Saweetie Will Host The 2021 MTV EMA

The 2021 MTV EMA show is about to get extremely icy.

Saweetie will host this year’s show, set to hit Hungary’s Papp László Budapest Sportaréna on November 14. And it gets better. She’ll also be taking the stage to perform both “Best Friend” and “Back to the Streets,” both from her forthcoming debut album, Pretty Bitch Music.

“Anything can happen at the MTV EMAs,” Saweetie said in a statement, also teasing some “surprises.” Are you ready?

She’ll be in good company. As announced earlier this week, the show will also feature performances from Colombia’s Maluma, Italy’s Måneskin, and Los Angeles-via-Germany pop superstar Kim Petras.

Saweetie is also up for Best New, alongside fellow nominees Giveon, Griff, Olivia Rodrigo, Rauw Alejandro, and The Kid Laroi. The hosting gig makes sense for the California rapper and Grown-ish guest star, who told MTV News earlier this year that Pretty Bitch Music tells a “narrative of just being bossed-up, independent, depending on yourself, doing things on your own terms, doing what she wants to do.”

The 2021 EMA nominations are led by Justin Bieber, who’s up for eight total awards, including in the Best Artist, Best Pop, and Best Song categories. Doja Cat and Lil Nas X aren’t far behind, though, with six each. Sheeran, Rodrigo, and The Kid Laroi all follow with five.

The 2021 EMAs will touch down at the Papp László Budapest Sportaréna in Hungary on Sunday, November 14 at 9 p.m. CET and will also broadcast live on MTV channels in 180 countries. Find the full nominations list below, and head to ema.mtv.com for all your voting needs.

Leadr Is Doing Things Their Way

As a kid, Alexander Tang discovered their love of singing thanks to Madonna. They’d listen to the album True Blue and start joining in on the vocals. They dreamed that, one day, they could see themself shining as a burgeoning pop star on MTV. Now, the confident artist who records and releases electronic and pop beats as Leadr is making good on that.

Leadr embraces self-love and their inner faerie, sporting signature pointed ears and acrylic nails. It’s all part of their artistic identity, showcased in both their visuals — which originate in their head shortly after completing the songs — and their highly personal songwriting.

Their track “Hi, I’m Human,” released in March during a period when anti-Asian hate crimes spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, was dedicated to the AAPI community and has been featured on Spotify’s AAPI Pride and Out Now playlists. It carries a powerful message that we are all ultimately the same regardless of some of our differences. Meanwhile, “Gaia,” an evocative track inspired by their childhood and past abuse, showcases how music has always been a therapeutic outlet for the Vietnamese-American artist.

“A lot of people care about what other people have to say, you know?” Leadr tells MTV News. “And it’s just like, who the fuck cares? It does not matter. Do you. And if it feels good, and if it makes you happy, go after it.”

Now, Leadr is ready to take all the power back with the release of their debut EP My Way, out on October 29. In addition, they are putting out a series of individual digital artworks inspired by each song. Ahead of the release, they spoke with MTV News about creating My Way and from where their material stems.

MTV News: How would you describe your genre and style of music? And could you mention, too, which artists influence you?

Leadr: When I started out, it was very electronic. Then it became very pop and then indie. Now it’s all over the place. I don’t want to put myself in a box. When I do music, it’s more about the feeling and my mood at the moment, because maybe that next album I’ll do is country, whatever. It really depends. It’s just my mood.

And who are my influences? I would say Grimes — love Grimes. Just love her aesthetic and whole vibe. Billie Eilish, of course. Her voice is incredible. Been listening to a lot of K-pop, like BTS and NCT. But when I was a kid, I loved the classics, like Madonna. Britney Spears, I was obsessed with her. Free Britney!

MTV News: What is the through-line for your new EP, My Way?

Leadr: It’s all about my past life experiences. It was a very healing album, very therapeutic when I was writing it. For My Way, it’s like you’re taking your power back. You’re finding that happiness within yourself, and it’s my way or the highway. And I had a lot of people judge me throughout my whole life. And so I’m taking my power finally. “You know what? Fuck you guys.” It’s my life. It’s my way.

One of the songs on the EP is called “3am,” and it’s about a dream I had where I would go back to my younger self. And my younger self was trying to commit suicide, which I did go through when I was 11 years old, contemplating committing suicide. I said, no, don’t do that. I’m still here. So I wanted to write something like “3am” where people can relate and be like, “They see me, I’m still here.” It does get better. Thank god I had the music because that pushed me through and out. We have to remember that we can breathe and show our gratitude.

MTV News: You were raised in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. From one Asian American and New Jerseyan to another, could you elaborate more on your upbringing?

Leadr: Growing up in Cherry Hill was tough because I was hiding myself. I wasn’t being Leadr. Leadr is my higher self. There was a lot of trauma when I was growing up. I told you I almost committed suicide. A lot of the students were really mean. I was bullied when I was a kid. And also, my parents, they’re very conservative. I was afraid to come out.

