Aly & AJ Step Back Into The Sun

By Gabriel Aikins

When an artist takes a long break between albums, listeners tend to preserve them in amber at the moment of their last release. If that project came during the listeners’ formative teenage years, the effect is amplified. But no one stays the same over time; both artists and fans learn and grow and evolve. Millennials who came of age in the late 2000s know this to be true for themselves as well as for sisters Aly and AJ Michalka, pop stars and actors who hold a special place in their hearts.

They grew up alongside us. As teens, the pair appeared together in Disney Channel’s film Cow Belles, while Aly starred on Phil of the Future and AJ found roles on Oliver Beene and in The Lovely Bones. Their three albums, culminating with Insomniatic and its breakout single “Potential Breakup Song” in 2007, secured their status as pop-music icons. In the 14 years since, Aly & AJ have aged into themselves just like the rest of us, continuing to work steadily as actors while releasing a handful of dance-pop tracks. Now, with a completed fourth album titled A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun, out on Friday (May 7), they’re ready to reintroduce themselves to the world.

It doesn’t take long to recognize how Aly & AJ’s sound has evolved. While their pop roots are still there, they’ve taken a backseat to vibrant live instrumentation, from the intimately played guitars of “Slow Dancing” to the satisfying punch of percussion on “Don’t Need Nothing.” The album was recorded at the legendary Sunset Sound in Hollywood and shepherded by producer Yves Rothman, who, in addition to producing for Nasty Cherry, previously worked with the sisters on 2019 EP Sanctuary. “We set out with a really specific goal,” AJ says. “We said we wanted to make a record that is played live in a live room at an iconic studio in Los Angeles.” Aly explains they didn’t want to compromise their vision of a live album at all, so they were diligent about safety in order to pull the recording off, with every person involved masking and testing to ensure the process could go on.

The pandemic threw off the original timing for A Touch of the Beat. 2020 singles “Attack of Panic” and “Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor” were meant to be imminent precursors to the album, which was originally slated to drop last year. Aly explains, “We knew that an album was definitely on the horizon, but we didn’t really realize that we had songs that were worthy of being on a full record until December 2019.” When things shut down, the roadmap changed, and the album release was pushed back a year. Most of the songs were well on their way to being done when that decision was made, but there were still changes needed to reflect the moment. “We did rewrite a lot of lyrics in terms of just changing little tweaks here and there, and I think those tweaks for sure had something to do with the moment we were actually living through,” Aly says. She points to 2020 single “Slow Dancing” and its gentle longing for loving intimacy as a track that resonates more deeply after a year in isolation.

The pair wanted to ensure the album would retain the raw intensity of their live recording sessions during post-production, typically the time to apply a final layer of sonic sheen, which meant breaking a bit from old habits that feel innate for longtime pop performers. They spent two weeks recording the album straight through, front to back, before working with Rothman to finish the project with a delicate touch. “I think it’s about not over-polishing the record too much, which, as pop musicians, Aly and I are really used to doing,” AJ says. “In the past, you’re working with Auto-Tune a little bit more, you’re cutting and pasting takes a certain way because you want it to have that ultra glossy sound.” Aly adds that the ease of modern technology can make that polishing tempting, but points out many of the best rock records of the ‘70s and ‘80s are enhanced by their imperfections. She cites Janis Joplin’s work as an example, as her final album Pearl was also recorded at Sunset.

That’s not to say the sisters are completely leaving their roots behind. They maintain the Sanctuary, a fan club that launched in 2019 for their core audience to give feedback and see deeper into Aly & AJ’s lives. Musically, their roots are still sprinkled throughout the album, with Aly specifically pointing out “Symptom of Your Touch” and “Paradise” as tracks with a strong pop foundation. “I think that we’ll always ultimately honor the older sound because it’s still who we were and who we still are. It’s just a new and improved and different interpretation than it was,” she says. They were also delighted when their friends began sending them videos featuring “Potential Breakup Song” on TikTok, where the electrifying track enjoyed a resurgence that spawned millions of views and led to the release of a new, explicit version of the track that dropped at the end of 2020.

The name of the album was taken from the chorus of “Don’t Need Nothing” and came from a moment of clarity during the recording process. “That’s the mantra that sets up this record. That’s what this album sounds like,” AJ says, pointing to the warm and euphoric chorus of “Paradise” and shining guitar chords and energetic percussion on “Don’t Need Nothing” that underscore the titular phrase. Aly adds, “It encompasses the feeling of the record, the fact that it was made in California in the summer and the sun was out even though it was a pandemic, so it makes it strange and weird.”

