“…powerful lyricism and synth-heavy beats.” – Billboard
“The emerging queer artist’s synth-heavy track is a glittery escape with a message.Michael’s voice provides a much-needed perspective on the how and why of everything; of how and why we got here, and how and why we might return to something resembling equality.” – NYLON
“A dazzling and spunky electro-pop gem complete with 80’s pop hooks, hip-hop flair, and storytelling that goes deeper beyond the surface with intentionality, grace, and uber catchy hooks.” –Earmilk
On New York-based experimental pop artist Michael Love Michael‘s debut album XO, the personal is political. PRESS HERE to stream/download. Created from an amalgamation of personal experiences — from unrequited love to stories of loss, trauma and self-affirmation — the 11-song album addresses the current social climate in ways that are bold, nuanced and unapologetic. Desiring to co-create a better world, the album arrives intentionally at 10.41pm, August 18, 2020 for the next New Moon, a symbol of renewal, hope and possibility.
“The album is named XO for several reasons,” Michael says. “It is about a tender kind of love for myself that is ever evolving. It is also about contrast. As a Black person, I am sometimes told I have no culture, no history, no self-awareness, no humanity. I am hard and soft, rough around the edges and smooth as a polished diamond. I contain multitudes, and so too, does this music. I can’t be boxed in because I am so many things, and thank God that is true. I want people hearing this record to discover and embrace the multiple dimensions they too possess.”
Michael’s self-penned debut is produced primarily by them and frequent collaborator Rich Dasilva, and it offers an eclectic range of musical styles, from industrial rock to synthpop to hip-hop, and draws on their broad musical influences, from Nine Inch Nails and Bjork to Kelis and Aaliyah. Michael’s disparate inspirations congeal into a richly textured soundscape that is dreamy and enchanting.
Lead single “Rope”
kicks off the collection, with jangling guitar riffs, a disaffected vocal delivery and lyrics about being under a constant gaze as a nonbinary, queer Black person in modern America. PRESS HERE
to listen. “On God” confronts this gaze explicitly, centering queer liberation all the while from those oppressors: “No fags, no femmes, no fats, no trans,” Michael growls in the track’s anthemic chorus. “Actin’ like I wanna fuck, but I know you wanna hit it.”
“‘On God’ was written after a series of personal violences I endured during one fateful week last June in New York,” Michael explains. “It was written as a way to process why this was happening to not only me, but to queer people everywhere and especially my Black trans sisters. It was my way of also addressing something that is most painful and difficult: that my perpetrators are not always within white society, but those who share the same skin color as I do.”
The heavier rock sound opening the album softens around “Blueberry,” a Beatles-esque, psychedelic pop song exploring Michael’s teenage experience of unrequited love amid the start of the Iraq War: “Purple hearts beating wild with red, red blood,” Michael sings, atop whistling, acoustic strumming and 808s.
“Canary,” originally from indie rock legend Liz Phair’s beloved career-defining debut Exile In Guyville, is given new life by Michael with soft, intimate reverence, and — with tweeting birds in the background — it takes on new meaning from their perspective, as a song about refusing to do what the world expects of you. “I feel honored to share my take on a song that has meant so much to me for so many years,” Michael says. “Though Liz and I seem to come from different places, I see a kinship in how she observes the world around her and I deeply admire her observations. She gave voice to her experiences as one of few women in a male-dominated rock scene and affected many. I often speak my truth as the only Black queer person in many spaces I inhabit. Though it can be painful and labor-intensive at times, there’s also inherent beauty in being the first of your kind wherever you are.”
Michael’s cinematic second single, tells a specific story of parasitic wealth with humor and panache. PRESS HERE
to listen. “Orion,” produced by Michael and Rich along with NYC electronic musicians Maluca
and Blew Velvet
is an insanely catchy tune that sweetly reminisces about a lover lost in the cosmos.
The harder edges introducing the album pick back up around “Mother’s Day,” a relentless, cryptic jam backed by icy synths, about the nature of sacrifice: “Do you want blood?,” Michael sneers. “This is my body.” The muddy trap energy of “JFC”
keeps the witchy vibes brewing – yet another statement of self-determination: “I don’t owe you fucking anything.” PRESS HERE
XO concludes with a stunning couplet: “The Hatred,” which arrives as a haunted sigh of resignation upon recognizing modern society’s deepest ailments. Then, the epic, dreamy title track “XO,” about the most important work we can take on in order to change the world: that of loving ourselves. The song is Michael’s favorite track on the album and is a brief summary of their life before getting sober. “I think of this song as a thesis of the entire album,” Michael explains. “It is the place of self-actualization I’ve had to work at the hardest, and I continue to. I want to love myself more so I can love others more. I believe if society can do this, we may live in a better world.
Visually, the world of XO is shrouded in the abundant magic and mystery of nature. Imagery captured by New York actor and visual artist Ross Days finds Michael seeking solace in isolated pastures, forest paths and beaches.
XO is about how political transformation starts within, and Michael’s journey to empower others through music, art and free expression models a way for humanity to collectively heal.
About Michael Love Michael:
As a Black child growing up queer and nonbinary in the Midwest, Michael didn’t always feel encouraged to be themselves. Their emotional sensitivity, effeminate appearance and artistic expression was shunned by those around them, so they retreated into writing and storytelling, and when they finally got a desktop computer at 16, they quietly made songs in their bedroom about their isolation, desperate for a way out of it. As 2020 yields a new revolution for marginalized voices, Michael, having broken free of societal restraints, is determined to use theirs to call attention to issues affecting the LGBTQ community and beyond. Michael‘s musical influences span wildly from M.I.A., Bjork, Interpol, Nine Inch Nails and powerful female acts including Aaliyah, TLC and Madonna. Nevertheless, Michael‘s lyrics and messaging hinges on the idea that the personal is one’s most powerful political tool. Michael‘s ultimate aim, aside from helping people awaken to social ills so as to address them, is to encourage people everywhere — who’ve been backed into corners and made to feel like who they are isn’t enough — to unlock their voices and raise them to the rafters.
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