Olivia Rodrigo Flew Into The VMAs On A Literal Cloud

    By Deepa Lakshmin

    Olivia Rodrigo brought her Sour prom concert film to life at the 2021 VMAs on Sunday night (September 12), descending into Brooklyn’s Barclays Center riding an iridescent cloud as poofy as her dress. Her fellow partygoers, dapper in retro suits and flouncy dresses, waited below atop purple tables littered with party cups, as the telltale first notes of “Good 4 U” rang out.

    When the five-time VMA nominee (and brand-new winner) touched down, she lent her “spicy Pisces” energy to the party, leading her crew into an enviable rager matching the heartbroken angst of the fan-favorite single. Welcome to Olivia’s pop-punk prom, where moshing and wild dancing are encouraged, along with a healthy splash of sparkles.

    It’s been a massively successful year for the Best New Artist nominee, who’s also up for Artist of the Year, Best Pop for “Good 4 U,” and Song of the Year and Push Performance of the Year for her record-breaking “Drivers License.” Sour, a masterful coming-of-age story released last May via Geffen Records, showcases her talent and versatility as a songwriter. Fans could turn up the volume and scream-cry to the angry choruses of “Good 4 U” and “Brutal,” sit in their feelings for “Happier” and “Favorite Crime,” then experience the bittersweet wistfulness of “Hope Ur Ok.” As she told MTV News earlier this year, the LP reflects a time of her life when “everything that I had that was, like, really awesome and good in my life went really sour.”

    Her show-stopping VMA performance reflected these emotions — a wonderfully human, tangled mess of anger mixed with sadness mixed with confidence, especially during the climactic “like a damn sociopath” lyric in the bridge. Then confetti rained over the Barclays crowd, and the excitement was just too much for the poor camera to handle. The performance ended with a resounding smash, but VMA night is far from over.

    The 2021 VMAs are airing live on MTV from Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Find the full list of winners right here and keep up with all of the night’s biggest VMA moments!

    Twenty One Pilot Get Lost (And Found) At Sea For Stormy Version Of ‘Saturday’

    Land ho! Twenty One Pilots took to the high seas for a rollicking performance of “Saturday,” an upbeat and poppy cut that might as well have been a salty shanty, at the 2021 MTV VMAs. Much like in the song’s video, which found the Columbus duo popping off at an underwater submarine party, their live rendition of “Saturday” brought warm vibes to a chilly and blustery seascape.

    As members Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun recently did when they returned to the tour stage, they kicked off with a ukulele intro giving way to a full-on stage show. They appeared to float on rafts. They rocked slightly more gently than might be appropriate given the circumstances.

    And in a particularly cool moment, Joseph laid down onstage surrounded by waves, a physical representation of some of the tune’s key lyrics: “Life moves slow on the ocean floor / I can’t feel the waves anymore.”

    Things end better for the duo and their backing band, including supplementary vocalists, than they do in the song’s video — there’s no giant evil creature terrorizing them and literally crashing their party. By the end, Joseph has gone through some stuff, but he’s in one piece (and dry). He even shouted, “My wife is pregnant!” during the bridge! That’s incredible! (They’re no strangers to the VMAs, either, racking up five nods and two wins since 2013.)

    “Saturday” appears on 21P’s most recent album, Scaled and Icy, which dropped in May. This year at the VMAs, the band is nominated for Best Group and in the Best Alternative category for “Shy Away,” a less euphoric, slightly more fidgety tune from the album.

    As they told MTV News ahead of the show, their music continues to evolve right alongside the listening habits of their fans, making for a bit of a cosmic gumbo. “Music listeners are consuming more and faster than ever before, and so being able to put a label on it and clarify what it is helps understand how to receive it,” Joseph told correspondent Dometi Pongo.

    “But other than that, it does feel like those [genre] lines keep getting blurred as the years go on. It’s something we’ve always loved doing is just: Whatever’s exciting for us, just do it, and try not to keep those labels in mind.”

    As for the connection that comes from such sonic exploration? It’s definitely a result of plenty of hard work, creativity, and trial and error: “I think we’ve just found a really good relationship with people who listen to our music to where we like to create thing and they like to put their own meaning, or find the meaning,” Dun said.

    Or, as Joseph simplifies, “It’s because we’re so hot.” Noted. Congrats on the good news, my dude!

    The 2021 VMAs are airing live on MTV from Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Find the full list of winners right here and keep up with all of the night’s biggest VMA moments!

    Justin Bieber And The Kid Laroi Are On Top Of The World For ‘Stay’ Performance

    By Emlyn Travis

    Justin Bieber and The Kid Laroi are literally on the top of the world. The two artists descended from the heavens and perched amongst the highest cliffs to perform their smash hit single “Stay” together at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday (September 12).

    Both artists are nominated for multiple events on the night; Bieber is nominated for seven awards — the most of any artist — including Artist of the Year, Video of the Year, and Best Pop, while The Kid Laroi is up for Push Performance of the Year and Best New Artist.

    While The Kid Laroi, real name Charlton Howard, pumped up the crowd in an all-white ensemble, Bieber scaled down the rock face until he landed on the stage below. As the “Peaches” singer opened his verse, The Kid Laroi joined him on stage and the duo brought the energy in the room to a fever pitch as they jumped along to the song’s snappy beat. When the track ended, the two artists gleefully hugged one another before The Kid Laroi made his exit.

