ava, not to worry—a deluxe version will definitely be on its way soon. 

Avatars (the name her fans lovingly gave themselves, although I’d love to pitch them Maxxinistas), may find themselves falling head over heels for Ava Max’s music because of how instantly they relate the lyrics in her songs—something that Ava says is one of the most important parts of music to her.

“Lyrics are all that matters. You have to relate to people. Literally, I don’t know how to explain it but lyrics have made a difference in my life.” Her love of lyrics predates her musical career and goes all the way back to when she was growing up listening to the divas of the early 2000s. I mean, who hasn’t belted “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” in a shower, or car ride, or karaoke bar? While I didn’t ask Ava if that tune was in her karaoke rotation, she said it was definitely one of the songs in the past that she wished she wrote because “it’s just too good.” Touching on her own lyrics, Max said that the track “Naked” on the album will give fans a glimpse of a different side of her—one they haven’t seen before. 

As with any conversation in 2020, the topic of quarantine had to inevitably come up. “The best thing I learned about myself in quarantine is patience.” She also said that she realized she “likes to eat more than most people I know,” and at that moment, I’ve never related to a pop star more. While she is practicing patience during this time of lockdown, she’s skipped the sourdough starter kits and went on to not only record a new song for the album (“Heaven”, the opener, was done in lockdown) but also record some new music videos that will accompany the album, a process she said was really fun but of course, extra stressful in these times when your glam preparation also involves a COVID test. 

When asked to pair this album with a cocktail—because this year we could all use a drink—the singer quickly answered with a jalapeño mojito, because “it’s kinda spicy, psycho, crazy.” But of course, it has a little sweetness. I’ll drink to that. And I’m sure Ava may want a cocktail in hand after the release of her album, both to celebrate “the project being out in the world and no longer mine, but the fans’” but also because with her debut album, she admits, “I’m nervous and I wonder how it’s gonna come across so I have all these thoughts in my head. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion.” After listening to the album, I feel she has nothing to worry about.  

Without jinxing anything, I did slightly mention what she would do if she was nominated for a Grammy this year: “I would vomit. I would feel nauseous, sick to my stomach, and not know what to say. I would feel so grateful—I’d still feel grateful even if I don’t get anything like that.” My advice to Ava is to get the Pepto Bismol ready because if the Recording Academy has any sense, we’ll be seeing her on that stage soon, most likely thanking her childhood chihuahua that she says she loved and her family. 

Heaven & Hell by Ava Max is out now on all platforms. 

Images: Charlotte Rutherford

Music Video Premiere: Drew Ryn’s Viral Hit ‘Orchestra’

Remember back before March when TikTok was an app strictly for Gen Z, and no millennial would be caught dead on it? And now we’re all racing to go viral on it before it gets banned—TikTok may have had the only glow-up of 2020. But while we were all scrambling to learn the Savage dance, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Drew Ryn cracked the code on going viral on TikTok, for doing something totally new and creative (aka not the same dance or sound we’ve all seen a million renditions of). The 23-year-old has been making music since 2014, when she appeared on X Factor, and now she’s huge on TikTok. Drew only joined the app at the end of 2019 and has already racked up 1.6 million followers, largely thanks to her creative take on the random 3 word challenge. Basically, a word generator picks three random words and she then writes a 60-second song using those words. Recently, the word generator gave her “oppose, chest, and orchestra”, and Drew’s 60-second song went viral, getting over 10 million views in just 3 days.

Because of the viral success of “Orchestra”, Drew is now releasing a video for her hit, and Betches readers are getting the first look. But first, we of course had to ask Drew her secrets for going viral on TikTok. Here’s what she said:

“There are a few main things that I think are important for going viral on TikTok. The first thing, which seems obvious, but can be harder than you’d think at times, is AUTHENTICITY. I can’t tell you how big of a difference it makes when you post content that has a down-to-earth real feel, rather than planned out. People love real. I love real.

The second thing I always try to incorporate in my videos is original content mixed with current viral trends. If you can take a trend and then add something completely new to it, people will feel drawn to the familiarity but interested in the originality.

