Demi Lovato And G-Eazy Confront Their Headlines In Gripping ‘Breakdown’ Performance

One neat thing about late-night musical performances today is how producers have found new and innovative ways to utilize the space of the studio. By and large, an appearance on The Tonight Show in 2021 is going to look a lot different than one from 2011, and not just because of the décor and set design. Now, the entire studio can be used rather than just the stage, making a three-minute song feel more conceptual.

Take Demi Lovato and G-Eazy‘s rendition of “Breakdown” on Tuesday night (September 28). By centering both singers in front of giant screens and surrounding them with mirrors, the entire performance achieves a heightened sense of drama, especially when the projections behind the singers involve gossipy headlines that begin to feel invasive.

“I miss days where I used to feel like me,” Demi sings early on as stories about their addiction issues envelop the space behind them, literally looming overhead.

G-Eazy, meanwhile, is plagued by tabloid news clippings of his own personal life — breakups, arrests, and more — as he attempts to wade through the noise. “I’m fighting my demons, but they ain’t fighting fair,” he sings.

A performance backdropped by headlines only would likely verge on one-note, so the “Breakdown” staging also utilizes darkness and light, echoing something G-Eazy plunges into on the track (“All alone in dark space, ain’t no light in there”). The projections change into naturalistic imagery, ending on a serene beach scene and the two performers, who remain on separate ends of the stage for the song, embracing in a hug.

It’s all a nice counterbalance to the song’s chorus, where Lovato exclaims, “Oh, I’m in the middle of a breakdown, baby.” By the end, their embrace is clear that nobody can go it alone and that asking for help is the right thing to do. The staging, of course, helps underscore this.

“Breakdown” is track 12 on G-Eazy’s latest album, These Things Happen Too, which dropped on September 24. Check out his Tonight Show performance with Lovato above.

Bop Shop: Songs From Lil Nas X, Kehlani, Parquet Courts, And More

Iann Dior ft. Lil Uzi Vert: “V12”

In the 14 months since “Mood” dropped, Iann Dior has collaborated with an increasingly diverse roster of artists: Jxdn, Mike Shinoda, LilHuddy and Tyson Ritter (!), and now, Lil Uzi Vert. Impressively, he’s sounded at home with all of them. On “V12,” he takes center stage with a golden hook and so much charisma that it feels effortless. Uzi, as ever, is Uzi, and together, they make quite a potent pair. Who’s next? —Patrick Hosken

SZA Sings About ‘The Anonymous Ones’ In New Dear Evan Hansen Song

Tomorrow (September 24), the film adaptation of hit musical Dear Evan Hansen will finally hit theaters, and with it comes a brand-new song written specifically for the movie. That’s fairly common for Hollywood treatments of Broadway shows. But what makes Dear Evan Hansen‘s new tune, “The Anonymous Ones,” special is who co-wrote it (and who sings it in the film), as well as who sings it on the soundtrack.

For the film, star Amandla Stenberg collaborated with original music writers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul to make “The Anonymous Ones” a real moment for her character, Alana. And in keeping with that, a new version of the track from SZA feels equally big. Her take on “The Anonymous Ones” comes complete with a new video that dropped today (September 23).

In the clip, helmed by superstar director Collin Tilley, SZA’s daily routine illuminates the undercurrent of the song’s meaning: that everyone is going through their own battles, often quietly and anonymously, and that you never quite know anyone’s story. “Keep on keeping secrets that they think they have to hide,” she sings. “What if everybody’s secret is they have that secret side?”

It’s a message that runs through both the musical and the film, which follow the fallout of the title character’s big lie and its consequences. With him through that is Alana, whose own inner turmoil is what inspired her to work with Pasek and Paul on the track.

“The intention was to deepen her as a character and understand that she’s actually going through her own struggles with mental illness,” Stenberg said in a recent interview.

“She’s trying to tell [Evan] you might feel alone in everything that you’re going through, but there are so many people — the anonymous ones — who are also going through it, too, and who are also struggling with mental illness. You just have to get to know them deeper, and then you might actually connect and be vulnerable with each other, and we might all feel less alone.”