    Then, as the skies darkened and smoke began to swirl around him, Bieber found himself alone onstage as the opening bars of his bittersweet pop anthem “Ghost” began to play. In his first VMAs performance since his tearful rendition in 2015, Bieber channeled the song’s message of inner longing and hope by pulling his hood down and crouching low to the ground. Relishing in the anonymity that the haze gave him, Bieber slammed his hands into the stage as he passionately sang.

    As he uttered the song’s final chorus, Bieber deftly scaled to the top of the mountain and stood poised like a royal surveying his kingdom. Then, he raised his hand to the sky and lowered his head, looking both humbled and healed by the cathartic performance.

    The 2021 VMAs are airing live on MTV from Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Find the full list of winners right here and keep up with all of the night’s biggest VMA moments!

    Olivia Rodrigo Rides ‘Drivers License’ To A VMA Song Of The Year Win

    Facing tough competition from 24kGoldn and Iann Dior, Silk Sonic, BTS, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, and Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo took home the award for Song of the Year at the 2021 Video Music Awards. This evening (September 12), she received the Moonperson for her breakthrough coming-of-age heartbreaker “Drivers License.”

    “Whoa, oh my gosh,” she exclaimed as she took to the podium before a giant inflatable astronaut. This was the first award given out during the main show. “This is so insane. I want to thank all you guys the fans. This is so incredible. This has been the most magical year of my life.”

    She went on to dedicate her win to other aspiring musicians, and to young women challenging their personal struggles through their art. “I want to dedicate this award to all of the other girls who write songs on their bedroom floor,” she said.

    Few people have had as massive of a year as 18-year-old Olivia Rodrigo, who arrived at the ceremony in a pink column gown and glittering butterfly door-knocker earrings. The singer-songwriter and star of High School: The Musical: The Series landed her first No. 1 hit with “Drivers License” and dropped her debut album, Sour, in May. The collection also included the all-out rager “Good 4 U,” which Rodrigo sang earlier in the evening in her first VMA performance.

    Rodrigo is also up for Best New Artist and, during the VMAs pre-show, received the award for Push Performance of the Year. She was honored in May by MTV Push, which highlights a new breakout musician each month, and spoke about her creative process. “I really think that more or less forcing yourself to write a song sometimes is really beneficial,” she revealed. “I think you can’t rely on those lightning bolts of ideas to strike you all the time.”

    The 2021 VMAs are airing live on MTV from Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Find the full list of winners right here and keep up with all of the night’s biggest VMA moments!

    Kim Petras Serves Bubblegum-Pop Realness In VMAs Pre-Show Performance

    Ain’t nobody gonna stop Kim Petras from slaying the stage.

    The German-born pop princess catapulted us into the future with her performance at the 2021 Video Music Awards pre-show on Sunday (September 12). Sporting a bubblegum-pink bodysuit after entering Barclays Center in a vinyl mask with her BFF Paris Hilton, Petras performed an electrifying, Lollapalooza-inspired rendition of her latest single, “Future Starts Now.”

    Harness-clad backup dancers flanked her on both sides, upping the ante until Petras mounted a rotating part of the stage for a dramatic finish.

    She was joined on the pre-show stage by electronic supergroup Swedish House Mafia and rapper Polo G, the latter of whom is in the running for Best New Artist and Best Hip-Hop.

    The singer is best known for her house-inspired bops and transgender activism. (Her pre-show set was the same colors as the transgender Pride flag. It could’ve been a coincidence, but regardless, we’re obsessed.) “Future Starts Now” is her first solo single since 2020’s “Malibu,” but it won’t be her last. Speaking to Logo ahead of her pre-show performance, Petras described the sound of her next musical era as “Euro, loud, and audacious.”

    Petras isn’t up for any Moonpeople this year. However, this was her VMAs debut, which is plenty of cause for celebration.

    Noam Galai/Getty Images for MTV/ViacomCBS)

    The 2021 VMAs are airing live on MTV from Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Find the full list of winners right here and keep up with all of the night’s biggest VMA moments!

    Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever Has A Song For Every Mood

    The title of Billie Eilish’s sophomore album Happier Than Ever is a misnomer: There are few cheerful tracks to be found.

    Instead, the 19-year-old singer reflects heavily on her own trauma as a young woman whose career suddenly exploded, bringing her — and all of her youthful growing pains — into the spotlight. “I went through some crazy shit, and it really affected me and made me not want to go near anyone ever,” she told Rolling Stone in June. She started feeling better during her When We All Fall Asleep tour after a difficult breakup, which is referenced in tracks like “I Didn’t Change My Number” and “Happier Than Ever,” and seeking therapy. In dealing with this, her mom gave her some wise words.

    “When you’re happier than ever, that doesn’t mean you’re the happiest that anyone’s ever been. It means you’re happier than you were before,” Eilish recalled to the magazine, detailing the nuance to her album title.

    Though the album is in large part Eilish’s reckoning with her celebrity, she manages to make it relatable by exploring universal feelings of heartbreak and isolation. She also tackles crucial systemic issues, skewering the rampant abuse by powerful men in “Your Power” and taking on the objectifiable male gaze in “Male Fantasy.” In this way, Eilish brings her listeners along for the ride, while also delivering her signature serene, synthy sounds. Below, we break down each song of Happier Than Ever track by track and mood by mood.

