20 Years Later, Life Without Buildings Share Their Voice With A New Generation

By Loren DiBlasi

Two decades have passed, and Life Without Buildings still sound like freedom. Hear the band’s sole full-length record, Any Other City, once and it’ll never leave you — its lush, syrupy warmth oozes from your ears to your insides and stays there, like a glowing flame that never goes out. What keeps it crackling? Soft, sustained rhythms that toss and turn with gentle fervor, snaps of sharp, sparkling guitar, and a voice — a bizarre, beautiful cadence unmatched then and now — that’s strikingly naive yet bursting with profound wisdom. “No details! But I’m gonna persuade you!” singer Sue Tompkins swears in a clear, confident shout at the record’s outset, and yeah, you’re immediately convinced. It’s not what she says, exactly, but the heartfelt abandon with which she says it.

Released February 26, 2001, Any Other City is pure youth. It’s the sonic equivalent of driving at night in your very first car, windows down, cool air rushing at your face with nothing but vague possibility ahead. When you’re young, emotions are high, and everything feels like so much — almost too much. Tompkins’s raw, tender voice, unhinged in all the right ways, brilliantly captures that wild spirit. It’s impossible to replicate; yet so many TikTokers are now trying, thanks to Gen Z’s unexpected discovery of the euphoric LWB classic “The Leanover” (almost 5 million Spotify streams and counting). It’s a sudden surge in popularity that the band, broken up since 2002, never saw coming.

“It’s hard to say why [TikTok has popularized] that particular song, but it is quite a particular one amongst our songs,” Tompkins writes from Glasgow, Scotland, where Life Without Buildings started in 1999 and where she now lives and works as a visual artist. “It had this trajectory which, I think, once you get into it, is quite acute and particularised… if that’s even a word.”

Life Without Buildings have remained crucial in cult circles, but their newfound viral fame — no doubt part of a larger trend that extends to older bands like Fleetwood Mac and even Hoobastank —  is something else entirely. First, there was one video, from 20-year-old singer Beabadoobee, whose 10-second clip has racked up almost half a million views — then hundreds more, then quickly, thousands. To date, “The Leanover” has soundtracked over 117,000 TikToks, most of them created by young women unabashedly expressing themselves: dancing, lip-synching, doing makeup, dyeing their hair. The clips range in style, length, and content, but share the same fierce, reckless joy that only appears as a new generation steps into the spotlight.

“I was just trying to put my writing into music and even then, not analyzing it too much,” Tompkins admits.

Even the band itself started somewhat by accident — first as the trio of Robert Johnston (guitar), Chris Evans (bass), and Will Bradley (drums). “Initially, we were doing this sort of instrumental krautrock-y thing, with the idea that there would be some electronics involved,” Johnston recalls. “But it never really clicked. We all knew Sue and had seen her perform, but there was one night at Transmission Gallery that we were all there…  I think Will suggested we ask Sue if she’d do vocals for the band. We had no idea really what she’d do.”

“I just said ‘yes’!” Tompkins remembers. “I respected and liked everyone, and I think just went with a feeling of, oh, that’s exciting! I had no expectations or thoughts about it at all.”

Back at the turn of the millennium, before most of their TikTok admirers were even born, Life Without Buildings channeled a similar attitude while forging a new path amidst Glasgow’s crowded art-rock scene. “I think we were a bit sensitive about being labeled an ‘art band’ at the start so we tried to downplay that, but obviously what Sue was doing came directly from that background,” Johnston says.

“I loved going to art openings and just saw it all as one big ‘mush’ together,” Tompkins adds. “There was nothing particular in my head at all. I just tried to connect personal references and hoped that they might connect with others.”

In retrospect, Tompkins admits she was “very naive,” but that’s what helped Life Without Buildings stand out within the hyper-masculine rock scene of the early aughts (when LWB supported The Strokes at their first-ever headlining London gig, drummer Will Bradley memorably called it “a booking accident.”). No offense to that nostalgic era of vintage-inspired dude rock, but none of those bands were ever man enough to evoke the same effervescent energy of “Let’s Get Out,” in which Tompkins cries “look around!” with the delicate wonder of a newborn baby seeing the world for the first time. On the softer “Envoys,” she repeats the word “salt” so many times that it actually transforms into “assault,” twisted syllables riding an ecstatic wave of poetic tradition that stretches from Jenny Holzer to Patti Smith. The track builds to a climax that never comes; a major part of the band’s effectiveness was knowing when not to do something.

@abbyroberts

how has @charlottelooks never done my makeup before😳

♬ The Leanover by Life Without Buildings – andrew :•)

This organic vibe is as fresh today as it was back then. But in 2001, Any Other City faced its share of unfair criticism — rooted as much in ignorance as it was in sexism. One infamous review from NME claimed that only “mad people and immediate family” could tolerate Tompkins’s singing.

“I was so disappointed by how lazy a lot of the reviews were,” Johnston remembers. “It was like, ‘bingo!’ Are they going to mention Björk or Clare Grogan? Because obviously, those are the only even slightly unusual female vocalists they’ve ever bothered to listen to.”

