Nat And Alex Wolff’s New Direction

Brothers Nat and Alex Wolff have been making music since they were kids. Alex, the younger of the two, earned his first writing credit at age 6, while Nat was penning forlorn songs and rearranging his favorite Beatles tracks at 5 years old. But they’ve always been stronger together than apart, and their latest singles — “Cool Kids” and “Note” (out now) — are proof.

Though written separately, as they always do — Nat wrote “Cool Kids” while he was temporarily living in Los Angeles, while Alex penned “Note” after a long night of tossing and turning anxieties in his head — they weren’t afraid to get a little experimental on the production side, bashing trash can lids and recording hidden messages on their keyboards. As a result, the two tracks fit perfectly together in their own weird way. “Cool Kids” is the melancholic turn-up, while “Note” is the come down you play in your soft hours. “It was definitely more experimental than we’ve been before,” Nat told MTV News of their close creative process.

And this is just a taste of what’s to come, as Nat and Alex have plans to release more music this year. MTV News talked to the duo about their new tracks, experimenting in the studio, and what inspires them.

MTV News: Your last formal project together was the EP in 2016. Why did like now feel like the right time to release new music?

Nat Wolff: We’ve been working on music all through that time. We’ve been playing shows and Alex has done some music for his film that he made, and we’ve been doing different things. But the decision to come together as a band to do two new songs, that happened when we started to go in a little bit of a new direction. It was definitely more experimental than we’ve been before.

MTV News: Were you just kind of excited by the musical landscape? What inspired that change?

Alex Wolff: When you give yourself that amount of time, it’s about two years, I think that a bunch of albums come out from other people and we discovered a bunch of different people, and we were starting to listen to a lot of different styles of music. I remember at the tail end of Public Places, our last thing, we were getting really into Frank Ocean’s style of production and playing around with it. Tame Impala, too. So we started trying more experimental vocal sampling and laying our voices as instruments and cutting them up, and also just listening to [Kendrick Lamar’s] Damn and a bunch of hip-hop albums.

So we took that time to go into these songs without our normal way of formulating music… We were bringing in crazy instruments, and sampling our vocals, and banging on stuff, and looping it backwards, and just like, fuck it, whatever, it all goes. We just got more ballsy. Hopefully, we’ll get more and more and more crazy until we put out a terrible album, and then we’ll start to bring it back.

MTV News: Which song came first: “Cool Kids” or “Note”?

Alex: I’m not sure, yeah I’m trying to think of the time…

Nat: We can just say that they came on the exact same day because there’s no way to prove that’s not true. And that’d be kinda cool if we wrote them the exact same time in different places and then we showed them to each other. [Laughs]

Alex: It was around the same time, and we knew that we’d pair them together. That’s one thing that we always subconsciously do is we’ll pair up songs, like this vibe goes with this — the way you curate a playlist.

MTV News: What was the vibe you were going for with these two tracks then?

Alex: We like to say that if a bunch of people are hanging out in a room, let’s say like a melancholic party, they’re dancing around listening to “Cool Kids.” Then the party cools down, and there’s like one or two people sitting there and “Note” comes on, and they just cry as if they reminisce about the party.

Nat: They’re nostalgic for the party that just happened.

David Levi

MTV News: Nat, you wrote “Cool Kids” and Alex wrote “Note.” How did you guys collaborate on these tracks?

Alex: “Note” just came out of me. I stayed up all night, wrote it on the piano. My girlfriend was in Germany working. I was paranoid, and I missed her. You know when you stay up all night and you just look terrible and you feel terrible? I was in that state. But the sun was also rising, so I kinda just started experimenting and writing a different type of song. I think Nat was in a similar mindset while writing “Cool Kids.” Then we got in the studio and just shattered whatever we would have done a year and a half ago, two years ago, and tried something different for every instrument. We were pushing each others boundaries.

Nat: We have a crazy LCD Soundsystem drum beat in my verses to “Cool Kids.” And that was sort of the idea of the song, but somehow then the song started not feeling like itself, so we took that out and it opened us up to go in this completely other direction. That’s the most exciting thing ever: throwing away what your idea is of the thing you’re doing.