    1. “Getting Older”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: like reflecting on life

      Key lyric: “I’m gettin’ older, I think I’m agin’ well / I wish someone had told me I’d be doin’ this by myself”

      Eilish opens the album with synthetic elements, reflecting how much she has grown throughout her life and becoming famous as a teenager. She has a lot of reasons to be thankful and grateful, but it can be bittersweet when it comes to facing online troll and constant scrutiny: “But it’s different when a stranger’s always waitin’ at your door / Which is ironic ’cause the strangers seem to want me more / Than anyone before.” Billie brings an honest take to her experience in the music industry, even when it is painful.

    2. “I Didn’t Change My Number”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: in need of distance from an ex

      Key lyric: “I only changed who I reply to”

      In this soulful R&B track, Eilish doesn’t want to speak to an ex anymore, refusing to reply to their texts. “You got a lot of fuckin’ nerve,” she sings, though she has no sympathy left. Eilish holds some guilt for not listening to her childhood friends that this love interest was bad news. The song concludes with distorted synths, which seem to signal the relationship breaking apart.

    3. “Billie Bossa Nova”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: flirty but cautious

      Key lyric: “I’m not sentimental / But there’s somethin’ ’bout the way you look tonight”

      Eilish uses bossa nova sounds to craft a romantic atmosphere. She pines to be alone with a lover while also trying to keep a low profile from the press: “Some information’s not for sharing / Use different names at hotel check-ins.” Even while it’s just the two of them, Eilish worries her boo might tell the world about their relationship.

    4. “My Future”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: ambitious

      Key lyric: “I’m in love / With my future”

      Eilish reflects on her life in a song that swells with electronics, though it transitions to a funkier groove when the hopeful second verse hits. “My Future” details her journey of self-discovery and reaching for greater heights: “And I, I’m in love / But not with anybody else / Just wanna get to know myself.” Although she admits she has romantic feelings for someone, she knows it would be a distraction from her journey.

    5. “Oxytocin”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: naughty

      Key lyric: “’Cause I like to do things God doesn’t approve of if she saw us”

      The techno track’s title refers to the hormone that plays a role in causing love, lust, orgasms, and attachment. Eilish is really feeling naughty tonight: “I wanna do bad things to you / I wanna make you yell / I wanna do bad things to you / Don’t wanna treat you well.” If you’re at the club with your partner and feeling overwhelmed with desire, this is the perfect song to get your grind on.

    6. “Goldwing”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: vulnerable

      Key lyric: “Go home, don’t tell”

      Eilish begins with a chant: “He hath come to the bosom of his beloved / Smiling on him, she beareth him to highest heav’n.” The intro lyrics are derived from a 1907 Gustav Holst translation of choral hymns from a sacred Hindu text. The religious writing is leveraged for a discussion about how women are exploited in the industry. Billie, as a gold-winged messenger, tries to warn and help vulnerable girls from harm. “You better keep your head down,” she sings. “They’re gonna tell you what you wanna hear / Then they’re gonna disappear.”

    7. “Lost Cause”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: disappointed by your crush

      Key lyric: “You weren’t even there that day / I was waitin’ on you / I wonder if you were aware that day / Was the last straw for me and I knew”

      Eilish is dismayed that her love interest is inconsiderate of her. At first, she thought they were just shy. “But maybe you just had nothing on your mind / Maybe you were thinkin’ ’bout yourself all the time,” Billie sings. It’s also a bit of a tell-off, implying this person is a careless deadbeat: “I know you think you’re such an outlaw / But you got no job.” In the end, she knows this relationship is a lost cause.

    8. “Halley’s Comet”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: tired of being in love

      Key lyric: “I don’t want it / And I don’t want to want you”

      The song begins as a piano ballad for Eilish to confess she cannot stop thinking about someone she’s fallen in love with. “I’ve been loved before, but right now in this moment / I feel more and more like I was madе for you,” she sings as the track includes light synths and a thumping backbeat. She’s torn, and towards the end of the song, the final verse distorts her voice to capture her complicated thoughts: “I’m sitting in my brother’s room / Haven’t slept in a week, or two, or two / I think I might havе fallen in love / What am I to do?”

    9. “Not My Responsibility”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: over the body-shaming

      Key lyric: “Is my value only on your perception?”

      If you followed Eilish’s Where Do We Go? World Tour, this may seem familiar. The audio is from a short film that was distributed in March 2020 during her show in Orlando as an interlude. It is Eilish’s response to the backlash and body-shaming she has received throughout her career. “We make assumptions about people based on their size / We decide who they are / We decide what they’re worth,” she sings.

    10. “Overheated”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: overwhelmed by social media

      Key lyric: “I’m overheated, can’t be defeated / Can’t be deleted, can’t un-relievе it”

      Eilish discusses how social media has felt overpowering during her rise to fame. Everything she posts is scrutinized (“I started talkin’, they started laughin’”). When she goes outside, she is gazed upon (“I started watchin’ them photographin’ / I don’t really know how it happened”). Even if she deletes something, it’s still on the internet forever because someone somewhere has seen and kept it on record. “Is it news? News to who? / That I really looked just like the rest of you,” she sings.

    11. “Everybody Dies”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: afraid of being alone

      Key lyric: “I don’t wanna cry, some days I do / But not about you / It’s just a lot to think about”

      Eilish reflects on the thought of death and how everything comes to an end with dark synths that perfectly fit the atmosphere. Normally, people fear dying because you lose somebody you love in the process. Sometimes, you might feel abandoned. She even wonders about when it’s her time: “Everybody dies / And when will I?”