As a generation well-practiced in shattering conventional norms, it makes sense that Gen Z would embrace Life Without Buildings wholeheartedly, even if some male critics never could. Any Other City will, most likely, remain the band’s one and only release — “We’re all in different places doing different things, some in art, some not,” Tompkins reveals — but that just makes it that more precious for those with whom it resonates so deeply. For young women, especially, there’s a lot to glean from Sue Tompkins’s words. “You’re so beautiful but you’re going to slip away like that… feeling that way about difficult people,” she states in the album’s melancholy finale. It’s an essential reminder that someone else’s impression of you means so much less than the expression you create for yourself.

SHINee Is Back — And It’s Been ‘A Long Time Coming’

By Ashlee Mitchell

Key, Minho, Taemin, and Onew sit together, makeup-free, laughing, sipping on drinks, vibing, and generally enjoying each other’s company. It’s about 2 p.m. in Seoul, and the guys have obviously been busy with back-to-back interviews, but that doesn’t deter from the positivity they radiate on a Zoom call. One could mistake them for brothers instead of the iconic second-generation K-pop moguls they are, but that relatability in spite of their superstardom makes them SHINee.

The K-pop landscape looked very different when they debuted under SM Entertainment in 2008. SHINee entered the scene with the timeless “Replay,” an R&B jam where the fresh-faced boys sang about impressing an older woman. This debut secured their place as trendsetters in Korea, inspiring what media dubbed the “SHINee Trend” (skinny jeans, high top sneakers, etc.) and earning a devoted fan base that’s steadily grown over the last 13 years.

Released today (February 22), their seventh album, Don’t Call Me, is a nine-track effort spanning hip-hop, R&B, EDM, dance, and reggae. It’s their first comeback since 2018’s The Story of Light, and it feels like a grand return. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Key tells MTV News in English. “At the beginning of the recording it was awkward but it feels so natural now. I feel like, yeah, I’m back.” He’s attentive, thoughtful, and just funny enough, and the other members nod along as he talks. “We worked on it for about a year and a half, it’s been a long time coming.”

“Because we had a lot more time in comparison to other albums to prepare, I think the album quality is something to look forward to as well,” Onew adds.

The energetic title track, a thrilling dance song, captures complex emotions after a love betrayal. The styling is edgy and eye-catching, and the music video focuses on the intricate choreography complete with numerous background dancers. Key describes it as high-impact with a hip-hop concept, one SHINee hasn’t explored much in the past. “We just wanted for when people see SHINee’s comeback for it to have a big impact on them. I think when we were thinking about pulling together the outfits, the music video, the overall concept, that’s kind of what we were focused on.”

Fittingly, the choreography for “Don’t Call Me” is fast-paced and hard-hitting, allowing the group to challenge themselves and prove that they’re still very much capable of making a statement. “It’s going to be kind of a world-shocking/surprising performance. That’s what I am excited for,” Taemin, the youngest member, eagerly adds. Key ribs him: “That’s what Taemin said, not us,” and the members all laugh. Throughout the interview, they’ve been sharing knowing glances, and their excitement for their reunion is palpable.

Clearly, their bond is as strong as ever, even as Don’t Call Me marks the group’s first album without any contributions from member Jonghyun, who died tragically in 2017. “I don’t think too much has changed just because we like being around each other and it’s awesome that we’re able to have the same great chemistry with each other,” Minho says. “I think there’s a special synergy that comes out of the four of us together.”

Over their careers, SHINee have proven to not only be vocal powerhouses, but skillful dancers and actors as well, and this new project aims to build on their musical legacy. They’ve each dabbled in various artistic industries beyond music. Minho has appeared in several K-dramas, most recently Lovestruck in the City on Netflix. Key serves as fashion director of the group in addition to designing and releasing successful solo projects like his 2019 album I Wanna Be. Leader Onew acted in hit drama, Descendants of the Sun, in 2016, in addition to releasing his first mini-album, Voice, in 2018. And then there’s Taemin, who recently dropped his two-part project, Never Gonna Dance Again, in fall 2020. As the other members fulfilled mandatory military enlistments, Taemin has grown as a genre-defying performer through solo projects and super group SuperM, keeping SHINee’s name alive for a new generation.

“It feels like I’m back with my family, like I’m right at home and I’m really comfortable with them,” Taemin says. He’s been chatty and smiling through most of the interview. “The overall atmosphere has been really great because it’s been such a long time since all of us got together. When we’re together, there’s just so much to talk about and once we start jogging back our memories of the past I realize how far we’ve all come in our career, and that’s just been really great.”

Minho chimes in on their work. “This is an album that still has SHINee’s signature sound, but also we did try out new styles and new genres of music. I think it’s not necessarily that it’s different, but it’s a more developed, more mature kind of sound that we can expect from this album.”

