It’s been a while since a brand new pop artist scored a true pop breakthrough, but it’s possible America may have one on the charts now with Ava Max’s “Sweet But Psycho.” The song has been rising steadily on the Hot 100 for weeks, and after dominating charts across Europe last year, it is finally a top 20 hit in the U.S...and it could rise even higher in the coming frames.
Max took time out of her busy schedule of becoming a pop star to speak to me about the song, it’s follow up “So Am I” and the album she’s been waiting to give to fans for years.
Hugh McIntyre: You're having quite the year, aren’t you?
Ava Max: Insane. I don't know what is happening with the song.
McIntyre: It's nuts. What did it feel like to see “Sweet But Psycho” go crazy all around the world? I guess that was a pun, but it works!
Max: It was exciting! I've been wanting this for so long, just to have the song relate to everybody...it doesn't feel real. It's definitely unreal.
McIntyre: I can imagine. The song took off in Europe and it was No. 1 in many countries and it is still rising in the U.S. Is it weird to see it taking its time where you're actually from, and do well everywhere else?
Max: I don't think it’s that weird because I feel like with pop music in America, it's slower. Especially right now. It was—it is, or I don't know if it still is—dominated by Europe, so it's just a thing. But it's rising in the U.S. too which is blowing my mind as well.
McIntyre: Do you watch the charts every week to see what it climbs to or are numbers like that important to you?
Max: Not really. When it got super big it freaked me out. I'm like, “Oh my gosh, this is still going!” It's not stopping, so that doesn't stress me out, it just kind of makes me feel like, “Wow, finally!”!t exploded! All these manifestations exploded into one.
McIntyre: What do you think is it about the song that made it resonate with so many people so quickly?
Max: I think instantly when you hear it, it's an ear worm. It just makes you feel excited and happy and instantly lifts you up, so that's number one I think. Number two is probably the relatability of the lyrics. Everybody has felt a little sweet but psycho, and I'm sure everybody has been called sweet but
Max: I mean, for me the song doesn't mean that, for me, it’s being redefined as a word that means strong and opinionated and passionate in a relationship instead of psycho. So when you're called psycho, you're really being opinionated and passionate and then psycho is just this word they put along with it.
McIntyre: This song was No. 1 almost everywhere. Were you nervous to follow that up with new music?
Max: Oh, no, because I feel like we've been working on music for this album for three years, so everything fits the same mold, so I wasn't nervous. I know a lot of people were nervous because they haven't heard the rest of my music, but I'm super excited to release more.
McIntyre: Tell me about the new single “So Am I.”
Max: “So Am I” is sonically like similar to “Psycho” and energy-wise. We wanted to keep it like that. But the meaning, the message behind the song, is the most important part. It’s about loving where you come from and embracing who you are. Having open arms for anyone and being open-minded and not close-minded. Loving being who you are and not fitting into the format that society wants to put us in.
McIntyre: You just mentioned you've been working on music for an album. What's the plan now that things are taking off?
What seems certain is that this moment will also pass. Madonna has always disposed of identities just as quickly as she’s picked them up and Vassilakis acknowledges one day she’ll get her name back: “Madonna’s the queen of reincarnation, so this is just a phase.”
Max: Well we are definitely releasing a debut album this year. I can't tell you the date yet but definitely sooner than everyone thinks. I'm really excited actually. It has no features. It's 14 songs and super pop, pop anthem-like songs.
McIntyre: Are you nervous to have that body of work out after you've been working on it for so long?
Max: I feel like it's grown. Three years ago, we started on this album and then two years ago we had something, but then a year ago we ended up changing a bunch of stuff, so it's evolved. It never was like one thing, you know? We kept up on it, we've made hundreds of songs over the past three years. It's evolved into this body of work that feels like my autobiography in a way.