Loren Gray Built A Career From TikTok, But She Didn’t Do It ‘Alone’

By Alex Blynn

Before 18-year-old Loren Gray became known to the world as a leading voice among a generation of uber-famous teens who populate the massively popular social media platform TikTok, she was a small-town girl growing up outside of Philadelphia with a passion for Taylor Swift and a smartphone.

Gray began posting videos of herself on the then-named Musical.ly app while still in middle school. In her videos, Gray would dance and lip-synch to songs like Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” or “Trust Issues” by The Weeknd. In one Musical.ly video, Gray seats dozens of her young schoolmates together for a group shot, while they jovially sing along to Justin Bieber’s 2012 hit “Boyfriend.” Gray shared these videos with her classmates, but when kids from neighboring schools began sharing them as well, her popularity exploded. Her clips became featured on the app’s discovery page, gaining her tens of thousands of followers in days. “I noticed that a bunch of my videos had been featured and I had like 30,000 followers,” Gray told Interview last year. “I went to my parents and I was like, ‘I don’t know what this means.’ I’d just turned 13. It was scary, for sure.”

She moved to Los Angeles with her mother and the support of her family at 15, her eyes set on a career as a pop singer and influencer. Upon arrival, Gray began building her audience in earnest, utilizing her freestyle dancing skills, picture-perfect smile, and collaborative friends to draw viewers. She now has more than 76 million followers across her social media accounts (her TikTok reigns supreme with a following of over 47 million), winning fans for her willingness to, at times, strip down the glittering facade: Last New Year’s Eve, Gray uploaded a short montage including shots of Gray as a child dancing in front of her TV, playing with her pomeranian, and hugging fans at meet-and-greets. The post became one of her most liked of 2019.

Now, Gray is among an emerging wave of TikTok creators infiltrating the music industry, using their considerable social media might to negotiate major record deals. Gray’s own viral fame and musical chops got her signed to Virgin Records in 2018. Dixie D’Amelio, big sis to Charli D’Amelio and member of the collective Hype House, signed with United Talent Agency in January, and Darak Figueroa, better known as the rapper StaySolidRocky, signed with Columbia Records after his single “Party Girl” blew up on TikTok. Gray’s anthemic 2018 debut single, “My Story,” appealed to fans with its powerfully uplifting lyrics, reaching No. 1 on the Spotify Global Viral Chart, while the brooding “Queen” has amassed over 28 million streams on Spotify alone.

Gray’s latest, “Alone,” is a pulsating pop ballad that flaunts Gray’s astonishing vocal range. The aptly titled song and corresponding video were recorded with a skeleton crew from her apartment under quarantine. Its lyrics confess a deep love for someone — she doesn’t disclose who but, surely, it’s complicated. Likewise, the visuals express Gray’s unrestrained yearning. We find her alone in her room, writhing around her studio floor, pining for her loved one, who, true to the times, is nowhere to be found. Shadowy photos of him float on the walls, giving viewers a glimpse but never a full look. Sporting her now-signature big, blonde hair and a relaxed, baby-pink pajama set one moment, then vaulting into a glittering Michael Costello bodysuit and matching sparkling makeup, Gray finishes her performance with a disco-diva dance-off.

While previous releases have hinted at Gray’s considerable musical talents, “Alone” is a flagpole track for the young singer, proving that “the original queen of TikTok” has a more intimate, mature sound to share. MTV News speaks with Gray about quarantine, creating the “Alone” video from home, and what it takes to make it as a TikTok singer.

MTV News: You recorded “Alone” while in quarantine; how were you feeling when you were creating it?

Gray: “Alone” is the first love song I’ve ever written, and it was exciting to even feel… excited to write a love song right now. We actually wrote it right before quarantine, and then I recorded it at my house during quarantine. So, it was a good feeling to write a love song, and a more uplifting kind of song because, in some ways, it’s a lot happier than some of my other songs.

MTV News: I feel like people are turning to music for an escape and a dose of positive energy during quarantine.

Gray: Definitely. I’ve learned a lot more about creating music since quarantine started, that’s been really important to me. It has been a really good escape. Music has always been that for me but especially now, and I think that’s how everyone is these days. I’ve discovered a lot of new music that I might have not otherwise had the time or the focus to find. I mean, there are ups and downs. Some days, I’m like, man, this sucks. I don’t want to do anything or get out of bed. And then some days, I’m just really overwhelmed with exciting ideas and feeling inspired. So that’s kind of where I am right now!

MTV News: What was it like to create a music video without all the usual trappings, like a big crew, lots of hair and makeup people, extras, stuff like that?