The song “Cherry Hill” is about being like, I need to get out of this place to be myself. And so I had to move away. I had to get far, far away. So I went to Pittsburgh, which is weird. I mean, I loved it at the time. But that’s when I came out. And I came out to my twin brother first, who is my biggest supporter, I love him so much. And I knew at that point, I was just like, you know what? Again, fuck it. I’m going to be me.

MTV News: It must have taken a lot to come out to your brother, let alone your twin. But I know twins tend to have a close relationship. When you told him, was he really surprised?

Leadr: I remember just looking at him, thinking, I’m going to tell him. So I told him, and he said, “Really?” I replied, yeah, really. And he was like, “Oh, OK. Whatever.” I was like, oh, that was easy, thank god. After that, I told my friends, and I told my mom.

My mom’s story is funny. I said, hey mom, I got to tell you something. And she was just like, “What? What’s going on?” I was like, I think you already know, look at me. She asked, “Did you drop out of school? Did you make [someone] pregnant? Did you do drugs?” I was like, no. Hello. Look at me. Finally, she asked, “You’re gay?” I’m like, yes, I’m gay. And she was, “Oh, OK. All right, well, take me shopping. Let’s go to the mall.”

MTV News: Was your song “Gaia” also mostly based on your life? And what’s the reason you chose a Greek mythological deity as the title and the reference to her in the lyrics?

Leadr: The song is about my past, going through abuse, and the effects of abuse and transference. I’m telling myself and my inner child, don’t do that. Mother Gaia — she is Mother Earth in Greek mythology — telling all mothers that we have to teach kids love and compassion. If we don’t, they will have trauma. It was really hard writing that song. Every time I listen to it, I get really worked up. But also I learned to forgive. Because if we don’t forgive, you’re holding this pain inside the whole time and you can’t live in peace and happiness.

MTV News: Your song “Hi, I’m Human” and its music video are dedicated to the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. It really resonated with me, and I’d say it probably resonates with the BIPOC and the LGBTQ+ communities, as well, since the song applies to any person who belongs to a marginalized group.  What was the process like writing the song and making the video?

Leadr: I wrote the song last year with my friend Joey Myron, and it was during that time when the Black Lives Matter movement peaked and the country was going through unease, so I knew I wanted to write something that would bring the country together and show we’re all different but human, [so] we’re all the same. Visually, when I created the story, I knew that I wanted to go through the three levels of the mind: conscious, subconscious, and unconscious.

When you’re watching the video, it’s a loop. Going through everyday life and the words hit you, and then the cuts and bruises, and it just gets worse and worse and worse until you see the child scene, which is my inner child. You have to remind yourself that self-care is very important. Toward the end of the video, you see me watching the hate, the [slurs and other disparaging] words, and I just felt liberated doing that.

MTV News: Growing up, because of your family, did you feel pressured to be more whitewashed or be more Americanized?

Leadr: Going back to the self-hatred of being Asian and being queer, yeah, and you know what, I would say the media is a part of the problem. In Hollywood, Asians are portrayed as nerdy and weak, and women are fetishized. When I went to college and started dating, I remember guys would be like, “Oh, you don’t look Asian. You look very exotic.” I was like, wow. What’s that mean? And so growing up, it’s really hard because I didn’t want to be Asian. I didn’t want to be queer. I had a lot of self-hatred. I had to do a lot of healing for that.

MTV News: With “Hi, I’m Human” being featured on Spotify, how has your journey been as a rising queer Asian-American artist, and who are your biggest supporters?

Leadr: My mom still doesn’t get why I do music. She’s very traditional.  “You have to work, work, work, work, work. You have to work to live.” Sometimes it takes a long time to get it. But she’s like, “OK, whatever. It’s your life.” I told her, Mom, I’m happy. I’m really happy doing it. My dad — he has a music background. He played guitar, so he’s supportive of that. And thank god I have my brother who accepts me for who I am, and who is just very supportive. But I don’t need people to tell me that. I know that I’m proud of myself for doing it. Be proud of who you are, be proud of yourself, do you, follow your dreams, all of that. Because none of that other stuff matters.

Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons, And More To Perform At The 2021 MTV EMA

UPDATE (11/4/21, 10:03 a.m. ET): Ed SheeranImagine Dragons, Griff, Yungblud, and Girl in Red have been added to the list of artists who will perform at the 2021 MTV EMA. Nominated for Best Rock and Best Group, Imagine Dragons will perform the new single “Enemy” alongside the rapper J.I.D. Last year’s Best Push winner Yungblud will take the stage for a rendition of his latest song “Fleabag,” while Griff, who is nominated in the Best Push and Best New categories, will perform in her first appearance at the ceremony. Norwegian indie-pop singer Girl in Red is also nominated for Best Push, as well as Video for Good, and she will showcase her breakout single “Serotonin” off her debut album If I Could Make It Go Quiet. 

**

The 2021 MTV EMA show draws near, and with a loaded nominations list anchored by superstars like Justin Bieber, Doja Cat, Lil Nas X, Ed Sheeran, Olivia Rodrigo, and The Kid Laroi, it promises to be a can’t-miss event. But that’s just the beginning.