Alex: We just yelled into a keyboard, like an old Casio keyboard, for 45 minutes…

Nat: Alex has the head of a trash can, and he’s smashing it against the wall towards the microphone. Occasionally the thought passed through our head like, “What the hell are we doing?”

MTV News: Let’s talk about “Cool Kids.” Nat, why are you so sad in L.A.?

Nat: That’s what you got from it?

MTV News: One of the lyrics is “I wear a face that hurts a lot.”

Nat: This song is about the difference between the face that you wear as your persona and then the person that you really keep hidden. That you push down, the shadow side.

MTV News: Like Carl Jung.

Nat: Yeah, exactly. I just remember seeing a drunk friend jump into a swimming pool with all their clothes on. And they had their phone in their pocket. He woke up the next morning and was like, “What happened to my phone?” And we were like, “Your phone’s gone man.” That image got me to start writing.

Alex: What’s great about the two songs being paired together is “Cool Kids” is a lot of colors and impressions and images. That’s what I love about it; everything is emotionally succinct even if some things are abstract and not 100 percent. “Note” is almost exactly the opposite, where it’s almost like a written down [inaudible 00:14:20] like long, like sometimes a long winded, but very stream of consciousness and inspired by Neil Young-style lyrics.

Nat: The headline is like, “Nat and Alex Wolff compare themselves to Carl Young, Neil Young, and the Beach Boys.”

MTV News: I will keep that in mind.

Nat: Also, I wrote the song when we had been going through some big struggles as a family, and I was stuck in L.A., while the rest of family was in New York, and I was super bummed out. Honestly, I do feel like the song captures a feeling that I had of feeling really alienated and separated. I feel like “Note” has a little bit of a melancholy, alienated feel too.

Alex: It was a lonely time.

Nat: Both songs were written at a time when our dad was really sick, and then he got better, and it was a miracle. But at the time that he was sick, we were all kind of like split up. So I think you hear that in these songs.

MTV News: And you still write separately, right?

Nat: We always have. We’ve only written two or three songs together our whole life.

Alex: And they’re terrible.

Nat: Honestly. They’re terrible.

Alex: But “Note” also doesn’t exist without Nat coming in and helping me get outside of it.

Nat: I can’t really think of a song where one of us hasn’t given a note to the other. You know what I mean? Every song has pieces of the other. In terms of production, we do everything 50-50. There is nobody who I am on the same page with more than Alex. I read an interview with the Coen Brothers, where they were saying that the actors could go up to either of them and ask them a question, and they’d give the same answer. It honestly feels like one of us could go to the bathroom, and the other could answer for the other.

Alex: And we fist fight in the bathroom, and then we come back and everything’s OK.

MTV News: Would you say one is more detail-oriented than the other?

Nat: Alex.

Alex: Definitely. One might say too detail oriented. One might say this.

Nat: I would say that. With “Cool Kids,” I come and sort of have a bulk of the idea, because it’s my song, and it’s a little bit all over the place, but Alex is really good at honing it. Then I would say Alex did the bulk of “Note,” and I’m good at sending it in different directions and loosening it up a little bit.

Alex: That’s how we are socially too.

Cover artwork for Cool Kids + Note, painted by Brooke Adams

MTV News: What’s the story behind the single artwork? It’s really striking.

Nat: It’s a portrait of our grandma…

Alex: That our friend made, and it’s beautiful. By Brooke Adams. She painted it, and we just thought it was a good representation of the melancholy…

Nat: We were recording those songs right when she passed away. But it’s also that she’s a beautiful person, and it’s a beautiful picture. It’s something we could agree on. Also, when you’re an actor you have to take so many pictures, and there’s so many pictures of you out there. So for our music it’s nice to not have it be about us. Even our last album we covered our faces with weird lights and stuff. It’s also meaningful to the family.

MTV News: It takes the focus off you.

