Stray Kids Tease An Explosive New Show For 2nd World Tour "MANIAC": "We Can't Wait Show Everyone The Next Level" (2022)

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Stray Kids Tease An Explosive New Show For 2nd World Tour "MANIAC": "We Can't Wait Show Everyone The Next Level" (1)

Stray Kids

Photo: JYP Entertainment

interview

As Stray Kids begin their latest tour, the K-pop group reveals their favorite songs to perform and why it's important for them to have creative control.

Ashlee Mitchell

|GRAMMYs/Jun 29, 2022 - 04:01 pm

When it comes to band mottos, Stray Kids' couldn't be more fitting: "Stray kids Everywhere All Around The World." The K-pop group's first 2022 EP,ODDINARY, sold over 1.6 million copies and topped album charts in the US, South Korea, Finland and Poland (and charted in the top 10 in several more countries).

Now, they're taking their mantra literally with the 2nd World Tour "MANIAC." Following three shows in their native Seoul April 29 through May 1 and four in Japan earlier this month, the tour resumes June 28 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The latest leg of the tour will see Stray Kids hit eight cities in the United States before returning to Tokyo's Yoyogi National Stadium 1st Gymnasium for a pair of shows on July 26 and 27.

Beyond their impressive accomplishments, the group's eight members — Bang Chan, Lee Know, Changbin, Hyunjin, HAN, Felix, Seungmin, and I.N — have taken initiative with their careers in a way many of their peers haven't. With in-house producing group 3RACHA (consisting of members Bang Chan, Changbin, and HAN) and songwriting involvement from the rest of the group, Stray Kids are largely responsible for their own sound.

The appeal doesn't end there. Between EDM and trap-laced beats, fiery performances and the rawness they exhibit to their fandom, there's something truly unique and refreshing about the group. In an era of music where fans crave authenticity and relatability, it's no wonder their fans — known as STAY — well, stay.

Hustle has always been a part of the group's brand since they were formed on a reality competition show in 2017. And with the recent drop of their latest Japanese EP, CIRCUS, on June 22, Stray Kids are only continuing to expand their diverse discography — and their global appeal.

Ahead of Stray Kids' first show in Newark, GRAMMY.com checked in with the guys to discuss the show, their creative process, team bonding, and more.

You're gearing up for your U.S. tour after performing in Seoul and Japan. How does it feel to finally be able to perform live for your international fans again? Is there anything you're particularly looking forward to or that you've improved on since last tour?

Lee Know: We made so many great memories the last time we visited the States. I'm sure we'll be able to make great memories this time as well!

Hyunjin: Because this is our first tour in a while, we really put a lot of effort in to show our more matured performances. We're so happy that we can meet so many STAY.

Felix: It's been a long two and a half years since we've seen our STAY from overseas. As much as we've all waited, we've prepared our MANIAC tour to the best we can. Now we can't wait to meet and show everyone the next level of Stray Kids.

You released a Japanese EP on June 22. How would you say the sound of this EP differs from your latest Korean album, ODDINARY? When you're making music in Japanese, is there a different artistic process?

Changbin: I don't think the difference in language results in a difference in the creation process. The only difference is that there's a translation process that's added, but everything else is basically the same as when we work on a Korean language album. While ODDINARY definitely had this maniac vibe, our Japanese album this time feels more unrestrained.

HAN: There isn't much difference between creating tracks in Korean and in Japanese. However, the difference between ODDINARY and our Japanese Mini Album, CIRCUS, is that while ODDINARY focuses on displaying Stray Kids' musicality and the authenticity of our ideas, CIRCUS focuses on storytelling, showing our colors, and how 'chill' and 'young' we are. While, of course, there are definite differences between the two, the two also have different listening points.

Your sound has evolved so much over the years. ODDINARY shows so much diversity genre-wise, with EDM, rock, and even trap influences. What inspires your music the most? Do you ever feel nervous about releasing songs that may differ from the trends in the industry?

Bang Chan: First off, I think inspiration comes from a variety of things. Sometimes from the members, STAY or just random daily things. It's always different. Secondly, as people who write music however we want, we just enjoy making music that we enjoy whether it be trending or not.