As Aly & AJ talk about the music and the process of making it, a common theme emerges: taking control and applying their years of lived lessons to an album that will be heard by their generational peers. “The life experience obviously changes, that’s probably the greatest difference making a record at this age and making our first record when we were 15 and 13,” Aly says. (She is now 32, and AJ is 30.) She explains that when they began, a lot of the decision-making was out of their hands and handled by a team of adults, often to protect the teens from the stresses that come with making an album. Those guardrails are now off, and Aly notes with a chuckle that they’re “in the loop on everything whether [they] like it or not.”

And when they say they decide everything, they mean everything, down to their merch. On their first albums in the mid-2000s, they were presented with mostly finished designs and chose from what was put in front of them. Today, the sisters hand-select each detail, from the font to the specific brand of shirts, in order to make sure the finished product meets their vision. They’re particularly proud of this: Whether it’s a sunny slipmat or a shirt that displays the title of the album in simple script, each piece of merch in their store has a description proudly detailing the thought process and effort behind it. On a business level, they’re in control, too, as A Touch of the Beat is the first record where the sisters own their masters. “Ownership is a big word in our camp right now because it does feel really empowering. We kind of own everything at this point, which was not always the case,” AJ says.

Perhaps most importantly, Aly & AJ both say the process of working on the record has brought them even closer together as sisters. Aly notes they live mere minutes apart now, and says “[their] brains are tuned in with each other.” While they say their producer picked up on their synchronicity during recording, the true depth of their relationship is something that can’t be replicated. Through all of the changes the sisters have been through, becoming adults and growing as artists in the lead-up to the release of A Touch of the Beat, their bond is what stands out, the energy that both centers them and propels their growth. As AJ explains, “I just think there’s this connection we have, this kind of unspoken certainty of what we’ve been through that maybe others aren’t clued in on that we just have, and it’s kind of like our love language. We just get it.”

Olivia Rodrigo Went From Plucking ‘The Climb’ On Guitar To The Top Of The Mountain

Few people have had as good a year as Olivia Rodrigo. The singer-songwriter and star of High School Music: The Musical: The Series created 2021’s first big hit in “Drivers License,” a No. 1 coming-of-age heartbreak tune that explores the backstreets before revving up to a shout-along coda — the kind of built-in drama that understandably inspired a TikTok trend based around the tune. After, she went experimental on her kaleidoscopic follow-up “Deja Vu,” which became another Top 10 hit and saw her diving into conceptual territory for the music video.

But for all her recent success — yes, that includes passing her road test — she still can remember her humble beginnings: plucking one note on a “terrible, awful little pink guitar” to play along to the opening of Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb.” “It’s legitimately one note. It goes dun-dun-dun-dun-dun, ‘I can almost see it,'” the 18-year-old Rodrigo tells MTV. “I would literally just play that one note over and over again and sing ‘The Climb.'”

Despite her protestations, piano lessons followed at her parents’ insistence, and even though she cried before every session, she’s grateful for the foundation now that she’s writing chart staples with her trusted collaborator Dan Nigro. Rodrigo, who is the MTV Push artist for May, says songwriting inspiration can come from anywhere — a conversation, a poem — but as the self-proclaimed straight-A student also notes, the act of crafting music often works best when it’s treated like a discipline.

“I really think that more or less forcing yourself to write a song sometimes is really beneficial,” she says. “I think you can’t rely on those lightning bolts of ideas to strike you all the time.” But when they do? That’s when the discipline pays off. The end result of that practice finds Rodrigo with a forthcoming debut album called Sour, out May 21, full of songs that stem from a period in her life when “everything that I had that was, like, really awesome and good in my life went really sour.”

You can hear that acrid taste in both “Drivers License” and “Deja Vu,” despite the pop sweetness that covers both songs like a glaze. The work that goes into making that sonic sheen can’t be overstated, she says, which is what makes the subsequent success so wild. “I don’t think anybody goes in to [making] a song with expectation like that.” But that combination of sour and sweet is precisely what Rodrigo hopes will connect with listeners.

“I just hope that people see bits of themselves in my songwriting, hopefully, or sort of become engrossed in the stories I’m telling,” she says, “because those are my favorite songs to listen to.” Or as her original inspiration Miley once sang, “Keep on moving. Keep climbing.”