“I’m so happy that she connects to it and feels it in her heart,” Stenberg said. Check out SZA’s version of “The Anonymous Ones” and its accompanying new visual above.

Lil Nas X’s ‘Jolene’ Cover Is Wrapped In Flowers And Butterflies

As the story goes, Dolly Parton wrote “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” both on the same day. That’s the kind of music trivia that makes the rounds on Twitter every few months 1) because it’s fascinating, and 2) because the song itself contains multitudes and sounds like it must’ve been labored over for longer than an afternoon. But nearly 50 years after first being recorded, it remains singular, even as it’s likely one of the most-covered popular songs by contemporary artists.

Much like “Jolene,” Lil Nas X is also everywhere. It makes sense that he’d cover the song, as he did for BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge, because both entities are extremely strong cultural forces at the moment. When they come together, it sounds pretty good!

As he sings delicately and carefully in a deep baritone infused with a subtle twang, Lil Nas X stands at a florally arranged mic stand gripping a sparkling mic and looking directly in the camera. It’s a comparatively low-key affair compared to his usual choreo-heavy, visionary performances (see both the 2021 and 2019 VMAs, plus his music videos). But it’s one more facet of the artist’s personality and seems quite intentional — “Look, I can do gentle ballads, too.”

There’s a lot of subtext here as well. In addition to being an American standard, “Jolene” is a country song. In 2019, Lil Nas X rose to prominence thanks to his own country song, “Old Town Road,” which quickly caused a torrent of controversy that LNX persevered through to become a cultural icon. One of the best “Jolene” covers, also, is by Parton’s goddaughter Miley Cyrus — who, naturally, appears on Montero, the great debut album from Lil Nas X that dropped last week.

Apart from all that, it’s just a nice song, and LNX sounds good covering it. Check out Lil Nas X’s brief yet moody “Jolene” cover above.

Halsey Ends Up A Bloody Mess In New ‘I Am Not A Woman, I’m A God’ Live Video

With the release of her fourth album, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, in late August, Halsey transformed into the kind of bold, forward-thinking artist her earlier work suggested she was trending toward becoming. Aided by emphatically moody but never oppressive electronic and atmospheric orchestrations by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, one of the LP’s standouts remains the insurgent “I Am Not a Woman, I’m a God.”

In the latest video for the energetic track — filmed live, directed by Dani Vitale, and released via YouTube over the weekend — Halsey sings the track in a pretty straight-ahead fashion, decked out in a white dress and standing amid a dazzling display of multicolored lights. If it were just this scene for three minutes, it’d make for a pretty compelling clip.

But this is Halsey, so there’s a twist. In this case, it’s a ton of blood.

Around halfway through, she starts getting splattered with dark cherry-colored fake blood, and by the time the song ends, it’s dripping down into her mouth, creating a haunting Greco-Roman statuesque silhouette of violence. A pretty cool visual!

Contrasted with the song’s regal yet ominous original visual, which finds Halsey claiming her power, this new version complements the inner turmoil of the song’s lyrics quite nicely. “Every day, I got a smile where my frown goes,” she sings in the first version. “A couple bodies in the garden where the grass grows.”

If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It’s a huge accomplishment in Halsey’s career as a visionary artist, which is why it came with a short film to accompany its release. This latest “I Am Not a Woman, I’m a God” clip is not part of that, but get lost in it anyway above.

Lil Nas X’s Montero Has A Song For Every Mood

Listen to it when you’re feeling: anxious.

Key lyric: “Hope my little bit of hope don’t fade away / I’ve been living on an island made from fate / Can’t go running back to home, I can’t facе her face”

By this point, Nas X has established how he has at times destructively internalized doubt, and the effects of that persist here (“Could I be wrong? Was everybody right about me? / Scary things in my head”). Dark, alternative-leaning “Tales of Dominica,” yet again tag-teamed by Fedi and Take a Daytrip, finds Nas X “living in my lowest, it’s safe to say,” but not in the literal sense. From the outside looking in, he’s at his highest. The problem is that he’s terrified of waking up to find it all gone, to be dumped back into the hollowness he grew up in. This song takes a more poetic approach than “Dead Right Now” to addressing his painful family roots, though the message is still loud and clear: He came from a broken home, and after making it out, his biggest fear is ending up alone anyway.