Seungmin: I have to say that our endless interest and exploration of music, as well as our love for trying out different things, gives us the most inspiration. While testing out new waters can feel a bit awkward and new, we don't fear this change — especially because we might even be able to influence the fast-changing modern day trends.

You guys are very involved in songwriting and producing. Why is it important to you to have creative control over what you release? How has your creation process changed or evolved, if at all, over the years?

Bang Chan: Lyric writing and producing has always been a very important process to us. Because if we're going to be the ones recording and performing our songs, we should be the ones who make them. Putting in more emotion and sincerity into the whole production. Especially because we want to express certain messages to not only STAY, but to everyone out there.

Changbin: Ever since a certain point, we've been able to find our unique musical color and apply this to the production process. I believe we're quite lucky that we're able to create the tracks we sing and perform along to, and because we're the ones who know our strengths the best, we're able to shed light onto our team's color.

Do you have a favorite song or B-side that you've released in the last year?

Lee Know: All of the tracks are great, which makes it hard to choose just one. But if I have to choose, I like "거미줄(VENOM)" because of the mood and beat.

Felix: Although this wasn't released last year, I'd have to say that my favorite title track is still "神메뉴(God's Menu)" because it's the first title song that really gave a heads up to everyone who we are and what we're capable of. The beginning of our long journey.

I.N: I like "소리꾼(Thunderous)," because it's the song that well contains Stray Kids' unique colors.

What do you hope fans gain when they listen to your music? Is there any message of appreciation you've received from a fan that resonated with you?

HAN: We mainly focus on unraveling our stories and thoughts into the lyric writing and song ideation process, but whatever song we may be working on, our goal is to provide strength and radiate positivity to those who listen. STAY always mention that they can feel our genuineness when listening to our songs. Words like these are what allow us to approach our music in a more truthful way, pushing us to deliver only our most genuine, authentic hearts.

Seungmin: I hope we're able to have a positive effect on all of those who listen to our music. Like, when people listen to our music in the far future, they'll be able to vividly remember all of the memories from the past. I want to show everyone the awesome power of music! Personally, I feel the happiest whenever I hear from STAY that our music has been a part of their daily lives ever since they've encountered us.

So many songs from your discography are high-energy and have intricate choreography, like "MANIAC." What do you hope the energy is like when you're performing your songs live? Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

Hyunjin: My favorite song is "Charmer." I enjoy performing on stage because I'm the type to really pour my everything in, including all of the explosive energy onto stage.

I.N: I hope that whenever we're on stage, the energy that we radiate gives strength to the people watching our stage, allowing them to enjoy our performances with us. Among our tracks, I think performances for "소리꾼(Thunderous)," "DOMINO" and "神메뉴(God's Menu)" deliver our energy the best, which is why I especially love performing these three songs during our concert.

Stray Kids Tease An Explosive New Show For 2nd World Tour "MANIAC": "We Can't Wait Show Everyone The Next Level" (2)

Stray Kids perform at New Jersey's Prudential Center on June 28, 2022. Photo: JYP Entertainment

What do you guys do to unwind when you're not making music or performing? How do you balance your busy schedules?

Lee Know: I'm able to relieve my stress by working out.

Changbin: I try to find something repetitive to do so that I can balance out my irregular daily life. For example, I keep myself healthy by constantly working out.

HAN: Especially these days, I try to take the time off to look up inspirational quotes that will positively influence our music. Of course, I also spend time by resting and laying down in bed, doing basic workouts, going shopping and stuff. But because nowadays is such an important time in which we can step up, I try to spend my time doing things that will help us grow and mature.

What do you think makes your bond as a group stronger? Have you learned anything from another member of Stray Kids that was important to you?

Bang Chan: For me personally, I feel like I learn something new from the Kids everyday. I mean we're all different human beings, so for us to stay together we always talk things through, chill together and just have fun. So naturally, I feel like the bond can only get stronger and stronger.

Seungmin: I definitely believe in the importance of conversation. No matter what makes us happy, sad or even mad, once we start talking with each other and going towards the right direction together, we'll notice that this has led us to having a greater understanding of each other, further strengthening our relationship! I'm able to be open with all Stray Kids members, which is something I'm quite thankful for.