In addition to the big awards and must-see fashion on the red carpet, this year’s performances are taking things international. Colombian sensation Maluma, Italian glam-poppers Måneskin, and Los Angeles-based German future-pop star Kim Petras will all hit the stage at the 2021 EMA.

This is Maluma’s second time performing at the show, after making his debut in 2020 with a medley of “Djadja” and “Hawái.” He’s also up for two awards: Best Latin and Best Lat Am-Central Act. Måneskin will make their EMA debut, in addition to being nominated in the Best Rock and Best Group categories. Petras, meanwhile, continues the momentum began with her dazzling 2021 VMAs pre-show rendition of “Future Starts Now” and takes that energy all the way to Hungary, where the show will take over the Papp László Budapest Sportaréna.

As announced last week, Bieber leads this year’s crop of nominees with eight total nods, including in the Best Artist, Best Pop, and Best Song categories, though Doja Cat and Lil Nas X aren’t far behind with six each. Sheeran, Rodrigo, and The Kid Laroi all follow with five.

The 2021 EMAs will touch down at the Papp László Budapest Sportaréna in Hungary on Sunday, November 14 at 9 p.m. CET and will also broadcast live on MTV channels in 180 countries. Find the full nominations list below, and head to ema.mtv.com for all your voting needs.

Bop Shop: Songs From Coldplay And Selena Gomez, Duran Duran And Tove Lo, And More

Coldplay ft. Selena Gomez: “Let Somebody Go”

A few years ago, a collaboration between Coldplay and Selena Gomez would’ve seemed unimaginable. But on the British rock group’s ninth album Music of the Spheres, they’ve ventured even further out of their comfort zone, working with the likes of Max Martin, BTS, Jacob Collier, and the “Lose You to Love Me” singer. Their joint offering feels celestial, if not also somber, as Gomez and singer Chris Martin swap verses about an inevitable and hopeless heartbreak. “When I called the mathematicians / And I asked them to explain / They said love is only equal to the pain,” Selena sings, her breathy vocals complementing Martin’s raspy tone quite nicely, sounding like a heavenly reprieve from hurt until they build into a “Fix You”-esque explosion. —Carson Mlnarik

Justin Bieber, Doja Cat, And Lil Nas X Lead 2021 MTV EMA Nominees

It’s that time again: The 2021 MTV EMA are coming, and the nominations list is seriously stacked. Just as he did in this year’s VMAs noms field, Justin Bieber leads with the most nods, stacking up eight, including Best Artist, Best Pop, and two (2) Best Song inclusions — one for each of his recent No. 1 hits: “Peaches” (featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon) and “Stay” (featuring The Kid Laroi).

Of course, it’s been a huge year for some other artists as well, and two of them are right on Bieber’s heels with six noms each: Doja Cat and Lil Nas X. They’re followed by EMA mainstay (and former host) Ed Sheeran as well as EMA first-timers Olivia Rodrigo and The Kid Laroi, who all racked up five noms.

All six of the artists above are also nominated in the Best Local Act category for their respective home regions.

This is just the beginning, of course. The 2021 EMAs will touch down at the Papp László Budapest Sportaréna in Hungary on Sunday, November 14 at 9 p.m. CET and will also broadcast live on MTV channels in 180 countries. Find the full nominations list below, and head to ema.mtv.com for all your voting needs.

Best Artist

Doja Cat

Ed Sheeran

Justin Bieber

Lady Gaga

Lil Nas X

The Weeknd

Best Pop

BTS

Doja Cat

Dua Lipa

Ed Sheeran

Justin Bieber

Olivia Rodrigo

Best Song

Doja Cat ft. SZA: “Kiss Me More”

Ed Sheeran: “Bad Habits”

Justin Bieber: “Peaches” ft. Daniel Caesar, Giveon

Lil Nas X: “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”

Olivia Rodrigo: “Drivers License”

The Kid Laroi, Justin Bieber: “STAY”

Best Video

Doja Cat ft. SZA: “Kiss Me More”

Ed Sheeran: “Bad Habits”

Justin Bieber: “Peaches” ft. Daniel Caesar, Giveon

Lil Nas X: “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”

Normani ft. Cardi B: “Wild Side”

Taylor Swift: “Willow”

Best Collaboration

Black Eyed Peas, Shakira: “Girl Like Me”

Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic: “Leave the Door Open”

Doja Cat ft. SZA: “Kiss Me More”

Lil Nas X, Jack Harlow: “INDUSTRY BABY”

The Kid Laroi, Justin Bieber: “Stay”

The Weeknd & Ariana Grande: “Save Your Tears (Remix)”

