Syd: ‘I’ve always made a point of being gay. There is a girl in the video with me, what else do I need to say? ‘ | Music
IInterviewing Syd begins as most interviews do these days: I apologize for Zoom’s inevitable problems, and Syd, relaxed in baggy pajamas and a cap in her neat apartment, gracefully waves that. Then a generic element enters the chat: the singer-songwriter is accosted by a bundle of fur on his sofa. Said packet is Rocky, a little “anxious” Yorkshire Terrier. “He absolutely loves me. He doesn’t like many people, ”she says, and that’s clearly a real source of pride.
Born Sydney Loren Bennett, the 29-year-old has made a name for herself in the hip-hop collective Odd Future. Subsequently, she led the neo-funk band on the Internet, and now she is recording as a full-fledged solo artist. Rocky is new to his life, as is his owner, Syd’s girlfriend. While making her upcoming second album, Broken Hearts Club, Syd was dealing with the bitter end of a two-year relationship and the minor issue of a global pandemic. As blockages swept the world, the relationship began to crumble; her ex has revealed that she no longer wants to be in a relationship with a woman. Syd, for the first time in her life, was heartbroken. “I thought it was going to last forever,” she says. “We had talked about it forever. We talked about getting married and having kids and all that.
In addition to the breakup, Syd had to deal with the fact that she could no longer bear to listen to the music she was making before it happened. “I was writing an album full of love songs!” she laughs. “One of the working titles was literally In Love.” It took a while to deal with the fallout, creatively and emotionally: “I definitely had to be on my own for six months and get over it. And also, I was like, ‘Let me use that as fuel, to make a great album. Something compelling. ‘”
And that’s exactly what she did. Syd redesigned the record and created the glittering and vulnerable Broken Hearts Club, which tells a love story from its happy beginnings to the end. She gave this title to her album because, at the end of her relationship, she felt like she had joined a club of “stronger people”. People who had a plan, and someone else just threw in a key.
Breakups can be lonely, but Syd recruited a group of star-studded singers – such as Kehlani, Mamii, Smino, and Lucky Daye – to join her on the album. “Honestly, what made me want to collaborate more was really Mac Miller’s death,” Syd says. Miller, a beloved rapper who died of an accidental overdose in 2018, was a longtime friend and internet musical co-conspirator. “He was just a chronic collaborator. And at the end of the day, it’s the community we’re all talking about. He made everyone feel so special. I wanted to be more like him.
Syd was only 16 when she joined Odd Future, performing as Syd tha Kyd alongside other members and Matt Martians. (Their careers took off so quickly that Syd had to ask her father for a $ 200 CD mixer for Christmas so they could perform live.) For the past decade, she has also been the lead singer of ‘Internet, his group, which includes Martians as well. Syd is therefore used to taking inspiration from the people around her. While producing parts of Broken Hearts Club herself, she has also frequently written on rhythms submitted by others, including producers Brandon Shoop and Troy Taylor, who has worked with such luminaries as Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin. (“He’s like that legendary producer who made songs that I grew up on,” Syd says.)
While Broken Hearts Club is populated by Syd’s sleek synths, as well as the same sweet-yet-sure sexuality that debuted in 2017, Fin, so startling, what seems new is emotional truth. Goodbye My Love was one of the few songs she wrote during the height of her breakup, but it wasn’t recorded until much later because singing it, she says, made her “sob.” Spanish-style strings enliven Right Track, a Christina Milian and Destiny’s Child-style pop crossover moment, while big Prince-style guitar riffs appear on Fast Car and Could You Break a Heart. Out Loud, which stars Kehlani, is especially important to her, she says: “It’s a really personal song, based on a conversation I had with my ex, when I realized she didn’t hadn’t told everyone about me. “
It is a deeply personal subject, especially for a musician who has never particularly wanted to place her homosexuality in the “foreground of the press”, as Syd puts it. “I’ve always made a point of being just gay,” she says. “It was just like, ‘Look, there’s a girl in the video with me. What else do I need to say? ‘ In the four years since Syd released Fin, however, the R&B landscape has blossomed as a space for LGBTQ + artists, with gay groups such as Frank Ocean and Lil Nas X flourishing. Syd understands that Out Loud is the song that “the people around me really want me to push”, but she is wary.
“On the one hand, I’m like, ‘Dang, I’m glad you wanted to support this equality thing,’” she said. “But are you trying to make money out of it?” This is where it gets confusing and morally tough. I really like that I can be a role model. I like the responsibility of providing representation. But I think I’ve always tried to do it in the most natural way possible. I’m trying to find the right way to really let go [Out Loud] shine, without the company’s agendas being involved.
Soon it will be less of a concern. Although Syd is grateful to her label, Columbia – “They gave me money when I didn’t have any. They gave me the time and the opportunity to do three, four albums with my friends and two albums on my own, ”she says – Broken Hearts Club is his last record with the label. “I think I have my wings now, so I’m going to try it for myself after that.” She bursts out laughing. “Maybe I’ll push my gay agenda once I’m independent!” “
For now, however, Syd is focused on all the new things in her life: new album, new relationship (“much better” than the last), and of course a new companion in Rocky. He joined her as we said goodbye to him, curling up on his knees after being taken outside. Rocky has a great life, I say, and Syd agrees, “A good trick to sit down and a place to pee!” What more could you ask for? “
Broken Hearts Club by Syd is due out later this year.