You guys have accomplished so much as a group, and Billboard even listed ODDINARY as one of the best 50 albums released so far in 2022. How does this sort of recognition make you feel? Outside of these accolades, are there any goals you haven't reached yet or any new ones you've recently set for yourself?

Felix: To be honest, accomplishing the Billboard achievements still makes me wonder if I'm dreaming or if I'm still just not in my reality. Every time I think about it I'm still so surprised that I have to look at the amount of comments our STAY have left just to believe it. Truly it's a huge gift from STAY everywhere all around the world.

I.N: There are still so many countries we haven't been to before. I hope that in the near future, we'll be able to meet and give positive energy to STAY from many different countries.

Hyunjin: I want to create even grander stages with even more STAY. I hope that the eight of us can continue to safely, happily perform together — just like how we are now.

Stray Kids Tease An Explosive New Show For 2nd World Tour "MANIAC": "We Can't Wait Show Everyone The Next Level" (3)

(Clockwise L-R): ENHYPEN, Karen O, Arooj Aftab, Japanese Breakfast, mxmtoon, Jhené Aiko

Source Photos (Clockwise L-R):The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images;Rick Kern/WireImage;Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella;Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella;FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Outside Lands;Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella

list

As we celebrate the contributions of AAPI artists throughout the month of May, GRAMMY.com presents a genre-spanning playlist of emerging and established artists you should know, including BTS, Jhené Aiko, B.I, TWICE, Arooj Aftab, and many more.

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) musicians have created a plethora of transformative art, which is ripe for exploration. To help you do it, GRAMMY.com has put together a 30-song list with music from AAPI musicians including Luna Li, Wallice, Weston Estate, Kainalu and OHYUNG, along with other AAPI artists you should know like Deb Never, Lucy Liyou and Sunset Rollercoaster. You may even find your new favorite artist along the way.

This playlist spans genres and moods, and its primary goal is to expose you to fantastic new AAPI artists you might not find in less curated places, like your motionless Spotify algorithm or crooning through your car radio. You can think of this playlist as a first-rate tasting menu of what AAPI-made music has to offer — something to turn to when you’re looking for solidarity, inspiration or just some really good music.

Listen to GRAMMY.com’s official 2022 AAPI Month playlist below and follow the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.Playlist powered by GRAMMY U.

Stray Kids Tease An Explosive New Show For 2nd World Tour "MANIAC": "We Can't Wait Show Everyone The Next Level" (4)

NCT 127

Photo: VCG/Getty Images

news

Acts join already announced artists EXID, Heize and Wanna One for a June concert that will be K-hot

Philip Merrill

|GRAMMYs/Apr 21, 2018 - 04:49 am

On June 23–24 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, KCON USA returns to the East Coast, bolstering the growing demand for K-pop artistry in the U.S. Dubbed "KCON 2018 NY," teasers built suspense for the April 19 artist reveal, building to a satisfying peak as NCT 127 and Stray Kids have been added to the lineup.

Last year the nine members of NCT 127 were newcomers at both KCON 2017 NY and the West Coast KCON 2017 LA, with their hits "Cherry Bomb" and Fire Truck" in tow. The crowd's enthusiasm led Billboard to compare their reception with the 2014 reaction to BTS' debut.

NCT 127's members originate from Canada, China and Japan as well as Korea. The editors at Apple Music honored them as the first K-pop artists on their "New Artist of the Week" list, in addition to hosting them at a "Today at Apple" in-store appearance in Brooklyn.

JYP Entertainment's Stray Kids, who will be making their U.S. debut, also comprise nine members. They have been heating up the Korean market as emerging artists and Billboard described them last month as the new "power player" that has everyone talking about them. Several members have also been impressive at developing their songwriting talents and contributing to the group's repertoire. Their "District 9" hit was notable for its rap/rock blend and impressive dancing, and is expected to cause raptures at the Prudential Center. In less than a month it has gained more than 20 million YouTube views.

NCT 127 and Stray Kids are joining already announced artists EXID, Heize and Wanna One for KCON 2018 NY. Tickets go on sale on May 11 for the concert and registration for the convention-event begins May 14.

