Justin Bieber Finds New Meaning In Life On Surprise EP Freedom.

Just a little more than two weeks after the release of his sixth album Justice, Justin Bieber shocked fans over the weekend with the release of a brand new EP titled Freedom.

Dropped on Easter (April 4), the six-track gospel-infused EP sees Bieber embark on a soul-searching journey to better understand himself and his past through the lens of his religious beliefs. Each song on the EP features collaborations with multiple artists including Beam, Pink Sweat$, and Tori Kelly.

Bieber announced the surprise release on social media by sharing the album’s cover art — a screenshot of the Notes app with the title spelled out — followed by a caption that read: “freedom on all platforms.”

Grappling with forgiveness and uncertainty amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Freedom. allows Bieber to redefine himself and restructure his future. He’s not shy when it comes to owning up to his past — on the R&B track “We’re In This Together,” he makes reference to the 2014 FBI raid of his home after he was accused of allegedly egging a neighbor’s house. He also admits that it “wasn’t easy” to “learn humility” and “accept responsibility” in his life after growing up in the spotlight as a teen.

“All that to say I’m thankful that’s not who I am,” he sings. “And I’m thankful God was with me when shit hit the fan.”

On other tracks like “Where Do I Fit In” and “All She Wrote,” Bieber searches for his place in life and finding comfort and acceptance through religion. He also explores the effects of cancel culture, expressing a brief that it stifles personal growth on the album’s final track “Afraid To Say.”

Featuring Lauren Walters, the song describes how Bieber’s underlying fear of saying the wrong thing has held him back from sharing his innermost thoughts and beliefs to prevent himself from being “criticized from every angle.” Instead, he shares that people shouldn’t judge one another because he believes God doesn’t judge his followers “even in our darkest days, even when we least deserve it.”

“Do we got the room to make mistakes? Are we judged for everything we said? I wanna grow but I’m afraid,” he reveals. “What have we done with society? When everybody’s getting canceled can’t there be room for maturity? ‘Cause writing ’em off is not the answer.”

The Kid Laroi Knows The Value Of Collaboration

Does The Kid Laroi‘s “Without You” sound like Sia? Maybe, maybe not. But what’s important is how Sia may have inspired its creation.

“My friend Omer came through with his guitar,” The Kid Laroi explains, “and I was like, ‘Play something that you think Sia would sing over.'” Before long, Omer — that’s Omer Fedi, by the way, the 21-year-old guitar prodigy who’s helped shape standout hits from Machine Gun Kelly and Iann Dior, and recently helped Lil Nas X conquer the world with work on “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” — strummed the chords that became “Without You.”

What Fedi and The Kid Laroi accomplished on that track is notable because it’s effectively a power ballad, buoyed by the 17-year-old’s massive vocals. Despite the similar subject matter, it’s eons away from his other tunes, like “Tragic,” that lean much more into hip-hop. “Without You” was the end result of collaboration, which gives it additional power, he says.

“When I work, I like collaboration. I like hearing other people’s ideas,” The Kid Laroi, the MTV Push artist for April 2021, says. “Sometimes, people have good fucking ideas, man. You shouldn’t be scared of that. It’s making music, at the end of the day. Don’t think about the shit too hard. Just do it, and if it sounds good, it sounds good. If it feels good, it feels good.”

Not bad for a song that began in his home studio while “going through some shit” about a girl. That’s where The Kid Laroi, real name Charlton Howard, tends to shine. He began rapping after his mom showed him Tupac’s “Brenda’s Got a Baby” video and he says he started taking music seriously after being exposed to Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak, his “favorite project of all time.”

Over the past four years, he’s made good on that early promise, touring and recording music at a fast pace. He also had some major help from Juice WRLD, who mentored him; The Kid Laroi opened for the late rapper during a string of live dates around his home of Australia. His 2020 album F*ck Love was just the beginning — last month, he sang on Justin Bieber’s “Unstable,” too.

It all points to a solid foundation, one he hopes can be inspiring. “Don’t think about what anybody else has to say because me, personally, I went through so many kids and teachers and even family members who told me that I couldn’t do it and I sucked, and I just had to stick through it,” he says. “Don’t let nobody get in your head.”