Get to know Rodrigo further in her MTV Push interview above, which also includes a a stripped-back, Rhodes piano version of “Drivers License” and a full-band performance of “Deja Vu.”

Bop Shop: Songs From Billie Eilish, Ella Jay Basco And Ruby Ibarra, And More

Morgin DuPont makes a declaration at the start of her new non-binary anthem: “I’m not a man / I’m not a woman / I’m a force, liberty pass that torch.” It’s a powerful phrase that kicks off the Puerto Rican trans artist’s braggadocious bop, laying the groundwork for the confident demands she makes throughout the track, spitting out diamonds like, “You’re boring / Explore me, bitch.” She’s got the attitude to back up her boldness and bars, and the song’s themes of self-love, confidence, and unapologetic queerness run throughout her debut EP Pearls out today. It’s about damn time queer music gave the gender non-conforming community a shout, and Morgin is blessing everyone with not just a bop, but an exciting new voice to look out for, too. —Carson Mlnarik

Girl In Red Thinks Your Sapphic TikToks Are Iconic

Girl in Red has seen your sapphic TikToks using her name to pick up girls, and frankly, she thinks it’s “iconic.”

Zooming with MTV News from her bedroom in Oslo, Norway, the artist born Marie Ulven grins ear-to-ear when I mention her unexpected internet virality. After a tongue-in-cheek song written by a fan called “Do You Listen to Girl in Red?” made the rounds on TikTok, the question became an indirect way for queer girls to identify and connect with other women who like women — and the genesis of many a funny video. Ulven likens it to “friend of Dorothy,” a coded phrase used by gay men in the late 20th century to discreetly describe each other, and she isn’t the first to make that connection. “There are so many people who want to have that type of cultural impact, and I feel like it’s really dope to be a part of something so cool,” she says, toying with the hood of her sweatshirt until it frames her face like a halo. “I just fuck with it.”

But Ulven’s ascendance to icon status was hardly by accident; she shouldered her way into our social media feeds and Spotify playlists through sheer will. The 22-year-old broke into the saturated American indie-pop scene in 2018 with the head-turning “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend,” an angsty, guitar-heavy cut about having the hots for a straight girl. “I don’t wanna be your friend, I wanna be your bitch,” she confesses on the bridge, which, mood. She followed it up with enough singles to fill two EPs (Chapters 1 and 2, respectively), honing her musicality while steadily growing her very vocal, very queer audience. By the start of 2020, she’d signed a worldwide recording deal and covered Gay Times magazine. It all paved the way for her fiery, deeply personal debut album If I Could Make It Go Quiet, out today (April 30).

Ulven describes the record as “Girl in Red 2.0,” an apt descriptor of its elevated and experimental sound. “Serotonin” — the third single off the album and her first collaboration with Grammy winner Finneas, who co-produced it — boasts the diaristic lyrics that define her catalog, only this time, Ulven raps the refrain over warped, explosive beats. While “Serotonin”’s sonic complexity is a prime example of Ulven’s artistic maturation, its explicit references to depression and intrusive thoughts (“Like jumping in front of a bus / Like cutting my hands off / Like, how do I make this stop?”) did spark some pre-release jitters. Prior to this track, even Ulven’s saddest songs were tinged with at least another element: anger, regret, and frequently, horniness.

“There was a point where I was like, wait, am I being too honest?’” she remembers about transforming her frightening thoughts into music. “Am I going to be canceled?” Ultimately, she went with her gut and released the track: “I was like, no, this is my experience. This is going to live in a song.” To date, Ulven has only received affirming feedback from listeners. “It was right on,” she says. “We all have intrusive thoughts. The amount of people who slide into my DMs like, ‘Yo Marie, I’ve actually never been able to say this to anyone’ — that feels so good. Like, I’m sorry you also have them because they suck, but it feels really, really good knowing you’re not alone.”

Ulven’s commitment to honoring her lived experience, raw as it may be, persists throughout If I Could Make It Go Quiet. In the self-deprecating “HornyLovesickMess,” a tour-bound Ulven laments becoming “the type of person who calls you up / Every time I need to get off.” A deceptively cheerful-sounding track titled simply “.” chronicles Ulven’s petty show of post-breakup strength when she encounters her ex in public (“But I’ll never tell / Honey, I’m not doing so well”). Standout banger “Body and Mind” — which Ulven cites as a personal fave — hurtles into the emotional “deep end” with stomping vocals over keyed-up beats. “I’m really, really proud of it,” she gushes. “Lyrically, that song is so good, and it has such a cool vibe to it.”