    12. “Your Power”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: like standing up to someone powerful

      Key lyric: “I thought that I was special / You made me feel / Like it was my fault, you were the devil”

      In an acoustic guitar ballad, Eilish brings awareness to the trauma of abuse and power imbalances in a relationship: “Try not to abuse your power / I know we didn’t choose to change / You might not wanna lose your power / But havin’ it’s so strange.” She also wonders from time to time if abusers know what they do is wrong. “How dare you? / And how could you?” she asks. It’s easy to want answers and closure but in the end, but it’s better to be self-aware of any toxic behaviors and attitudes you have to avoid hurting others.

    13. “NDA”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: defensive

      Key lyric: “Yeah, I made him sign an NDA / Once was good enough / ‘Cause I don’t want him havin’ shit to say, oh-oh”

      Eilish’s struggles to have a private personal life and a romantic partner have sometimes been caused by the creeps that watch her every move, so much so that she “had to save [her] money for security.” Deep synth bass beats and plucky strings accompany the instrumentals to create an eerie atmosphere. Because of the stress of fame, Eilish sometimes has second thoughts about her career: “30 under 30 for another year / I can barely go outside, I think I hate it here.”

    14. “Therefore I Am”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: sick of fake friends’ bullshit

      Key lyric: “I’m not your friend / Or anything, damn”

      The title of this R&B track is a play on the iconic philosophical quote from René Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.” As a result of her celebrity, Eilish explains feeling distrustful from time to time when making connections, fearing her friends might be using her for clout. It’s even frustrating when people think they know her but they really don’t: “Don’t talk ’bout me like how you might know how I feel / Top of the world, but your world isn’t real / Your world’s an ideal.” Even if you are a huge stan for your favorite artist, you’ll never know everything about them.

    15. “Happier Than Ever”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: angry and sad after a breakup, but better off than before

      Key lyric: “When I’m away from you / I’m happier than ever”

      The title track begins as an acoustic breakup ballad, calling out an ex who made Eilish miserable: “I knew when I asked you to / Be cool about what I was tellin’ you / You’d do the opposite of what you said you’d do / And I’d end up more afraid.” Upon the second verse, the song evolves to bass strings evoking frustration. By the third, a hard electric guitar rages to exclaim her anger and sadness: “And all that you did was make me fuckin’ sad / So don’t waste the time I don’t have / And don’t try to make me feel bad.” If you listen carefully in the outro, you can hear guttural screams accompanying the riffs, so if you’re going through a rough breakup, feel free to rage along.

    16. “Male Fantasy”

      Listen to it when you’re feeling: heartbroken

      Key lyric: “Guess it’s hard to know / When nobody else comes around / If I’m getting over you / Or just pretending to / Be alright, convince myself I hate you”

      The album closes with a somber acoustic ballad as Eilish tries to move on from a recent heartbreak, reflecting on what is real love and what is not. The title is a reference to Eilish’s feelings that pornography perpetuates a fantasy in which women exist solely to please men. “Distract myself with pornography / I hate the way she looks at me,” she sings. But Eilish knows real love is more than just sex. And sometimes, you just can’t explain it.

    Bop Shop: Songs From Jamila Woods, Syd, Kyle, And More

    With their cover of the 1998 classic “I’ll Be Missing You,” international superstars BTS leave an emotional mark on the BBC Live Lounge. With a song so emotionally charged (penned in remembrance of legendary rapper Biggie Smalls) and wholeheartedly beloved by a generation, the Bangtan Boys had the eyes of the world on their stage. But as expected, the group delivered a riveting performance expertly executed. While still paying homage to the original, the addition of rappers Suga and J-Hope’s Korean verses, as well as Jimin’s angelic vocals, added some artistic flair to the performance, while fellow members RM, Jin, V, and Jungkook held it down with the English rap, melody, and ad-libs. Touching the hearts of music-lovers around the world, BTS’s performance further proves that music is universal and knows no bounds, borders, or language. —Sarina Bhutani

    Through Fire And Physics, Yola’s Still Standing

    By Joshua M. Miller

    Yolanda Quartey is done going through the motions. With the release of her sophomore album Stand for Myself, the British-born singer-songwriter who performs spirited roots soul music as Yola makes it clear she’s comfortable in her own skin. Produced by The Black Keys’s Dan Auerbach, the confessional album reads in part like a mission statement of her journey the past eight years seeking to get back to her roots and her truest self.

    When her mother died in the fall of 2013, she realized she had been sleepwalking through life. “I feel that prior to my mother’s passing in 2013, that I was a little bit of a doormat version of myself,” Yola tells MTV News. “I wasn’t really fully living in my truth or in my actual personality. I had been minimizing myself.”

    From the outside, though, Yola’s entire rise looks like a success story. Growing up outside Bristol, England and living homeless for a time in London, she experienced instances of bigotry and sexism in the British music industry. However, her determination helped lead her to international acclaim. In 2019, she was nominated for four Grammys, including Best New Artist, for her debut album Walk Through Fire. Still, she says, “I had been staying mum about my true-life experience. I was attempting to get out of that environment but to no avail, until I saw how underwhelming the vision of a parent’s casket can be.”