The members have split loyalties to the tracks on Don’t Call Me. As soon as the question of favorite song is asked, Taemin shouts “CØDE!” instinctively as if he’s been waiting for the perfect time. He references collaborators LDN Noise and Kenzie, whom they’ve worked with frequently in the past. “They know SHINee’s signature sound, and while the song is still kind of light and has that refreshing signature SHINee sound that people are used to, there’s still this mature aspect to the song that shows how far SHINee has come, and I also really like the bassline for that track.”

For Minho, “Kind”, the last song on the album, is a standout. “It’s a little bit slower and the lyrics are really meaningful so I think it’s a song I would love to perform.” Key adds his pick, “For me it’s ‘Heart Attack’ because it has that funky feel, and it’s a song that really represents SHINee.” And though it’s hard to choose, Onew mentions the reggae dance song “Body Rhythm,” for which they worked with H1GHR Music’s Woodie Gochild on the rap. “I feel like we might not have too many chances to perform it for the fans, so it’s one of those songs that I really hope we have a chance to showcase.”

SHINee’s relationship with their fans, called Shawols, is one of the main reasons they’ve stayed dominant over the years, even in the nearly three-year gap between albums. “I know physically we can’t be together,” Key says of the effect of the pandemic on their promotions, “but through this album we just want to get one step closer to them.”

Onew concludes our chat with a message for Shawols: “Let’s have fun together, let’s keep talking, keep communicating, and thank you for waiting for so long until our comeback.” It’s official: SHINee is back.

Dawn Richard’s “Bussifame,” Wizkid’s “Longtime,” And More Songs We Love

A classic R&B ballad requires the absolute loss of pretense: not trying to convince the listener of what you don’t yet know — that everything will end well — and striking the heart-wrenching, guttural center of a primal feeling of the very moment, whether in the throes of falling in love or in the pitiful depth of loss. “Lost One” is devoid of anything but pure sorrow, wherein Sullivan gets drunk, has sex with strangers, and loses all restraint in the name of coping with the consequences of her actions. “Please don’t forget about me, try not to love no one [else],” she wails, before reconsidering her request. “I know that’s too much to ask,” she says. “I know I’m a selfish bitch.” —Terron Moore

Radiohead’s ‘Lotus Flower’ Video Perfected A Viral Dance 10 Years Before TikTok

By Amanda Silberling

When Radiohead released their divisive eighth album The King of Limbs in February 2011, it had been nearly four years since the release of the revered In Rainbows. As fans, we were parched.

This lull sparked the era that cemented the stereotype of the rabid Radiohead fan: poring over obscure B-sides, searching for clues to solve some puzzle that we weren’t sure actually existed. We worshipped Radiohead with such intensity that when music critic Chuck Klosterman proposed that singer Thom Yorke predicted 9/11 on Kid A (2000), we considered it. Meanwhile, blogger Kevin Flick devised the complicated Binary Theory, asserting that 1997’s OK Computer and In Rainbows are companion albums linked by ones and zeroes, and that In Rainbows marked the culmination of a 10-year master plan to blow our minds. Even a decade later, journalists are still producing 10-minute video explorations into hidden rhythmic structures on In Rainbows. With such high expectations and obsessive fandom, it would have been hard for any album to meet the intensity.

But then, on February 16, Radiohead dropped the music video for “Lotus Flower.” We weren’t ready.

For five minutes and seven seconds, Yorke dances alone in a warehouse, moving erratically over a bassy looped beat. He wears a black bowler hat, using it as a prop as he twitches and grooves to the rhythmic electronica. The video’s minimalist, black-and-white style demands close attention, both to the unfamiliar music and to the uncomfortably intimate eye contact Yorke makes with the camera. Between its experimental video and departure from Radiohead’s past catalog, many fans were skeptical.

“When I saw him dancing in that video, I was like, ‘Thom has betrayed me,’” says Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes. He’s somewhat facetious, remembering how important Radiohead had been for him as a self-described moody teenager. “How dare Thom dance? I thought he was supposed to be, like, the king to moody white males.”

Pecknold feels differently in 2021: “Now I would relish the opportunity to film dance videos.” But the initial impulse of confusion makes sense. Even after decades, there was still a cognitive dissonance at play. How could the guy who became famous for brooding about being a creep and a weirdo end up dancing so unabashedly? What does it mean to spend years desperately awaiting new studio material, only to get five minutes of Thom having fun, jumping around?

All across the internet, the video’s energy was infectious. Yorke’s “Lotus Flower” dance became a meme, with fans mashing up his choreography with other songs, like Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.” In another fan creation, Yorke auditions for Black Swan. For years to come, these dance moves would become a staple in Radiohead’s live performances, and fans delighted in learning the movements. We can only wonder what TikTok would’ve done with “Lotus Flower,” had the app existed 10 years ago.

Much like the viral TikTok dance crazes that make stars out of scrollers today, the “Lotus Flower” moves might’ve looked off the cuff, but they were carefully chosen. His seemingly improvised gestures — gripping the top of his bowler hat, shaking as though he were possessed — were actually crafted by the Resident Choreographer of the Royal Ballet. The clip was the result of a collaboration between Yorke and Wayne McGregor, one of the most celebrated choreographers in England, as well as director Garth Jennings. McGregor helped Yorke shoot the video all in one day. There was no rehearsal process. Instead, the artists bounced ideas back and forth and filmed the movement phrases immediately, recording about 30 seconds of the video at a time.