KCON 2018 LA is coming to Staples Center and the LA Convention Center in August. So how hot do we think this summer is going to be? K-hot.

Catching Up On Music News Powered By The Recording Academy Just Got Easier. Have A Google Home Device? "Talk To GRAMMYs"

Stray Kids Tease An Explosive New Show For 2nd World Tour "MANIAC": "We Can't Wait Show Everyone The Next Level" (5)

TXT perform at the release showcase of 'miniside 2: Thursday's Child' in Seoul, South Korea, in May 2022.

Photo: The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images

list

Whether you want to take a trip to Kwangya with aespa, visit the Loonaverse or just put your Head in the Clouds, plan out your summer with these K-pop events and tours in mind.

Lai Frances

|GRAMMYs/Jun 15, 2022 - 02:52 pm

After two years of K-pop concert drought, it seems like 2022 is the year the genre returns to the stage. K-pop acts like BTS, TWICE, ATEEZ, Monsta X, ONEUS and more have already showered the United States with residencies and tours in the first half, setting the stage — literally — of what else is to come from other labels for the rest of the year.

Now that we're halfway through the year, Korean music and entertainment has continued to successfully confirm its global status by the amount of events already happening in North America. In the United States alone, more than a dozen events are scheduled throughout the summer starting in June. From showcases, to meet-and-greet concerts, conventions, festivals and full-on arena tours, K-pop isn't holding back and only building anticipation for both artists and fans alike.

To ring in the summer, GRAMMY.com gathered all of the concerts and events happening in North America between mid-June and August so you can plan when to catch some of your favorite K-pop artists.

June

DKB: 2022 DKB MEET & LIVE U.S. TOUR, June 10-19

K-pop concert production company Studio PAV is bringing Brave Entertainment's nine-piece ensemble DKB to the U.S. for the first time with a six-date tour. Opening night kicks off at the Brooklyn Monarch in New York on June 10 followed by five stops that will eventually end at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles, on June 19.

DKB — short for "Dark Brown Eyes" — debuted in February 2020 with members E-Chan, D1, Teo, Lune, Heechan, Junseo, Yuku, and Harry Jun.

AB6IX: "AB_NEW AREA" Fanmeeting Tour, June 20 - July 1

The six-stop Fanmeeting Tour will consist of games and a concert — similar to Korean variety shows, but in real time, featuring members Woong, Donghyun, Woojin, and Daehwi. Starting off on June 20 at New York's Webster Hall, the tour then heads west to conclude at El Rey Theater in Los Angeles on July 1.

Read More:

KTOWN Night Market: Los Angeles, June 17 & 18

Ringing in its sixth year in the heart of Los Angeles' very own Koreatown, KTOWN Night Market offers pieces of the Korean diaspora through the forms of food, culture, fashion and, of course, music. Partnering with K-Pop Play Fest, K-pop star and 2NE1 member MINZY headlines the first night as Korean-American rapper Ted Park closes out on Sunday. You can also find the talents of Hyejin, FYKE and dance crews like LALARY and Team B.U.K. throughout the weekend.

Golden Child: Meet & Live Tour in USA, June 24 - July 11

Ten-member ensemble Golden Child brings their bass-heavy EDM sound and complex choreography to the States for a 10-city meet and greet and live concert tour will let fans get to know Daeyeol, Y, Jangjun, Tag, Seungmin, Jaehyun, Jibeom, Donghyun, Joochan, and Bomin through fan engagement opportunities on top of the fanmeeting concert.The Meet & Live kicks off in San Jose, Calif., on June 24 and concludes in Philadelphia, Penn., on July 11.

BROOKLYN: "I'M GONNA LOVE YOU" TOUR, June 25 - July 16

After sharing the stages with boy bands like A.C.E. and soloist Amber Liu, one of K-pop's modern rock stars, BROOKLYN, is set to make a second round of shows in the U.S. Opening night kicks off at Independence Park in Houston, Tex. on June 25, followed by stops in Orlando, Miami and San Diego.

aespa: aespa Showcase SYNK in LA, June 26 & 27

Following their U.S. performance debut at Coachella in April, Karina, Giselle, Winter and Ningning will hold their first showcase at the YouTube Theater in Inglewood, Calif., on June 26 and 27. (Initially scheduled for just June 26, a second day of the showcase was added after the first sold out in minutes.) SM Entertainment's youngest girl group is ready to show off their futuristic pop concepts through their music and a Q&A portion for fans.

