To Ava Max, the return of “pure pop” music on the R&B/Hip-Hop-dominated charts as of late is more than just a trend – it’s a way of life.
Raised in Virginia by her Albanian-immigrant parents, Max has been ready to break out on the pop music scene ever since she made the move to Los Angeles at the young age of 14. The singer eventually circled back to city years later when the timing felt more appropriate, going on to lay the groundwork for a pop star-in-the-making with the help of Canadian producer Cirkut (“Roar,” “Wrecking Ball,” “Die Young,” “Pills N Potions”). Max later signed to Atlantic Records in 2017 after releasing the Cirkut-produced track, “Anyone But You.”
Max‘s diligent work effort paid off in the Fall of 2018 with the release of her breakout hit, “Sweet But Psycho,” the type of pop song that feels like it could’ve succeeded just as well in 2010 as it did in 2019. The global smash helped introduce Max to the mainstream and a growing radio audience, especially in the UK where it peaked at #1 for 4 weeks. The song ended up peaking at #10 on the Hot 100 (her first entry ever on the chart) and was recently named the fifth biggest song of the year so far in the UK.
Fans and critics have been quick to label Max as one of the few modern artists carrying the pure pop music torch in an industry where tracks like “bad guy,” “Without Me” and “7 rings” continue to redefine the genre. Anyone familiar with the singer’s music and visuals can testify to their early mid-00’s/early 10’s influence. In the visuals for “Sweet But Psycho,” Max plays dress up as a downright crazed girlfriend that’s reminiscent of such narrative and character-driven music videos like Katy Perry’s “T.G.I.F.” and Lady Gaga‘s “Paparazzi.” Her choice to go solo on each of her official singles (aside from remixes) feels like a move right out of the Pop Star 101 playbook, while collaborators like director Joseph Kahn (“Waking Up in Vegas,” “LoveGame,” “Blank Space”) on the “Torn” music video brings a new level of pop prestige to her discography.
Although the definition of “pure pop” certainly remains subjective, Max‘s follow-up singles to “Sweet But Psycho” like “Torn,” “Freaking Me Out” and “So Am I” make one thing crystal clear: she’s here to stay in the pop game. Pop Crave caught up with the rising star to talk more about her upcoming debut album, working with Joseph Kahn, the possibility of collaborating with Dua Lipa & Bebe Rexha and more below.
You moved to Los Angeles at 14 and people in the industry weren’t ready to give a teen like yourself a shot early on. Looking back, do you believe you would’ve been ready to jump in that young?
It’s so hard to say! I’d like to think yes, but it terrifies me thinking about doing this as a teenager. I’m happy it’s happening at this age when I’m more self-assured and know myself better. It is a ton of work so to add being a teenager on top of that would’ve been crazy! But when it happens, it happens and you just do have to go for it! So the answer is yes, 14-year-old Ava would’ve taken that challenge head on! Haha.
When you started the recording process, were there any producers/songwriters who you were especially keen to work with?
I think when I first started recording when I was 14, I just wanted to be in the studio and freestyle. Free styling is my thing. I just need a beat.
How important is it to you to produce pure pop music in an era where trends are constantly shifting?
I LOVE POP MUSIC! It’s in my blood – trends will come and go but the world will always need Pop.
Is it true that you had a bunch of versions of “Sweet But Psycho” laying around until the final version?
That is definitely true! We put a lot of effort into every song I release. There’s always a bunch of versions leading up to the final song.
A big part of pop music these days is building an online presence. Do you pay attention to Stan Twitter and online conversations around pop music?
I love my fans (whether on Twitter or Instagram or TikTok). I definitely listen to what they’re saying because they tend to be on the cusp of everything that’s about to happen. One fan asked for all Albanian artists (me, Bebe, Dua) to get together and collaborate. I wouldn’t be mad at that!
How do you feel about the constantly evolving marketing methods in the music industry? For example, making a song shorter like “Old Town Road” or creating a “meme-able” song to increase streams. Is this something you pay attention to in the studio?
Not really! I’m not trying to make my music thinking about how it will stream or perform. I make it thinking, is this something I love? Do I want to hear this blaring on my car speakers? If so, yes, let’s do it. It has to be something I love and am proud of. P.S. I’m OBSESSED with “Old Town Road.”
What can you tell us about your new single “Torn” and working with the legendary Joseph Kahn – What was the collaborative process on that like?
My new single, “Torn” is about a girl finding her inner superhero strength in order to confront her cheating husband and eventually, leave him. Super dramatic and empowering!
Working with Joseph Kahn was an absolute dream. In our first meeting, I told him my vision of a girl finding her inner strength amidst struggle and taking back her power. A superhero! He absolutely loved the idea and then brought it to life. He said, DONE! It was just that easy. We got along so well from the moment we met.
Are there any details about your debut album you can share with our followers?
I can tell you that it is coming SOON! And that it will be a ton of strong, pop anthems.
As someone who is clearly aware of pop music history, do you envision what your debut ‘era’ will look like? Is there a theme perhaps, or a timeline of sorts that you’re already putting together?
I don’t want to reveal too much but will continue to say that it’s all going to be focused around empowering pop that makes you want to go after your dreams and of course hit the dance floor.
So many pop icons today are focusing on much more than music (beauty lines, acting, etc.). Do you have any side ventures you’re working on or would like to pursue one day?
As of right now music is my greatest love! Acting has always been something I’ve loved too so hopefully I’ll be able to explore that passion in the future.
You have a super cool and unique style. Tell us a bit about your style inspirations. How did the haircut come about? Have you considered trademarking the ‘Max-Cut’?
It was actually an accident but then I looked in the mirror and saw myself fully for the first time. I’m really inspired by pops of color but also sometimes I feel dark and moody. Depends on the day. My haircut embodies the dualities we all have and it defines me. Literally sweet, but psycho.
Speaking of style, you recently killed it on the VMAs carpet. Was attending the awards show always a goal of yours? Any cool stories from the night?
It was my first VMAs!! I was so excited to be there and perform at the pre-show! It felt surreal. Watching Missy perform was definitely the highlight!!
Will you be streaming Ava Max’s debut album? Check it out below and share your thoughts with us on Twitter at @PopCrave!