Olivia Rodrigo’s Roaring Return, Lil Nas X’s Celestial CGI, And More Songs We Love

BTS return after virtually no break (seriously, team no sleep) with “Film Out,” the first single off their new Japanese-language album, BTS, the Best. Co-written by the Golden Maknae himself, Jungkook, the rest of the members explore time, space, and memory, both sonically and visually, in “Film Out,” with heart-wrenching lyrics contrasting a melody that builds in tempo — a race against an hourglass. Regardless of language or location, the Bangtan Boys always find a way to pull right at the heartstrings of ARMY all around the world. —Sarina Bhutani

Moontype’s Songs Of Fellowship: ‘The Music Got Better As We Got Closer’

The origin story of Chicago band Moontype goes like this: A trio of music conservatory graduates set out on a journey together. Along the way, they learn how to bend three distinct sources of sound — bassist-vocalist Margaret McCarthy, guitarist Ben Cruz, and drummer Emerson Hunton — into harmonious unity. But that version doesn’t tell the full story of how Bodies of Water, their yearning, personal, excellently crafted debut album out tomorrow (April 2), came to sound as versatile as it does, spanning folk, post-punk, fuzzy rock, and chillingly confessional songwriting across 12 distinct tracks. While the closer stretches out to eight minutes, nearly half don’t break past three, making Moontype a decidedly hard band to classify. But they know what they’re not: jammers.

“We don’t really jam that much,” McCarthy tells MTV News. Cruz clarifies: “We goof a lot, but we don’t usually play a part over and over and over and over and over again.” To be clear, no one would mistake Moontype for a jam band. Their songs stem from McCarthy’s solo bass compositions given rich new textures by Cruz and Hunton, while her lyrics evoke Midwestern malaise, the fizz of “fuck-me eyes,” and the inner dilemmas of probing one’s deepest emotions. (“When will I learn to choose pain over suffering?” goes one unforgettable chorus.) After Oberlin College, where Emerson and Ben studied jazz performance, and Margaret was one of “the weirdos playing synths in the basement of the conservatory,” the three linked up in Chicago to add muscle behind McCarthy’s early work.

Four of those skeletal tunes show up on Bodies of Water, invigorated by a collaborative spirit; jittery opener “Anti-Divinity” becomes a full-on firebomb, while “About You” sharpens into single material (the band released it in early February to hype the album). But it’s remarkable how fully formed Bodies of Water sounds, a testament to both McCarthy’s vision and the synergy between the three as they continue to write collaboratively. On a recent Zoom call, they explained how their friendship solidified through playing highly personal music together, something Hunton called unique to Moontype.

“A lot of these songs do feel like they’re really specific and strong emotional experiences that Margaret has. Now, we’re really close, but I remember it feeling very intimate when we were new friends,” he says. “All of a sudden, it’s like, oh, this is what this song is about. It’s really cool, but that was an intense thing. We are sharing this thing right now that is yours. We are getting closer by the minute because of that.” In the spirit of sharing experiences, McCarthy, Cruz, and Hunton spoke to MTV News about how friendship permeates Bodies of Water, where they find inspiration, and math rock.

MTV News: Margaret, you initially wrote some songs on bass alone. What was it like when you all started playing music together and translating those compositions?

Margaret McCarthy: They were kind of fully formed, in terms of sections and the melody and bassline. But I started playing them with Ben first, and I think just because there are only two lines happening, there are no chords. There’s room for flexibility on what the chords are.

Ben Cruz: The first time I heard Margaret, I heard one of her solo sets, and I was like, this is really cool. But also, the songs did feel very fully formed. So I was like, I would love to play these with her, but once I was doing it, I was like, wow, what am I supposed to do? Eventually, it was a matter of trying to figure out what textures things needed, which is when we decided that we wanted to have drums in the band. I called Emerson.

Emerson Hunton: [It was] definitely a fun process for me because all of a sudden, we had a bunch of songs that existed, and I got to play them. It was really nice. I mean, it’s just really fun to have it be that quick and being able to listen to the solo versions of just Margaret singing and playing the bass. I thought it was really interesting how it felt different having just two melodies, one vocal, and one bass — two lines moving together. It really opened things up and changed how I thought about where to put the bass drum. Do I just treat Margaret’s basslines as another part of the band instead of just being a static bassline? I think that changed my process at least and opened it up in a really nice way.

MTV News: When you listen to the album, is it like you’re essentially listening to the sound of the three of you getting really close?

Hunton: Yeah, I think that’s a nice way to put it. I’ll sign off on that.