Dreamcatcher: "Apocalypse: Save Us" World Tour, June 28 - July 17

Marking their second tour in the US since late 2019, Dreamcatcher — JiU, SuA, Siyeon, Handong, Yoohyeon, Dami and Gahyeon — return to North America with their Apocalypse: Save Us World Tour.

Fresh off their European festival debut at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Dreamcatcher is ready to bring in the rock-heavy sounds to the stages in New York, Louisville, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The first night of the tour kicks off on June 28 at the Palladium Theater in the heart of New York's Times Square, and ends at The Wiltern in downtown Los Angeles.

Stray Kids: 2nd World Tour "MANIAC," June 28 - July 14

Just months after debuting at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200 with their new EP, Ordinary, Stray Kids will return to the States for their third tour, titled after their recent hit single "Maniac."

Originally kicking off in Seoul back in April, Stray Kids made their way stateside after a two-night show in Tokyo in early June. The 12-stop sold out arena tour kicks off at Newark's Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, and concludes in Anaheim, California on July 20. Following the U.S. leg, the group heads back to Tokyo, Japan for another two-night show in the Japanese capital.

Read More:

July

TXT: "ACT: LOVE SICK" World Tour, July 7-24

Leading K-pop's fourth generation, TXT (short for Tomorrow x Together) graces U.S. cities for the whole month of July with their eight-stop ACT: Lovesick Tour. The last time the monster group made its way stateside was in 2019 for their showcase tour.

Now with three studio albums and five EPs under their belt, TXT — Soobin, Yeonjun, Beomgyu, Taehyun, and Huening Kai — will likely perform hits like "Blue Hour," "Good Boy Gone Bad," and the viral hit "Anti-romantic." ACT: Lovesick starts in Chicago on July 7 and ends in Los Angeles on July 24.

Brave Girls: Brave Girls 1st US Tour, July 9-23

After their 2014 hit "ROLLIN'" resurfaced on the charts and went viral last year — on top of a successful run on reality competition show Queendom 2 — Brave Girls are set to go on their first-ever U.S. tour, starting July 9 in Philadelphia followed by eight more stops across the states.

Summerstage: Korea Gayoje, July 10

Sponsored by CitiBank in association with the Korean Cultural Center New York, Central Park will bring the K-pop party with KOREA GAYOJE on July 10. Celebrating Korean culture through food and entertainment, the day ends with a concert led by Brave Girls, Golden Child and AleXa.

(G)I-DLE: "JUST ME ()I-DLE" World Tour, July 22 - Aug. 14

Originally set to have a tour in 2020, Cube Entertainment's leading girl group (G)I-DLE are reigniting their tour plans with their Just Me tour. Barging in the year with a wild and edgy image, their recent hit "TOMBOY" and "My Bag" have already set the tone on how much the group has transformed and matured since their last visit to the U.S. In 2019. Breezing through eight cities, — including a venue upgrade in New York — the quintet will also make stops in Mexico and Chile.

Otakon: K-Pop Night, July 29-31

Debuting their K-pop Concert Night with AleXa, Pixy and Rolling Quartz, those who are fans of Asian pop culture are able to get a listen of what the variety of sounds K-pop has to offer. NBC's 'American Song Contest' champion AleXa will bring in the futuristic pop with songs like "Wonderland," "Revolution" and "Xtra." Rising pop stars PIXY will showcase their whimsical performances, and rock band Rolling Quartz will provide some edge.

Lollapalooza: July 29-31

For the first time in Lollapalooza history, this year's festival will feature K-pop artists on its stages. Following the U.S. leg of their tour, TXT will make their music festival debut on Saturday, July 30, at the Solana x Perry's stage at 7:45 pm CT. Fellow HYBE artist and global icon j-hope of BTS closes out the Bud Light Seltzer stage at 9 p.m. CT on July 31.

