Artist Spotlight: Ava Max

As her debut album ‘Heaven & Hell’ is coming out soon I thought I would do my next Artist Spotlight on Ava Max. People definitely know who she is, but I feel she is extremely underrated.

Amanda Koci, was born on February 16th 1994 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both her parents emigrated from Albania in 1990 and the family moved to France. After one year if living in France they moved to Pennsylvania and later moved to Virginia.

Ava always had a strong on interest in music growing up, she would listen to her mum singing opera and was a huge fan of Madonna, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and other artists around this time. When she turned 10, she started to write her own songs, throughout her teenage years this continued and she started to perform her own songs and covers to an audience. When she reached 14, she realised her potential and decided she wanted to be a singer as her career. She managed to contact Pharrell Williams who gave her some helpful tips. She then moved to LA to try and follow her dream.

In 2013 she decided to go by the name AVA and her first song was released ‘Take Away The Pain’. This led to a DJ remixing the song in 2015. In 2016 she released ‘Anyone But You’ with Cirkut on SoundCloud. This song then opened doors for Ava, many record labels contacted her including Atlantic Records who gave her a record deal! After landing a record deal, she began to look for a last name to add to her stage name. She chose to use ‘Max’. Around this time, she started to wear her hair in signature style, now known as ‘the max cut’.

Throughout 2018, Max released several songs: ‘My Way’, ‘Salt’, ‘Not Your Barbie Girl’ and the smash hit single ‘Sweet But Psycho’. ‘Sweet But Psycho’ was praised worldwide it became her first worldwide hit and it even reached number 1 in 22 countries. As this song is a dance track and extremely catchy, Max was compared to artists like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. This is one of the best singles from an ‘unknown’ artist ever and it has really allowed her to jump into the music industry.

In 2019, her next single ‘So Am I’ came out. This is a self-love song which encourages you to be yourself. When talking about the meaning of the song Max said, “About what makes people unique and different from each other. It’s about loving yourself, being different, being an outcast and not fitting in the format that society wants to put us in — just celebrating what really makes you different. Whenever I’m feeling down, I remind myself that my flaws make me perfect, because in reality there is no perfect.” Not quite as successful as ‘Sweet But Psycho’, ‘So Am I’ managed to reach number 13 in the UK and reach number 2 in the US dance charts.

July 2019, Max released two promotional single ‘Blood Sweat And Tears’ and ‘Freaking Me Out’. ‘Blood Sweat And Tears’ was originally going to be the second single from her debut album but it was then pushed back which mean ‘So Am I’ took its place. ‘Freaking Me Out’ is about “realizing that you’re in love with someone to a degree that feels almost beyond your control.”

In August she released ‘Torn’ which charted really well in European countries, but it didn’t seem to chart outside of the continent. The song is about feeling torn in a relationship because she both loves them and hates them. In December she re-released ‘Salt’ but this time it was on all streaming services whereas previously it was just on SoundCloud. ‘Salt’ is about a boyfriend wanting to get back together, the lyric “I’m all out of salt, I don’t want to cry” relates to the salt in her tears and how she doesn’t want to be hurt by her ex again.

In 2020 she released ‘Kings & Queens’ which is now advertised as the lead single from her debut album. This is once again a female empowerment song; it talks about equality for women and men. The gender equality struggle has gotten a lot better over the years, but it still has a long way to go. Max said this is a reminder that women and men should be equal and that we should all support each other.

Her latest single “Who’s Laughing Now” was released in July 2020, you can read my review of the single here.

If her recent releases are anything to go by her album should be great! I love how she is very artistic within her music and the visuals are very important to her. As the album is called ‘Heaven & Hell’ I wonder how she will distinguish between the two parts throughput the album. I think she could have a very big and very successful career if she keeps this up!

You can stream her current discography on Apple Music and Spotify. ‘Heaven & Hell’ is out on 18th September.   

Fletcher – The S(ex) Tapes

Fletcher has finally released her highly anticipated EP, The S(EX) Tapes.