Cruz: The whole process of the band has been becoming close with each other, and the music got better as we got closer. So I think by the time we were ready to record, it was like, we were there. We were at this point where things were very open and we felt very good and close to each other.

McCarthy: I would write a song, and it’s me alone in my room having some tense feeling. Then I’m sharing the intense feeling with Ben and Emerson. They’re picking up on it, and it snowballs a little bit. I might have angst, but it’s like, I don’t have any pedals. I don’t play that loud. So then Ben’s playing really loud, angsty chords. Emerson’s hitting the drum super hard. I feel like I can feel the feeling that I was already feeling but feel it more. We’re feeling it together. It feels really good.

MTV News: I think friendship is a theme of the album, too, and it comes up on quite a few tracks. Have you thought about friendships disappearing or reappearing in light of the past year and being physically separated from friends?

McCarthy: I kind of feel like I haven’t really lost any friends to the pandemic but I’ve maybe had to figure out ways to sustain them more intentionally, for sure. It’s funny because I feel on the album, that theme is more about moving and being far away from people and also changing as people. Then you kind of drift apart, drift together, or whatever. During this year, it’s been more about logistics to stay friends with people. Like, everyone’s definitely stressed out, which is hard. But also, I feel like everyone’s really understanding of each other and trying to stick together.

Hunton: A lot of these songs are definitely about that same push and pull of trying to stay close with friends. I feel like Margaret’s songs are often about friends. I definitely feel they feel different, but still, possibly, there’s a stronger emotional connection to them now. Maybe you think about them in that way. I haven’t really thought about that intentionally, but that is something I’ve noticed. Some other people have said that about “Ferry” when it was first out, [that] it feels like it’s about that. I can definitely read it that way and that feels very relevant right now.

MTV News: This is always a hard question, but musically, what artists do you like? And also, what have you heard that was cool that you tried to maybe lean into in your own music?

Cruz: We all did play in a country band.

Hunton: I’ve been listening to more weird indie bands lately. I’ve always listened to overly complicated, contemporary jazz music and a lot of noisy improv stuff in Chicago. I always have played that since I’ve lived here. Margaret really likes crazy, more modern-produced pop songs, as do I. We like all of that stuff. I think probably what we sound like is just given the instruments we’re playing and we can mimic or maybe think about other things subconsciously.

McCarthy: I remember when we first started playing, I was trying to think about what genre we are. There was definitely a time when I was like, we’re definitely math rock, even though I didn’t really know what that meant.

Cruz: We also do share a lot of music with each other. Like, the number of times I stumbled upon some cool thing and I’m like, Emerson, check this out, or vice versa, or Margaret, or whatever. That is something that’s happening really constantly.

MTV News: Say you’re playing a show and someone who’s either in high school or college comes up to you and says, “I’m just starting to make music. I have questions about sticking it out.” What might you say to them?

McCarthy: It’s funny that you’re asking that question because it’s not like I crucially was ever like, yeah, I’m going to go be a musician. This is going to be my life. This is how I’m going to do it. That is not what happened at all. So I really feel like what I would say is just like: Make music in a way that feels good for as long as it feels good. And if it stops feeling good, don’t do it anymore.

Lorde Covers Bruce Springsteen, Sips Whiskey From A Piano Bench In New Zealand

While the United States struggles to accelerate vaccinations in order to beat back relentless COVID-19 surges in states like Michigan and New York, New Zealand is out here safely having 400-seat theater concerts — not to mention the tens of thousands who’ve packed in to see Kiwi acts like Benee and Six60 over the past few months. On March 31, as part of NZ singer-songwriter Marlon Williams‘s run of shows at the Hollywood Avalon in Auckland, he welcomed a very special guest to the stage to help him out with a cover: none other than Lorde, making her first public performance since 2019.

As fan-captured footage uploaded to social media reveals, Lorde and Williams sat together on a piano bench dueting on Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher Than the Rest,” the second track from The Boss’s excellent 1987 impending-divorce album, Tunnel of Love. Before they dig in, with Williams on the keys and both voices pairing up in dizzying harmony, Lorde slugs a bit of whiskey. I miss concerts so much!

The show came at the end of Williams’s six-night run at the theater. Lorde previously performed a classic-rock cover with Williams in 2019, where they covered Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” at a charity gig in New Zealand. She hasn’t performed publicly since.