Read More: BTS Announces Hiatus To Focus On RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimi, V, And Jungkook's Solo Projects, Days After The Release Of 'Proof'

August

LOONA: 2022 LOONA "LOONATHEWORLD" 1st World Tour, Aug. 1-19

Perhaps one of the most-anticipated girl-group concerts of the year, LOONA is set to share a part of their Loonaverse with their fans (better known as Orbit). Since their last appearance at KCON LA in 2019, Hyunjin, Haseul, Yeojin, ViVi, Heejin, Kim Lip, Jinsoul, Choerry, Yves, Go Won, and Olivia Hye will touch down in eight new cities for the first time:San Francisco, Denver, Kansas City, Chicago, Louisville, Reading, Washington DC and New York.

Unfortunately, due to schedule conflict, member Chuu will not be able to participate in the group's US leg of tour.

SEVENTEEN: "BE THE SUN" World Tour, Aug. 10 - Sept. 6

Considered to be the "HOT"-test concert of this K-pop summer, thirteen-member ensemble SEVENTEEN is about to set the stages ablaze in a 12-stop tour across North American with The Behind the Sun Tour. Carats in the U.S. will be able to catch S.Coups, Jeonghan, Joshua, Jun, Hoshi, Wonwoo, Woozi, DK, Mingyu, The8, Seungkwan, Vernon, and Dino in the flesh as they perform hits like "Left & Right", "Darl+ing," "Rock With You" and many more.

Head In The Clouds: Pasadena, CA, Aug. 19-21

After 88rising made headlines with an abundant set of Asian talent at this year's Coachella, the music company's own Head in the Clouds festival will return to the Rose Bowl grounds in Pasadena, Calif. Advocating and showcasing Asian talent, it's a no-brainer for Korean musical acts to make this year's festival roster. This year, artists like Chung Ha and Jay Park make their HITC debut while we see the returns of eaJ, R&B songstress BIBI, rap legends Tiger JK and Yoon Mirae.

KCON: Los Angeles, CA, Aug. 19-21

Celebrating its 10th year, the "All Things Hallyu" convention is set to take place on Aug. 19 through Aug. 21 at the Los Angeles Convention Center and Crypto.com Arena. Arguably the mecca of every K-pop and K-drama lover, KCON has provided a variety of ways for fans to see their favorites in person.

From fan signings, high touches and other forms of engagement — as well as a two-night concert in the evenings — KCON has become a must for all walks of life. Though the official lineup hasn't been announced, eager attendees are anticipating a superstar roster as the event commemorates its decade-long run.

MCND: MCND American Tour 2022, Aug. 22-31

Debuting in 2020 under TOP Entertainment with their single "Ice Age," Castle J, Bic, Minjae, Huijun, and Win — better known as MCND — will hold their first tour in North America. Starting off in Mexico City on August 22, the K-pop five-piece will hold four shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Chicago. The group will then conclude their North American tour with a stop in Toronto on August 31.

Why Is BTS So Popular? 9 Questions About The K-Pop Phenoms Answered

Stray Kids Tease An Explosive New Show For 2nd World Tour "MANIAC": "We Can't Wait Show Everyone The Next Level" (6)

Dove Cameron

Photo: Brian Ziff

interview

The multihyphenate is riding high thanks to the success of "Boyfriend," a song that combines vulnerability with liberation. In return, it became a breakthrough hit.

Rob LeDonne

|GRAMMYs/Aug 18, 2022 - 06:57 pm

Dove Cameron has long been a star. Audiences first met her in the Disney Channel series "Liv and Maddie" — which won her an Emmy thanks to her dual-role duties as twin sisters — followed by her starring role in the wildly popular Disney Channel franchise The Descendants. More recently, she added a GRAMMY nomination to her repertoire thanks to her turn in the Apple TV+ musical parody series, "Schmigadoon!"

But earlier this year, Cameron kicked off a new chapter with the dramatic power-pop anthem "Boyfriend." The song served as a liberating moment for Cameron in part because it touches on her queerness — but perhaps more prominently, it was a re-introduction to the singer and actress the world met nearly 10 years ago.

"I couldn't find my authentic mode of expression until not long ago," she admits to GRAMMY.com. "I felt my whole life I've been making shapes of myself and I knew I felt very trapped, though I didn't know where I was going to go. I didn't know who I was."