Best New

Giveon

Griff

Olivia Rodrigo

Rauw Alejandro

Saweetie

The Kid Laroi

Best Electronic

Calvin Harris

David Guetta

Joel Corry

Marshmello

Skrillex

Swedish House Mafia

Best Rock

Coldplay

Foo Fighters

Imagine Dragons

Kings Of Leon

Måneskin

The Killers

Best Alternative

Halsey

Lorde

Machine Gun Kelly

Twenty One Pilots

Willow

Yungblud

Best Latin

Bad Bunny

J. Balvin

Maluma

Rauw Alejandro

Rosalía

Shakira

Best Hip Hop

Cardi B

DJ Khaled

Drake

Kanye West

Megan Thee Stallion

Nicki Minaj

Best K-Pop

BTS

Lisa

Monsta X

NCT 127

Rosé

Twice

Best Group

BTS

Imagine Dragons

Jonas Brothers

Little Mix

Måneskin

Silk Sonic

Best Push

24KGoldn

Fousheé

Girl in Red

Griff

JC Stewart

Jxdn

Latto

Madison Beer

Olivia Rodrigo

Remi Wolf

Saint Jhn

The Kid Laroi

Biggest Fans

Ariana Grande

Blackpink

BTS

Justin Bieber

Lady Gaga

Taylor Swift

Video for Good

Billie Eilish: “Your Power”

Demi Lovato: “Dancing With The Devil”

Girl in Red: “Serotonin”

H.E.R.: “Fight For You”

Harry Styles: “Treat People With Kindness”

Lil Nas X: “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”

Best US Act

Ariana Grande

Doja Cat

Lil Nas X

Olivia Rodrigo

Taylor Swift

M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming Arrived At The Perfect Moment

By Grant Sharples

Everyone knows that sound. Immediately after pressing play, that unforgettable melody materializes and bubbles up to the surface just in time for the first chorus. It’s not exactly welcoming; it’s high-pitched and uncanny, peculiar characteristics for one of the most ubiquitous pop songs of the new millennium. Still, it’s one of the catchiest hooks on any song from the 2010s. “Midnight City” is special in that way, and there’s no way M83’s musical architect Anthony Gonzalez could have predicted its staggering popularity.

“When I first made that, I felt stupid,” the French indie-pop artist told Pitchfork in 2011, the same year he unleashed the song. “It’s my voice under heavy distortion, and I was feeling so dumb doing those high-pitched vocals while my girlfriend was sleeping downstairs.” The song that made Gonzalez feel “dumb” ended up being the lead single for M83’s magnum opus, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, released 10 years ago today. “Midnight City” was everywhere, appearing in Victoria’s Secret and Gucci commercials and TV shows such as The Mindy Project and eventually Black Mirror. It charted on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It received its very own EP of remixes. With its immense media presence, no one could avoid that seismic hook. “Midnight City” led plenty of unassuming listeners into M83’s dreamworld. It provided a gateway into Gonzalez’s music at the exact right moment.

Although Gonzalez had been making music under the M83 moniker since 2001, he wouldn’t cement himself in the indie-pop canon for some time. There was the digital shoegaze of 2003’s Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts; the tremendous Before the Dawn Heals Us, Gonzalez’s first record without M83’s co-founder Nicolas Fromageau; and 2008’s Saturdays = Youth, Gonazlez’s catchiest, poppiest batch of songs at the time. Though he gained more notoriety with each release, he took his cinematic pop approach many steps further with Hurry Up, and “Midnight City” embodies that perfectly.

The climate was right for the song’s release. Festival-sized indie-pop was at its apex, with bands like Phoenix, Passion Pit, and MGMT dominating the genre. In particular, songs like “1901,” “Sleepyhead,” and “Kids” primed the masses to dance to keyboards and synths again. Neon-tinted ‘80s nostalgia was also in full swing, with prominent releases such as Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, Destroyer’s Kaputt, and eventually The 1975’s eponymous debut serving as watershed releases in the 2010s. But Gonzalez was an expert by the time this strain of homage became a trend. The best encapsulation of this is Fitz & the Tantrums member James King’s memorable saxophone solo toward the end of “Midnight City.”

Just as everyone knows the song’s idiosyncratic hook, everyone also knows that sax solo. Like the song itself at its time and place, King’s horn work arrives at the perfect moment. After another chorus, Gonzalez holds back his vocals for one final moment, and the sax steals the show. King interlocks himself with the hook from the beginning of the track, playing over it but not overshadowing it, and his warm timbre conjures images of a nocturnal Los Angeles that inspired “Midnight City” in the first place. It’s an effortless, masterful conclusion, and it’s just what Gonzalez intended to do. “Sometimes, a song needs an element to be finished,” he told The Guardian in 2011. “You know that this element has been overused in the past and is considered clichéd or cheesy, but the song needs it. With this album, the whole idea was to do something and have no regrets.”

Despite that Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming remains Gonzalez’s most accessible, pop-centric work yet, it is also his most ambitious. It’s his first and only double album, split into a “sister side” and a “brother side.” These are two companion albums treated as siblings, and each track has a mirrored version on its counterpart. For instance, “Intro” is the companion track to the second album’s opener, “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea.”

It’s a lofty proposition, but it seldom feels condescending or dense. These are straightforward pop songs with a handful of interstitial tracks that act as necessary connective tissue. Though Gonzalez was inspired by ‘90s records like My Bloody Valentine’s shoegaze classic Loveless and Smashing Pumpkins’ landmark double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, he evokes ‘80s acts like Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, and Depeche Mode in songs such as “OK Pal,” “Steve McQueen,” and, of course, “Midnight City.”