    That sight at the funeral seemed almost phony, like a punchline to a joke that can’t “really ever represent the personality of the person therein.” The concept of death had been taught to her as a big happening, but experiencing it this way felt “somewhat small,” which surprised her.

    “It feels like it’s an entire mockery of all the drama and all the things you swore mattered,” she says. “In a world that put us in a little box, and then it gets lowered into the ground, and they might as well just be playing circus music because it seems like a joke… If you’re not living and you’re not self-actualizing, you’re not doing what you most want to do and extracting the most sense of joy and fulfillment from life, you’re really missing a trick.”

    As she rode home from the funeral, the bass line to Stand for Myself’s rousing “Break the Bough” materialized in her head, and she began to sing it. As tears poured down, she tried her best not to crash her motorcycle. As she pulled up to her house, the first verse appeared, and she realized she had a song.

    It wasn’t until last year during the pandemic, when she was hit by a flood of inspiration, that she was able to perfect it. The song is dedicated to the state of not living that had once consumed her. “That kind of a narrative of this record is one song,” Yola says, “and then the ensuing 11 songs are the measures I took to free myself from that paradigm of thinking.”

    That included taking more creative freedom in writing songs. Her time off due to the pandemic made the “process of writing the album the antithesis of the process of writing the first album.” While the songs on Walk Through Fire were written in a room with others, including Bobby Wood, Pat McLaughlin and Dan Penn, this time she handled the majority of songwriting duties herself.

    “With this isolation in effect, I couldn’t just be in the room and get the seed for the idea. I had to come up with the seed myself,” she says. “I had to be responsible for the lion’s share of the writing of the songs.” Once she got ideas satisfactorily started, she was able to get into a writing pod in Nashville with others such as local staples Natalie Hemby and Joy Oladokun.

    Yola found success writing songs through utilizing a uniquely scientific method. She became “enamored with techniques that physicists would use to solve problems that they were encountering in theories, in equations they were formulating.” She would stay up until 5 a.m., pour herself a glass of wine, binge listen to her favorite music, and strum the guitar, all in an effort to go blank in the process of “trying to de-tune my brain.” With her consciousness less active, she made deeper connections between things she had experienced and found a common thread between the messages she wanted to express. “[Physicists are] known for doing menial tasks or doing something that would turn their analytical brain off so that rest of the information in their mind would have a chance to coalesce,” Yola says. “I tried to employ this technique first by accident, and then I realized that a bunch of songs that I’d written previously that I was going to bring into the studio were written in the same way.”

    “All my best songs were written when I was borderline delirious with tiredness,” she continues, though that looseness perhaps led to an eclectic blend of sounds. Sonically, the album spans influences from her mother’s record collection, modern and classic R&B, hip-hop, and pop. It plays like a mixtape, which is fitting, as the 38-year-old came of age during the format’s early years. “You’ve got hip-hop artists and R&B artists sampling music from the ‘70s, from the funk era, from the disco era, from the soul era,” she says of what inspires her.

    Some of her lyrics, meanwhile, seek to challenge listeners to change their mental programming that often leads to bigotry, inequality, and tokenism — all of which she encountered early on. “I think my experience, being an isolated person, an other, an isolated other, is something that anyone who’s been an other of any kind would be able to identify with,” Yola says. To that end, the singer hopes her music bridges the gaps between marginalized peoples, offering a modicum of empathy. “I think that the record is as much about the requirements for tenderness in that other life as much as it is the undoing of this divide-and-conquer paradigm,” she added. “If you have been separated out, that is the problem, this old concept of bias and the thing that makes us oh so different. I think a lot of people will listen to this record and go, ‘Oh, that’s my life experience, but I’m nothing like her.’ We’re all surprisingly unoriginal.”

    For example, “Barely Alive,” focuses on the difference between surviving and thriving. Often our circumstances trick us into thinking they’re the same, especially when money enters the equation. “As much as I talk about people’s cognitive bias, the idea of people honestly thriving or finding a way to thrive makes people generally less hateful,” she says. “If we can lead people into being less hateful, we have a greater chance of leading them into moments of empathy or of kindness.”

    “But if you’re absolutely drowning in this effort because your life sucks,” she continued, “it’s going to be very hard to tell someone about their privilege or how good they have it, or how much they need to be thinking about anyone other than the direness of their own situation. So, for me, challenging cognitive bias and self-actualization come hand-in-hand.”

    Perhaps her latest element of self-actualization is entering the film realm. Yola will be making her acting debut as guitar-music icon Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis, due out in 2022. She says it was a “truly revelatory experience” learning to be an actor and figuring out how to solo, something she’d never done. “You have to be aware of so many things whilst you’re shredding the living daylights out of a guitar like Sister Rosetta Tharpe,” she said.

    Before then, Stand for Myself is set to showcase all the work she did to get here: “I feel like I’ve always been writing this record to a degree, from the point that I decided I needed to start living.”

    Dua Lipa Brings That ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ Energy In Pop Smoke’s ‘Demeanor’ Video

    Dua Lipa is the new female alpha in the palace in the new music video of “Demeanor,” a collaboration with the late hip-hop rapper Pop Smoke which premiered Thursday (July 29).

    The video begins with Lady Dua at the dressing table, applying makeup as her lady-in-waiting whispers to her. The footage then shows a large castle overlooking a red sunset and pans toward the window of the great hall, displaying a lavish feast. The song enters with Smoke’s vocals as guests donned in extravagant Rococo and Baroque outfits and wigs are having a good, old time. The video pays tribute to the late rapper in a ghostly cloud seated at the head table and in a wall-motion portrait immortalizing him as a Roman emperor.