Gray: Well I didn’t really know what to expect going into it. And I hadn’t really seen anyone in a while, so it felt a little awkward but also really fun. But it was really weird to not be able to interact with people in the way that I typically would. We had a medic there who checked everyone’s temperatures at the door, which is good because obviously, for safety, but it was really strange. And it was also really weird not having as many people around as I usually would. We still had a lot of fun and obviously went about everything safely.

MTV News: You’ve been releasing music for a couple of years now. Recently, you’ve been receiving more critical recognition from the music industry. How does it feel getting recognized like this?

Gray: It’s great because I’m still sort of finding my way, but I’ve worked really hard to understand music beyond just singing a song. Like, writing, music theory, production, vocal engineering, mixing, and mastering. So, yeah it feels good! And I feel like I’m only going to keep learning and improving, which I’m really excited for. And I’m still young, so I have some time!

MTV News: What are your thoughts on the correlation between TikTok and the industry right now? A viral hit can lead to instantaneous fame. What do you think it takes to make it?

Gray: It’s hard to say because social media is always evolving. But I think TikTok has definitely opened doors and created a lot of opportunities for artists to get their music out there in a really direct way. Like this girl, [her handle is] @ppcocaine, she’s super cool, and she just got signed to a big label. Her music was straight from TikTok, she blew up, and she signed that deal, which is great. So I’m really happy that people are able to create opportunities for themselves on TikTok. As for what it takes to blow up on TikTok? It’s really random! I don’t think there’s even necessarily a formula to having music blow up on there in the first place. I think it’s just whatever people decide they like that day is what’s going to blow up. So it’s really difficult to think ahead and make a TikTok-song, per se. But there’s some people who have been able to do it really well, and I’m really happy for them.

MTV News: Well, what’s next for you?

Gray: I’ve cut a lot of features recently, so I’m really excited and have a couple dropping next month. I am working on putting together an album, and I’m two songs in right now. I kind of just started. It might be more of an EP. But I have plenty of songs to release until I’m ready.

MTV News: Would you want to tour once we can do that again?

Gray: 100 percent! I miss traveling so much, and I miss seeing everyone in person. I feel like it’s cool to connect with people over social media, and I’m really grateful to have that, but seeing people in person is so different and so much more intimate, and it’s something that I really miss. That human interaction.

MTV News: Hopefully we’ll come through this soon and we can go back to that.

Gray: Yes! We’re all in this together, as High School Musical once said.

Harry Styles Online Fan Merch Is Thriving, As Long As The Postal Service Is

By Larisha Paul

For years, the embroidery machine that sisters Sara and Mari Olson had been gifted many Christmases ago sat collecting dust in their Wisconsin bedroom, while neither of them learned how to use it. After they’d spent the better part of 2020 at home without much to do amid the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the time seemed right to try it out.

Sara and Mari, 21 and 18, respectively, began adorning T-shirts and crewnecks with designs relating to Harry Styles and a few of his One Direction bandmates, including Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson. They found a hungry customer base for their products: a white T-shirt with “Watermelon Sugar” designed into a pair of red sunglasses, Horan’s album title Heartbreak Weather placed on a blue crewneck, and rainbow stickers that read “Be Nice to Nice.” Since launching it on May 20, their Etsy shop Kiwi Crossings has become a full-time small-business operation consisting of long days creating products, packaging orders, and making trips to the post office to ship them off.

With over 900 sales in just three months, Kiwi Crossings has brought in more in revenue than what Sara would have earned at her full-time job in the same amount of time. But as President Trump opposes providing the much-needed $25 billion in funding for the pandemic-damaged United States Postal Service, causing delays in delivery times and an increase in service pricing, Sara and Mari wonder how much longer they’ll be able to keep their shop running. “Not only would it be harder for us to get our packages out because we’re in a small town, but we would also be spending an arm and a leg,” Sara tells MTV News. “We would probably have to shut down, to be honest.”

Kiwi Crossings is just one of a growing number of fan-made merchandise shops that have sprung up over the past few months, both independently and on Etsy, offering fans an alternative to products offered on artists’ official merch sites that tend to be pricer and lack more creatively eye-catching designs. The impact of the loss of access to USPS would not only extend to these young, predominantly female small-business owners, but also to the fans who rely on these shops for access to thoughtful merchandise representing their favorite artists.