She did, however, tease some new creative work in an email to fans last May, writing that “I can tell you, this new thing, it’s got its own colours now. If you know anything about my work, you’ll know what that means.” She also mentioned working with Melodrama co-writer Jack Antonoff on the new material.

Given how Lorde works — her first and second LPs were released roughly four years apart — it seems like 2021 could look good for her to drop some new music. She also teased something in the works in a pro-voting message she released in fall 2020. “Do it for our beautiful country and for me. And next year I’ll give you something in return,” she wrote at the time.

Whatever the case may be, you can tide yourself over with her soothing “Tougher Than the Rest” cover with Marlon Williams above.

Don’t Let The ‘Montero’ Controversy Distract From Lil Nas X’s Superior Musicality

By Da’Shan Smith

First thing’s first: “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” is another bona fide banger from Lil Nas X.

Now, let’s briefly address the controversy surrounding the song’s music video. Gay Black artist slides down a pole to hell after being sentenced for a steamy makeout session with an alien snake? Check. That artist happens to be wearing androgynous costumes, colorful wigs, skintight latex, and manicured acrylics? Check. After arriving in hell, said artist gives Satan a scandalous lap dance? Check. Right-wing pundits suspecting the gay agenda and sacrilegious ideology are plaguing the mainstream and, therefore, negatively influencing children? Check. Check. Check.

The music video for “Montero” is a textbook media spectacle. It’s already following the “WAP” effect, where Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion caused a ruckus in their sex-positive Willy Wonka factory of moist “macaroni in a pot.” Their world of gyrating choreography, Mugler-designed pasties, and unexpected cameos from the likes of Normani, Rosalía, and Kylie Jenner celebrated variations of womanhood, body positivity, and sexuality.

It’s as if mainstream artists know how to use a certain formula now: release a catchy song on the pulse of trends and a stunning video that showcases their most polarizing traits, then reap the rewards of the inevitable culture clash. Like Cardi B mockingly confesses at the end of her No. 1  smash “Up”: “Look, got to play it safe / No face, no case!” But there’s beauty in the video for “Montero” in its newly liberated expression of identity — one that Nas X says he’s yearned to sing and visualize since age 14.

But the video’s controversies distract from the musicality of the song itself. Judging by its No. 1 peaks on iTunes and Spotify in its debut week thus far, there are fans who believe, simply, that it’s a banger — so much so that they are spending $1.29 on the audio-only MP3s and streaming in the millions without watching the contentious clip. Sure, that discourse will most likely lead to higher listening numbers (something Lil Nas X himself understands better than anyone), but the key to charting is consistency. And Lil Nas X is starting to show cohesiveness in his sound as he conquers his own lane of pop music, inspired by the genre-blasting inherent to its hyperpop influence.

When Lil Nas X debuted “Old Town Road” in December 2018, what started as a TikTok trend and Twitter meme turned into a viral hit. Because of those origins, the overnight Columbia Records label deal and re-release in March 2019, and the oh-so shocking idea of a Black man singing country music and then fusing trap into it, “Old Town Road” was initially taken as a parody, even as it eventually achieved a record-breaking 19 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.

Although hyperpop’s cacophony of random noises and infectious looping effects served as a base for the sonics of his eventual debut project, 7, the EP served a melting pot of genres and brooding tones, as heard on “Panini,” which swapped country for a punk chorus amid its digitized cadences, and the Cardi B-assisted “Rodeo.” There was a childlike quality to the lyricism and the instrumentation on 7. Many took that to be a sign of an artist not taking his craft seriously. But the inflection mirrored the angst of a queer person struggling to grow up and come out. Off-kilter rock fuels each track — even the coveted banjo sample of Nine Inch Nails’s “34 Ghosts IV” on “Old Town Road.” On 7, Lil Nas X is a dark, lonely soul facing adversity in being his true self.

There are music listeners who detest the packaging of pop, but still subscribe to the giant ways in which it defines popular culture. But it becomes even more perplexing to experience hyperpop, a variation of pop music that’s dominated by queer talent and thinking. As some critics suppressed the genre’s seriousness in the 2010s, a scene bubbled in popularity underground.  In 2014, genre pioneers Sophie and A.G. Cook played London basements while Charli XCX threw a Clueless prom-like rave at New York’s Webster Hall. In 2015, Holly Herndon received widespread critical acclaim for her album, Platform. Flume’s 2016 album, Skin, won the Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album.