    “I’m feelin’ on your baba treesha / Shorty said she like my demeanor / And she look like a eater / I’m off the Perky geekin’,” the Brooklyn rapper sings on the chorus.

    Dua harmonizes with Smoke on the lyric “My demeanor is meaner than yours” and makes a grand entrance to the party in her metallic gold ruffled gown within the second verse. She, her ladies, and her butlers do a fabulous court dance to the camera.

    “Female alpha and I practice what I preach, I devour / Tell me, can you take the heat?,” she sings. “You can touch with your eyes only / I know you like what you see / That je ne sais quoi energy / Baby, get on your knees.”

    The “Levitating” singer struts across the room as she sings the iconic line “You can’t say Pop without Smoke” and performs several dances with different partners on the floor. Toward the end, she raises her glass with the guests to give a toast. Clap for the encore.

    On Instagram, Dua Lipa showed appreciation for Smoke’s family. “Thank you to the team and Pop’s family for having me on this song. Thank you to my friends for making this video with me,” she said in her latest post, honoring the rapper who was slain in a home invasion in Los Angeles in February 2020.

    “Demeanor” is the lead single and 16th track on Pop Smoke’s posthumous second studio album Faith, which was released earlier this month on July 16, four days before what would have been the rapper’s 22nd birthday. The album follows his other posthumous 2020 album Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon. Faith peaked No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts and is still going.

    The Princess Diaries Soundtrack Captured Teen Pop’s Golden Age

    By Yasmine Shemesh

    A couple years ago, after a cozy movie night at home, the former teen pop singer Myra’s daughter grabbed her mother’s hands. They had just finished watching The Princess Diaries, which ends with Myra’s glittering 2001 single, “Miracles Happen (When You Believe),” playing in a ballroom as protagonist Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi spins around in joy after formally accepting her role as princess of Genovia.

    “Mom,” Myra’s daughter said, the singer recalled to MTV News. “Are you really going to go on the rest of your life not doing what you love?” The song’s themes of hope and perseverance had moved her to tell Myra, who had stepped away from performing years earlier to raise her child and go to college, to pursue her singing career again.

    That’s the power of the film and, more specifically, its unforgettable soundtrack. Adapted from Meg Cabot’s novel of the same name, The Princess Diaries follows 15-year old Mia (portrayed to perfection by Anne Hathaway in her first film) as she discovers from her estranged grandmother, the regal Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews), that she’s the sole heir to the throne of a tiny, fictional European country. Also starring Mandy Moore, who plays mean-girl Lana, the film surveys individuality, self-esteem, responsibility, and the importance of believing in yourself at all costs.

    Released on August 3, 2001, it was one of the most beloved films of the year, launching Hathaway’s career and invigorating Andrews’s after semi-retirement. It was also Andrews’s first Disney showing since Mary Poppins in 1964. With the involvement of musical royalty like Andrews and producer Whitney Houston — and also Moore, then a major pop star — sonic fairy dust was sprinkled on the project from the start. But The Princess Diaries’s exceptional soundtrack stood out as something special, a time capsule featuring Backstreet Boys, Aaron Carter, Hanson, Nobody’s Angel, and B*Witched that tapped into a specific cultural moment when teen pop ruled. The compilation became a solid summer staple in heavy Discman rotation and reached No. 5 on Billboard’s U.S. Top Soundtracks chart.

    “I have a gold record in my guest room,” producer Debra Martin Chase says, smiling through the telephone.

    The impact is felt immediately with “Supergirl!,” a funky, piano-driven banger by Krystal Peterson (née Harris) that opens the film with soulful vigor. “I’m supergirl and I’m here to save the world,” Peterson sings. “But I wanna know, who’s gonna save me?” It’s an indelible introduction to down-to-earth, good-hearted, environmentally conscious Mia, who is so painfully shy when the audience first meets her that she throws up at the prospect of public speaking.

    “I just remember thinking, Well, that’s perfect,” Peterson tells MTV News. “You start to see her energy right off the bat in that movie, and I really appreciate the thoughtfulness. That’s a great representation of the song, and it just works so well with the movie.”

    Placement credit goes to music supervisor Dawn Solér, who has it written in her television contract that she gets to be music supervisor for any future Princess Diaries installments (“There’s rumor of a Princess Diaries 3,” she teases). “At that point, when we meet [Mia], she wasn’t really a supergirl,” Solér says. “But [the song is] foreshadowing that she would be.”

    Peterson remembers writing “Supergirl!” in her late teens, pulling the lyrics out of the journal she carried around to capture her feelings. It was one of the first songs she wrote that way. “It was a vulnerable song for me to write,” she says. “That song was thinking about the things that I was dreaming about freeing myself from at that age, even in the emotional realm. You might think too much about what other people need from you all the time. You might be trying to forge your own path and create a space of freedom for yourself.”

    Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

    Krystal Peterson, then Harris, at The Princess Diaries premiere in 2001

    Mia recoils in horror at the news of her royal status by telling her grandmother that her expectation in life is to be invisible, and those feelings stem from what most are unsure of during that formative time in youth: themselves. Mia is challenged to embrace her identity, face her responsibilities, and build a sense of confidence. And though she does change physically, Mia’s emotional transformation is the true heart of the story.