“As fans, we really look forward to merch. It’s a huge part of the music culture, how we express ourselves and what we love,” says Ariana Gonzales, 21, who cherishes the merch she’s collected from every Styles show she has attended. With the excitement that surrounded Styles’s beachy music video for “Watermelon Sugar,” fans had high expectations when the singer’s camp released limited-edition merch for the single. But for some, the products didn’t match the hype. “I was taken aback when I saw the same photo they used for the shirt stamped onto another shirt, a tote bag, and a beach towel. It’s honestly just disappointing,” Gonzales adds.

“Maybe it’s because I’ve been exposed to different merch, but it was not up to the standard set by the merch released during [Styles’s] first album,” says Mehru Baig, 17, referencing the Rubik’s Cube tote bags that replicated his tour graphics and “Kiwi” crewnecks with lyrics embroidered on the sleeves. “The prices on Harry’s shop after shipping and sales taxes are really high, and for a high school senior like me, it can be really overwhelming.” Despite being dissatisfied with Styles’s merchandise throughout the Fine Line era, fans are still purchasing the official items as they drop, just to say they have them.

“Everyone’s like, ‘I hate it, but I still need it.’ And you still need it because you want to support him, and that’s so sweet, but imagine if that money went to a better cause or could support [a small business],” says Tahira Resalat, 23, who runs her hand-drawn illustration-based product shop TeeCaake out of [her home in] London. Resalat’s shop displays her artwork — typically images of Styles’s most notable outfits as well as designs of fashionable and empowering women — on notebooks, mugs, and phone cases. Businesses like Resalat’s often expand the range of products available to fans beyond the baseline of shirts and hoodies.

“With [fan] shops, you get so much more for your money,” says Emily Uribe, 20. “And a lot of these small businesses are donating to Black Lives Matter, they’re donating to Yemen, they’re actually giving the money to something.”

For fans who don’t have the disposable income needed to frequently purchase expensive sweatshirts and water bottles from an official merch shop, design and creativity are key when making decisions to shop outside official merchandise stores. “Unofficial merch is often produced by real fans, people who know what we would like to see and what we really want to spend our money on, since they’re part of the fandom,” says Seren Aslan, 20, who recalled the delay in the delivery of her blue “Treat People With Kindness” sweatshirt. While many of these shops are Harry-centric, the desire for more representative and accessible merch seems universal across fandoms. Digital shop owners are receiving requests to expand into designing products around other artists as well, like Ariana Grande and Shawn Mendes.

When Alaina Zamani, 20, launched her shop Hun in the Sun on May 31, she had the added advantage of fandom to back her designs. “I was a hardcode Harry Styles fan and I didn’t want to be wearing his name or his face,” Zamani says. “I went for something a little more subtle or something a bit cooler, but it’s also his merch.” After releasing a collection of shirts and hoodies inspired by Travis Scott’s popular Astroworld merchandise, Zamani released her latest series, A Ride Like No Other, featuring illustrations of Styles’s vintage car collection with a “Do You Know Who You Are?” billboard in the background — the “Lights Up” lyric and Styles’s white 1966 Mercedes-Benz 230SL would stand out to his fans but go completely over the head of a casual listener. Hun in the Sun, which is based in London, has brought in around £6,000 — about $8,000 — in just two months with prices averaging $30 for shirts and $40 for crewnecks.

Erika Hernandez, 18, took a similar approach when she released a crossover collection of sweaters, hoodies, and stickers merging Styles’s Fine Line album and Netflix’s Stranger Things via her California-based operation, The Shop by Erika. “There are so many shops selling embroidered sweaters, there is some sort of competition there,” Hernandez says. TikTok videos showing the design and packaging process of these Harry Styles-themed products have gone viral time and time again, racking up hundreds of thousands of views and growing business owners’ customer bases while also inspiring some viewers to launch their own shops. Aided by fans uploading their own unboxing videos, Hernandez’s shop has 11,400 followers on the app, while others like Kiwi Crossings and Shop Sunflowers range in size from 3,500 to 61,500, respectively.

With increased demand and an increasingly oversaturated market, innovation is necessary to stay afloat. “I’m trying to think of new ways to make unique stuff and stand out, because now we’re all at the same level,” Hernandez says. She’s already begun researching other fan bases to see which artists would be a good fit for her expanding operation. Mass success has come surprisingly quickly for many merch creators, but the looming risk of losing access to USPS has them thinking about the threat of losing out on turning their businesses into full-on brands. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s cost-cutting tactics, like limiting overtime hours for mail carriers and removing high-speed letter processing machines from office locations, have led to weeks-long delays and disruptions in mail delivery across the country in addition to possible post office closings.

