A conversation with our latest cover star on the queer influences that shaped him, the joy of rock climbing, and what he wished he'd done when he met the president (not this one, the last one).
Intuition is a big word for Frank Ocean. It’s been a guiding star in his uncharted course to success. His trust in it has led to various awards, beloved albums, even a surprise magazine filled with two years of globetrotting adventures.
Believe it or not, intuition also told us that one day Frank Ocean’s path would cross our own. So when the opportunity arose to collaborate — on the cover story for our 10th issue, no less — we were, on some level, not surprised. We were, nevertheless, nervous, excited and well aware that we needed to create something special. Frank is one of those people who makes you want to be your best.
As Collier snapped her frames at a furious pace, we stood by trying to take it all in. At one point, Frank looked over and, for whatever reason, we responded with enthusiastic thumbs-up. A cheesy move, yes, but once we chatted a few days later for the interview, we quickly realized that Frank is not the kind of person looking for a slick performance from everyone he encounters. He was thoughtful, open and earnest. It was a delight getting answers to the questions we’ve wanted to ask him for years.
Hey, Frank. How is 2019 treating you? Everything’s cool. Everything’s good. Been keeping busy.
What’s been filling up your days lately? Same old: making things, a lot of time in the studio between here [New York] and L.A. I split my time. …
A field trip to Austin, TX, with creative superhuman Paul Soileau
Back in 2012, I saw Christeene perform at her very first gig in Brooklyn at Glasslands Gallery. It was a high-energy terrorist drag show with lots of mooning and stage diving. The crowd went wild. By that time, I was already familiar with her music, videos and filthy lyrics:
I am your new celebrity
I am your new America
I am the piece of filthy meat
That you take home and treat to yourself
— “African Mayonnaise” (2012)
But it’s Christeene’s live show that won me over and left a real impression. The audience interaction I found poignant and sincere; same with her no-bullshit approach to issues of gender politics, censorship and the policing of our queer community. It was raw, dirty, entertaining and enlightening, all at the same time. Enchanted, I decided I’d never again miss a chance to see her perform.
Christeene and I met socially a number of times, in typically late-night affairs, before or after her appearances. We’d even had our pictures taken together. But I knew very little about the person behind the act, an Austin-based native of Louisiana named Paul Soileau. So when an invitation arrived from the Museum of Human Achievement in Austin, I knew right away that I needed to go on a field trip with Christeene, to document and investigate.
When Paul and I met on my first night in Austin, it felt like déjà vu, like maybe we were separated at birth. …
In pursuit of pop stardom, the German-born singer left the suburbs of Cologne for the promise of Los Angeles. Soon, she’ll need no introduction.
“It’s crazy to think my first single came out only a year ago.” Kim Petras took a breath to consider the whirlwind. Six years ago she left Germany and headed to L.A., where, like countless others before her, she assumed her celebrity status awaited.
She wasn’t wrong. Within the last few months alone, she attended the MTV Video Music Awards for the first time, performed her very first stadium show (at Arthur Ashe Stadium) and took the stage at Billboard’s annual Hot 100 Festival. Now, her full-length debut is set to drop in 2019. This may all sound like the candied precursor to a glorious pop career, but despite the synthetic, sugary goodness of her music, arriving wasn’t a cakewalk. “What I have,” Kim said, “I worked for it.”
Following an absurdly busy August in New York, Kim returned to L.A. in time to celebrate her 27th birthday, at Disneyland no less. She spent the day with close friends and a bunch of gummy edibles, shutting off her phone for an adventure in the park. She needed to unwind before what might be an even busier autumn, including an upcoming tour with Troye Sivan. “It felt great to just be a person,” she told me, remembering the edibles. “I just needed a day to be stupid.”