As cathartic as putting her mental-health journey to music may seem to those who listen, Ulven says she was only able to write songs about it after months of working through her feelings with a professional, “which was therapeutic.” Seeking treatment for her depression and intrusive thoughts gave Ulven the language to describe what she was going through — and the emotional stability to actually do something with it. “I don’t make great music if I’m depressed,” she explains. “Like, if I have three months of feeling like a flat pancake or feeling 2-D, then it’s really hard to feel excited about music when you don’t feel excited about anything that you used to love.”

It’s easy to hear her excitement about eventually returning to the concert stage, too. Her last live performance before the COVID-19 pandemic was the final show of a European tour at a venue in Oslo. Afterward, she was so exhausted that she collapsed in a stairwell on the way out. Ulven says the lack of live shows during the past year forced her to take some much-needed rest. “I think I needed a break,” she admits, “but I miss playing shows so much now. I just feel like this project and this life doesn’t really feel real with not being able to connect with people. It feels really weird.”

Perhaps that’s why Ulven offers this as a parting message to her queer fans, whose hilarious TikToks and heartfelt DMs helped keep her afloat during an otherwise very lonely year: “I hope you are having a good day.”

Dawn Richard’s Electronic Reinvention Spans All Of New Orleans On Second Line

By Jaelani Turner-Williams

Reimagining the future of Black New Orleans music, Southern-bred polymath Dawn Richard is breathing new life into her hometown on her latest album, Second Line. She started with its title.

A second line is a traditional jazz foot-led parade that traces its origins back to the 19th century. They’re notably also funeral processions that celebrate the legacy of someone who’s passed with a marching brass band whose swing overtakes the city’s streets. All are welcome to join the spirited homecoming. Richard envisioned her own Second Line to make way for progressive Black women artists by shedding the R&B and hip-hop expectations of her past. Marking the death of old ideas, Second Line is a revival of the singer-songwriter-dancer-actress’s genre-bending experimentation, complete with rhapsodic bass-heavy production and an electronic nod to Afrofuturism.

“When we think of New Orleans, we think of jazz, soul, R&B. We don’t think of electronic, dance, and pop. It’s all I’ve ever known and what I wanted to expose the world to, through the lens of New Orleans,” Richard told MTV News. “I’m hoping that through this album, you’ll start to see the celebration of artists not being celebrated by the color of their skin or the genre that we choose to box them in, but rather by the talent and the art that they expose to the world.”

To Richard, the electronic movement is in dire need of a Black renaissance. While house was created by queer Black artists in Chicago during the 1970s and laid the foundation for contemporary dance music, the genre has largely been dominated by white, straight, cisgender producers and DJs. It later progressed into Black-oriented subgenres like Chicago footwork, D.C. go-go, and New Orleans bounce music, but Black musicians are often still relegated to the underground. Still, there’s incremental progress: In March, multi-genre Canadian DJ and producer Kaytranada was the first Black artist in the category’s 16-year history to nab a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Richard, too, joins the ranks of today’s innovators, specifically women, who are transforming the genre, including singers Kelela, FKA Twigs, and Bosco.

“When I was coming up, I loved the Björks and Imogen Heaps of the world, but I didn’t have anyone that looked like me that was in the genres that I loved. We didn’t have social media and technology the way it was then, so I couldn’t find the artists that were influential for me coming into this space,” Richard said. “I hope that with this album, it’ll open a floodgate so that when you ask the next artists under me who were their inspirations, they can name more than one token Black artist as an inspiration to them in a genre that isn’t hip-hop or R&B.”

Paying homage to the liveliness of New Orleans parades, Second Line embodies a seductive blend of sounds that swell and surge, complete with nods to trap, soul, and synthpop. Throughout the album, Richard seeps into self-discovery and liberation, with ambitious sonics to match. On “Voodoo (Intermission),” Richard’s mother warns visitors not to “mess with a Louisiana girl” as the song coasts into a sleek guitar-tinged funk.