“When we were talking, he said one of the things he loves to do is look out into the crowd, hijack somebody’s movement, and take it on for himself,” McGregor remembers. “I loved that idea, so that’s how we worked. I would do something with him, and he would copy in real time.”

Of course, the band’s new musical experiments inspired the dance as well. Even though Radiohead had long since strayed from prototypical guitar music to experiment with a more digitized sound on albums like Kid A and Amnesiac, “Lotus Flower” and other songs on The King of Limbs went a step further.

In a 2012 Rolling Stone profile of “the most experimental band in music,” producer Nigel Godrich explained Radiohead’s writing process: He challenged the five-piece to put aside their guitars, drums, and piano for two weeks and make music using only turntables and vinyl emulation software, like the equipment Yorke had been using at recent DJ gigs in Los Angeles. Guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood, who wrote his own sampling software to create The King of Limbs, was eager for a new challenge. He told Rolling Stone, “We didn’t want to pick up guitars and write chord sequences. We didn’t want to sit in front of a computer either. We wanted a third thing, which involved playing and programming.” The result was an album so complex that when they toured, they needed two drummers to perform simultaneously, so they invited Portishead’s Clive Deamer to drum alongside Phil Selway.

For ambient producer and engineer Scott Hansen, who performs as Tycho, The King of Limbs marks a technical achievement in electronic music that remains untouchable. “I think the holy grail, at least for me, is chasing this very pure form of distortion,” he says. “You can hear cheap distortion, and you can hear fuzz distortion like you hear a guitar pedal. There’s all these different types of distortion, but they have their own and it’s just so refined and so well-executed.”

“Lotus Flower” continues to be such a powerful influence for Hansen that he uses it as a reference when producing Tycho songs. “Whenever I’m working on final mixes, I flip back and forth like, ‘Is it hitting this frequency? Is it getting close to doing what this is doing in the bass frequency?’”

Despite the masterful molding of loops and samples on The King of Limbs, some of the album’s most salient moments come on songs like “Give up the Ghost” and “Codex,” where these endless textures are stripped away. On an album that’s only 37 minutes long – Radiohead’s shortest to date – these moments make an impact.

“[The King of Limbs] came out at a time when I was touring a lot – that was kind of right when Fleet Foxes put out Helplessness Blues,” Pecknold remembers. “I often find myself listening to Radiohead on an airplane or [in] an airport, and it conveys that disconnection or alienation of those spaces. I remember putting ‘Codex’ on repeat for a six hour plane ride in the middle of tour, and there’s something about those consistent piano chords, that really tiny drum sound, the way the melody was moving.”

Still, the headiness of The King of Limbs would position it as one of Radiohead’s least-liked records, despite its unrivaled achievement in production and mixing. But this is why “Lotus Flower” brought us so much joy – on an album that wasn’t very accessible even for the most devoted of fans, its video offered an entry point as it made its digital rounds.

“I absolutely loved collecting all the memes attached to it,” McGregor says. “At one point, I had about 70 different versions of the dance. I love the discussion it generated and the freeness it created in other bodies.”

Wild Pink Is Bigger Than Christmas

The first time I heard John Ross sing, in the back of a Brooklyn venue on a frigid November night, his voice lit up the dark room like an ember. The scene might’ve been captured cinematically with a long lens peering through a frosted window, his vocal glow warming the two dozen people inside listening. Considering his formidable height and physical stature, Ross is not a loud man, and as his musical project Wild Pink has evolved over five years, his voice has only become softer, the yelps of early releases mellowed into honey. But while boggy, his voice remains nimble enough to deliver nearly any lyric (“You’re a fucking baby, but your pain is valid too”) with grace and pathos.

It’s also what could possibly make a Wild Pink song titled “Bigger Than Christmas” seem funny at first blush: Could Ross’s vocal tone deliver grandeur? As his musical project has proven over time, the answer is a resounding absolutely — and as he patiently, thoughtfully answered questions over the phone a few months ago in that same calm tone, Ross celebrated the even wider scope Wild Pink takes on its latest album, A Billion Little Lights, out on February 19. “We spent a lot of time on drums and percussion,” he told MTV News, reveling in the new boom, accordion, fiddle, and lap steel recorded partly in Philadelphia with a “new cast of characters to play with.”

The streaming era has by and large dictated that mainstream artists load hooks at the their front of songs, in turn gradually training listeners to expect them in a matter of 10 or 20 seconds. Across the patient A Billion Little Lights, by contrast, the openness of the sound itself feels like its own hook, and nowhere is it more prominent than in the skydiving bombast of “The Shining But Tropical.” Coupled with its haunting video anchored by Schitt’s Creek’s Annie Murphy, it’s an obvious choice for a lead single. But its specialness lies in how those opening turbine-sized drum pounds follow possibly the prettiest, twinkliest coda in the band’s entire catalogue, at the end of “Bigger Than Christmas,” as Ross slips into meditative: “It seems so clear / Nature takes its course / Year after year / Always growing near.” All at once, it’s a new adventure.