Prior to the official release, we have already heard most of the tracks ‘If I Hated You’, ‘Bitter’, ‘The One’ and ‘Feel’. This leaves the new unheard tracks ‘Silence’, ‘Shhh Don’t Say It’ and ‘Sex (With My Ex)’. The songs are strategically placed as the EP explores different stages of a break up. “It starts with ‘Silence’ and goes into the idea of “this would be so much easier if I hated you”, and then you’re single and exploring everything. And then ‘The One’ and ‘Shh… Don’t Say It’ happens, and you realise it’s quite an emptying experience, and then ‘Feel’ happens which is the embodiment of the weak moments where I text and I call going “fuck, I love you and miss you”. And then I fly to New York, we meet up and have sex, and then I flew back to Los Angeles 48 hours later for a meeting.”

When talking to Teen Vogue about the EP Fletcher said “this entire body of work is about the ups and downs of a relationship, and of being a 20-something and finding yourself and losing yourself and then discovering and rediscovering your sexuality. Kind of, just what it means to be a young person.” She went on to say “This EP is so much more raw. I don’t really have any answers and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m just really in it. In its raw form, a sex tape is somebody in their most vulnerable form and barest state. The reason why I felt comfortable filming and doing that is because it was shot by her — by somebody that has always looked at me through a lens of the utmost love and respect and has always seen me for me”

‘Silence’ is a song about needing time by yourself, sometimes things can get overwhelming and you just need time to process what is going on All I need is time and space and silence, Cut communication ’cause I’m trying” Fans have also speculated that the song is a follow on to ‘Forever as parts sound alike and the storyline is similar. She actually confirmed the suspicion “the reason that this song is first on the EP is because it does feel like the bridge gap between ‘Forever’ and what this new project sounds like.

‘Shh Don’t Say It’ is “about wanting to have fun with someone new after a breakup, and not letting it get too serious—even when they’re trying to tell you they like you. It’s about exploring your sexuality and feeling empowered by that freedom and agency. It’s Tame Impala meets Britney Spears’ Blackout.

‘Sex (With My Ex)’ is exactly what is sounds like. When talking to Purple Sneakers she said “I got back into the studio and I’m just like “I just had sex with my ex, and I’m fucked up now”. So I just sat down with the co-writer, and the lyrics are exactly what happened. We turned the text message from right before we met up into the lyrics. It unfolded pretty seamlessly, and it was written pretty quickly and we finished in under two hours.”

This is 100% my favourite EP from Fletcher. She seems more vulnerable and open with her lyrics and the music is more emotional. Fletcher is so talented and I am so happy she is beginning to get the recognition she deserves.

You can buy/stream The S(ex) Tapes here and you can watch the music video for ‘Shh… Don’t Say It’ here

Demi Lovato & Marshmello – Ok Not To Be Ok

Demi Lovato has collaobarted with Marshmello with ‘Ok Not To Be Ok”

It is an upbeat song that reassures people that it is ok not to be ok. Sometimes when you are feeling down them words are all you need to hear. As today is Suicide Prevention Day, the importance of this song is highlighted even more. Everyone gets days when they don’t feel okay, and that is perfectly normal. I hope this song can encourage people to talk more openly about their feelings and ask for help if they need it. I also help it encourages people to check in on their friends regularly.

When talking to Apple Music about the song, Marshmello said “So she did the song and then I got it and it was just kind of piano and that’s about it. And so then I was like, how can I create an instrumental, instruments, that complement the emotion of the song? So in the beginning it’s very slow and stuff, so I made the instrumental very slow. And then during the hook, which is the resolve of the song, I kind of picked it up with the energy and it’s kind of like a little dance tune… I think that was a huge driving force in making the song, as well, as there was only one way the song could be… And so I spent a long time trying to find that exact moment where I was like, “Oh, okay, this is exactly how the song should sound. This is how it makes me feel.” So it was just kind of like emotion turned to music in a way.”

As the song is released on World Suicide Prevention Day the song is more important now than ever “I think it’s just such an important subject… I think a lot of people, about negative feelings and negative thoughts that are affecting them are kind of scared to bring it up, scared to talk about it. When in reality, they’re scared because maybe the person won’t relate or the person won’t understand, when in reality most of time the person that you could bring it up to, will most likely has felt like this or will understand or can relate as well. So I think it’s very important to talk about it.”

You can buy/stream the song here and watch the music video here

Please visit these websites if you need any help or support

Also is anyone ever needs anyone to talk to or just want someone to listen to you then I am always available. You can contact me through here or my twitter @rhiannon_gaga

Artist Spotlight: Jessie Reyez

This artist isn’t unknown, I just think she is very underrated and deserves more recognition. So, this Artist Spotlight will be on Jessie Reyez.