She says all this without an ounce of irony — a key facet of her brand. As we chatted, she called herself “basic,” citing her abiding interests in Pumpkin Spice Lattes and ramen noodles. …
With the release of “Orange Trees” and its accompanying video, Marina (née “and the Diamonds”) has completed the three-song annunciation of her upcoming album, LOVE + FEAR. The LP will be split into two eight-track halves — “LOVE” and “FEAR” — but unlike Marina’s ultra-iconic Electra Heart, these songs are not delivered by crafted personae. They’re Marina herself, unshielded, offering hard-won visions of calm. The long-term stan will immediately pick up on the lack of sharp tension in Marina’s voice, which defined earlier songs like “Oh No!” from The Family Jewels, “Homewrecker” from Electra Heart, and “I’m a Ruin” from Froot. Although she sounds at peace, these songs are not boring. She’s left the sparser production of Froot to return to a banging electro-pop backing, but with none of the friction of her first forays into the genre. She’s come full-circle, unblonded, at ease with her own electricity.
“Orange Trees” braids her voice with a mellow acoustic guitar, rippling synths and a syncopated breezy beat, like a way chiller version of her collaboration with Clean Bandit, “Baby.” It’s summery as all get-out. “Handmade Heaven” starts in alienation — “I carry along a feel of unease / I want to belong like the birds in the trees” — which changes to relation, with the repetition of “birds of a feather fly together.” The singer reconnects with nature in the handmade paradise of the song, which offers the rest of us a glint of the same feeling. Finally, “Superstar” is an ode to a love that transcends the dark, empty matter of distance: “All of the days that we spend apart / My love is a planet revolving your heart.” The bright vocals are offset by a roiling trap-pop beat that drives the song into its explosive post-chorus. …
10. Pure by Diana Gordon
We’re off to a weird start since Pure is an EP and not a full album, but it’s actually immaculate and Diana Gordon deserves way more shine. She’s shed her old stage name — Wynter Gordon, of “Dirty Talk” and “Buy My Love” success — and returned to her roots. She’s an immensely talented songwriter. For example, she’s one of just three co-writers on “Sorry,” the biggest hit from Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Her own work is much less pop, more downtempo, both anguished and exultant. “Wolverine” is my favorite entry in the tracks-titled-after-proper-nouns trend that Young Thug set off. “Kool Aid” will make you call your mother. In “Too Young,” the listener is cast as her child, the product of an imperfect union that she can’t forget. It’s all so vibey — you can feel her need to express herself, to reach you however she can. Each song is its own little world, spinning smoothly on the axis of her emotions.
9. Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae
Our cybertronic seraph only continues to widen her wingspan. In the years since The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae’s star has risen so high she’s become a Met Gala fixture, a silver screen queen, and a champion for progressive Black activism at the forefront of our culture. The second track, “Crazy Classic Life,” features a deft, comic, and incisive rap that echoes her unapologetically political verse on “Q.U.E.E.N.” Which is to say nothing of “Django Jane.” Her art is at the crest of fourth-wave feminism, working out the mechanics of a cyber sensuality. …
Listen to her new track and watch the music video
Brooke Candy kept it pushing this 2018. Since going independent, Brooke shifted her trajectory from mass-market pop (like last year’s “Living Out Loud” feat. Sia) toward the haute, the conceptual, and the unapologetically political. Earlier this year, Brooke collaborated with Mykki Blanco and Pussy Riot for “My Sex,” a celebration of the agency that arises from claiming your sexuality, regardless of its form. These independent songs go way harder, and the all-in blowout energy of her debut “Opulence” is back. “Oomph” is an aggressive summons to throw your ass in a circle, and maybe get your head knocked back.
ojivolta is a duo of producers Mark Williams and Raul Cubina, who might best be known for their credits on “Fall in Line,” the Grammy-nominated Xtina & Demi Lovato record. They also earned songwriting credits for Jon Bellion’s 2x Platinum Top 20 hit “All Time Low.” It’s mind-boggling that a similar team helped craft these three wildly different songs, which is a testament both to ojivolta’s versatility and Brooke Candy’s singular artistic vision and control. “Oomph” is closer to the sound and structure of “All Time Low” but it warps the beat much more, creates weirder and more squeamish movements of energy. It’s squelchy and dissonant, chunky and heavily distorted, but the rhythm — the sweaty, fem-dommy, breathy rhythm — is never lost. And it’s infectious.