Bop Shop: Songs From Snail Mail, Wonho, Tems, And More

If anyone can get a K-pop stan to even remotely care about sports, it’s Wonho in a football uniform. His new single “Blue,” the title track of his sophomore mini-album Blue Letter, displays the soloist in a completely new light, both sonically and visually. As the start of his new era, “Blue” explores happier, more optimistic themes compared to the darker concepts he explored in his past few releases. “We are young, we are dumb, we’ll just party all night long,” he sings, representing an extremely different state of mind. Accompanied by a lighthearted, campy, sports-themed music video, Wonho turns over a new leaf and enters this comeback with joy, spirit, and confidence. —Sarina Bhutani

After Ed Sheeran’s Math-Symbol Albums Comes ‘Five More Records With A Plan’

A decade ago, Ed Sheeran began a quest. He named his first album + (“Plus”) and his 2014 follow-up x (“Multiply”) as part of a master plan. “‘Multiply’ was called ‘Multiply’ because it made everything that was on ‘Plus’ bigger,” he told Entertainment Weekly in 2015. “From the venues to the songs to the radio plays to the sales. I don’t know what the theme on the next album is yet because I haven’t made it.”

That ended up being 2017’s ÷ (“Divide), which, despite its more reductive title, became his biggest yet: It hit No. 1 in the United States and all over Europe, yielded chart-topping singles, and led to the highest-grossing tour of all time. It also made Sheeran a household name — so it makes sense that, after a slight diversion in 2019’s No.6 Collaborations Project, he’s chosen to not call his next album (“Subtract”). Instead, the more harmonious = (“Equals”) will drop in October.

But as Sheeran told MTV News ahead of the 2021 VMAs, don’t count out “Subtract” just yet. “There’s one more album after ‘Equals,'” he told correspondent Dometi Pongo on the red carpet, standing with his label signee Maisie Peters. “And then the mathematics are done.”

While he didn’t explicitly confirm that the final one in the sequence would, in fact, be called , the process of elimination would suggest it. If that’s true, that same EW interview might point toward what we could expect an album called “Subtract” to sound like: “My idea for ‘Subtract’ was to not have anything on it, just be an acoustic record.”

“Equals,” meanwhile, is due to be very much not an acoustic record. Though the singer-songwriter touches on early single “Visiting Hours” might suggest it, fellow = tracks “Bad Habits” and “Shivers” lean very heavily into dance-pop. When he performed “Shivers” at last night’s VMAs, he gripped his acoustic guitar as always, though he did it while backed up with a full band and plenty of pop style.

It seems fair to assume that =, like Sheeran’s preceding albums, will be a mixed bag of ballads and more pop-driven bangers. And if his potential future “Subtract” era brings a return to his folky roots, it’ll also present some real closure. Once the math symbols are through, Sheeran said to MTV News, “then it’s five more records with a plan.”

There’s something extremely satisfying about seeing Sheeran carry out this plan, which could have very easily become a mere gimmick in the vein of Sufjan Stevens’s 50 states project. He’s stuck to his guns through massive life changes — marriage, fatherhood — and it’s given him some great perspective.

“For the whole of ‘Divide,’ I didn’t look back. I was just forward, forward, forward,” he told MTV News. “And then I got to the end of it, and I was like, I wish I’d stopped for a little bit and just been like, ah, this went well.” Spoken like a true balanced equation.

Check out all the winner’s from the 2021 VMAs right here.

Lil Nas X Was On ‘Cloud 179’ After His Big Night At The VMAs

With the benefit of 12 hours of hindsight, it seems accurate to say that no one had more fun at the 2021 VMAs than Lil Nas X. He went into the night with five nominations and left with three, including the show’s top prize of Video of the Year. He brought his cinematic visions for both “Industry Baby” and “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” to life onstage with a dazzling performance.