Born in Toronto to Colombian parents, Jessie always had an interest in music. Her dad introduced her to the guitar and this encouraged her to not only play the guitar but also to write her own music. Instead of going to college, she decided to try and make it big in the music industry.

 In 2014 she was accepted into The Remix Projects’ Academy of Recording Arts, during her time there she was mentored by Daniel Daley from Dvsn. That same year she released a single with King Louie ‘Living in the Sky’ and then in 2015 they released ‘It Hurts (Selena)’.

In 2016 she released her first solo single ‘Figures’. The song was premiered on Beat 1 with Zane Lowe and it peaked at number 58 on The Canadian Hot 100. It also received a platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling one million track-equivalent units. She also made her late-night tv debut when she performed it on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. When talking about the meaning of the song, she said “It was a shitty heartbreak. It was a shitty breakup. And I was just going through it And I was just going through it. I was in Sweden at the time. was there for a writing camp. I was writing songs we were going to pitch for other artists and on the fourth day. The way it works—for writers and producers—is kind of like musical chairs. They just switch everyone. I was with these guys Priest and the Beast on the fourth day, and they were like, “We really fuck with you and we want to keep you for an extra week and during that week we can work on anything. It doesn’t have to be stuff we have to pitch. We can work on your stuff, too. So, I ended up staying and it was a blessing. You know when you breakup with someone and you have memories in that city? You don’t want to be with them in that city because then your heartbreak is just hard to heal the wound when you’re in it. I feel like it was a blessing that I got asked to stay there. The pain goes with you if it hurts enough, so I was there with it, and it just came out on a song. It was me, Priest and the Beast and Shy, and that shit just came out of me, man. It was just a sad sad song.”

She then released the single ‘Shutter Island’ in 2017, which is titled after the movie with the same title. If you have watched the film you know that it is a psychological thriller in which two U.S Marshalls investigate a disappearance of a patience from a psychiatric facility on Shutter Island. Lyrics like “My straitjacket’s custom-made though (With fucking diamonds), My straitjacket’s custom-made though (With fucking rubies), Yeah, I’m crazy just like Galileo My straitjacket’s custom-made though (With diamonds)” make a direct link to the film. When Jessie talks about the meaning of the song, she said it is about feeling trapped in a toxic relationship.

Her debut EP ‘Kiddo’ was released in April 2017. Th EP consists of 7 songs ‘Fuck It’, ‘Shutter Island’, ‘Blue Ribbon’ (ft Tim Suby), ‘Figures’, ‘Gatekeeper’, ‘Colombian King & Queen’ and ‘Great One’. When talking about the EP she said “Kiddo was in the making for two years. It’s an assembly of experiences that I went through. The first song that we dropped from the EP was Figures and it was about a shitty break-up that I went through. I’m grateful that I got to work with a lot of dope producers like Priest and the Beast, Jahaan Sweet, William Larsen and Tim Suby, who produced half the EP. On top of that, the calligraphy was done by my nephew, the album cover was shot by my cousin and the little girl on the cover is my niece. Family over everything.”  ‘Kiddo’ peaked at number 83 on the Canadian Album Chart and Billboard named her as one of the ’10 Hip-Hop and R&B Artists to Watch in 2018’. Due to the success of the EP, Reyez received four nominations at the 2018 Juno Awards, two nominations at the iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards and two nominations for the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards. Later in 2017 she signed a record and publishing deal with Island Records.

Around this time, she also released a short film ‘Gatekeeper’. Gatekeeper addressed issues within the music industry such as sexism and exploitation. It was based on her experience with music producer Noel ‘Detail’ Fisher who was accused of sexual misconduct.

When talking about the song and the short film Jessie said “I thought about it. I say in the video I thought about doing it. It’s not like I was adamant about the ‘No’ off the bat… I thought about it because I was thinking that this might be my only shot and this might be what it is, so if I say no now, the probability of me encountering this again within another year, another two years, the way he’s talking about it, it sounds like it’s probable so why am I going to say no?” She is deeply brave and very inspirational for sharing her experience and being so open about it. This is a must listen song and a must watch short film. Even though it is so horrible what she went through, I am so glad she decided to share her ordeal because it encourages others to speak up and it also just raises awareness as to what really goes on in the music industry.