Some creators, like Resalat, ultimately dream of the day when their creative pursuits can become truly collaborative with the artists that inspire them. “I want there to be longevity in my brand. They’re Harry Styles-inspired works, but it’s not a Harry Styles fan shop. He’s helped change my life in the course of a few months by me creating some artwork inspired by him. He’s been my muse,” Resalat says. “If he supported any of these young creators who are working so hard to run these shops and be in some sort of collaboration with them, it would just be so amazing.”

Ian Isiah’s Funky Auntie Is Gospel For A Broken World

The Brooklyn-born artist Ian Isiah has worn many hats throughout his shape-shifting career. On the cover of his latest album Auntie, an arresting recreation of a photograph of Coretta Scott King at Martin Luther King’s funeral in 1968, it was a black pillbox cap adorned with a veil of deep green netting. But on a recent day, his headwear is more protective in nature. “Right now, I’m talking to you, a hair bonnet on and a nightgown on,” he tells MTV News by phone. “I’m a granny. I live by being a granny, not even in age but just my attitude is so granny.”

That outlook may seem surprising coming from someone whose work across style and sound has moved the needle forward in each industry he’s touched. As the creative director of the influential fashion collective Hood By Air, Isiah played a key role alongside his high school bestie, the founder Shayne Oliver, in elevating streetwear to the canon of luxury, while also setting a new tone for inclusive runway presentations and collaborative art-making before the house went on hiatus in 2015. Meanwhile, he was a central figure within New York’s underground nightlife community GHE20G0TH1K, which began in 2009 by fusing goth and hip-hop in gritty warehouse raves, pushing back against the largely white-washed image of the dark subgenre that emerged from ’80s British post-punk.

Now, two years sober (“It opened up my third eye.”), he’s put partying behind him and returned to his earliest passions, singing and live instrumentation, skills he developed while growing up and performing in gospel groups at his Pentecostal church. Today, being a granny is “just my persona,” he says, “and I’m portraying it through music that sounds like it’s straight out of 1988.”

Where his 2018 LP, Shugga Sextape Vol. 1, inserted hymnal harmonizing into Auto-Tune-heavy R&B sex jams that glistened with synthy beats and experimental textures, Auntie is a collection of full-on funk. Referencing the classics of James Brown and Stevie Wonder with squeaky clean production by Chromeo, the first album off their new label Juliet Records, Isiah trades synths for the analog sounds of jazz saxophones and heavy bass lines over which his sweet falsetto soars to new heights. His astonishing vocal range is on display in the closing track “Loose Truth,” a gospel-infused ballad that incorporates recordings from Isiah’s local preacher. The album as a whole sends a positively heartfelt message of self-assurance — do you, do whoever you want, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise — and that message resonates particularly loudly on the single “Princess Pouty,” a single about knowing your worth that grooves with sass.

And that’s the gospel according to Auntie Shugga: confident, crass, and always chic. As Isiah gears up for the relaunch of Hood By Air at New York Fashion Week, he speaks to MTV News about his latest project, sobriety, and bringing the church back into his sound.

MTV News: I know you’re from New York and you began singing in church.

Ian Isiah: Yeah, New York, born in Brooklyn. Beginning in church, son of a preacher in a family of preachers and church-goers. Father’s a Rastafarian. Grew up playing steel pans and listening to gospel music. I don’t know. High school, fashion, style, dancehall. Brooklyn, New York. I like how I’m throwing out terms and not full sentences.

MTV News: So, then, when and how did you start making music outside the church?

Isiah: Well, even though I was doing it outside of the church, it was still with church people, because we all grew up together as musicians. We would get together outside the church and work on some R&B and shit like that. So I kind of started in the house with cousins, just messing around on Pro Tools, messing around on GarageBand when we were in our teens, not knowing that it was preparing me for going into a studio with actual producers and engineers, which is something I always wanted to do.

It really, really got started when I decided to put out an EP — my first-ever EP, The Love Champion — a long time ago, like eight years now. That was the beginning of me telling the world like, hey, I’m about to do these R&B songs and they’re a bit sexual and they sound fire. Get into it. I tested the waters, it was a good time. I loved the response that I got.

MTV News: You were working with Chromeo on this project, of course, but how do you feel that you made that transition from the more minimal sound of Shugga Sextape to the funk of Auntie?

Isiah: Allowing people to see more of who I actually am, because I am very much a granny. I’m also penetrating the fact that music and musicians matter heavily. When we hear things nowadays, it’s so easy to generate what that sounds like and people can computerize anyone’s voice; everyone can get manipulated to sound like a pop star. But I want to remind the ears and the minds of everyone that music is a real thing, that music composition is also a real thing. And there are musicians out here that play actual instruments, that don’t need electricity to play instruments.