The last thing that I know has changed my content, is not overthinking anything. When I do my random word challenges I always take the first three words that pop up and write a song with them. I never film it twice or shoot for different words, and I always finish the song in less than 30 minutes. The more I think about it the less authentic it feels.”

Check out the video for “Orchestra” below, and be sure to follow Drew on Instagram and, of course, TikTok.

Image: @damagedmoments

Premiere: VEDA BLACK’S ‘Sad Girls Club’ EP Is A 2020 Mood

As 2020 continues to be the most toxic figure in all of our lives, we’ve probably all felt at one point or another like the president of the Sad Girls Club. With an Instagram bio that reads, “I’ve honestly been tired and fed up since year 8”, London-based R&B and soul singer VEDA BLACK knows that feeling all too well, and her new EP, premiering exclusively on Betches, is appropriately entitled Sad Girls Club. Her soulful, melodic music is perfect for fans of Solange and Ari Lennox, or anyone else who needs a new album to chill to.

The five-piece EP certainly shows off VEDA’s skills as a singer, composer, and producer (Sad Girls Club is self-produced), but it also highlights her strength as a writer. In Sad Girls Club, VEDA openly sings about the mental, physical, and environmental journey she has been on over the last few years. The EP largely tackles her struggle and relationship with her mental health, rejecting compulsory heterosexuality and finally feeling comfortable living as her authentic self. She opens up to Betches about what that journey has been like for her, telling us, “It has been a difficult yet enlightening journey that I am still on” (full interview below).

With a mellow sound and raw lyrics, VEDA has been compared to the likes of SZA and was a 2018 finalist in Afropunk Festival’s battle of the bands. Her first single, “Call It Love,” has already garnered attention from BBC1 Xtra and will definitely make you ~feel all the feels~. The rest of her EP is just as empowering and relatable, and Betches readers can get an exclusive first listen to Sad Girls Club now, out July 24.

VEDA BLACK · Sad Girls Club

We chatted with VEDA about her influences, mental health tips, Black Lives Matter, and more below.

Who are your main musical influences, and how would you describe your style?
I have a very broad taste but my main influences span from Donny Hathaway and Mariah Carey to Destiny’s Child and Tyler the Creator. My musical style sits somewhere between 90s RnB and alternative soul.

Your debut single for the EP is titled ‘Call It Love.’ What does love look like to you?
It is a tricky one trying to define love or how it looks, because I believe it varies from person to person and each experience is totally different. Saying that, I think a healthy love definitely should feel safe and familiar but should allow you the opportunity to grow. I think it’s about mutual respect, care and trust, and also taking responsibility for your actions. Being able to connect intellectually, romantically, or sharing values you are passionate about is magical and getting to experience that whilst we are on this planet is really a gift.

Can you talk a little about what the journey was like to live your authentic self?
It has been a journey. One thing I have been abundantly certain about myself since I was a kid is that gurl…I knew I was not straight. However, I really struggled to communicate this and growing up I did not see many examples of other black queer people on the television or in music. I fell into relationships with men not because I wanted to be with them, but because we live in a heteronormative society that enforces that this is how we should live our lives. These relationships felt forced and somewhat unnatural to me. I did not personally know any other queer black women like myself until I finished uni, where my circle at the time was quite straight and white. After I graduated I met someone and we had an incredible but difficult relationship, it was kept quiet for various reasons but she taught me a lot about myself and things started to make sense. This also inspired me to write “Call It Love.” My friendship group changed drastically and finally I felt valid and loved for me and not as the token Black friend. I met and spoke with other queer people who could relate with my experiences and I felt no judgement at all. I am grateful to have a partner who is completely loving and accepting of me as a queer polyamorous woman and has allowed me space and support which has also helped me tremendously in accepting and living life as my authentic self. So really it is a massive thanks to my circle of baes for helping me along this journey.