Nat: And puts it on our grandma. Our grandma’s like, “I don’t want that focus.”

Alex: “I don’t like that music. Go back to the folk music.”

Ellie Goulding Wants To Be A Teen Again Very Badly On ‘Sixteen’

No phone bills. The weight of figuring out what to wear to school tomorrow. Having a crush in your class who doesn’t notice you beside them, so you’re scared to make the first move. Owning an unfamiliar body that stretches and morphs when you’re not paying attention, only to be informed by family and friends and subsequently blushing after being told that you’re changing. Whether you’re anticipating it, currently going through it, or have gone through it and came out on the other side, being a teenager is quite the challenge. It’s literally a mind-altering event that causes one to become on the road to the person that they’ll ultimately become, both physically and mentally.

But in this stressful time of clenched fists, purple faces, and salty tears, there are weightless times without responsibility that are later looked back on with a smile on the face. Ellie Goulding‘s latest tune, “Sixteen,” is dedicated to this period defined by acne. Her memories are crystal-clear sequences as she looks back in this mid-tempo jam and fondly recalls simpler times — simple as in fewer bills, because in terms of emotions, being a teenager is much more difficult than being a child or an adult.

“Sixteen” is cheery in a sad way, like the graduation music that scores the final day of high school. While the soft production is sunny and friendly, Goulding sounds somber beneath her vibrant disposition as she stares into the night sky on a cliff outside of town, eyes misty while she’s lost in her memories. It feels personal, like we’re listening into a private conversation between two conflicted souls desperate for backward time travel.

She recalls wise words from teachers and moving away from town with a smile on her face that you can hear. Then a tear slinks down the face. The chorus is only three lines, but “sixteen” is the last of each one. Sixteen was when it all made sense. Sixteen was when the smiles were unforced and the attraction was electric and authentic. For now, her and the person she’s singing to can only think of what that connection felt like as they try to explain to themselves that it just isn’t there anymore.

Goulding will appear on the Game of Thrones album For the Throne – Music Inspired by the HBO Series when it comes out on April 26. Last month, she released the delicate single “Flux” with an accompanying somber and intricate black-and-white-video.

Maren Morris Channeled Her Inner Dragon Queen For New Game Of Thrones Song

In case you’re somehow not hyped enough for the final season of Game of Thrones — is that even possible?! — perhaps a little fantasy-inspired music can do the trick.

Earlier this week, we learned that the HBO epic will release a star-studded soundtrack to accompany its final six-episode run, which begins on Sunday (April 14). SZA, The Weeknd, Ellie Goulding, and Travis Scott are just some of the hitmakers on board, along with Maren Morris, who released her contribution today.

“Kingdom of One” is a defiant slow burn that opens with the Girl singer setting the scene: “First light, a sacrifice / Bird’s eye, saw the signs / Cold nights will take your life.” The track continues building to a goosebumps-inducing climax, with Morris confidently coaxing, “So you wanna play God? / Come on / Is that all you got? / Come on.”

Of the song, Morris tweeted, “Channeled my inner Daenerys Targaryen for this one.” Her cool, assured confidence — along with the video’s dragon imagery — would surely do Dany proud.

The full For The Throne soundtrack arrives on April 26, and includes a new Lumineers song, “Nightshade,” that was also released today. Listen to that here, and check out our GoT power rankings for predictions about who will live, who will die, and who — if anyone — will nab the throne once and for all.

Bop Shop: Songs From BTS, Lil Uzi Vert, Charly Bliss, And More

To choose one song from Map of the Soul: Persona is a Herculean task that I honestly don’t wish on anyone, least of all me. In fact, I will be writing a strongly worded tweet to the Bop Shop editor (hi, Pat) to express the emotional distress this caused me. Because here’s the thing: BTS are incapable of producing anything but bops. And while the Korean septet’s latest single “Boy With Luv” — a fizzy, upbeat collaboration with Halsey — is the brightest and boppiest of bops, it’s braggadocios album closer “Dionysus” that deserves your immediate respect.