Even in the album’s music videos, Gonzalez establishes a grandiose, sci-fi narrative with motifs like youth and innocence. “Midnight City,” which currently has more than 342 million views on YouTube, lays the foundation for an episodic trilogy that continues with two of the album’s other singles, “Reunion” and “Wait.” Although its story skews more toward impressionism rather than concreteness, it reinforces Hurry Up’s status as a unified experience.

To aid him in this immense undertaking, he recruited producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen, whose portfolio now includes Paramore, Jimmy Eat World, and, most recently, Deafheaven. He helped realize Gonzalez’s ‘80s synthpop vision, demonstrating his bass chops on tracks such as “Claudia Lewis” and “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire”; for the latter, he recorded his daughter speaking about magical frogs. Still, this is Gonzalez’s show with his singular, cosmic pop songwriting, which is fully translated in “Midnight City.”

The rather simplistic lyrics of “Midnight City” also aggrandized its mass appeal. With such an assertive hook for its chorus, there are very few words in “Midnight City” at all. For most of its four minutes, Gonzalez ruminates on “waiting in the car, waiting for a ride in the dark.” But the song’s directness isn’t a fault; it conveys exactly what Gonzalez meant it to: the sense of wonder and tranquility that arises while gazing at a luminescent skyline. As he exclaims in one of the track’s most vivid moments, “The city is my church.”

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming remains one of the definitive indie-pop albums of its decade, and “Midnight City” is the key to it all. It was the entry point into M83’s discography, and its timing couldn’t have been more auspicious. This album and its lead single inaugurated M83 into the synthpop hall of fame and showed the world what Gonzalez was capable of. M83 was behind what is now recognized as one of the best pop songs of the 21st century. To call it pure serendipity would be a severe understatement. It helped establish an identity for indie-pop’s trademark sound.

Kris Floyd Is Stepping Into His Own Spotlight

By Lucas Villa

Kris Floyd’s name is more known in the songwriting credits for artists like Selena Gomez and Lauren Jauregui than for his own projects. He notably helped Gomez find her voice en español on her Spanish EP Revelación earlier this year. But the Puerto Rican rapper and singer-songwriter is now looking to make his voice heard on his debut EP, La Última Vez Que Me Viste, out today (October 15). As a protégé of reggaetón hit-maker Tainy under his Neon16 label, Floyd is ready to take flight.

The 28-year-old Floyd was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico as a child of reggaetón. He looked up to the local pioneers of the genre like Daddy Yankee, Zion y Lennox, and Tego Caulderón. Inspired by those artists’ flows, Floyd started writing his own music, slick Spanish rhymes over hard beats that he made himself; at 12, he recorded his first song with a cell-phone microphone on a giant family PC using free mixing software. From there, he uploaded his rap freestyles to SoundCloud. One of those songs caught the attention of Tainy, who was putting together Neon16, which he launched in 2019.

Floyd and his friend Jota Rosa traveled to Miami in search of better opportunities. They befriended Tainy there, who signed both of them. In April 2020, Floyd released his first single with Tainy, “Malos Habitos.” There was an air of mystery around Floyd in the music video as he moved through the shadows. A year later, Floyd had a hand in writing all the singles on Gomez’s Revelación, including the global smash “Baila Conmigo” featuring Rauw Alejandro.

“That experience was incredible,” Floyd tells MTV News. “That was one of my first opportunities to work with someone at that level. You know that Selena Gomez has millions and millions of fans. That opportunity was the kind of big break that you dream about as a kid, and now I had it.”

While co-writing for Gomez, Jauregui, and J Balvin’s Jose album, Floyd was also working on his own EP, which translates to “The Last Time You Saw Me.” He’s still armed with his hard rap flow, but he also tapped the tenderness of his deep voice on the lovely “Ser Libre” and the flirty “Siempre Tarde.” Whether on a reggaetón bop or Latin-trap banger, Floyd is no longer in the shadows, even flexing in the mirror in the “7/24” video. Below, he tells MTV News about stepping into the light.

MTV News: What’s the experience like to work with Tainy in the studio?

Kris Floyd: In my opinion, he’s the No. 1 Latino producer. He comes into the studio every day to work like he’s at the bottom. He’s the best example of who to be. He has so many years and [so much] experience in the industry. It’s a major blessing to work with him daily. And we have a great friendship. I feel like he’s more of a friend to me than just someone I make music with.

MTV News: What was the inspiration for Selena Gomez’s song “Baila Conmigo?”

Floyd: That’s a song that I wrote right here [in Neon16]. That was me, Edgar Barrera, and Elena Rose, with Jota Rosa and Albert Hype handling the production. We were talking about how we could introduce Selena in this [Latin] market that she wasn’t in. That part Rauw says in the beginning, “I know you don’t speak a lot of Spanish,” we wrote it with her in mind. We were telling a story she could identify with. What we thought is that it’s music that you can dance to. Music doesn’t have a language when you can move to it. It’s about having a connection with a person without having to talk so much.

MTV News: In “Temporary,” Lauren Jauregui talks about mental health. What was it like to write with her on that song?