Her second EP ‘Being Human In Public’ was released in 2018. This again featured 7 songs ‘Saint Nobody’, ‘Apple Juice’, ‘Sola’, ‘Fuck Being Friends’, ‘Dear Yessie’, ‘Imported’ (Featuring JRM) and ‘Body Count (Remix)’ (Featuring Normani and Kehlani).  It won R&B/Soul Recording of The Year at the Juno Awards and she landed her first Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Reyez released her debut album ‘Before Love Came to Kill Us’ March this year. It debuted at number 13 on the Billboard 200 and it also received positive reviews from critics. It was short listed for the 2020 Polaris Music Prize and she received two nominations at the Juno Awards.

Jessie is one of the most talented and unique artists around at the moment. Every single song she has done is incredible. Her voice is so mesmerizing and captivating, no matter what she sings it s beautiful. I can’t wait to hear what music she will do in the future and to see how her career will progress.

Sigala ft James Arthur – Lasting Lover

Sigala is best known for his collaborations, he has collaborated with many artists from Becky Hill to Craig David, but the next on his list is James Arthur.

‘Lasting Lover’ is actually written by Lewis Capaldi, who gifted the DJ the song. When Sigala originally heard the track it was acoustic, so he has obviously worked on the track a lot to turn it into a dance track.

When talking about the song, Sigala said “From there, it has been a very fun journey to take it to where it is now. I have wanted to work with James Arthur for ages, as I love his voice, but because the song came together during lockdown, I wasn’t actually able to meet James in person, so we worked across Zoom for a long time and finally met on the set for the music video – luckily we got on just as well in real life!”  James said “We ended up pulling this track together in lockdown and working remotely. I’ve been a fan of his for some time, so it was great to finally meet him on the set of the video. It’s a bit of a change of direction for me, but you might be seeing a couple more interesting turns in the future. Hope everyone likes it!”

‘Lasting Lover’ is available to buy/stream everywhere and you can watch the lyric video here.

Paloma Faith – Better Than This

Paloma Faith has released her first song in two years ‘Better Than This’.

This is a dramatic piano song and extremely powerful. Paloma’s songs have always been very bold and truthful but I think this one is on another level. I found some of the lyrics really meaningful and relatable “And I know you’ll take me anywhere I wanna go, And I know you’ll make me learn everything that I wanna know, The truth of it is, it doesn’t get better than this” I think many people have been through something similar to this, when you are in love you want to try new things and go to new places with your partner.

 When talking about the song she said “It’s love songs for people who are there to stay. That enduring love. Warts and all. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a love song like that, actually.” ‘Better Than This’ will feature on Paloma’s fifth studio album ‘Infinite Things’ which is due to be released in October.

You can buy/stream ‘Better Than This’ here and watch the lyric video here

Finneas – What They’ll Say About Us

Finneas O’Connell AKA FINNEAS has released his new single ‘What’ll Say About Us’.

Most people know FINNEAS as Billie Eilish’s brother and a producer, but he also makes his own music.

When talking to WSJ Magazine, FINNEAS said the song was inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement “I wrote it on the day of a Black Lives Matter protest back in June. I had spent the day out protesting with my girlfriend, and protests in general make me feel really optimistic. I think being surrounded by people who also see the flaws in the system is a really positive experience ’cause you go, “Oh, my God, I’m not the only one.” He said another inspiration for the song was the death of actor Nick Cordero “The other component of the song was [that] I was very closely following Nick Cordero’s story on Instagram, via his wife [Amanda Kloots], and Nick and his wife were not people I’d ever met. I don’t know them at all. I saw the headlines about his health, just like everybody else did. I just became incredibly attached to this family that I’d never met before. I kind of wrote this song as if you were singing to your loved one who was in a hospital bed while the world was protesting outside. I did make a point to keep the song fairly ambiguous because I know everybody’s sort of going through different circumstances of the same things right now.”