The proto-success of hyperpop calls back to the techno and industrial house scenes of queer Black artistry in the Midwest — particularly, Detroit techno duo Drexciya. They were reinventing and resurrecting the sound of disco for a new age of technology and a raving party scene of the late 1980s into the early ’90s. An entire scene emerged of afrofuturism intersecting, resulting in mainstream pop acts like Grace Jones.

Trace the trajectory of underground electronic music for almost 30 years, and things are different on the mainstream tip. At the moment, the artist who stands tallest on the scene owing to this rich history is Lil Nas X. By this stage in his career, a pop icon has eased into the art of conceptual storytelling. If 7 served as the coming-out story, then fans have started speculating that his forthcoming debut album might document his tales of being out and sexually active, balancing romance with international fame.

The first single, “Holiday,” flirted with the singer’s proclivities over a trap beat, trolling the tropes of Christmas music. “I might bottom on the low, but I top shit / Switch the genre on you hoes, do a rock hit,” raps an artist selling game to the public. Although “Holiday” didn’t see the commercial success of “Old Town Road,” “Panini,” or “Rodeo,” a Tay Keith production credit shows that Lil Nas X’s hyperpop and cyberpunk has clout in hip-hop.

“Montero” is more aggressive than earlier works, the “rock hit” foreshadowed by the first verse of “Holiday.” The track’s key songwriters and producers include the twosome Take a Daytrip that was also behind “Panini,” and Roy Lenzo. Another is Omer Fedi, who is on the pulse of the pop-punk’s present fusion with hip-hop, as heard on Iann Dior and 24kGoldn’s “Mood.” Similar sensual energy and a lustful flamenco beat pervade “Montero,” which is underscored by guitar plucking and rhythmic clapping.

On it, Nas X begs for that phone call to link up with the one he envies, a closeted romantic partner whose eluding his own sexual demons. He wants to hear “I love you” during secret pillow talk but has yet to receive a response. Haunting the track is harmonious humming, as if the unrequited love is being reflected back at him. One could read the melodramatic ambiance and themes as a successor to Rosalía’s “Malemente.” Lil Nas X has transformed into a Thanos of modern pop, merging genres for artis-defining statements. Like Drake or Rihanna, Lil Nas X exhibits how he can musically and artistically maneuver through waves. He’s mastered the art of trolling the masses; now, it’s time to dive deep into the music.

Lil Nas X Defends Himself Against The Culture Wars: ‘Y’all Are Not Gonna Win Bro’

If there was any doubt that Lil Nas X is one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, look to the sequence of events that’s taken place over the past 72 hours to alleviate it.

On Friday, he dropped “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” a highly personal song about queer love that he wrote was “very scary” to release. “People will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda,” he wrote in an accompanying note on social media. “But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.”

He was right. People were angry! Not at the song specifically, but at the video’s much-discussed, much-shared climax — in which he gives Satan a lap dance — and at the subsequent news that he’d be releasing “Satan Shoes,” black sneakers featuring an inverted cross and actual human blood. It’s a great tie-in! (They are already sold out.) Lil Nas X has never missed a moment to make the biggest impact possible, and this was no exception.

Because Newton’s third law states that every Satanic twerk has an equal and opposite heavenly prayer, the responses to this were swift (and predictable). Kristi Noem, South Dakota’s governor, tweeted about the exclusivity of the sneakers, saying, “But do you know what’s more exclusive? Their God-given eternal soul.” Rapper Joyner Lucas bemoaned the video’s content in light of how LNX had become a favorite of children thanks to “Old Town Road.” And there was plenty more.

Lil Nas X, expert poster, succinctly and resolutely shut down these (and other) criticisms, notably centering his replies around his right to create the kind of art he wants: “I made the decision to create the music video. I am an adult. I am not gonna spend my entire career trying to cater to your children. That is your job.”

He told Governor Roem, “ur a whole governor and u on here tweeting about some damn shoes. do ur job!” He released a winking “Satan’s Extended Version” of the song. He uploaded an “apology” for the sneakers on YouTube that is hilariously not an apology at all.

And, in my personal favorite moment, LNX also put a new version of “Montero” on YouTube — a “MONTERO but ur in the bathroom of hell while lil nas is giving satan a lap dance in the other room” video that plays on similarly excellent videos like this and this.