Through the intoxicating sonics of Second Line, Richard again reinvents herself as she’s done consistently over the course of 15 years in the public eye. In 2005, she became a Bad Boy Records darling as part of the girl group Danity Kane, as documented on MTV’s Making the Band, and later as one-third of electro-laced force Diddy-Dirty Money. Leaving Bad Boy Records in 2012, Richard went the independent route and dropped a series of albums throughout the 2010s, including Goldenheart, Blackheart, Redemptionheart, and New Breed, all while moonlighting as culture curator for Adult Swim (highlighting creative projects by Black visual artists) and starting NOLA plant-based food hub Papa Ted’s, an homage to her late grandfather.

2019’s New Breed threaded Richard’s narrative of New Orleans glory through spoken-word clips from the Washitaw Nation sovereign group and her rich vocals. Second Line carves space for the same familial empowerment, with a focus on her mother’s crucial influence on her development and perspective. “On New Breed, I gave the narration of my father through his music and the Haitian culture that he was a part of,” Richard said. “With [Second Line], I thought it was important to show how my mom is the reason why I am the way I am. Her outlook on life, how she loved, how she lived, how she chose to approach life is a lot of the reason why I see myself as a king. That’s why she was important to be the narrator of this story, and why this album has such a strength to it, to purposely say we exist in this space and we need to be seen in this space.”

Petros Koy

Masked behind an animated alter ego called King Creole, Richard encompasses the multi-dimensional approach of the album and the singer’s version of Black New Orleans. Down to her gold-plated armor on the album cover and animated shorts, King Creole is part-technology and part-human, and the evolution of Second Line itself speaks to the character’s growth. While the first half of the album is high-energy with an influx of vocal manipulation, its back end switches into vulnerable balladeer mode, eschewing the machine of King Creole and confronting her humanity. Defying gravity on “Boomerang,” Richard grooves over a house-centric bounce, with soaring vocals about an omnipresent lover. In Richard’s post-apocalyptic universe, New Orleans emulates the sleekness of 2017 sci-fi film Blade Runner 2049 while King Creole faces the concept of her existence and battles the mainstream status quo. In a battle of self, King Creole heroically finds her identity amidst societal pressures.

“Within King Creole is the truth of tech, AI, algorithm, but also the system and how it’s all built off of trends. But what happens when you’re not the trend anymore? How does the human side cope with that and the realness of that? Instead of being bitter, how do you come at it with freedom and happiness?” Richard said.“There’s machine versus human [and] system versus truth — that duality happens through life with all of us.”

The alluring visuals for Second Line, including singles “Bussifame,” “Pilot (A Lude),” and “Jacuzzi,” are filmed in synchrony with each other, with Richard and her accompanying dancers having identical features while inhabiting an alternative landscape. With grainy optics recalling VCR playback, Richard’s recent music videos follow the premise of New Orleans being captured through the lens of King Creole. In the fantasy of Second Line, the first beings to return to New Orleans are Black women, with the album’s raw intensity representing the dawn of a Black electronic music takeover.

“I want [New Orleans] to keep our aesthetic, because it is beautiful. We’ve got so much greatness coming out of our city,” Richard said. “Just think about the sauce that New Orleans is? That grit. I just want to show it in a space that maybe people weren’t seeing.”

Billie Eilish’s New Album Will Find Her Happier Than Ever On July 30

When’s the last time you were happy? If you’re struggling to find an answer, here’s some good news: Billie Eilish‘s new album is reportedly due out July 30. At least you know now that this summer will be full of joy!

On Tuesday (April 27), Eilish revealed on social media that the follow-up to her globe-quaking 2019 debut When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is titled Happier Than Ever and that it’s her “favorite thing i’ve ever created and i am so excited and nervous and EAGER for you to hear it. i can’t even tell you. i’ve never felt so much love for a project than i do for this one. hope you feel what i feel.”

She accompanied that bit of news with an album cover that’s about as diametrically opposed to the twisted darkness of her debut as you can get. Instead of evoking night terrors and demonic entities, Happier Than Ever features a blonde Eilish giving herself a hug in a pale white garment. Of course, not everything is as its title would suggest: She’s also crying.

Ahead of the announcement, Eilish teased a sample of music, likely the title track, and more from her new platinum look. “When I’m away from you / I’m happier than ever,” she sings in the snippet. This is likely the new song she’s planning to drop on Thursday (April 29) at 9 a.m.

Eilish unveiled her new hair on social media back in March, just a few days after winning Record of the Year at the 2021 Grammys. Based on the last month’s worth of posts, she’s also been expanding her wardrobe, including boasting a shirt with doves on it. She also featured a string of dove emojis in the album announcement. Doves are gonna be big for her this time around.

