Music

‘I think of this as a new journey’

Singer Armaan Malik on recording a single for Arista Records, his social media posts and working with the flaws

On March 11, all posts on Armaan Malik’s Instagram account vanished. Instead, a single cryptic post appeared on the 24-year-old singer’s page: “I can’t take it anymore.” Hundreds of fans posted messages of concern. Over the next couple of days, more cryptic messages followed. Finally, the big reveal arrived: Malik announced that he has signed with Arista Records for his first English single ‘Control’, which will be released worldwide on March 20.

Proud legacy

Arista Records boasts an illustrious history: It was launched in 1974 by Clive Davis and was associated with acts such as Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. It was re-launched in 2018 by Sony Music and is now led by hitmaker David Massey, who is credited with overseeing hits from Shawn Mendes, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, The Killers, Fall Out Boy, and Elton John, among others.

Malik is thrilled by this new adventure. “I’ve always wanted to write and release English music”, he says. “I’ve grown up listening to a lot of English music and it’s been a huge influence: especially pop and R&B. In fact, even when I write music I think in English.” He is careful to emphasise that his new single isn’t the result of a sudden stroke of luck. “I’ve been writing and recording a lot of English songs over the past few years with friends and writers in Los Angeles,” he says. “It just so happened that one of my friends played something of mine to David Massey, and he felt we should collaborate. He was especially excited to know that I’m an Indian artist. Both of us are thrilled by the potential of changing the status quo.”

Universal appeal

Were there any reservations about singing in English as an Indian singer? Malik says that, to the contrary, it’s an exciting opportunity to take more of India to the world. “India is known for Bollywood music but individual artists get little recognition. And English is a universal language” he says. “I’d love Hindi to be as universal as, say, Spanish. But that requires an entire cultural shift. And as far as the accent goes, you’ll realise when the single is released that it’s been sung a certain way. I’ve never tried to put on an accent. I think it sounds very global.”

The song itself is about a controlling relationship, where one person has an adverse influence over the other. Malik says he wrote the song based on the experiences of his friends and acquaintances around him. “I was drawn to it and felt it would be an interesting theme to explore. As far as the song goes, it’s an upbeat number, which is a departure from my usual romantic numbers in Hindi. Also, the bassline that you hear in the song, that’s played by me. I play the guitar but the bass was a first,” he laughs.

Fine-tuning the process

Recording in LA also introduced Malik to a more collaborative way of recording music. “In Bollywood you have the composer, lyricist and producer who create the song and then give it to a singer”, he explains. “Here, we had a larger set of people (all of them are called writers by the way, some write the music, others write lyrics) who created the song together.” Malik says the iterations are quick and there’s a lot of back and forth to constantly hone the song.

Recording the single, due to this collaborative process, was blazing fast. Malik says they recorded the song in one day. “Of course it’s been refined a little, but the song that you’ll hear on the 20th is not very different from the original we recorded that day. We probably got 80% of the song done that very day.”

During the recording, what stood out for Malik was how comfortable he was made to feel with flaws in his singing. “I’m notorious for beating myself up if even a single sur is out of place,” he laughs. “On the other hand, while recording here, sometimes I’d feel I had messed up something but I would be told it’s perfectly fine. They’d tell me the flaws make it sound natural, more human.”

“I grew up listening to Michael Jackson and Michael Bublé”, he says. “In my teenage years, my friends introduced me to artists like Bruno Mars and Chris Brown. These days I absolutely love Charlie Puth and Ed Sheeran. They’re complete artists. Not only do they sing, but they write and produce their own music as well.”

In the pipeline

Is the strategy to release a single and gauge the response before releasing more? Malik says there are more songs in the pipeline that will definitely be released in the coming months. However, whether they’ll release an album or an EP is still undecided. None of this means that Malik will give up his Hindi music that’s made him such a star. Fans can expect exciting developments, “A couple of film releases are forthcoming. But I’m looking forward to doing more non-film music. I’m planning to start my own imprint as well,” he says.

Malik laughs when asked about his Instagram strategy: “Many fans were concerned that I’m deleting my old memories. That’s not true. They remain with me forever. I’ve merely archived the posts. It’s a clean slate on Instagram because I think of this as a new journey for me. You could call it Armaan 2.0.”

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 7:56:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/i-think-of-this-as-a-new-journey/article31111332.ece

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