“Music is escapism, and I think that I’m kind of making a fantasy world there that I live in, and least while I’m writing it, and in that way, there’s some positivity,” Ross said.

In the years since Wild Pink debuted as a slightly punkish outfit, Ross has steered the ship toward a more heartland sound ripe for dreaming, adding synths and gentle twang and dedicating 2018’s excellent Yolk in the Fur to Tom Petty. A Billion Little Lights embodies a manifest destiny approach, giving itself over to lyrical naturalism instead of the quippy vignettes that made the band’s 2017 debut so indelible. Images of “forsythia in the spring” and blooming dogwoods populate these latest 10 tracks, as does a spirit of rushing optimism: “You deserve the good things that’ll come to you,” he sings on “Pacific City.” “You just need a little room.”

Indeed, A Billion Little Lights began as a conceptual project based on the sprawling American West, and traces of that DNA are found in references to the San Francisco Bay and the Rockies. Half of it was recorded in Los Angeles in October 2019 with trusted Beck producer David Greenbaum, who helped Ross materialize the tidal drum sounds he chased. What makes it feel most like the wide-open West, though, isn’t any particular sound or lyric, but a general vibe of peace after a long, arduous journey. Every collaborator — bassist T.C. Brownell and drummer Dan Keegan; Ratboys’s Julia Steiner, who sings on several tracks; a crop of session musicians gathered by Philly’s Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner — feels tied together, creating a planetary sound from dozens of individual energies. “It’s pretty loose,” Ross said. “It’s pretty open-ended, I would say. And in that way, it’s definitely collaborative.”

Ross, by the way, is not one for circumlocution. He admitted up front that he’s not great at phone interviews. Like a lot of writers, he’d prefer the chance to edit and revise his thoughts as he gathers them. While he’ll offer up a production timeline and an entire playlist’s worth of album inspirations without hesitation, he’s not keen on discussing his lyrics apart from entertaining my observations. They’re “nature-focused,” sure, but “beyond that, I like to just leave everything to the listener as far as what exactly they think it means.” That’s part of the album’s enduring charm, where impressionistic lyrical sketches can map out a listener’s own imagination: like a vision of a golden field, or a memory of a wintertime gig in the frost.

So we have the sound, summoned from hallmarks like folk hero Townes Van Zandt, Fleetwood Mac’s slick Tusk, and rustic cuts from The Waterboys and The Pogues (who Ross name-dropps on track two). But there’s also the more unexpected, like Donna Lewis’s “I Love You Always Forever,” something Ross had on repeat while making the album and seeking out “a vocal sound for this record” to differentiate it from past releases. To be sure, the bleeding fiddle of “Oversharers Anonymous” shares little of the quiet musical cues from the British pop singer’s 1996 ode to endless love. But Lewis’s own breathy hum has a kinship with Ross’s, a lean-in-or-miss-something kind of purity.

Much like how the portal-ripping drum announcement at the front of “The Shining But Tropical” — a song about memory and disappearing slowly — relies on preceding stillness, Ross’s voice needs its backdrop. “The only way I could see us playing this record live is with a big band,” he said, mentioning a seven-piece lineup in place for a release-day livestream from his home in New York’s Hudson Valley. “I think just having a bunch of players onstage is the best way to pull it off, rather than leaning on a sampler or something.” Even with the return of live stages looking tentative at best for the rest of 2021, Ross’s voice can still emit a glow. For now, it’s through a screen. But it takes a billion little lights to power the machine.

Pink Sweat$ Wants To Take You To Pink Planet

By Mark Braboy

If the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the country of anything, it’s that love still makes a difference. It’s what West Philadelphia’s own Pink Sweat$ has been demonstrating while residing in the capital of country music, Nashville.

Since 2020, the “At My Worst” singer has been giving back to his native city by donating over $30,000 to local organizations that provide food for the homeless. And by his account, part of what motivated him was going through those hard times himself.

“At one point, I got evicted from my home. I’ve been through a lot, dealing with the music industry, so it’s always thinking, like, why were things when I was in those positions that I needed? And trying to do that,” he tells MTV News.

While working on his dreamy and sentimental debut album, Pink Planet, out today (February 12), the man born David Bowden still sees himself as the same as the everyday people affected the most by the pandemic. As a way of paying it forward, he and his partner even pay for the groceries of customers behind them while out shopping. “When I used to be in lines and I used to have like $3 in my account, I used to be hoping like, dang, hoping for this person to turn around and be like, ‘Yo, you want me to get that for you?’”

That type of inclusive love is what Pink Sweat$ looks to musically recreate on Pink Planet: a world for all people, regardless of age, gender, background, and sexuality. “I’m making this world for people who don’t fit in on earth,” he explains.