    The Princess Diaries, to me, was all about empowerment,” Chase says. “The movie, at its essence, is about this seemingly ordinary young girl faced with extraordinary circumstances, who finds the courage and strength within herself to rise to the occasion and conquer all. And so, the music is really important in terms of just enhancing that message of believing in yourself.”

    Chase had recently come off executive producing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Houston when she received The Princess Diaries manuscript. “At the time, the general wisdom in Hollywood was that you could make a movie for boys and girls would go, but you couldn’t make a successful movie for girls,” she notes. But in 1998, Disney had struck gold with The Parent Trap remake starring Lindsay Lohan. The studio looked to do something beyond branded films like Mr. Magoo, and without much else in the development pipeline, they fast-tracked The Princess Diaries and completed it within the course of a year. Chase’s partnership with Disney made her the first Black woman to have a production deal at a major studio.

    Courtesy Debra Martin Chase

    Star Anna Hathaway with producer Debra Martin Chase

    Meanwhile, music supervisor Solér had previously assembled the iconic soundtrack for the coming-of-age drama Now and Then, though her first of many films with director Garry Marshall came with some interesting conversations. “Garry was skeptical because he had worked with a couple of music supervisors prior,” Solér says over Zoom, speaking from her home in Thousand Oaks, California. “I’d say, ‘Oh, let’s put some music here.’ And he’d be like, ‘Dawn! When the actors are doing their job, no music!’ So, I watched all his previous movies, and the thing that I realized about him, when there was music, it was very, very intentional.”

    The soundtrack was crucial to Marshall. The Princess Diaries was shown almost weekly to Girl Scouts and youth groups, which was an important step to see how the music resonated. “We would sit at the back of the theater and watch the audience and the movement of them and the feel,” Solér remembers. She pulled inspiration from a few things: “Thinking about Mia in San Francisco, being sort of a geek,” as well as what kind of music was popular with teens at the time.

    Even though the original soundtrack is packed with great pop music, its power is in the sharp curation of the songs and subtlety of the placement, which collectively work to highlight Mia’s emotional touchstones, as well as the ebbs and flows of her journey. Take Hanson’s “Wake Up.” It’s the morning after Mia learns she’s a princess, and the camera flashes to her getting ready for school in the morning, slightly disheveled, cocking her eyebrows in her bedroom mirror. With the breezy guitar riff playing quietly in the background, the audience peeks in on a private moment. “We always approached the songs as if [the movie] was a musical, so that it would be the narrative in a person’s head, which would make sense in the storyline,” Solér explains. “To me, I think that’s what makes the best song use.”

    Lyrics to “The Journey” by Mpulz, “You’ll get your wings at the right time, even birds must learn how to fly,” follow Mia as she sprints, stomach turning, out of debate class. “Little Bitty Pretty One,” Aaron Carter’s sweet cover of Bobby Day’s ‘50s classic, plays as Mia frantically yanks on her pantyhose in the backseat of a limousine on her way to etiquette lessons. Nobody’s Angel, Tammy Phoenix, and Lil J’s rendition of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Ain’t Nuthin’ But a She Thing” blasts as grandmother and granddaughter cruise over the Golden Gate Bridge during an outing that bonds them. “Crush” by 3G’s provides a dreamy backing for a slow dance between Mia and her longtime crush, popular Josh Bryant (Erik Von Detten).

    Meanwhile, Robert Schwartzman, frontman for Rooney, handles the role of Michael Moscovitz, the brother of Mia’s best friend, Lilly (Heather Matarazzo); former Rooney members Taylor Locke and Ned Brower also briefly appear as Michael’s band Flypaper. They perform “Blueside,” which would open Rooney’s 2003 self-titled studio debut. Another standout is “What Makes You Different (Makes You Beautiful)“ by Backstreet Boys, which scores the aftermath of the beach party. There’s a lot going on in that scene, including Moore’s iconic performance of “Stupid Cupid” and Mia’s eventual humiliation in front of eager paparazzi. As BSB’s ballad plays, a foil to the pep of “Stupid Cupid” earlier, its message serves as external reassurance that Mia doesn’t need to try to be someone she’s not to be cool or popular. Her power is within.

    Moore recorded “Stupid Cupid,” the film’s second ‘50s pop cover, especially for The Princess Diaries at Marshall’s suggestion. “When I talk about the things I learned from Garry Marshall, it was how to build the movie out: how to take moments in the script, flesh it out, elevate it, make it fun, and find ways to make it really pop,” Chase says. “This beach party was not originally scripted to have this musical number. But he saw an opportunity.”

    Solér says there weren’t really any label requirements from Disney to include artists from their in-house roster. That allowed Peterson, who cut her teeth as a young session singer in Indianapolis and had recently signed to Backstreet Boys’s K-BAHN label, to land a key spot on the soundtrack. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles and starting to record her debut, Me & My Piano, “Supergirl!” was placed in the film. Peterson says being associated with BSB definitely helped open the doors to Disney. The boy band offered Peterson an opening slot on their international Black & Blue tour — “Quite kind of them, really” — to help promote her record. “As the song became more popular, I would get up onstage and notice people were singing along with me,” Peterson says. “And that was the biggest impact to me, to be able to really experience that togetherness with people.”