"Boyfriend" wasn't Cameron's first step into her career as a pop singer/songwriter — she's released a handful of one-off singles since 2019 — but it was her first that frankly addressed her sexuality. "Ladies first, baby, I insist," she sings. "I could be a better boyfriend than him."

Cameron continued speaking her truth with the provocative follow-up single "Breakfast," which confidently declares "I eat boys like you for breakfast" in the chorus. As she preps her debut EP, she's making it clear that nothing is too raw and real to say in song.

In a vulnerable conversation with GRAMMY.com, Cameron opened up about how baring her soul into this new music has led to her biggest triumph. "The idea of being seen for everything I actually am is heaven to me."

The lyrics to "Boyfriend" lived on your phone long before it ever became anything. So was that just one moment of, "Oh my god, I need to write this down" and then you put it away? Or was that the result of a lot of different moments of you pecking away at the lyrics?

"Boyfriend" came out of a really awful night that I think I'm never going to elaborate on. But it always happens to me — there's a big traumatic event and I'll be wrecked by it for a few days.

A week later, I was sending one of my best girlfriends, [actress] Kiersey Clemons, a voice note about this night I had. She's queer, and we'll talk about the experience of walking around as a queer person in the world quite often.

At that point I was laughing about what had happened and framing it in more colloquial ways — putting it in terms that were more soundbitey and lyrical. That's probably where the first iteration of "Boyfriend" came from. It was me kind of joking with her.

Something important with me in my writing process is taking a huge event, emotion or concept and dissolving it down into a cheeky retelling. I'm big into laughing at my trauma, it's definitely my coping mechanism. I find that things that are highly emotional to me can end up turning into laissez-faire retellings.

You've said the night in question that inspired "Boyfriend" was multidimensional, both positive and negative. So does that mean it was negative at first and then you made it into a positive through turning this difficult night into a song?

It was definitely mostly negative that night. I left in fits of tears and called my best friend saying, "I don't know what to do!" But I'm also able to take myself out of it and ask myself, "There's a reason why this experience is happening — what can I find in it that I'm supposed to receive?"

This time it happened pretty quick after I was done crying and melatonined myself. I was already looking for a seedling of what was going to make me better from that experience. Just like chipping away at a piece of marble to reveal the beautiful statue underneath, I feel that every moment of suffering in my life is meant to carve me out better. I got way more out of that night than I ever thought I was going to.

"Boyfriend" is very raw. You've said the song is "an amalgamation of the feeling of growing up queer." Was there ever a moment when you said, "I don't know if I want to be this honest and vulnerable in my music?"

Well, I think that the answer to that is layered. I definitely think that it was not in my plan to write an intensely queer, broad, somewhat-anthem. I didn't set out to do that and didn't think it was going to be how my music career found its footing.

I'm not thinking how people are going to perceive this. It's a huge gift I've given myself to have tunnel vision and be present.

More than anything, this is something I've tried to communicate before, but I have this deep, deep, deep fear of never being seen for what I actually am. I spent a lot of my life being what I need to be to survive in actual danger and actual traumatic situations, as a young straight-presenting woman in the industry — as a young girl, in terrible relationships, in my family home, in fashion, film, and TV. I felt my whole life I've been making shapes of myself and I knew I felt very trapped, though I didn't know where I was going to go. I didn't know who I was.

The idea of being seen for everything I actually am is heaven to me. It feels intimate, and it feels connected, and it feels like human-on-human life — which is really our whole existence, isn't it?

The idea of being loved by the masses — as society has defined it — is way scarier to me than the idea of being so authentic, and being known for that. Being liked or hated, I'm not as attached to. I just couldn't find my authentic mode of expression until not that long ago.

So no, [being vulnerable] doesn't scare me at all. As a matter of fact, it makes me feel much, much safer. If I died never fully seeing myself or letting other people see me, that would be the greatest tragedy of my life.

I find it interesting that even though you've been releasing music for a couple years now, you're just this year being regarded as a breakout artist with your first pop hit. It seems your biggest success in music so far is a direct result of your vulnerability.