MTV News joined Pink Sweat$ during a busy day in Nashville as he spoke to us via Zoom en route to his condo. He talked about his new album, how he became part of a heartwarming proposal around Christmastime, why music about love still matters, and more.

MTV News: You sang at somebody’s proposal back in December. Can you tell me the story of how that came about?

Pink Sweat$: There was a gentleman who was working with an artist that I was working with, and I guess his girl, she was listening to my song a lot. And we had never met. But the artist, he found out that she was working with me, and he’s like, “Yo, I’m about to propose to my girl. She’d been listening to this song every day, and this can’t be a coincidence.” And he was just like, “Bro, could you please help me surprise my girl? I want to propose,” and he kind of broke down the setup.

And at first, I was kind of on edge because of COVID and everything. Then, it kind of touched my heart, and I’m like, you know what, that’s my whole thing. I’m all about love. And at the end of the day, I want to be a part of somebody’s memory, and what better time to do it than right now? He chose to propose right now in chaos in the world. To me, that meant something special.

MTV News: Do you see yourself, I guess down the line, getting married to that somebody one day, and do you see yourself settling in Nashville?

Pink Sweat$: Yeah, for sure. And do I see myself settling in Nashville? I don’t know. My mentality has always been… I like to travel, so I could see myself getting a house somewhere, but I don’t think I’ll be there that much. I kind of want to see as much of the world as I can. I want to move to different countries, rally at one point still while I don’t have kids, you know what I mean?

MTV News: Where would you want to move?

Pink Sweat$: I would want to move to Thailand for a year or so, just to see what it’s like to live in another country, and I got a big fan base in Asia, so I want to kind of just see what places are like, even if it’s just for like five, six months or something. And then just move from place to place, you know what I mean? Plus, I never went to college either. Some of my friends, when they went to college, they got to study abroad and things like that, so this is my version of studying abroad.

MTV News: Last year, you performed “At Your Worst” for Lion’s Den, and considering how you couldn’t tour normally, what did that mean to you?

Pink Sweat$: Just performing in general for an intimate setting, it took me back to when I first stepped onstage as Pink Sweat$. It was butterflies, but it was like a sense of belonging. I felt like I found my place in all of this: music and everything. It just all started to make sense. It always just takes me back to that moment where it’s like, yo, this is cool. I have a voice. I always wanted a voice. I always felt like I had a lot to say and music gave me a platform to say it.

MTV News: Another place we hope to get to travel this year is Pink Planet. What’s the meaning behind the title?

Pink Sweat$: It’s me tapping into my childhood and a lot of the things, like growing up in the inner city, feeling like you don’t have a voice, and just having a broad imagination, and partly, it’s escapism. Sometimes the world that we live in isn’t always so beautiful. It isn’t always so friendly. It isn’t always so accepting. So, it’s like, I wanted to create a place mentally, via your ears, where you can go there and feel like, “Yo, I’m somewhere else. I just hopped on a flight to the Pink Planet and I feel accepted here. I feel loved. I feel understood.”

MTV News: How is this world going to sound compared to what you did on The Prelude tape that you came up with?

Pink Sweat$: The way I explain it is: The whole album together is the journey and the destination. The Prelude was just the journey. You hop on a flight, right? Let’s say you’ve never been to Bora Bora. You hop on a plane to get there. So, the plane ride is The Prelude, but the full album, Pink Planet, that’s the arrival. You get to experience the food, the culture, you get to feel like, “Yo, what is Pink Planet about?” You’re like, “Oh man, it seems like it’s about love. It’s about acceptance. It’s about big, big dreams. It’s about taking that leap of faith, whatever it is in your life and however that connects to you.”

You need love. You need affection. You need to feel those things day to day, both men and women, and nonbinary people. That’s what makes people happy. And especially for Black men, it’s like, our society, we don’t really bask in the idea of love, and it’s like happiness doing harm to people. The portrayal, at least. That’s not the reality though. Happiness is seeing somebody doing their thing and you’re like, “Dang, man. That’s so cool. I can’t wait til one day I could do that. Or if I never get to do that, I’m happy for you.” And I feel like Pink Planet is just all-encompassing.

MTV News: What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?

Pink Sweat$: Probably working, man. I never really celebrated my birthday, honestly. As an adult, at least. When you’re a kid, it’s cute. Girls give you little sweethearts and cards. But as an adult, my birthday gift is a success. It’s like, I want to be able to do more things for people, like be able to do stuff for my family. I might take a trip though, but it won’t be all my birthday. Probably be like the month after because of the album.

MTV News: Why does music about love and romance matter, during the pandemic?

Pink Sweat$: It’s essential. I think for a while in our climate, we’ve kind of run away from it, where it’s like it’s all about the coolness. It’s all about the swag. Those are stories, and it’s a part of something, but at the end of the day, all of the dealers, they cuddled up with a shorty. They in love with somebody. No matter what they say in the song, there’s some girl out there, they caught up. No matter your mother, your father, somehow you got here. At the end of the day, whoever you’re with, it’s important for them to feel a certain way.