What was the process of creating your debut EP, ‘Sad Girls Club,’ like? What inspired the title? 
The title of the EP was inspired by the title track, which I wrote last year before the idea of the EP was even a thing. I had a really bad year with my mental health and could not even bring myself to pick up my guitar for months. After a short break from releasing music and a trip to New York with my baes, I came back and started writing about what had been on my mind over the last couple of months, which is how the title track “Sad Girls Club” was born. This EP was the first project that I took full creative ownership over and fully produced myself. The experience in itself was one of the most vulnerable and enjoyable ever. I really learned to trust in my ear and my vision and how I wanted to tell my story both lyrically and through the arrangement and production of the music. 

What does being a “sad girl” mean to you?
For me personally I have always been a bit of a sad girl since I was a kid. I have always been a sensitive individual who overthinks everything. This is not a bad thing. I know a lot of other people who can relate to feeling like this. Especially as a Black woman, where your existence is constantly policed and people have this idea that we don’t feel pain as easily, which is an extremely harmful and is why Black women have a higher risk of dying in childbirth or not being referred to mental health specialists (but that’s a whole topic in itself…), is why I am embracing my sad girl self. I want to remind myself and others that it is okay to feel sad and that we are allowed to and should sit in those feelings. 

Can you talk a little about your mental health journey?
I, like many people, have battled with depression and anxiety over the years for various reasons. At some of my most difficult moments and times of desperation, I have contemplated whether it was worth continuing if I was going to feel like this again. It was really over the last few years where I found myself being surrounded by a much healthier circle of people who have shown me nothing but love and compassion, that I felt less shame and realised my feelings were and are totally valid. I have since done a lot of work on myself, my confidence and my identity. It has been a difficult yet enlightening journey that I am still on. I accept that I will never suddenly be “cured.” However, living with and accepting this as part of me and something that does not need to be changed has been really eye opening for me.

What is the best piece of advice you could give or have gotten when you are having a difficult mental health day?
I remember my year 7 teacher giving me some advice which I will never forget: “Take each day at a time as it comes.” It’s not always easy to do so, but practising being present and trying to stay grounded is really helpful for me when I am having a difficult mental health day. Also feeling no shame and accepting that it is also ok not to feel ok. There’s no “quick fix” and the pressure of trying to find one can often be very overwhelming. For me, it is about learning that it is okay to sit in an uncomfortable feeling.

What’s your self-care routine/process?
I should say exercising, keeping a healthy eating diet etc. which for the most part is true (except I HATE exercise) but honestly I love to binge watch trash TV. Self-care for me is indulging and treating myself. Ordering some cookie dough because why not, a quick face mask and a podcast or learning how to cook a new meal. Picking up the guitar to play and then getting bored after an hour. I work a full time desk job and manage myself as an artist, so when I’m not working I treat myself when I can. It’s my way of trying to balance my schedule without burning out. 

VEDA BLACK

You are vocal about your support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Where do you see room for improvement in the music industry? What about the world in general?
I think there needs to be more Black people in positions of all different levels within the industry. Gatekeepers need to be ensuring they are amplifying Black voices and offering opportunities to Black artists. Festival lineups are still very white, straight, and male, and this is something that needs to change. I also notice a lot of white, cisgender, and straight male R&B artists being championed while Black artists are not being offered the same opportunities. It would be great to see the same energy for championing Black R&B artists, particularly Black queer womxn and Black non-binary people. The same goes for other industries such as fashion and healthcare. We need to have more Black people in leadership roles if we want to see actual change. It is also important to note that it should not be the responsibility of Black people to dismantle racism. The onus should be on white people to actively educate themselves and to have uncomfortable conversations with those around them. This is just the start and the bare basics if we really want to tackle systemic racism and anti-Blackness.

Was it a deliberate choice to release your EP at this moment in time? Are there any messages that listeners might find particularly helpful as they’re coping with social isolation? 
It all came together in a completely organic and random way. I was very nervous about releasing “Call It Love” as this was my first release after almost 2 years out of the game. However, the support and reception really gave me the confidence to pull this EP together. I am usually a calculated and careful individual, but once I have a plan or idea in my head, I have to see it through. The Capricorn in me really jumped out and I really felt like now was the right time to release it. It is an incredibly personal project and is about my experiences, my mental health and my identity, but I hope that listeners can take away the message of the importance of self-love and practising not to not blame yourself. To instead be vulnerable with the right people and practise softness and kindness with ourselves.