Happier Than Ever, like its predecessor, features no outside writers apart from Eilish and her brother and collaborator, Finneas. He produced the album, along with Eilish’s debut, in their native Los Angeles.

Below, find the tracklist for Happier Than Ever, which includes the title track as well as early singles “My Future,” released last in July, and “Therefore I Am,” which dropped back in November 2020 complete with a ghostly video filmed in an abandoned mall.

1. Getting Older

2. I Didn’t Change My Number

3. Billie Bossa Nova

4. my future

5. Oxytocin

6. GOLDWING

7. Lost Cause

8. Halley’s Comet

9. Not My Responsibility

10. OverHeated

11. Everybody Dies

12. Your Power

13. NDA

14. Therefore I Am

15. Happier Than Ever

16. Male Fantasy

Get ready for Billie’s new moves. She’s in love with her future. Can’t wait to meet her.

Enhypen’s Dazzling Mini-Album Border: Carnival Is Verified Vamp Vibes

By Tássia Assis

When MTV News connects via Zoom with Enhypen (stylized all-caps), the South Korean pop group’s seven members sit split into two neat rows: Heeseung, Jake, Jay, and Sunoo in the front, followed by Jungwon, Sunghoon, and Ni-ki right behind them. Their outfits are carefully coordinated in neutral hues, and their hair is styled with boyish side-parts, with the exception of Ni-ki, whose forehead is covered by a precisely placed ash-blonde fringe. Ranging from 15 to 19 years old, it’s only been five months since they debuted with their first project, Border: Day One, the highest-selling release of all the work put out by last year’s rookies. Yet despite their ages, the artists carry themselves with an air of poise — and maybe a little mystery.

Across their lavish music videos and allegorical lyrics, Enhypen have crafted an intricate universe filled with vampires and Shakespearian odes. They aren’t simply mystifying performers, sitting in this conference room to talk about their second mini-album, Border: Carnival, which is out today (April 26); they are both the creators of and creatures within a multidimensional fable that was laid out last year. Formed by Belift Lab, a joint venture between South Korean entertainment companies CJ ENM and HYBE Corporation (formerly known as Big Hit), Enhypen came together through the survival show I-Land. The program’s opening scene featured a quote from the German writer Hermann Hesse’s novel Demian that might also be applied to the group’s own story: “The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world.”

If Border: Day One cracked the shell, now the artists are ready to spread their wings. The six-track Border: Carnival tracks their arrival to the dazzling, dizzying world of fame in three distinct versions — “Up,” “Hype,” and “Down” — with distinct visuals filtered through the sugary highs and crashing lows of visiting such a colorful festival. These themes are captured in the music video for the galloping pop-rock single “Drunk-Dazed,” where they throw a house party that quickly devolves into a chilling nightmare. The psychedelic “Intro: The Invitation” offers a deliciously dramatic first taste of this journey, while the hip-hop and rock sounds of “Mixed Up” reflect their vulnerable experience growing up in the public eye. Throughout, there are symbols to be deciphered with seemingly endless interpretations — Victorian attire, crimson blood — but all signifying a world waiting to be discovered.

MTV News: Congrats on your second mini-album! Now that you’ve crossed Border: Day One, how does it feel to step into this Carnival, as you’ve named it?

Jungwon: Border: Carnival is where we’re still sort of confused, but these are honest feelings of us trying to enjoy this moment. We’re looking forward to [our fans] Engenes to also enjoy this new album, and we’re really excited about our new music and showing our performances.

MTV News: Your debut happened only five months ago, but how have you changed since then?

Jake: Like you said, it’s only been five months, so I think we’re still at the very early stages of our careers. But we feel like we have taken a huge step as artists, and that we grew a lot as a team, especially on this album. We hope that our fans will be able to see that chemistry on stage as well as off stage.

MTV News: How do you feel when you look at your achievements so far? Is it challenging to think you have so much responsibility at a young age?

Heeseung: I can’t really say that we achieved a lot. There’s still a lot that we need to do, a lot that we need to learn, a lot that we need to grow. That’s something we’ll continue to build together, both with the members and with our fans. The support and the love from Engenes are what drives us to keep achieving those things.

MTV News: The pandemic has been hard for everyone, but groups like Enhypen, who debuted after it all started, haven’t had many opportunities to meet their fans. What are you learning from these trying times?