It backed up this feeling (I've always) had of universality in the specifics. I saw a quote about songwriting that talked about how you need to get on the other side of an experience and have clarity about it, otherwise your lyrics are just complaining about a situation. I think that's so true. We're all so overwhelmed with other people's ideas, emotions, energies, judgments and fears that it's hard to tap out of the noise to make something true for you.

I had to go through a serious deep, dark depression — and then a very reclusive mode and dyed my hair dark, and cut myself off from everybody and everything — to figure out what the f— was wrong with me [and] to find what hurt me so much. I had no clue: not even an inkling or heat signature.

But then I really tapped into my own biosphere of everything I was feeling that no one else could point me toward — because we're only going to end up where we're supposed to go. When I was able to do that, my writing became divorced from other people's ideas, opinions and energies. If I hadn't done that, I'd forever be writing from the point of view of the general populace.

I'm constantly asking myself, "Am I writing for me right now? Or am I writing because I know people are going to hear this?" I do think the way to create the best stuff is to step away from the world and then come back when you have something that you think is true to you — which is easier said than done when there are a million voices around you all the time.

When you set out on your music project, you said you were trying to develop a new sound you didn't have a name for. What was the new sound in your head and what were your influences? I recently heard that success comes down to two things: knowing what you want and knowing how to get it, but sometimes knowing what you want is the most difficult thing.

Definitely. Talking to people in the music industry, the one thing everybody asks is "What's your sound, who are your influences?" And I was always kind of frustrated by this. It'd trigger me because I had no good answer.

But I also thought it was good I couldn't point to another artist, because then maybe that meant I had something new to offer. It's difficult to create your own thing and find your own lane. I think I'm still finding it now.

"Boyfriend" is a pretty straight-up pop track with nothing revolutionary. How I described it to ["Boyfriend producer] Evan [Blair] once is that it's almost as if we made a dubstep track, but with horns. I kind of look at a lot of the friction between the blueprint of dubstep — but instead of electronic production, its horns and strings. Add in jazz vocals combined with R&B and pop vocals, and a viewpoint of a lot of rock songs, but without any of the rock instrumentation. So it's a mix of all of these things that don't go together.

When I hear a song like your new single "Breakfast," with its breathy yet powerful vocals, it makes me think of your motif you've talked about of making music from a villain's perspective. Does that influence your delivery then, because at the same time you are an actress. And if you're thinking of yourself as a villain character, are you then sounding vocally like a villain?

There's been a rise in culture in general of identifying with the villain. I alway grew up loving the villains. I used to go to school in fangs and weird s—, which, looking back, was totally just a normal, natural expression for me, but also very much isolated me. But I was a darker kid who liked darker things.

In my town, everybody was playing soccer. I was a total loser. I kind of grew up not having many friends and being an outsider. Once I found theater, I thought, "Oh, there's more of us."

The binary-obsessed world that we're in — with gender, politics and the black-and-white of it all — it all leaves very little room to empathize with the other. I think that the reason the world is so attracted to the villain these days is that — when you remove a couple of the more theatrical elements from most villains in every movie — they're just an antagonist who has been highly traumatized.

With our post-collective trauma in our world, we all find ourselves feeling like the villain compared to the protagonist, who is so boring, vanilla and milquetoast. No one can relate to the protagonist anymore. I started using that as my descriptor of my sound a couple years ago and no one really knew what I was talking about.

In terms of my vocal quality, for a long time I was doing musical theater, and I spent so much time living very puritan in order to keep my voice in a certain tenor. By the end of every show I did, I was on intense vocal rest every day and I'd speak through typing things out and a robot would say it for me. It was just so monastic and restrictive that I'd rebel afterwards by blowing my voice out and drinking a bunch of coffee and staying up really late. It gave me this kind of this incredibly raspy, smokey tone that I'd try to train myself out of.

But at the end of the day it was like, "Why don't I lean into this, because this is how my voice sounds?" I love listening to jazz and vocals with loads of texture and history. That's really what a smokey tone is: it's vocal damage.

When Evan and I started recording, we were huge fans of super intimate vocals. When you hear all the rasp and the tone, you're hearing air, and it feels highly sexy. It's like someone singing to you in bed.

If I do literally one thing in my career, it's going to be to try to build intimacy between human beings. Music is a great way to do that.

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