Call her the New Supreme. Call her a flash in the pan. Either way, Ava Max is doing something big for pop at the moment, and she’s just begun having her fun…yeah.
Ava, born Amanda Ava Koçi, is a 25-year-old singer originally from Wisconsin, born to Albanian parents. After featuring on Le Youth‘s “Clap Your Hands,” inking a major label deal, guesting on David Guetta‘s latest album 7 and dropping a small handful of songs, including her debut single “My Way,” she’s now got a bonafide smash on her hands.
Perhaps you’ve heard of it: it’s called “Sweet But Psycho.”
While I didn’t think we’d be diving into late ’00s nostalgia already, we’re most definitely here now. Or, rather, there again. (Can we get the Pussycat Dolls reboot going in that case?)
To any casual pop enthusiast’s ear, the Cirkut-produced song should sound familiar: it’s a bite of (homage to?) Fame-era, puh-puh-puh-poker face, disco stick-wielding early Lady Gaga who, currently, is alternating between sobbing into Bradley Cooper‘s arms at awards shows and staging her frenetic Enigma residency in Las Vegas. (But isn’t Vegas where careers go to “rot”? I digress.)
Visually, while Ava’s not wearing the Fame-era bubble dresses and LCD glasses or anything like that (yet), her style’s also not too far off from early Haus of Gaga prototypes either. For now, her particular brand of oddity seems mostly limited to an asymmetric haircut that is….a choice, but also a potentially smart way of branding herself, a la Sia‘s wig.
Her similarities to the artist occasionally known as XOXO, Joanne have caused some discontent on The Internet, with some Little Monsters feeling less than enthused about Ava’s seemingly “unoriginal” shtick. To that, as a devout Madonna disciple and Britney diehard from day one who bravely soldiered through the Stan Wars of 2011 onward, I…have to laugh. (Gaga’s not even the only one she’s reminiscent of, for that matter: there’s some distinct Christina in those growls, too.)
But! This is 2019. We are all – or at least I am – aspiring to get less hung up on the concept of originality in pop. To quote the aforementioned Legendtina, who is now coming to “rot in Vegas” with the rest of ’em, there’s room for everyone on our iPods – err, streaming services now too, I guess. And that now includes Ava.
We’re late to the party here in America, as per usual: “Sweet But Psycho” shot straight to No. 1 in several territories across the world months ago, including the UK, Ireland and Germany.
But it’s now racing up the charts in America: she’s cracked Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, and just performed the track with some shakily-but-solidly vocals and light choreography on both Today and The Late Late Show, which caused a kerfuffle in some circles of Gay Twitter.
It would seem, then, that Ava’s coming in hot stateside too. And, admittedly, these two nervously charming debut stages only made me root for her more. (The way she held her mic pack after it flung off on Today? A pro move!)
As wont to do, the gays (not all, but some) have showered her with both hyperbolic praise (“New Queen of Pop!”) as well as over-the-top dragging (“She’ll never be Gaga!”) for even resembling an established superstar act.
But here’s the thing: we as a Pop Community at large (not all, but some) have a knack for getting bored of the current musical climate, demanding more, then devouring anyone new who wishes to have a go at it. And, if they do somehow manage to pass the test, we eat them alive at the height of their fame, anyway. It’s cyclical. Pop samsara. A nightmare. Literally, a nightmare.
Optimistically speaking (or perhaps desperately), it does feel like something’s brewing in general with the newest crop of pop princesses, like problematic fave Kim Petras and Alice Chater, another promising pop entity who I’ve championed from the get-go.
While it’s too soon to make any bold proclamations about Ava’s longterm viability in the industry just yet, it seems Ava’s star is continuing to rise. One might even say…A Star Is (Potentially) Born.
Beyond that, it’ll be the follow-up song(s) that really matters. No pressure or anything.
“Sweet But Psycho” was released on August 17, 2018. (iTunes)
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Photo credit: Lauren Dunn / Atlantic Records