Syd’s Reflection, Brittany Howard’s High, And Other (Love) Songs We Love

R&B sister duo Chloe x Halle can make romance sound heavenly with honeyed harmonies on cuts like “Ungodly Hour” and “Don’t Make it Harder on Me,” but they can also make it sound deadly. “Tipsy,” a deliciously explicit standout track from Ungodly Hour, leans into the more intoxicating nuances of love: infatuation, jealousy, and revenge. “I might be a little tipsy on your love / Makes me a little crazy, so what,” the two sing in its dark but dreamy chorus, shrugging off threats they’ve made towards boys who dare break their hearts. While the breakdown in the bridge provides a moment of brevity – “We just havin’ fun,” they coo – it really shouldn’t be that hard, right? As the two say: “If you love your little life, then don’t fuck up.” —Carson Mlnarik

Surprise! Taylor Swift’s Re-Recorded Fearless Will Be Out Soon

It’s been nearly three months since Taylor Swift gave fans an essential update: She’d “recently begun re-recording my older music,” an experience that, at the time, had “already proven to be both exciting and creatively fulfilling.” We got to hear a little bit of what, say, “Love Story” might sound like if Swift were to record it now when a snippet of it appeared in a commercial for the dating site Match at the end of 2020.

Now, the long wait to hear the rest of that song — as well as the first of Swift entirely re-recorded albums — is nearly over. The pop star shared a note on social media today (February 11) that her new version of Fearless, her 2008 sophomore album, is completed, and that fans should be hearing it soon. The 2021 “Love Story” — called “Love Story (Taylor’s Version), naturally — is out tonight.

Fearless was an album full of magic and curiosity, the bliss and devastation of youth,” Swift wrote in a note accompanying the announcement. “It was the diary of the adventures and explorations of a teenage girl who was learning tiny lessons with every new crack in the facade of the fairytale ending she’d been shown in the movies. I’m thrilled to tell you that my new version of Fearless is done and will be with you soon. It’s called Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and it includes 26 songs.”

Six of those songs are never-before-released cuts, and all of them were written by Swift when she was between the ages of 16 and 18. The additional tracks will come from songs Swift had originally written for that album but which didn’t ultimately make the final tracklist. “Songs I absolutely adored, but were held back for different reasons (don’t want too many down tempo songs, can’t fit that many songs on a physical CD),” she wrote.

“Those reasons seem unnecessary now. I’ve decided I want you to have the whole story, see the entire vivid picture, and let you into the entire dreamscape that is my Fearless album.”

But there’s another reason for the expanded Fearless version, and it harkens back to why she’d re-recording her albums in the first place. Since Scooter Braun purchased, then reportedly subsequently sold her catalogue to “an investment fund,” Swift no longer owns those original versions of her first six studio albums. So, she’s creating a new catalogue of those same songs, one that she owns.

“Artists shown own their own work for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really *knows* that body of work,” she wrote.

“Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” is out tonight. In the meantime, you might be interested in spending 2 hours and 16 minutes of that wait time listening to Swift’s 2020 albums, Folklore and Evermore, together in a single playlist. Pre-order info Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is now available here.

Super Monster Claud Revels In The ‘Gay Shit’

When COVID-19 production shutdowns forced many musicians to record alone for the first time, indie-pop ingenue Claud Mintz had a leg up. They began writing and releasing music in 2018 as the lead of Toast, a now-defunct lo-fi duo they formed as a college student with their best friend, producer Josh Mehling. Although they lived in the same city and attended university together, the pair recorded separately by sending instrumental tracks or half-baked song ideas back and forth. “We’ve never been able to make music in the same room,” Claud, who performs mononymously, tells MTV News over Zoom while hunkered down in Los Angeles. “If we are in the same room, we get distracted or we get embarrassed, and we just can’t do it. So it didn’t feel unusual because that’s what I’ve been doing this whole time.”

Under a mop of cotton candy-colored curls, Claud is humble and soft-spoken, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they don’t know what they’re talking about. At 21, Claud has already released the eight-track EP Sideline Star, collaborated with their bedroom-pop contemporary Clairo, and caught the attention of Grammy-nominated indie-rocker Phoebe Bridgers. Their full-length debut, Super Monster, drops Friday (February 12) via Saddest Factory, Bridgers’s fledgling record label. To date, Claud is Saddest Factory’s only signee. “I was in conversation with a few other labels,” they remember. “But I sort of felt like, if I was going to sign and to really trust the team that I was going to sign to, I’d want it to be somebody who understands my perspective and an artist that I could really trust creatively.” Bridgers, an industry-savvy powerhouse with “her finger on the pulse,” fit the bill.

Toast is no longer together, but Claud is still BFFs with Mehling, who played on and co-produced several songs from Super Monster, including the winking single “Cuff Your Jeans” and the self-reflective finale “Falling With the Rain.” The album also features contributions from production duo Zach & Roger and Dan Nigro, who was behind Olivia Rodrigo’s runaway hit single “Drivers License.” Mehling and Claud’s decision to retire Toast was entirely amicable: After their earliest releases gained some traction, the psychedelic rock band The Marias and alternative trio Triathlon approached Claud and Mehling about joining their tour. Mehling passed in favor of staying in school, but Claud agreed. “[Josh] was like, ‘Just go for a few months,’” they recall. “And then a few months turned into a few years.”