On the surface, it sounds like a track that resulted from a boozy game of Mad Libs: a stadium banger inspired by the Greek god Dionysus (god of wine) and Korean folk music that mixes hip-hop with prog rock. It’s a total anomaly, a song that absolutely should not work, and yet, it’s everything I love about BTS in one song. It’s wildly ambitious, clever, confident, and bursting with personality (Jin is wailing in those background vocals). On “Dionysus,” BTS get drunk on their own artistry and claim they’re thirsty for more. “If we’re there, wherever it is in the world, it’s a stadium party,” Suga raps. “Born as a K-pop idol and reborn as an artist.”

Whatever preconceived notions you may have about K-pop or Korean music or BTS, “Dionysus” obliterates them. All hail Bangtan, our nu-screamo kings. —Crystal Bell

How To Watch Coachella Performances From Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, And More

Coachella 2019 officially kicks off on Friday (April 12), and if you’re not dying basking in the Indio desert heat, you’re probably drowning in FOMO at home. Lucky for you, the festival will be streaming performances from both weekends, meaning you can catch all the action from the comfort of your own sofa (flower crown and bandana optional).

As of now, 75 artists have been confirmed for the live stream, including headliners Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, and Tame Impala. Other highlights include Billie Eilish, BLACKPINK, Kacey Musgraves, The 1975, Maggie Rogers, Lizzo, Kid Cudi, Janelle Monáe, Pusha-T, and more. On top of that, Coachella will also stream Guava Island — the mysterious new film project from Donald Glover, starring Rihanna — on Saturday (April 13).

The live stream consists of three simultaneous channels, all available via Coachella’s YouTube hub and the YouTube Music app. Check out the full schedule below, and get your Homechella on! (All times are PST; channels are noted in parentheses.)

Friday, April 12

4:15 p.m. – Yellow Days (1)

4:15 – Hurray for the Riff Raff (2)

4:15 – Los Tucanes De Tijuana (3)

4:50 – Juaz (3)

5:10 – JPEGMAFIA (1)

5:40 – Mon Laferte (2)

5:45 – SG Lewis (3)

5:55 – Kacey Musgraves (1)

6:25 – Gorgon City (2)

6:30 – Calypso Rose (3)

6:45 – Jaden Smith (1)

7:20 – DVSN (3)

7:25 – Tierra Whack (2)

8:05 – Polo & Pan (3)

8:30 – BLACKPINK (1)

8:55 – Ella Mai (3)

9:00 – Rüfüs Du Sol (2)

9:35 – The 1975 (1)

9:35 – Khruangbin (3)

10:15 – Diplo (2)

10:30 – Janelle Monáe (1)

11:15 – Charlotte Gainsbourg (2)

11:25 – Childish Gambino (1)

11:30 – Nora En Pure (3)

11:45 – DJ Snake (2)

12:05 a.m. – Kayzo (3)

Saturday, April 13

4:15 p.m. – ARIZONA (1)

4:15 – Wallows (2)

4:15 – Jambinai (3)

4:35 – FKJ (3)

5:00 – Guava Island, A Childish Gambino Film (1,2,3)

6:00 – Mr. Eazi (2)

6:00 – Steady Holiday (3)

6:10 – Sabrina Claudio (1)

6:30 – The Interrupters (3)

6:40 – Mac DeMarco (2)

7:05 – Bazzi (1)

7:15 – Clozee (3)

7:30 – Sir (2)

7:50 – J Balvin (1)

7:55 – Virgil Abloh (2)

8:00 – Bob Moses (3)

8:25 – Maggie Rogers (2)

8:45 – Weezer (1)

8:50 – Gryffin (3)

9:15 – Christine and the Queens (2)

9:30 – Four Tet (3)

9:50 – Billie Eilish (1)

10:15 – Juice WRLD (2)

10:30 – Parcels (3)

11:00 – Tame Impala (1)

11:05 – Wiz Khalifa (2)

11:15 – Smino (3)

11:55 – Kid Cudi (2)