Floyd: When you hear the song, you can learn more about yourself. It’s impressive because it was her way to help other people. She’s super talented. She practically wrote that song [by] herself. I helped her a little bit with what to say in Spanish and the melody. It’s beautiful to write songs like that, not just about partying, but music that can help people.

MTV News: Reggaetón songs can have like 8-10 writers sometimes. In La Última Vez Que Me Viste, it’s just you as a songwriter with your producers.

Floyd: I’m talking about everything that’s happened to me since the last time you saw me. All of that made me better than the last time you saw me. The EP is super personal. I wrote this EP by myself because I wanted to express myself. I want people to listen to hear me as I am.

MTV News: How did you feel to work with reggaeton icon Arcángel in your song “Xkittlez?”

Floyd: One works very hard for this moment. I’m a fan. When something like this happens, I think back to being a kid like, “Damn, I have arrived.” Before, I used to listen to him in the car, and now he’s on my song. Arcángel called me through Facetime with Tainy. He said, “Papi, this song is fucking awesome. I put my part on it. If it wasn’t fucking awesome, I wouldn’t have put myself on it.” He’s a person I listened to when I was a kid. I respect his art. The feeling is gratifying.

MTV News: There’s a vulnerability to your songs. It can be difficult to be a vulnerable man with the machismo (toxic masculinity) that’s rooted in Latinx culture.

Floyd: It’s everywhere. Not just Latinos. The Americans are the same. Everywhere can be machista. We’re making some progress today, but we still have a ways to go. We have to do away with hate, homophobia, and hate against women. They’re killing women. Men who don’t let out their emotions or express themselves are left with so much inside that it can explode and lead to abuse and other awful things. To be vulnerable is not bad. That doesn’t take away your manliness. I hope people understand that through my songs.

MTV News: With this EP, you’re going to be more in front of the world as an artist. Are you ready?

Floyd: I was born ready for whatever happens. I’m making music and I’m making it from the heart. If this connects with more people, then amen. If not, that’s OK. I’m ready for what comes next.

Bop Shop: Songs From Adele, CKay, Orion Sun, And More

The guts of Del Water Gap’s excellent self-titled debut album hang in wanting, longing, reaching for love that always evades capture. But on “I Hope You Understand,” the need turns so deeply desperate; the unshakeable truth that this is not ending well has reached his core. “I had a dream you killed me,” he confesses, “bread knife to my throat.” And yet even as he bleeds out, over swooning, soaring electric guitar and synth, he wants his lover to know that they meant something wonderful to him. “Maybe I deserve it,” he decides, “it” meaning the loss, or maybe meaning the fleeting love unacknowledged. Sometimes they go hand-in-hand. —Terron Moore

Finneas, Ever The Optimist, Still Gets Goosebumps Hearing Songs He Wrote

By Alex Gonzalez

Finneas has been keeping busy. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter/producer made an appearance at this year’s MTV VMAs on September 12, where his sister, Billie Eilish, won Best Latin for her Rosalía collaboration “Lo Vas a Olvidar” and Video For Good for “Your Power” — songs he co-wrote and produced. The next day, he attended the Met Gala, stunning in a bright red Givenchy suit. The following week, he flew to London for the world premiere of No Time to Die, for which he co-wrote the Eilish-sung theme song.

When MTV News catches up with him about a week later on a Saturday morning, the 24-year-old is still riding the high of playing his own solo set at Austin City Limits 2021. “I had a great crowd, and then I took a little car straight over to see Megan Thee Stallion, who went on right as I finished,” he says. “That was just mind-blowing.”

He’s also been thinking. His debut solo album, Optimist, out today (October 15), contains themes of getting older, existentialism, and contemporary justice issues. On “The Kids Are All Dying,” he mentions he “tried picking a cause, but I got confused.” But this does not mean he’s apathetic. During his ACL set, he shouted, “Fuck [Governor] Greg Abbott!” and pledged to donate his paycheck to Planned Parenthood in protest of Texas’s six-week abortion ban. Above all, Finneas stresses the importance of addressing climate change in order to have a shot at enjoying the new world people of his generation are working to create.

“Without addressing climate change, there’ll never be time to address any other cause,” Finneas tells MTV News, unpacking what he sings explicitly about on “The Kids Are Dying.” “Every other hot-button issue right now, other people can put more articulately, but the gun-violence epidemic in America is crazy and very preventable to me. We have a very systematically racist justice system in this country. We’re still miles away from true gender equality in terms of women’s rights … I think that, unfortunately, climate change probably takes precedence over all of them, because if we addressed everything else, but not climate change, we’d have a very short amount of time where everything was great, and then our world would go to shit.”

As his green stance suggests, Finneas enjoys spending time outdoors. Some of his fondest memories of growing up in Los Angeles include going to the Huntington botanical gardens and the arboretum with his mom and friends, rock climbing, and playing in parks. When he has downtime on tour — a precious commodity given his globetrotting treks with Eilish, alongside whom he performs in arenas — he goes on hikes, or he will walk to a coffee shop to decompress.