Toward the tail end of the Toast era, Bridgers found Claud’s music and “really liked it,” they remember. “We started having meetings, and she’d come to my shows.” Wow, remember shows? Claud does, fondly. In fact, promoting their new record during the pandemic means they will miss out on one of their favorite live-music moments: singing their sometimes “very jarring lyrics” to an unsuspecting audience. They cite “Wish You Were Gay” (the genuinely queer Claud cut, not the petty Billie Eilish song) as a prime example. “Seeing people’s reactions was just so fun.”

Claud’s songwriting style is autobiographical, and they have been open about being queer and nonbinary throughout their career. Coming out, as we understand it in the traditional sense, was never a calculated decision. “I think whether I was out or not, I’d still be writing about gay shit because I am gay,” they explain with a shrug.

Indeed, “gay shit” is everywhere on Super Monster. The record is a hodgepodge of songs written and recorded before and during the pandemic, but Claud’s bright sound and contemplative songwriting are present throughout. It features two tracks named after old flames: “Ana,” a wistful letter to an ex after a mutual breakup, and “Jordan,” an angstier cut about an unhealthy relationship. “Bet you didn’t know I won’t let a straight man throw me off,” Claud insists in the pre-chorus of the playfully defiant “That’s Mr. Bitch to You.”

Even the album’s title — a reference to a sketch by late visual artist and musician Daniel Johnston called “Claud the Super Monster” — can be interpreted as a metaphor for exploring gender beyond the binary. Claud isn’t a superhero or a monster; they’re a “super monster,” defying the rigid labels and tired archetypes we’ve all been conditioned to uphold. “It’s all a metaphor,” Claud says with a knowing laugh.

But openness isn’t without its drawbacks. Claud points out that, in most press coverage, their identity is mentioned before their name. “It was something I noticed this summer,” they say. “Every article about me [was titled] ‘queer artist Claud’ or ‘nonbinary artist Claud.’” Of course, being able to have a career as an out recording artist is a good thing, as well as a relatively new phenomenon. But this “label-y” mindset, as Claud calls it, can feel tokenizing to marginalized artists and distract from their work. For Claud, whose songs tell deeply personal stories of yearning and heartbreak, who they are can be heard in the music. “Cuff Your Jeans,” a memorable cut off Super Monster, is so sonically lush that it’s easy to miss the self-aware reference to that enduring joke about how some style their denim.

Claud, ever wise beyond their years, proposes a simple solution to this complicated dilemma. “If you want to highlight [queer] artists, just do it,” they say. “You don’t have to say you’re doing it.”

Jay-Z, Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige, And More Are 2021’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees

The 2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees list is here, and as usual, it’s huge — and polarizing.

On Wednesday (February 10), the Cleveland museum announced its latest class of nominees, a portion of which will be officially inducted later in the fall this year, after the Rock Hall announces the top vote. That list is long and impressive and includes the following artists: Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, Mary J. Blige, Iron Maiden, Tina Turner, the Go-Go’s, Rage Against the Machine, Kate Bush, Devo, Chaka Khan, Carole King, Fela Kuti, LL Cool J, New York Dolls, Todd Rundgren, and Dionne Warwick.

To secure a slot in the nominees field, the Rock Hall’s criteria stipulates an artist “must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination.” For Jay-Z, this marks his first year of eligibility, as his debut LP, Reasonable Doubt, dropped in 1996. Also notable is Dave Grohl’s nomination with Foo Fighters; if he’s inducted, it’ll be for a second time, as he was inducted with Nirvana in 2014.

King, likewise, was previously inducted in 1990 along with her songwriting partner Gerry Goffin. As the Rock Hall points out in its announcement, King and Turner, if they make the inductees list, will become the second and third female artists to be inducted twice. (Stevie Nicks became the first in 2019.) Khan had previously been nominated both as a solo artist and with her band Rufus.

Seven of this year’s 16 nominees were included for the first time ever, including the Foos and Jay-Z, along with metal icons Iron Maiden, new wave favorites The Go-Go’s, R&B/hip-hop stalwart Mary J. Blige, Afrobeat pioneer and activist Fela Kuti, and longtime vocal legend Dionne Warwick. The Rock Hall also says this class of nominees is its most racially diverse since 1996, as Rolling Stone reports.

Naturally, news of the ballot has fueled conversations on social media about the Rock Hall’s past treatment of women and artists of color, and plenty of tweeters expressed incredulity at how an artist like Turner wasn’t already inducted.

We’ll have to wait until May to see who makes the list of inductees for 2021. Until then, the Rock Hall’s “international voting body of more than 1,000 artists, historians, and members of the music industry” weighs in on the ballot to make the final choices about who makes it in. As fans, you have power, too.

You can cast your own ballot and make your voice heard now through April 30 right here.