Sunghoon: Unfortunately, we haven’t had a lot of chances to meet our fans, but still, we have received a lot of love and a lot of support. That made us learn how precious our fans are, and we want to give back to them. We want to keep on working hard so that someday we can meet face to face, perform, and sing. It just happens that we have to wait a little bit more.

Belift Lab

MTV News: Your main concept for this comeback is “carnival,” and your title track is named “Drunk-Dazed.” Did you intend to capture these feelings of astonishment and excitement that you experience at a festival? 

Jay: After we debuted, what we experienced are things I never experienced before, and I believe it’s the first time for all the other members too. Everything seems really elaborate, really glamorous, but also very unfamiliar. I think that’s what you would experience at a carnival, in regards to unfamiliarity, but also all the fanciness, the glitter and glamour. It’s like all these emotions and feelings melted down into one song.

MTV News: Can you talk about the music video for “Drunk-Dazed” and share some memories of the shoot?

Heeseung: I remember practicing the chorus part on the set. There was this moment when we were all in the center, and it was great. Then, we saw how it was turning out and it was really amazing. It was also the first time we were doing the choreography outside of the practice studio. All the staff was giving us positive feedback, and that made us feel really great. It was a fantastic experience.

MTV News: What are the tracks you most relate to in this album and why?

Jungwon: The song that resonated with me the most is the fourth track, “Mixed Up,” because it’s about things that I didn’t experience as a trainee. After I-Land and after our debut, I started to receive all this attention from a lot of people, so this is when the whole environment changed for me and brought up these feelings of being mixed up.

Jake: For me, it has to be our title track, “Drunk-Dazed,” because it expresses the overall theme and message of the album really well. It’s one of my favorites.

MTV News: Engenes all over the world want to know: What’s the relation between Enhypen and vampires?

Jay: Oh, that’s funny.

Heeseung: [To Jake:] What do you think?

Jake: Actually, we’re very curious about that. What do you think?

MTV News: For me, it seems like there are two different stories happening simultaneously. One is Enhypen as you are now, as idols, and the other is a more fantastical one. 

Jake: I think the theory you have is a really good one.

MTV News: Are you aware of the theories that Engenes create?

Jake: We do know that a lot of Engenes come up with their own theories, and it’s really exciting to look at them and all their ideas.

MTV News: So what’s the real story behind it?

Jay: It’s open.

Jake: Yes, we want to leave it for the fans to interpret it themselves.

Heeseung: If you interpret or try to divide the storyline using our title tracks as the center of it, I think it will be easier to discover more about our world.

MTV News: Jay, you love rock, so how do you feel about the sounds and visuals in this album?

Jay: The tracks “Mixed Up” and “Drunk-Dazed,” as well as the “Hype” version of the album, really express that rock sensibility. There are a lot of new, fresh, and challenging things that appeal to me. Those themes are similar to how I dress, the kind of clothes that I like, so I really enjoyed it.

Belift Lab

MTV News: Heeseung, you once said, “The more time you spend on your work, the less time there is to invest in yourself.” How do you separate your time between work and investing in yourself?

Heeseung: These days, I’m mostly spending time on work, but focusing on work is part of investing in myself. I don’t think those two are very different for me.

MTV News: Jake, where do you feel like you have grown the most for this comeback? 

Jake: Now that we have spent more time together as a team, I think our chemistry has definitely improved, as well as having a deeper understanding for one another. But also, in terms of singing and dancing, as well as facial expressions on stage, everything has gotten a lot better.

MTV News: Jungwon, you’re the leader, but how do you stay focused?

Jungwon: I talk to the other members a lot and they give me feedback about what I’m doing and how things are going. That allows me to take an objective view of myself, fix up what I’m doing, and keep on track.

MTV News: Sunoo, you can adapt to any concept easily. What is that process like for you?

Sunoo: There are three concepts in this album, so I had to think a lot about how to adjust [to each of them]. But once we got on set and tried on the outfits, we did a lot of preparations, and I was able to easily adapt to the different atmospheres. Also, especially for the “Up” version, me and the other members studied images and videos of outfits that were similar to that theme, so those efforts made up for it.

MTV News: Sunghoon, Jake, and Heeseung are introverts according to the MBTI personality test. Sunghoon, when do you think it’s an advantage to be introverted?