And by the time MTV News got ahold of him backstage, LNX was searching very high in the sky for the right description to match his mood. “What does it feel like? I’m on cloud 179,” he told correspondent Dometi Pongo. Without missing a beat, because few understand the value of promotion as well as he does, LNX quickly added some key information in a single breath: “And my album comes out September 17. Everybody go buy my album!”

To that end, his debut, Montero, is set to reveal even more sides of the multitalented artist than we’ve seen since he galloped on the scene in late 2018 with “Old Town Road.” Sometimes I genuinely forget he’s the same dude who gave us the Billboard-disrupting song about “bull-riding and boobies” and a Billy Ray Cyrus career resurgence because he’s spent the years since completely redefining himself at every turn. He even gave “Old Town Road” a quick “I don’t know her” during the interview, playfully mistaking it for Breland’s “My Truck.”

It shows that LNX is on a path of self-revelation, which he will continue to mine on Montero. “This new era is about finding myself, I guess. Covid gave me a lot of time to think about what I want to do in life and how I have to stop caring about what everybody else wanna think about what I gotta do.”

He teased a “banger” coming from him and Kid Cudi in 2022. (“It’s gonna be the song of the year!”) He mentioned how his transcendence of genre across pop, rap, country, and more will all come into play on his debut album. (“It’s all gonna slap, baby.”) And unlike in the “Industry Baby” video and in his performance onstage last night, he did not spontaneously use a shower-dance scene as a climactic show-stopping centerpiece.

But he did speak candidly about making the visual and about what he wanting to accomplish with its symbolism — which finds him a prisoner but still owning every bit of scenery and seemingly pulling all the strings from within. It’s a motif that he pulled from in his ravishing performance as well.

“It’s been a long year for me,” he said. “I’ve had to overcome a lot of internal battles. The prison represented me breaking out of that.”

Check out all the winner’s from the 2021 VMAs right here.

Ozuna Teases New Collab With Megan Thee Stallion And Blackpink

Last night, at the 2021 VMAs, Puerto Rico’s Ozuna turned the entire stage at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center into his own cosmic arcade. To bring his newest single “La Funka” to (far-out) life, the singer enlisted life-size teddy-bear backup dancers and a panoramic view of the moon. It could be read as the scope of the artist’s ambitions.

As he told MTV News ahead of the show, he’s shooting for the stars when it comes to his upcoming collaborations. “DJ Snake, Megan Thee Stallion, Blackpink and Ozuna, coming up next,” Ozuna told correspondent Dometi Pongo on the red carpet. “That’s here! A [news] premiere here!”

Ozuna’s music videos and streaming tracks regularly rack up millions and millions of plays, so a collab single with Megan Thee Stallion, Blackpink, and DJ Snake truly has the potential to break some records. And from his planetary performance last night (September 12), it seems quite possible that’s precisely what he’s going for.

You wouldn’t necessarily know the artist’s sheer global magnitude from his chipper demeanor. He was all smiles as he spoke to MTV News about getting the call to premiere “La Funka” at this year’s show and grinned wide when he recalled his 2018’s smash breakthrough with Selena Gomez, Cardi B, and DJ Snake, “Taki Taki.” “It’s a good time to do the best premiere [and] the best performance,” he said.

“La Funka” is a relentlessly upbeat reggaeton-pop jam, showcasing Ozuna’s golden vocals as he’s made a career out of flexing on tracks with Daddy Yankee, Karol G, and Rosalía, with whom he performed a close-encounter version of “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi” at the 2019 VMAs. If his past work is any indication, the collab single with DJ Snake, Meg, and Blackpink is set to be a certified banger.

Ozuna’s latest album was 2021’s Los Dioses, which he made with Anuel AA. Since 2017, he’s released a new album every year. The countdown is on until his next single — until then, relive the space fun of his “La Funka” VMAs performance below.

Check out all the winner’s from the 2021 VMAs right here.