Chartbreaker is Billboard's monthly series spotlighting an artist making their introduction to the charts.
Maybe he’s been in California too long, or perhaps, as he says, he’s always been this way. But if there’s one thing Bazzi is certainly not lacking nowadays it’s confidence. “My mind has always been like ‘You’re a star! You’re in it! You’re killing it!’” the singer says one recent evening while strolling through Beverly Hills. In fact, ask the 20-year-old ascendant pop star and he’ll tell you it’s his self-confidence that, more than his natural talent or determination or the balls to move on a whim to Los Angeles as a teenager, led him to his current perch.
“I credit that more than anything to my success,” the singer, whose tender come-on “Mine” soundtracked a viral meme, subsequently stormed the Billboard Hot 100 (it sits at No. 12 on the April 14 chart) and offered his swelling fan base a preview for the slinky, R&B-infused pop that comprises his debut album, Cosmic, released on April 12 via Atlantic Records. “If you think you’re something long enough,” the mellowed-out singer contends of his path to success, “eventually you just turn into it.”
Born Andrew Bazzi and raised up in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Mich. to Lebanese-American parents, the singer took up guitar at age four and ever since, “I’ve been obsessed with entertaining people,” he says. When he wasn’t “being a fucking idiot in class just to make people laugh,” Bazzi would dress up as Elvis at six years old and perform for his neighbors. “I’ve always craved that attention,” he says. “To be an artist you’ve got to kind of want that. I’m obsessed with being able to dictate energy in a room.”
Starting in 2012, Bazzi took his talents to YouTube, and even after gaining little traction when uploading covers of songs by pop stars including Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande and Sam Smith, “I was like 'This is the best shit ever. You’re gonna blow up!’” he recalls with a laugh. “I’ve always been a little crazy in that sense.” Things really did start to pop off however, in 2013, when he signed up for Vine: within months of uploading a “dumb rap video” from his friends’ backyard to the late video platform, he was garnering thousands of likes for the six-second clips of him covering pop songs. In less than two years, Bazzi had amassed more than one million followers on the platform.
This taste of quasi-fame was enough to convince Bazzi to move to Los Angeles and make a serious bid at a career in music. “I knew I had to be there,” he says. “I always told myself growing up I wasn’t going to finish high school in Michigan just because I’d be too busy with something.” And so when his Vine notoriety had him decidedly feeling himself, “I was like ‘Fuck it, let’s make the move. Let’s just give this thing a go!'"
Upon arriving in L.A., Bazzi enrolled at Santa Monica High School. But with no leads or connections in the music industry, his first two years out west were mostly spent smoking weed at the beach, partying and chasing girls. “I was super unfocused,” he admits, “but I was learning to love myself which I credit as the most important thing I have: acceptance of who I am.”
“I hadn’t met the right people yet,” he continues. “But I knew I was in the right place. I know I was doing everything correct. That’s the thing: I’ve never had fear in my heart about it. I’ve never approached this from a negative perspective like, ‘Man, this isn’t working.’ Even when I was in the worst positions and there was no light at the end of the tunnel music career-wise I still was feeling it and I still was believing."
It wasn’t until he released “Mine,” in Oct. 2017, that Bazzi’s music began to attract widespread attention. Though, according to him, he knew he was on the right musical path from the first song released under the Bazzi moniker. “That was definitely my first time finding my identity as an artist,” he says of recording the emotional “Alone,” in 2015. “I know it’s so real because now two years later from the release of the song I still connect with it and I still relate to it. And I still love it.” Of course, even he can admit it was the success of “Mine” -- not least because of it being used to soundtrack a viral meme that typically involved the Snapchat hearts filter exploding during the song’s opening verse -- that helped catapult the singer to new heights.
Bazzi says he appreciates seeing the song take off -- “To finally have people receive and hear what I’m saying is one of the most gratifying feelings an artist can ever have” -- but he can’t help but laugh when fans are surprised he’s made other songs. “I’m getting like a thousand tweets a day like, ‘Holy fuck! Your other music!” Though he understands why people might be reluctant to admit their “Mine” fandom: “I mean, no one is going to tell you that their favorite Drake song is ‘Hotline Bling.’”
Some of Bazzi’s most affecting songs resemble diary entries -- “My heart was so broken and I felt so valueless that I needed to talk about how I felt,” he says of the genesis for his kiss-off single “Honest” -- but his full-band shows this spring opening for Camila Cabello promise to be far from melancholy. “’Don’t even get it twisted for a sec,” he says. “My music can be on the chill side but these shows are gonna be so filled with energy.”
And as he prepares for some of the most crucial months of his career, is Bazzi remaining as confident as ever? Of course he is. “If I don’t believe it you’re not going to believe it either,” he says. “I always believed and I had so much faith in who I was and what I was chasing. And eventually things just come into fruition.”