Time in the world makes for a good reprieve from his phone and social media, to which he admits he has a slight addiction. He talks about his relationship with the internet on songs like “The 90s,” “The Kids Are All Dying,” and “Medieval.” On the latter, he sings, “What does it matter if you’re not fine? / You should’ve kept that shit offline.”

“I’m looking at my phone the second before I fall asleep,” he says. “And I’m looking at it the second I wake up in the morning. I don’t pretend that’s a healthy relationship. I find it entertaining. I find it anxiety-inducing. Sometimes I find it comforting. I’m very addicted to it. And I think like any addiction, I feel not necessarily ashamed of it, but conscious of it. I feel sort of a little regretful of it.”

At the same time, Finneas recognizes the internet’s immense power and its inherent necessity in spreading and amplifying the music he makes as both a singer-songwriter under his own name and a producer for others. “I know that I wouldn’t have the career that I have without the internet, so I want to acknowledge that. But I think we all are using the internet in a way that in the future we may look back on and think, ‘Wow, that was not healthy.’”

Finneas first got into production at 12 years old, when he purchased the recording software Logic Pro. He still uses it and runs it through the Apollo x8p interface, while recording his vocals through the Redd microphone by Chandler Limited. Since learning how to make and write music, Finneas has built an impressive résumé, as well a list of songwriting and production credits longer than a Rite Aid receipt.

Having penned and produced tracks for Justin Bieber, Halsey, and Demi Lovato — and even considering his two albums with Eilish as well as his Grammy win for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical — Finneas admits that there’s no song that he wishes he would’ve kept for himself. Each artist will take his demos and make it their own, he says. He still gets goosebumps whenever he hears a track from the Finneas songbook on the radio, in Target, or at a cafe.

“We went to the Met Gala, and that was crazy in and of itself,” he says, “but I’m sitting there, and there’s a special performer and they won’t tell anybody who it is. I’m like, ‘Oh, I wonder who it is,’ and they won’t say. They’re like, ‘It’s going to be a special performer.’ And I’m sitting there and  the most famous people in the world are all in the room. And I’m like, ‘God, I wonder who it is?’ And Justin Bieber came out and he opened with [Finneas collaboration] ‘Lonely,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my god. That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.’”

Like many artists, Finneas spent much of his quarantine writing songs — for himself and others. His favorite was “Only a Lifetime,” a piano-driven track on which he sits down to appreciate life for both its ups and downs, and reminds us to make the most of our time on earth. “It’s only a lifetime,” he sings. “That’s not long enough / You’re not gonna like it without any love, so don’t waste it.”

“During lockdown,” he says, “I basically was like, ‘This is OK, I’m going on hikes with my dog, I’m cooking dinner with my girlfriend every night, I’m making an album with my sister. You need to stop taking this for granted, because a couple years from now, you’re going to look back and you’re going to miss this. You’re genuinely going to miss this period.’”

Fortunately, he gets to resume playing shows, as he will embark on a 17-date, month-long tour. Finneas has traveled all over the world, but says there are very few places he’d rather live than L.A. He recently picked up a new habit to help make hotel rooms feel like home.

“I have this little candle that I love,” he says. “I have a big version at home and I’ve got a tiny travel one and I light it in my hotel room, because hotel rooms sometimes can smell kind of funky. I have the same scent now in all my hotels and I just carry it with me, light it everywhere I go. And it just makes me calmer and happier.”

Chelsea Cutler Is Breaking Up With Sad Songs

By Megan Armstrong

As a young girl, Chelsea Cutler wrote on a whiteboard hanging in her childhood bedroom that she would one day play Radio City Music Hall, as if penning it in would make her wish come true. The 24-year-old singer placed a new emphasis on that goal in March 2020 during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, when nationwide lockdowns forced her to cancel her headlining tour in support of her debut album How to be Human and return to her parents’ home in Westport, Connecticut. Since she dropped out of Amherst College to open for the pop artist Quinn XCII in 2018, the most rewarding thing for Cutler has been moving tickets and connecting with her fans in person. Every day, she would close her eyes and dream about being back on stage.

“I’ve noticed that a huge thing with my depression and anxiety is if I have constant things to look forward to, it keeps them at bay,” Cutler tells MTV News. “When you put that much stock in one thing, you’re bound to be disappointed. I definitely realized there are a lot of other factors that are necessary for feeling better.”

Stuck at home for 11 months, the artist who brought bedroom pop to the masses had nothing but time to fantasize about the person she wanted to be and the things she wanted to do. That also meant reflecting on who she had been, what she had been through, and what she needed to do to actualize the best version of herself. The culmination of that journey is Cutler’s sophomore solo studio album When I Close My Eyes, out tomorrow (October 15). She has always penned vulnerable lyrics, but here, for the very first time, joyful and unapologetically romantic songs flow from a completely unguarded place — a newfound sense of self-acceptance.

Lauren Tepfer

Cutler released her debut EP, Snow in October, in 2017 while still studying at Amherst, and her career exploded. The pop-EDM single “Your Shirt” caught fire, and she built momentum through a pair of 2018 EPs. Once collaborative indie-pop EP Brent with Jeremy Zucker boasting platinum single “You Were Good to Me” arrived in May 2019, followed by How to Be Human in January 2020, Cutler was an expert at conveying painful feelings in evocative, keenly relatable songs. Because of that, she had a misguided reputation as a sad-song factory; at times, she felt as if people only wanted to hear from her at her lowest points.