Brooke Candy directed the video herself. Stunting in the desert like corporate Arizonan fucking cock destroyers , Brooke and Peli make a moment out of a retro convertible, shoulder-padded suits, and some hyper-reflective après-ski shades. …
A book that celebrates the artist’s lasting impact in our culture
We all have our own story of where we were and who we were with when we learned Michael Jackson was dead. I was in the car with my mom and my older brother, we heard the news over the radio. Despite the controversies that followed Jackson through his late years, his lasting impact on our global culture is undeniable. This is what’s explored in the new book, “Michael Jackson: On the Wall”. The work of over 40 major artists who were inspired by Michael, including David LaChapelle and Andy Warhol, are compiled and reflected on.
Contributors like Zadie Smith explore what she calls the “magical thinking” around him. If it was so clear Jackson was bleaching his own skin, why did so many fans chalk it up to conditions like vitiligo? She writes, “That’s when you understand how strong the force of desire is, how much it can deny and distort. It simply could not be that the most famous black man in the world wanted to be white. It would kill us to believe it. And so we refused to do so.”
Notable is that contemporary art still focuses on Jackson. From Donald Urquhart’s satirical “A Michael Jackson Alphabet” (2017), to Rodney McMillian’s sobering portrait of Jackson’s childhood home, “2300 Jackson Street” (2004), hung next to lyrics from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: “It ain’t no trick to get rich quick/ If you dig, dig, dig with a shovel or a pick.”
Jackson may be dead, but his legacy is proving immortal. …
Sing along to her latest track!
There are two things gays love: Halloween and heartbreak. Our pop prophet (and recent cover star) Kim Petras has managed to deliver celebrations of both this year, and we couldn’t be more grateful. “Feeling of Falling” is an emo space-age anthem for all those times you’ve let yourself catch feelings despite every cell in your body warning you not to. She’s taken us from the graveyard to a club on the dark side of the moon, to that lit-up dancefloor where you suffer love more gladly than anywhere else.
“Feeling of Falling” has a more melancholic tone here than a bubbly track like “Heart to Break.” This song is the flipside to that feeling; it’s all the bottled-up fear that carries you to the moment when you fully give your heart away. The verses are anxious and tormented — “I can’t keep holding onto air / If we hit the bottom, I don’t know what’s there” — before Petras leans into the love she’s staved off so long: “If you want to stay, be my one mistake / I don’t want to wait anymore.” Love hurts. You love it. Imprison me, for I, except you enthrall me, never shall be free. That vibe, but very dance-y.
Cheat Codes has worked with Demi Lovato and Becky G; they’ve remixed Katy Perry and Bebe Rexha. Petras is perfectly in her element here, and she sounds every second the rising pop star that she is. “Feeling of Falling” is the natural evolution of the interstellar dance-pop sound that Ariana Grande and Zedd introduced in 2014. …
The self-proclaimed "dyke bitch" is back with a new single
Pussy is God is something that we’ve all known, in one way or another, for some time now. King Princess, the self proclaimed “dyke bitch,” newest single aptly titled “Pussy is God” restates the bravado of the female genitalia, and makes another declaration of queer romance and sensuality for the cohort of Gen-Z’ers and hyper-contemporary music lovers alike who idolize the American singer-songwriter.
Born Mikaela Straus, King Princess launched herself into the queer hall of fame this past summer with her debut EP Make My Bed that features hit singles like “1950” and “Talia.” Straus takes music in her own direction combining the sounds of teen bedroom pop, blues, and now the drum beats of R&B.
“Pussy is God” was originally released in video format with a washed out green screen complimenting the song’s soft vocals. The music video plays on ideas of vintage children’s shows and ads, skipping every so often and featuring whimsical floating objects. The joking tone King Princess inhabits on the track (“Your pussy is god, and you know / I think you’re so cute when you’re high”) are mimicked in the video’s humorous dance sequences, fashion styling, and the selective editing.
By drawing her fans in with her penchant for humor and general laid back attitude, King Princess creates eloquent and relevant proclamations necessary to garner the younger fan base. The more serious listeners will appreciate the nuanced lyricism and tightly composed, historically-indentured musicality. …
Dance music's best kept secret is back for the sake of the future.