And that’s what’s on this record, just like Stevie Wonder records. I mean, I’m not comparing my records to no Stevie Wonder records. But all of the legends’ records were just… these are musicians playing before there were programs and all the tools and all that kind of stuff, which I love. We could do things raw from scratch, we’ll have a good time.

Renell Medrano

MTV News: So there are a lot of live instruments on this record, as opposed to entirely digital production?

Isiah: The whole thing is live, yeah. Onyx Collective is also on this new album: They’re a great, young jazz band coming out of New York City, my homies. Chromeo are great musicians, and I play, as well. So creating this new album, it was really just us in the studio, jamming and writing this music. So it’s definitely a different sound. The church boy is really being the church boy now.

MTV News: You mentioned that you’re a granny. What about you is granny-like, specifically?

Isiah: Well, my current two-year sobriety, for sure. I’m always walking around the house singing and humming. If I’m not talking, I’m singing, and that’s 24 hours a day. I’m just very granny a.k.a old soul a.k.a. I know what’s up and I don’t have time.

MTV News: Has your sobriety affected your outlook as an artist and as a musician?

Isiah: It opened up my third eye finally. I mean, I’ve always had that third eye open, but I ignored it. But now that I’ve been sober for two years, I can see everything very clearly. I can see the discrepancies in both fashion and music, as business and as personal. I can see where and what not to do, and I can see how they’re both so similar in careers. And especially seeing how throughout the years losing so many friends, a lot of these artists that we’ve lost. And I saw that pattern, that pattern wasn’t going with me. So I think my sobriety is my new spirit animal.

MTV News: Why the name Auntie for the album, then?

Isiah: Granny is the icon of all, you know. Under granny there’s auntie, there’s godmother, there’s godfather, there’s uncle. But the granny is like the grand aunt of it all. I chose Auntie because, collectively, when you listen to the album, it honestly sounds like your aunt — at her birthday party in her backyard or her husband’s birthday party in her backyard or auntie’s day at work.

Renell Medrano

MTV News: Your last collection, Shugga Sextape, was all about sexual freedom. What topics are you exploring with your new music?

Isiah: This album is actually very empowering. It’s empowering for me personally, but also very empowering for the listener’s ear. It’s very unfortunate in the climate that this nation is in right now, and we ought to do our part to change that immediately. Directly supporting local communities, defunding the police, we all need to immediately do something.

So this project is coming out during a time when it’s kind of parallel and it speaks to empowering and encouraging everyone in the midst of this national climate. I didn’t plan for that to be a thing, because no one wants what’s going on right now to be a thing, but I am grateful that the project is 100 percent — it’s funky sonically, and you have to dig a little deep and listen to the lyrics, but every song on the album is about empowering and encouraging you to move forward as a whole with the people who are next to you. Because that’s the goal, that’s it.

MTV News: I definitely see that on “Loose Truth,” and you included a bunch of essential workers in the video. Are there any songs that really speak to that sense of empowerment?

Isiah: Definitely. Coming right out the gate when I started it, the song “N.U.T.S.” — “N—a You The Shit,” that’s the acronym, which means I’m already trying to empower people. Like, stop thinking about what everybody else says about you and start caring about what you say about you. Patience running thin, nobody gives a shit.

There’s a song called “Can’t Call It” about being in love with someone and you get empowered with each other. There’s a song called “Bougie Heart” about understanding that your heart has different characters of its own and just like knowing yourself even more, before you’re able to know and love somebody else. The whole thing is literally about encouraging and empowering yourself first and then others.

MTV News: On some tracks, like on “Loose Truth,” it sounded like you were sampling sermons. Where did those come from?

Isiah: No samplings on here, baby. That’s the bishop, my overseer, my father, Jeffrey White, from my church. Well, I guess you can call that a sample, but no, it’s like a recording of one of my church services.

MTV News: Why did you decide to put that into the song?

Isiah: Well, because people need to hear the word. That specific choice, why did I choose that specific line to put in the song? I don’t know, actually. It just spoke to me. And the good thing about what I believe in, and the good thing about how I was raised in my faith, is that everything applies. So I just wanted people to start hearing the word.

MTV News: How has being part of Hood By Air, as a collective of Black artists, influenced your work as a musician?

Isiah: Well, it’s my visual. Hood By Air’s like a playground for me to bring my ideas, or transition my ideas into a lifestyle. Certain ideas that I will want to write about in a song, I would create that character through fashion with Shayne. There are words and terms that are being said in the room while we work, and there goes me in my notes section, already writing things up. By the end of the day, in my Uber home, there’s a song.