All his handiwork goes to show something that’s evident to everyone who is even a little bit as online as Lil Nas X: He had a head start, he knows what he’s doing, and he will win. This is all free promo for his new single. So, as a wise man once said, don’t care, didn’t ask, stream “Call Me By Your Name.”

Bop Shop: Songs from UMI, Demi Lovato, Bachelor, And More

Last year, neo-soul extraordinaire UMI dropped Introspection, a lovely, probing EP of alt-R&B that hit like an indie film. For 2021, though, she’s given those tunes, including the title track and “Pretty Girl Hi,” the IMAX treatment: revitalizing her subterranean sound with bright horns, glimmering keyboards, and an analog warmth that stretches “Introspection Reimagined” out across five luxurious minutes. Worth every second. —Patrick Hosken

Lil Nas X Slides Down A Stripper Pole All The Way To Hell In Incredible New Video

When Lil Nas X rewrote the rules of the game with “Old Town Road,” it only made sense that the viral hit’s eventual video would be a blockbuster. But the artist’s hard pivot from meme-maker to cinematic visionary has been at least a little unexpected, while certainly most welcome. The ambition of “Holiday,” “Rodeo,” and “Panini” was only matched by their respective reaches — hundred of millions of views and counting.

But nothing could’ve prepared us for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).” The long-teased track is finally here, along with a video that is not easily summarized. But one scene — indeed, perhaps the most-traveled clip so far — involves Lil Nas X giving Satan a lap dance. Please enjoy.

The whole thing is celestial and dreamy, rich with wigs and costumes like Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and more than a little biblical as it complements the song’s exploration of queer love. LNX is the star, of course, playing numerous parts and embodying both the protagonists and antagonists. The entire odyssey culminates in the aforementioned lap dance in the bowels of hell, where the artist arrives after sliding down a stripper pole all the way down from the clouds.

LNX, posted a note, addressed to his teenage self, to social media that provides context about the song’s creation. “Dear 14-year-old Montero,” it begins, “I wrote a song with our name in it. It’s about a guy I met last summer. I know we promised to never come out publicly, I know we promised never to be ‘that’ type of gay person, I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist.”

“You see this is very scary for me,” the note continues, “people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be. Sending you love from the future.”

Check out the incredible video above.

Scarypoolparty’s Los Angeles Has A Song For Every Mood

Alejandro Aranda spent a season on American Idol, but he’s always been a being of his own creation. He performed technically dazzling original compositions as part of a showcase that tends to favor belting covers. He greeted judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie with an understated “What’s up, homies?” during his audition. And since 2019, when he released his stark, genre-agnostic debut Exit Form, Aranda has used his major-label platform to wedge the weird, hard-edged sounds that fuel him into a mainstream pop career. No easy feat, but Aranda is such a gifted stylistic polymath that it magnetizes him; his songs blend industrial darkgaze, soulful trip-hop, mathy heaviness, and dizzying piano rhapsodies into a recording and performing alias he calls Scarypoolparty.

The staggering result, seemingly impossible in the streaming age, is something wholly his own, a path not beholden to trends or dictated by focus-grouped nostalgia. It’s the cold, metallic Queen of the Damned soundtrack filtered through the warm lights of his home, Los Angeles, and of Aranda’s own lived experience. His new EP, titled after the city itself, captures what it’s given him: the emotion, the part-time jobs, the long talks, the longer drives, and every moment in quarantine.

“A lot of these songs were definitely lockdown songs,” Aranda tells MTV News. “I think a majority of them were self-reflection on where the city is, where I live, and daily life — daily going out and trying to do things, and you can’t, and you have to stay inside and make sure everything is OK in that area.”

For last year’s Doom Hologram, Aranda recorded vocals directly into his MacBook, unknowingly prefacing the Zoom-call collaborations he’d rely on finalizing this new EP. The brevity of Los Angeles as a four-song EP likewise allows Aranda to tighten up his own arrangements, making it his most accessible collection yet. Instead of downbeat, seven-minute meditations or hourlong piano improvisations, he leans into pop structures even as he rushes toward the horizon fusing trap, classical piano, and cocktail bravado. He even reined in some of his more experimental tendencies: “Originally, I had three songs on the EP and then I had this metal song that I was going to throw in there, and I was just like, you know what? I want it to make sense.”

The result is Los Angeles in its many shades, cohesive yet sprawling like its namesake. Below, Aranda breaks down the EP track by track and mood by mood.