It’s been eight years since Body Talk. After the massive success of singles like “Dancing On My Own” and “Call Your Girlfriend,” Robyn stepped back from the pop conversation. The distance has done her well. With Honey (Konichiwa Records), out this past weekend, the Swedish singer-songwriter has evolved beyond the ultra-assertive 2010s electro-pop that she mastered. Body Talk was built to interject the market, to force you to see and hear Robyn from the margins. Here, those pulsing dance floor hymns have loosened into a language more fluid, and more house, with a bit of R&B and disco for influence. The nine tracks are invitations to groove, to dig your hips into the beat, rather than just thump your chest against it. It’s body contact over body talk.
Robyn the Fembot has been decommissioned for now, her hard edges and staccato rhythms have been shelved. Honey is delivered by a more realistic voice, concerned with the effect of light on water, with “strands of saliva,” with “every color and every taste.” Robyn, speaking with Interview said: “There was such a physical pleasure and sexuality to making music and creating this soundscape in which my body could experience those kind of feelings again.” She’s let the music – intimate, seductive, and emotional – teach her to feel again. Recovering from emotional trauma, Robyn writes how love and sensuality can help us cross the emptiness that loss creates. On title track “Honey,” Robyn asks, “Won’t you get me right where the hurt is?” Pleasure, she suggests, can be one path to healing pain, and honey is some of the most ancient nutrition. …
Kim Petras haunts in Halloween month with a ghostly mixtape.
What exactly are we learning from Kim Petras? Well, for one: There is no specific market formula to success. With eight stand-alone records out over the past 12 months, Kim has been releasing the year’s best pop music and hitting the charts without a major record label behind her. Two: Clearly we all need to be taking Halloween way more seriously.
The singer’s latest is a Halloween-themed mixtape released (unannounced) today, Turn Off The Light, Vol. 1. Featuring eight brand new thematically titled tracks, including “o m e n,” “Tell Me It’s A Nightmare” and “In The Next Life,” which stars Kim finally singing in German, Turn Off The Light, Vol. 1 haunted straight in on the first day of the year’s spookiest month, and I’m sure a lot of fans are shook.
Not for nothing, but the mixtape shines yet another light on Kim’s diabolical taste for pop music. If her previous singles like “I Don’t Want It All” or “Heart to Break” instructed us on her taste for the sparkle and sheen of pop delight, Turn Off The Light, Vol. 1 (And I haven’t even mentioned that “Vol. 1” implies a “Vol. 2″…) let’s us know arena-anthems are not far from her reach. Elongated fingers or not, Kim has proven again that she has a firm grip on her not just her own musical needs, but the general audiences’ wants as well.
The mixtape has a more fully rounded electronic, synth driven sound. …
Sappho’s deflowering has made its way back to the queer-vogue.
The flower is the oldest virgin metaphor in the books, literally. It dates back to Sappho — the Greek feminist hero and queer champion from Lesbos. “Her mouth for immolation / was ripe, and mine the art; and one long kiss of passion / deflowered her virgin heart.” Sappho wrote in her lyric, “The First Kiss.” Queers have been shouting Sappho’s praises ever since because, not only was Sappho among the firsts to write about same-sex desire, Sappho was one of the firsts to take the marginalized sense of same-sex affection and ascribe to the natural world. Turning her own homosexual purity into a mainstream understanding.
Fast forward several millennium later and enter Troye Sivan. At 17, the Australian garnered a large fanbase on YouTube by posting videos of himself singing. At 20, Troye came out to thousands of his subscribers in an eight minute long video in the style of “It Gets Better.” (His parents were supportive from the get-go.) Naturally, Troye went viral. It presently has over eight million views. Following his public honesty, a record deal from EMI Australia (a Universal Music Australia Party) followed and thus a bona-fide pop-star from the digital generation was born. His debut album, Blue Neighbourhood secured international and industry fame. “Blue Neighbourhood Trilogy“, the three-part film released in tandem with the album told a cliché love-story between Troye and another boy: Childhood friends turned teenage lovers turned first heart-break. It’s all very regular by pop-imagery and pop-media standards, but it was the first time pop-culture was handed a same-sex teenage love story that bode well in the market. …