So it just goes hand in hand. You know how artists are just thinking about what they’re going to wear or what’s my next look for a video. I guess I’m blessed because… actually, here we go, that’s what the bridge is. The bridge is being able to have that advantage of not worrying about a stylist or not worrying about your visual presence in music.

Because nowadays, let’s be honest. If someone likes an artist, they 50 percent like the music and 50 percent mindful of the way the artist looks, which is weird, but I understand it. I want people to start understanding what real music is again. Not that current music isn’t real music, it definitely is. But I want people to start understanding what instrumentation is again.

SuperM Unleashes The ‘Tiger Inside’ In Roaring New Video

SuperM is back with the second single off their forthcoming first full-length album, Super One. The roaring “Tiger Inside” follows the release of the energetic “100” earlier this month, the first drop from the South Korean mega-group since the arrival of their eponymous EP in October 2019, which snatched the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200.

Back then, SuperM made waves with their boisterous debut single, “Jopping,” and the release of their first mini-album was followed by the international We Are the Future Live tour, which ended at Madison Square Garden in New York. The group is composed of seven key members from parent company SM Entertainment’s biggest groups: SHINee’s Taemin, EXO’s Baekhyun and Kai, NCT 127’s Taeyong and Mark, and Chinese group WayV’s Ten and Lucas.

Their latest visual transports viewers to an icy Siberian cave — the king cat’s lair — while their fearsome choreography mimics the movements of a tiger stalking its prey. “Tiger Inside,” which was first teased live in May during the group’s Beyond Live Concert in May, burns with grumbling synths and pulsating 808 basslines, while the members fluctuate seamlessly between singing and rapping, demanding their freedom (“Don’t tie me, tie me up, tie me up,” is repeated in English at various intervals). At one point, Taeyong’s vocals dissolve into literal growls, as he’s perched to pounce from atop a striped motorcycle.

Super One is slated for release on September 25, and if its first two singles are any indication, it is sure to be a truly energizing, visceral collection.

Doja Cat Says Her New Album Integrates Dancehall, Afrobeat, Funk, House, And More

When Doja Cat made her VMA debut last night (August 30), she went full pink. Her first-ever performance on the awards-show stage found the artist bathed in hot fuchsia as she delivered her hits “Say So” and “Like That,” songs that span nu-disco and pop-rap and are just a sample of the styles she keeps in her toolbox. Her 2019 album Hot Pink, for example, layered a rusty Blink-182 guitar arpeggio over a trap-inspired beat, and by the closer, she was diving into the technicolor realm of sparkly R&B.

Doja had another big moment during the show: when she took the stage to accept the PUSH Best New Artist award and thanked her fans as well as her mom, cementing her place as a unique talent to continue watching. But what could possibly be next for her as she plans her next musical move?

“I’m always kind of winging it,” she told MTV News correspondent Dometi Pongo.

“I have my album coming — can’t say when. I really want to make it a surprise. I don’t want to say too much,” Doja said, carefully. But though she couldn’t reveal any specifics, she said the new album’s energy in grounded in how each new song has its own “personality.” “It’s not gonna be perfectly consistent — I’ve never been, anyway. But we have some dancehall stuff on there, some Afrobeat stuff, some funk, house. I’m trying to cover all bases.”

While she waits to release it — and while we wait to hear what her base coverage might sound like — Doja’s got her PUSH Best New Artist trophy to enjoy, though she told MTV News the mere shock of winning made her first thing she was being fooled. “I thought it was a sick prank!” she said. “No, I was really, really excited to find that out and I didn’t know how to try to hold myself back from tears. I usually say that I don’t care about this kind of thing, but I actually do. I now know that I do care about getting this award, a lot.”

“It means that there are people out there who enjoy my music and they care about me, like they care about the craft,” she continued. “They care about what I’m doing. That’s amazing for me because I just enjoy doing it, period. If people didn’t like it, I’d probably still be doing it, but it’s really cool that people support it.”

In addition to making her VMA stage debut, Doja Cat took home PUSH Best New Artist and also was nominated for Song of the Year and Best Direction. Find out all the night’s winners right here.

Megan Thee Stallion Addresses Her Shooting In Raw New Freestyle

It’s been quite the summer for Megan Thee Stallion. While she’s suffered her share of horrible personal traumas, her star has also continued to rise, most recently through “WAP,” her 2020-defining collaboration with Cardi B.