Sunghoon: There are good and bad things for both personalities, introverted and extroverted. The fact that we have both in Enhypen gives us an advantage, a synergy. I think it’s a good thing that we have a mix of different personalities.

MTV News: Ni-ki, coming from Japan and being the youngest member, how do you feel about growing up with Enhypen?

Ni-ki: The other members always look out for me, and if there’s something I don’t know or that I can’t figure out, they are always right there. They really help me a lot. I feel like I have a family here in Korea.

MTV News: Can you share something about Enhypen’s next adventure, as foreshadowed in “Outro: The Wormhole”?

Ni-ki: I can’t spoil too many details, but I can tell you that we will be back again with great music and great performances that all Engenes can look forward to. So please, look forward to that.

Bop Shop: Songs From Iann Dior, Rina Sawayama, Pronoun, Nez, And More

These days, good disco pop doesn’t need much: a clean four-on-the-floor, some funky guitar, and jazzy synths. And great disco pop can match that sound with blissful chants that channel love, lust, or freedom. But the best disco pop — Whitney, Robyn, Dua, Carly — warps the sound’s very essence. Classics like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “Dancing on My Own” lyrically pull from our most deepest fears: that no one will love us, that we’ll always be alone. That you don’t realize how painfully sad the words are is the whole point. “Kissing Strangers” fits this mold, an infectious dance-floor number wherein Vetta Borne regrets a breakup that she initiated. “I swear I really loved her,” she mourns, but maybe she’s smiling the whole time; for all the shame and hurt, the sound refuses to let you feel it. —Terron Moore

The Weeknd Assembles His Own Ariana Grande In ‘Save Your Tears’ Remix Video

As it pops up near the end of The Weeknd‘s moody fourth LP After Hours, synthpop ballad “Save Your Tears” feels perhaps the most appropriate to the album’s title of any of its tunes. It’s more hangover than party, though its gorgeous, funky sonics (and eventual robotic vocalizations) create the kind of pop turn producer Max Martin has made a career out of.

It makes sense, then, for Ariana Grande to hop on the remix, out today (April 23), and for her contributions to leave the song even more dazzling. What’s more surprising is the song’s accompanying new animated video, which finds an animated Weeknd creating his own Grande out of spare parts in an underground lair.

The clip, directed by Jack Brown and produced by London animation studio Blinkink, fuses The Weeknd’s chaotic, stylish After Hours persona with Grande’s fembot iconography she leaned heavily into for Positions, her sixth album that dropped in October 2020. It’s a nice match.

This isn’t the first time Abel Tesfaye has been a cartoon, either. Last year, he appeared on TBS’s American Dad to poke fun at his sex-fueled persona and “admit” to actually being a virgin; his 2020 “Snowchild” video recruited Japan’s D’ART Shtajio animation studio to turn him into an anime protagonist as well.

Check out the spiffy new video above, then revisit Ari and Abel’s previous collabs: “Love Me Harder” and “Off the Table.”

Megan Thee Stallion Makes It Rain In ‘Movie’ Video With Lil Durk

When Megan Thee Stallion and Lil Durk are in business together, they’re unstoppable. The duo released the music video for their fan-favorite collab track “Movie” on Thursday (April 15) and brought the lights, camera, and action with them.

Directed by Mike Ho, Megan and Lil Durk are the life of the party being held at the fictional club Stallions. As cash seems to rain endlessly from heaven above, multiple dancers perform jaw-dropping pole routines, pouring drinks into each other’s mouths, and dancing the night away to the sensual track’s snappy chorus. Intermixed between the festivities, Megan channels the early aughts as she raps with effortless cool and confidence in an orange bikini and sunglasses.

Originally released as part of her debut album Good News last year, the bombastic club anthem’s lyrics take place within a strip club and allow the two artists to take on very different perspectives of the same night: the happy-go-lucky VIP attendee at the club; the powerful, hard-working dancer on stage. They cross paths in the song’s chorus, where Lil Durk raps: “Tell her shake it / Drop her friends off / And take her pants off.” Megan easily counters his proposition with one of her own: “Tell him spend it / You ain’t got no money / Keep your hands off.”

The release of the visual follows the Houston rapper’s star-studded night at the 2021 Grammys last month, which saw her dominate the stage alongside Cardi B with a powerful performance of “WAP” and pick up three wins for Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance, and Best Rap Song. In response to the video’s release, Megan shared a simple message on Instagram: “Thank you my babies for coming to Stallions.” Come again soon.