The piano ballad is obviously very sad and very emotional, but there is a sense of optimism and hope for the future “You’re tired now, lie down, I’ll be waitin’ to give you the good news, It might take patience, And when you wake up, it won’t be over, So don’t you give up”. I find this very inspirational and it makes you feel like you can really make a change in the world. With everything going on this year, you may (like me) feel hopeless that you can’t do anything to help people and when you do help it doesn’t feel like its enough. This song is a reminder that if we all do our bit; we can change the way of thinking things or the ‘norms’ in society. “If I say a cliché, it’s ’cause I mean it, We can’t walk away, we gotta get in between it
And when you wake up, we’ll grow together, So don’t you give up”

I absolutely love this song and I think it is so important especially in the world we currently live in. I am also so glad FINNEAS is getting the recognition as a solo artist and not just Billie’s brother because he is so talented and truly a special artist.

‘What They’ll Say About Us’ is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music. The music video is on YouTube.

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone Book Review

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for providing me a complimentary copy of ‘Dear Justyce’ by Nic Stone in exchange for my honest review.

Before I start the review, I would like to clarify that I am a young white girl who has never experienced racism nor will I ever fully understand what it is like to experience it every day. I as a privileged white woman have the duty to constantly educate myself about racial injustices so I can stand with them and do everything I can to help.

‘Dear Justyce’ is the sequel to ‘Dear Martin’, which is about a young boy who write letter to Martin Luther King about his experiences with racial injustices. ‘Dear Justyce’ follows Quan who grew up near Justyce and writes him letters when he is in a youth detention centre for a crime he did not commit.

This is such an important and relevant book. It tells the reality of being a young black person and what they have to face. In one part of the book when Quan is in the detention centre, he meets another young black boy who was put in the centre for just knowing gang members and he then meets a white boy who stabbed someone and he is only in for 60 days. Quan also looks back at decisions he made in the past and wonders whether if he did things differently, became friends with a different group of people or simply was born white, how different things could be.

The book it told mainly told through a series of flashbacks, letters to Justyce and then present-day perspective. I thought this was a very affective way of telling the story, as the flashbacks linked with the present day and the letters and it all linked together. Nic Stone is such an incredible author and she really conveys all the emotions the characters are feeling. Each character is so well written, it is easy to want to protect them and root for them.

Just like ‘Dear Martin’, ‘Dear Justyce’ is one of the best books I have read in a long time. These books are so important to read as it raises awareness and educates people on the reality of racial injustices that black people experience every day.

Please take the time to visit this link which includes ways you can help.

SZA ft Ty Dolla $ign – Hit Different

It has been three years since SZA released her masterpiece of an album ‘Ctrl’ and now she is finally back with ‘Hit Different’ featuring Ty Dolla $ign and produced by The Neptunes.

When talking to Zane Lowe for Apple Music, SZA said she recorded the song at DJ Khaled’s house during the Superbowl. She also said that she recorded many songs and it felt like a childhood dream. When talking about working with The Neptunes she said “I can’t really wrap my head around the experience and I think more so I’m fangirling off of having a track produced by probably the most formative producers and artists for me when I was growing up,” 

The song is about jealousy in a relationship Hit different when I think you might be
With somebody else”
. The lyrics “I was into you from the beginning even if you wasn’t mine
Scared to admit my shortcomings led to overdraft in this affair”
and “It’s a shame and I can’t blame myself, keep on lovin’ you, You do it different”  suggest that she was more into the relationship than her partner.

I am so happy SZA is back! Whether this be a stand alone single or the first single for an album/EP/mixtape/project or whatever, it is just so good to have her back.

‘Hit Different’ is available to stream everywhere and the self-directorial debut music video is available to watch here.

Ava Max – OMG What’s Happening

Just weeks before her debut album ‘Heaven & Hell’, Ava Max has released ‘OMG What’s Happening’.

According to Ava this is one of her favourite songs from the album and I must say I agree with her. Out of the songs we have already heard this song does stand out, it is heavily disco inspired and very catchy! From what I can tell, the song is about her partner and how much she loves/needs them “Look what you’ve done, look what you’ve done to me
I got everything I wanted, but you’re everything, you’re everything I want”

Along with the release of ‘OMG What’s Happening’ Ava has also released the track list off ‘Heaven & Hell’. As you can see the album is split into heave, purgatory and hell. ‘OMG What’s Happening’ will feature on the ‘Heaven’ side of the album.

Heaven & Hell is out on 18th September and ‘OMG What’s Happening’ is out now. You can buy/stream here and watch the lyric video here.

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