And last night, at the 2020 VMAs, Meg took home the award for Best Hip Hop for her indelible track “Savage.” She popped a bottle of champagne in a short-but-sweet victory speech to celebrate. “We gon’ keep turning up,” she said as part of her acceptance.

It’s clear that Meg was feeling herself this weekend, and not just because of her VMA win — her second, after nabbing Best Power Anthem last year, where she also performed “Hot Girl Summer” during the pre-show. Earlier on Sunday (August 30), Meg posted a new freestyle to Instagram where she directly addresses being shot earlier this summer in an incident that led to the arrest of fellow rapper Tory Lanez.

“Tic-tac-toe, I X this bitch / If a hit dog holler, I address that shit,” she raps to begin her freestyle, later mentioning the shooting specifically: “Got shot two times and I ate that shit / Bounced right back with a Revlon deal.”

The beat came courtesy of producer Lil Ju Made Da Beat, a.k.a. Max Julian, who Meg’s worked with before on a handful of songs that have helped define her: “Big Ole Freak,” “Cash $hit,” and “Captain Hook.” “Going through beats and I just had to do a Lil quick freestyle,” she wrote in the caption. “@liljumadedabeat send me another pack.”

Meg was nominated for the three awards and won one last night at the 2020 VMAs. Find out all the night’s winners right here.

Black Eyed Peas Lit Up The Stage (And Their Crotches) At The VMAs

By Lauren Rearick

Before closing the book on the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, the Black Eyed Peas made their VMAs live performance debut, sharing a classic and a new single with viewers.

Taking the stage with “glowing crotches,” the Black Eyed Peas performed their new single, “Ritmo” along with a special performance of the always classic, “I Gotta Feeling.” For those that don’t remember, “I Gotta Feeling” was a true staple of 2009, appearing at middle school dances everywhere, and atop the Billboard charts.

Ahead of their VMAs appearance, BEP had teased fans on social media with a promise for “something awesome.” The group had also talked of their anticipation for performing in a pre-show interview with MTV, pledging to bring joy and energy to the stage.

Based on the social media reaction of fans, Black Eyed Peas certainly made good on their promise. Throwing it back to their chosen performance song, one fan said they “gotta feeling” that “tonight was the best night ever,” while another applauded the performance and the evening’s host.

Although this was their first VMAs performance, the group has secured multiple nominations, including in this year’s ceremony. Along with a nomination for Best Collaboration for their single “Ritmo (Bad Boys For Life)” with J. Balvin, the group, along with Ozuna & J. Rey Soul were nominated in the Best Latin category for their track, “Mamacita.”

While the group didn’t add any personal moon people to their collection this year, they have secured multiple VMA wins for choreography in the past, and tonight, they made the nostalgic dreams of some come true.

The 2020 VMAs have kicked off across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find everything you need to know at vma.mtv.com.

Lady Gaga Wins First-Ever MTV Tricon Award And Knows ‘A Renaissance Is Coming’

Lady Gaga: singer/actress, fashion icon, and activist. And now, fittingly, she’s also the first recipient of the MTV Tricon Award, an honor that spans everything Gaga is and does.

“You can’t just call her a triple threat,” Bella Hadid said to introduce Gaga as this year’s award winner. “She turns pop music into high art. She redefines fashion,” Hadid continued, calling Gaga “a powerhouse” actor and someone who “inspires and empowers all of us” with her activism. When she took the stage in one of her latest visionary 2020 VMAs looks (including a mask, of course), Gaga said she was eager to share the prize.

“I want to share this award with everybody at home tonight, everybody at home who is their own form of a Tricon,” she said in her acceptance speech. “I want you to know that you can do this too. Just because we’re separated right now and culture may feel less alive in some ways, I know a renaissance is coming, and the wrath of pop culture will inspire you, and the rage of art will empower you as it responds to hardship with its generosity and love.”

The rest of her remarks touched on her path here, on this night, when she ended up taking home four Moon Person awards — including Song of the Year, Best Collaboration, Artist of the Year, and Best Cinematography — and where she also debuted her powerhouse cut “Rain on Me” with a dazzling performance alongside Ariana Grande.

“I want you to know I failed over and over again as an actress and as a musician when I was young, and though I gave back to the local community through service as a young woman in New York, philanthropy became a much bigger part of my life as a star,” she said, shouting out the Born This Way Foundation, which she started with her mother.

“I wish for you to think of three things that define who you are and take a moment to reward yourself for your bravery,” Gaga continued. “This has not been an easy year for a lot of people. But what I see in the world is a massive triumph of courage. I also hope that people at home that have big dreams, I hope they see me here today accepting this award and know how grateful I am.”