12:00 a.m. – Little Simz (3)

12:30 – Bassnectar (1)

Sunday, April 14

4:15 p.m. – Emily King (1)

4:15 – Mansionair (2)

4:15 – Burna Boy (3)

5:00 – Alice Merton (2)

5:05 – Pusha-T (1)

5:45 – Rico Nasty (3)

5:55 – Bad Bunny (1)

5:55 – Unknown Mortal Orchestra (2)

6:25 – Playboi Carti (3)

6:50 – Blood Orange (1)

6:50 – Dermont Kennedy (2)

7:15 – Clairo (3)

7:40 – Lizzo (2)

8:00 – Gesaffelstein (3)

9:00 – YG (3)

9:15 – Sofi Tukker (2)

9:50 – Dillon Francis (3)

10:05 – CHVRCHES (2)

10:35 – Ariana Grande (1)

11:10 – NGHTMRE (3)

Khalid Starts A New Conversation On ‘Talk (Remix)’ With Megan Thee Stallion And Yo Gotti

For the remix to Khalid‘s pleading single “Talk,” the baritone crooner brought some rappers along to add a poetic edge. Burgeoning rapstress Megan Thee Stallion and trap rap stalwart Yo Gotti spit rhymes to the smooth production courtesy of Disclosure that enables the official remix to soar to new heights. Not only is it an adorable song about falling in love, but it’s also a tight amalgam of melody and bars that shows there’s always room to connect the two.

Megan Thee Stallion starts the song off with her sneering flow that practically brushes the dirt off its shoulders as she goes along. She knows she’s one of the best, and, in her verse, she’s letting you know it too. You’d be a fool to waste a chance at her. When she drips into some chilly melodies at the tail end of it, she reveals herself a double threat. Yo Gotti comes in at the end, after Khalid’s vocals of course, and raps about a woman that he’s having some problems with. His “talk” with her isn’t to get closer, he’s in the process of separating himself. Her father is a police officer so he doesn’t want to ever meet him.

Khalid released his sophomore studio album Free Spirit on April 5. It features the previously released songs “Self” and “Talk.” He also shared a film of the same name directed by esteemed music video director Emil Nava.

Listen to the confident “Talk” remix up above.

Mark Ronson’s New Album Of ‘Sad Bangers’ Features Miley, Camila, And More

Mark Ronson‘s new album is going to be an extravagant affair. The producer has revealed the tracklist to his forthcoming album Late Night Feelings and it’s quite the doozy. With features from artists like Miley Cyrus, Camila Cabello, and Alicia Keys, his new EP looks like it will be his largest, most flexible pop-centric opus yet, tinged with a dash of melancholy. You can hear it on the title track, featuring Lykke Li.

Late Night Feelings is due out June 21 via RCA Records. As Billboard points out, he’s previously described the project as a selection of “sad bangers,” and after seeing the tracklist’s plethora of emotional vocalists, it makes sense.

In addition to Miley, Camila, and Alicia, the 13-track LP also features King Princess, YEBBA, The Last Artful, Dodgr, Angel Olsen, Diana Gordon, and Ilsey.

So far, two tracks from Late Night Feelingshave been released: “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart,” Ronson’s collaboration with Cyrus, and the title track, which you can listen to above. The LP follows his 2015 album Uptown Special.

Check out the full tracklist below.

01. “Late Night Prelude”

02. “Late Night Feelings” (ft. Lykke Li)

03. “Find U Again” (ft. Camila Cabello)

04. “Piece of Us” (ft. King Princess)

05. “Knock Knock Knock” (ft. YEBBA)

06. “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” (ft. YEBBA)

07. “When U Went Away” (ft. YEBBA)

08. “Truth” (ft. Alicia Keys,The Last Artful, Dodgr)

09. “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” (ft. Miley Cyrus)

10. “True Blue” (ft. Angel Olsen)

11. “Why Hide” (ft. Diana Gordon)

12. “2 AM” (ft. Lykke Li)

13. “Spinning” (ft. Ilsey)

Tame Impala Travel Through A Kaleidoscopic Realm On ‘Borderline’

Tame Impala‘s music plays at the gates of Heaven if it existed on a separate plane populated by sentient futuristic cars and moonwalking robots. Their latest track is ‘Borderline’ that is smooth, funky, and serene. It’s like listening to a Greek siren with a bit of an edge, luring you into the deep sea abyss. The world got a live taste of the song during their SNL performance last month. Now, the entire hallowed tune is available in CDQ.