“You read comments and start asking yourself, ‘Do my fans not want me to be happy?’” she says. “I know that people want sad songs because they want something to relate to and feel heard, and I totally understand that. But my depression and anxiety aren’t characteristics of me as a person. They’re things that I struggle with, and they’re big parts of my life, but I’m not a categorically sad girl.”

As a kid, Cutler’s parents put her in guitar and piano lessons. She sang covers, wrote songs, and produced it all to avoid having to rely on anyone else. Today, she takes pride in writing and polishing the majority of her own discography, and she “would love for a defining part of my career to be that I helped pave the way for women in production.” But being alone for months, deprived of human connection, shriveled her creativity. Once it was safe, Cutler holed up with Zucker in an upstate New York cabin and made February’s Brent II. She rode the collaborative high to Newport, Rhode Island, where she met up with Quinn XCII, as well as producers Ayokay and Hazey Eyes, to craft When I Close My Eyes.

In Newport, she danced and sang with her friends. They drove around town blasting the demos they were working on, screaming out the windows. She was revitalized, and she couldn’t wait to tease fans with snippets on social media. In doing so, she finally felt comfortable enough to confirm the muse behind her happiest songs, making it explicitly clear in a video shared to TikTok that the euphoric ode “Forever” and the up-tempo, acoustic-infused “You Can Have It” were written for her girlfriend of three years. The former, the album’s focus single, features a voicemail her girlfriend left her on a bad day, telling her she loves her and to keep her head up.

“The position that I’m in has given me more confidence to be authentic,” Cutler says. “It gives me more bravery. I can’t tell you how many people, male or female or nonbinary, have talked to me about how they see someone being brave dating in a same-sex relationship and how that’s inspired them. That just fuels the fire. That type of visibility is far more important than any insecurities or fears I might have about it.”

It’s a massive step forward from the rollout of How to Be Human, which chronicled the dark emotions she navigated during a one-month breakup with her girlfriend. But at the time, Cutler wasn’t ready to admit the melodious, sentimental track “Lucky” was about her. She fibbed to her team, telling them she wrote the song about her bernedoodle puppy, Cooper. “I was nervous to tell people because this was the first time that I’d ever dated a girl. That was terrifying for me because I didn’t know if it was going to come as a surprise to people,” she explains. “I was only 21, and I even felt that 21 was late to be considering dating a girl. I think the reason I’ve been able to be so open about it now is, the more people I told, the more I realized that literally no one in my life was treating it any differently than when I was dating a guy.”

Cutler’s devotion to bringing her many truths to the surface extends beyond her love life and the album’s happy, romantic anthems. The choir-backed, piano- and strings-based ballad “Devil on My Shoulder” is her “favorite song I’ve ever created” because writing it helped her to “separate my issues with mental health from my identity.” Really, for die-hard fans constantly craving sad music, it’s a breakup song for her depression. “There’s something liberating about it,” she says. “I just spent so much time thinking I was boring or quiet because those are the things I felt when my depression was at its worst. Now I know those aren’t things that are true about me.”

The power of When I Close My Eyes is in the way it nimbly traverses contrasting emotions, highlighted by the juxtaposition of “Forever” and “Devil on My Shoulder.” On the title track, Cutler swims in the present, grateful for what and who she has, despite this generation being plagued by perpetual online FOMO. “If I Hadn’t Met You” celebrates when “you find someone in your bed who doesn’t hate the things that go on in your head,” and “Under” reiterates the comforting clarity that comes after finding “the only one.” The album’s nostalgic, slow-burning closer “You’re Gonna Miss This” gazes back at all she longed for while coming of age, using hindsight as a cautionary tale for the future.

“There’s some serious growth between the last album and this one,” Cutler says. “I’ve grown up a lot, and my perspective on a lot of things has shifted and become more refined and mature.” Hang around Cutler long enough, and you will likely hear her talk about the inevitability of impermanence. She is still hyper-aware that change happens frequently, often ruthlessly, but this album captures her at a time when she feels more rooted than ever. She is settled in love. She bought her first home. She is back on the road, her soul reignited, with so much to look forward to. These days, the impermanence that resonates most is inward. Her emotions will come and go. No one label will ever encapsulate her essence. Each season of her life will look different than the one before.

In September, Cutler finally made it to Radio City Music Hall. Her co-headlining, two-night Stay Next to Me tour with Quinn XCII sold out, and when it came time for her to take the stage the first evening, she needed fans to know something. “You are special,” she shouted out between songs. “You deserve to be here. You are loved. No matter what you stand for, who you love, or how you identify.” When it came time for the encore, the voices of over 6,000 fans erupted into a booming chant. “Chelsea! Chelsea! Chelsea!” they cried to remind the singer that she is leaving a lasting mark on them. It felt, if just for a moment, as if they desperately wanted her to know that she’s special, too.