    One artist directly connected to Disney was Myra, the first teen signed to Walt Disney Records, before Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez. “I’m Hispanic,” Solér adds. “Trying to find opportunities for Hispanic women has been something that has always been important to me, because I think it’s a very, very underserved market.”

    After making a name for herself singing Mariachi around Sonoma County, Myra signed to Disney and released her first single, “Magic Carpet Ride,” on the La Vida Mickey compilation. Shortly after, “Dancing in the Street” was featured in Recess: School’s Out. “It was so cool to see how it all came about,” she says. “And a lot of work. I had a great team. I actually still have a few friends up at Disney Records, and it’s so nice to be in touch after all these years. There are good things about the industry.”

    When she heard “Miracles Happen (When You Believe)” — written by Pam Sheyne and Eliot Kennedy, songwriters behind hits for S Club 7, Spice Girls, and Christina Aguilera — it resonated immediately. “I always wanted to do something to touch lives and touch hearts and make a difference, and that song was just up my alley completely,” Myra says.

    The song was nominated for an American Latino Media Arts (ALMA) Award for Outstanding Song in a Motion Picture Soundtrack and was promoted as the theme song of The Princess Diaries. “Supergirl!” became an unofficial theme for the film, too, and its music video features Anne Hathaway serving burgers with Peterson in a diner dubbed the Super Girl Grill.

    “It really didn’t even feel like work,” Peterson says of the diner scene. “It just felt like joy.” Backstreet Boys Kevin Richardson and Howie Dorough have sneaky cameos, too. “It’s one thing to have artists support you, it’s another thing to have them show up in your video. It was a really, really thoughtful thing for them to do for me.”

    One of the biggest highlights that day was meeting Houston, who dropped by the set. “She put her arm around me and was just such an encourager. I was feeling insecure around that time, probably for one of the first times in my life, as a singer or an artist. She was like, ‘This is great, you sound great.’ And I was like, ‘OK! Whitney says I’m all right, so I’m fine!”

    Pop music has always made a defining impact on youth culture, but at the turn of the new millennium, teen pop’s boom made it more prevalent than ever. “It was all about romance and love and feeling good about yourself,” describes Chase, who also produced The Cheetah Girls, the Disney Channel’s first musical, in 2003. “It was upbeat. It was positive. There was an innocence and a freshness to it.” Myra, too, associates teen pop with an all-around wholesomeness: “Everything down from the clothing to the style to the lyric to the music to how you presented yourself.”

    Right on the cusp of Napster and ascendent MP3 downloads, the teenage listening experience was still largely curated by select radio stations (like Radio Disney, which catered to its young audience), labels, and magazines. Today’s sweeping accessibility thanks to streaming services actually obscures how teen pop is defined. “If you look at teens today, because they have unlimited access, I don’t think teen pop has a chance because teens are listening to everything,” Solér says. “My [16-year-old] daughter rarely listens to what you’d classify as teen pop. But she loves Backstreet Boys; she loves the throwback music because she has access. And kids are very curious and they want to discover.”

    Courtesy Dawn Solér

    Music supervisor Dawn Solér with star Julie Andrews

    For Peterson, the pop-music world didn’t feel authentic to who she wanted to be as an artist. She eventually found herself toeing the line between what she hoped to create and what was happening in the business of her music. “I think a lot of the kids that were in the industry at that time were wrestling with that, actually,” she adds. It’s a sentiment echoed by Jessica Simpson in her memoir, Open Book, which candidly details the pressures and demands female pop stars often faced in the industry, and Hanson, who, as documented in their 2005 film Strong Enough To Break, also left a major label to make music independently on their own terms.

    In the end, Peterson chose to walk away from Hollywood. She dealt with an “existential crisis” about singing — “Why all of a sudden do I love and hate something that has been such an amazing, magical gift?” — but took a long break and eventually started attending local live shows and giving voice lessons. Today, she lives in Cincinnati and performs with the Queen City Band, a jazz sextet, and as a solo artist. She has a new single, “Abundantly,” and, as she turns 40, she’s more excited than ever about the music she’s making. “Teaching helped me heal, also, because I realized again that music has power,” she says. “And I did learn how to save me, for what it’s worth,” Peterson adds, referencing the lyrics to “Supergirl!”

    The Princess Diaries is among a handful of movies from the early aughts — like Legally Blonde, Josie and the Pussycats, Coyote Ugly, and Blue Crush — that challenged the cultural climate by bridging buoyancy with a depth that champions female empowerment. “It’s a perennial now,” Solér says. “Having a daughter and, for who I am, the most important thing is female empowerment. And it starts really young. It has to start really young because of the pressures of society and just the pressures that we have every day. So, I think that Princess Diaries is absolutely a piece that you can watch anytime and feel that.”

    “The fact that 20 years later the film still resonates, it’s still beloved, it’s important to people, means a lot,” Chase says. “It holds up, and that’s a big deal.”

    Like watching the movie, listening to the soundtrack never fails to make you feel good about yourself. Myra still gets messages from fans about how “Miracles Happen (When You Believe)” has helped them get through everything from chemotherapy to grieving the loss of a loved one. Those interactions have made her incredibly proud of the song and deepened her own connection to it. And that’s also why, for Myra, Peterson’s “Supergirl!” has always stayed with her.

    “I can’t forget it, because those are moments and songs that really impacted my life as a young teen,” she says. “Any song that has to do with women empowerment, I love, I learn, and I never forget.”