Images: VEDA BLACK (2)

The Artist Formerly Known As Lady Antebellum Is Suing Lady A

It seems like just yesterday when country band Lady Antebellum decided to change their name to Lady A in order to cut ties with any associations with slavery and, you know, the Antebellum south. (It was actually three weeks ago, but still, it was recent.) There was one hiccup, though: Lady A was already the name of an artist, a Black blues singer from Seattle named Anita White who had been going by Lady A for over 20 years. Initially, the original Lady A was not pleased, telling Rolling Stone, “This is my life. Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done.” She added, “If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before. It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it.”

But after the initial (rightful) hurt feelings, it seemed the two Lady As had reached a mutual understanding and everything was cool. On June 15, OG Lady A posted a Zoom selfie of her with the other Lady A (this is getting confusing), writing in the caption, “Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had. We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Today, we connected privately with the artist Lady A. Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had. We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come. #LadyABluesSoulFunkGospelArtist #TheTruthIsLoud

A post shared by LadyA (@ladya_bluesdiva) on

Everything seemed to be good in A land, until news broke yesterday that Lady A(ntebellum) was suing Lady A(nita White). All good things must come to an end eventually, I guess, but that period of harmony was a brief one. In fact, just one day after that Instagram post, on June 16, White told Newsday, “I received a draft agreement from the Antebellum camp. I’m not happy about yet again after talking in good faith. … Their camp is trying to erase me and I’ll have more to say tomorrow. Trust is important and I no longer trust them.”

In regards to the lawsuit, Lady A the band said in a statement to CBS News, “Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years.” Rolling Stone reports that the $10 million was meant to be split between White and various charitable organizations, with $5 million going towards White’s efforts to help her rebrand herself and the remaining $5 million in donations going to Black Lives Matter, “a charity for seniors and youth in Seattle, and musicians in need of legal counsel”.

In the lawsuit, the band claims they have been using the name Lady A along with Lady Antebellum since 2006-2007, and Lady A became an official trademark in 2011 after no opposition was filed. They also registered the name to sell things like musical recordings and clothing, and once again no entity or person opposed the trademark.

The lawsuit does acknowledge White’s use of the name since 2010 and her Spotify page, but points out that she only had 166 monthly listeners compared to the band’s 7 million-plus. Ouch, legal burn.

The lawsuit is not seeking monetary damages, but rather, as Billboard reports, “only a court declaration that the trio is lawfully using the Lady A trademark and that its continued use of the trademark does not infringe on any rights White may have under state or federal law.” The band also said in a statement, “We never even entertained the idea that she shouldn’t also be able to use the name Lady A, and never will – today’s action doesn’t change that.”

On the flipside, White’s attorneys said in a statement to Billboard, “It is disappointing that Lady Antebellum decided to forego settlement negotiations in favor of suing Ms. White, the rightful owner of the LADY A trademark. We will zealously defend Ms. White’s prior rights in the LADY A mark, a name she has used for over 30 years.”

In a new interview with Rolling StoneWhite acknowledges, “Not wanting a name that is a reminder to many black folks of how so much was taken from us: our freedom, languages, families, and even our names makes sense.” But, she points out, “to do so by taking the name on which I, a black woman, have built my career in the music industry for over 20 years is ironic.”

While we don’t know how the suit will play out (though I could take a guess: the famous people with lots of money will win over the not-so-famous woman whose lawyers are representing her pro bono), it’s overall not a great look for Lady A the band to have changed their name to avoid any racist connotations, and then sue a Black woman who was using that same name for years. In her Rolling Stone interview, White says that the band changing “Lady Antebellum to Lady A didn’t change the connotation or yield to them being inclusive.” If they really wanted no association at all with the Antebellum south, and to avoid a public dispute that’s costing them bad press, they could just change the name of the band entirely. And given that, again, the band are famous people with lots of money, I’d venture that they could shoulder a complete rebrand a lot easier than White.

Images: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com; ladya_bluesdiva / Instagram