It’s those qualities that have made Gaga an indelible presence in the cultural sphere for over a decade. Her debut album, The Fame, dropped in 2008, but it was the following year that she seemed to reach out and remake the pop realm in her own image and likeness, thanks to visionary videos like “Bad Romance” and “Telephone” and the choreography that each entailed.

This year’s Chromatica — which she showed off in a transportive nine-minute medley earlier in the show — brought her back to the pop-music space, though she’d spent the back half of the 2010s as an actress. She first popped up on American Horror Story in a Golden Globe-winning performance, then moved into film, starring alongside Bradley Cooper in his Oscar-winning directorial debut, A Star Is Born.

A decade ago, Gaga had quite a night at the 2010 VMAs, walking away with eight awards and turning heads in her world-famous meat dress, which quickly become a fashion highlight.

Now, though, Gaga’s wishes are simple: “I want nothing more than to be your artist in 2020.”

Oh, and please, wear a fucking mask, OK? “It’s a sign of respect,” she said. You heard the Tricon.

The 2020 VMAsh have kicked off across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find the complete winners list here and everything else you need to know at vma.mtv.com.

Keke Palmer And CNCO Are The VMA Doubleheader We Needed

By Harron Walker

Two major musical acts made their VMA debuts back-to-back at the 2020 Video Music Awards, and we don’t know which one to rave about first! First up, we had Keke Palmer pausing on her hosting duties to whip out a snippet of her new summer jam, “Snack,” followed by Latin American boy band CNCO giving us their extremely playlist-friendly track, “Beso.” Where to begin? Well, since Keke held down the whole shebang, let’s start with her.

Clad in a neon yellow zip-up leotard that stretched all the way to her Day-Glo manicured fingers, which she paired with a lime Jell-O see-through visor, Palmer kicked off the doubleheader with her feel-good, feeling yourself anthem, “Snack,” off of her new EP, Virgo Tendencies, Pt. 1. From the high-energy choreography to the lyrics promoting self-love — not to mention the 2020 VMA host’s all-around stellar performance — it would be pretty hard to keep a smile from creeping across your face as you watch the Hustlers star do her thing from home.

Then, as Keke closed out her set, the five deeply crushable dudes of CNCO — that’s Erick Brian Colón, Christopher Vélez, Zabdiel De Jesús, Richard Camacho, and Joel Pimentel — emerged from the fancy cars surrounding Palmer’s mini-stage. Crooning us with their latest fire-breathing single, the group nearly swept us off our feet with their killer vocals and incredible dance moves, including some totally unexpected, high-flying acrobatics performed atop a sedan.

Like I already said, tonight marked both Keke and CNCO’s first turns on the VMAs stage. Here’s hoping there are many more performances in their respective futures!

The 2020 VMAs have kicked off across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find everything you need to know at vma.mtv.com.

Doja Cat Went From Viral Superstar To PUSH Best New Artist

By Lauren Rearick

2020 is officially the year of Doja Cat. The performer, who also made her VMAs debut tonight with a performance of TikTok’s favorite singles, was crowned the PUSH Best New Artist winner.

Accepting her award with a lengthy list of personal appreciation shout outs, Doja Cat also paid tribute to her fans, remarking that their “support meant everything to me.” Joking about her refusal to cry, the singer also asked for fans to stay safe, acknowledging that “it’s been a really hard year.” Before leaving the virtual stage, she gave one last important thank you to her mom.

Prior to winning Best New Artist, Doja Cat performed a medley of “Say So” and “Like That,” two singles which have catapulted to popularity on TikTok. Although the performer has gained a much larger following this year, and released more new tunes, including a collaborative single with City Girls, she first gained viral attention back in 2018, releasing “Mooo!”

Along with her win for Best New Artist, Doja Cat was nominated for Song of the Year and Best Direction. Although she didn’t secure a win in either category, her VMAs debut was certainly one to remember, as she transformed the stage into an otherworldly dimension.

Seventeen artists were nominated in total for Best New Artist, including AJ Mitchell, Arizona Zervas, Ava Max, BENEE, BROCKHAMPTON, Conan Gray, Doja Cat, FINNEAS, Jack Harlow, Kiana Ledé, Lewis Capaldi, Lil Tecca, Pop Smoke, Roddy Ricch, Summer Walker, Tate McRae, and YUNGBLUD. The list was then narrowed down, and prior to Sunday’s ceremony, only Doja Cat, Lewis Capaldi, and YUNGBLUD were left as potential winners.

The 2020 VMAs have kicked off across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find everything you need to know at vma.mtv.com.