Tame Impala’s latest is funky feel-good music that demands that thumbs are snapped and heads are swayed – first to the right, then the left. Close your eyes when zoning out to Kevin Parker‘s soaring voice that floats above your head and you’ll see colors – the visible spectrum and so, so much more – smashing together, separating, mixing, and multiplying into shapes recognized and never before seen. Flowers blossom in sepia filters and peace signs sculpt from fingers. It’s almost impossibly beautiful how light and feathery it is. Summer’s right around the corner. This, this song is the signal that it’s starting early this year.

Last month, Tame Impala released their psychedelic comeback single, “Patience.” It’s equally as angelic and snappy, but it’s from a different, slower-tuned realm. That’s two releases in the span of a month. Their last studio release was 2015’s Currents. These two recent drops could be the signal that something large is on the way. To catch the band’s ethereal live performance presence, tune into Coachella their headlining set this weekend.

Listen to ‘Borderline’ up above.

BTS And Halsey Kick Off Summer Early With ‘Boy With Luv’

Five years ago, BTS were a group of young adults in their teens and early twenties trying to make sense of the world around them. They channeled these confusing coming-of-age emotions and experiences — like first love, disappointment, and heartbreak — into their hard-hitting music, and their 2014 album Skool Luv Affair and its lead single “Boy In Luv” are a reflection of that. Now, five years older and wiser, the Korean septet are one of the biggest musical acts in the world, with two consecutive No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart, a sold-out global stadium tour, and the internet’s most powerful fandom in their corner. But their latest single, “Boy With Luv,” proves that while BTS may have matured, they haven’t lost their artistic edge.

It’s playful, fresh, and still 100 percent BTS.

With their new album, Map of the Soul: Persona, out today (April 12), BTS are looking to their past in order to move forward, and the bubbly “Boy With Luv” — which parallels their aggressive teen anthem “Boy In Luv” — is a reflection of their growth. The upbeat song, a collaboration with American pop star Halsey, celebrates the act of falling in love and finding joy in the smallest of things. (The song’s Korean title roughly translates to “A Poem for the Small Things.”)

“You’re the star that turns ordinaries into extraordinaries,” Suga raps. “One after another, everything is special. The things you’re interested in, the way you walk or talk, and every little trivial habits of yours.”

The lyrics cleverly nod to the group’s other past works as well. “I’m flying high in the sky,” V sings in the pre-chorus. “With the two wings you gave me back then.” The wings refer to their 2016 album of the same name, which explored the idea of reaching your potential — or spreading your wings — with unbridled passion. At one point in the music video, the members even find themselves surrounded by neon signs (a visual tip of the hat to Broadway), the names of which span their entire career — from 2 Cool 4 Skool to You Never Walk Alone and Answer.

Big Hit Entertainment

For her part, Halsey’s signature airy vocals float over the sticky hook — a mix of English and Korean, led by an instantly catchy refrain of “Oh my my my oh my my my” — and she even gets to show off her dancing chops in the visual, shimmying alongside BTS and keeping up with their full-body choreography like an idol herself.

Map of the Soul: Persona marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the artists following their massively successful Love Yourself trilogy, which concluded with Love Yourself: Answer this past November. With over 3 million pre-orders globally, it’s safe to say that BTS are looking at their next No. 1 album here in the U.S. before embarking on their stadium tour across the globe.

Big Hit Entertainment

And they definitely have their eyes set on total U.S. domination this time around: The group will perform “Boy With Luv” live for the very first on Saturday Night Live on April 13.