Meet Vardaan Arora, The India-Born Singer Calling for Queer South Asian Representation in Music

Vardaan Arora
Erica Moon/Yuntong Man

Vardaan Arora

Pop singer Vardaan Arora is disappointed with the state of diversity in music.

The India-born singer said in an interview with Billboard that while watching this year's Grammys, he didn’t see any representation from people like him. “Forget South Asian; I didn’t see a single Asian artist nominated or performing that I can remember,” he said. “There’s no South Asian representation, and if there is, it’s severely lacking, not to mention queer South Asian representation.”

So when it came time for Arora to shoot a video for his single “Like a Polaroid,” he decided to put on film what he wanted to see in the industry. “I just wanted to get together a team of diverse artists and just make this really weird, experimental visual for this song.”

The result was a trippy, artistic music video, which is premiering here, full of blurred faces, strange visuals and a diverse cast of dancers. “This was very much an art project for me,” he said. “We worked from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., just figuring out different shots and lighting, and I’m so happy with how it turned out.”

Viewers may notice that the video’s vibe matches the moody, strange sound of the song, but not its love-struck lyrics. This isn’t lost on Arora, who said the tone of the song was meant to be somewhat dark, despite being about falling in love.

“It’s the kind of love that makes you feel so good that it gets you through the day,” he said. “It literally leaves you shook, thinking, ‘I didn’t think that this was possible.’”

This isn’t the first time Arora’s had a song that seemed mismatched, tonally. His first single, “Feel Good Song,” has an upbeat, light vibe while listening to it. But upon closer examination of the lyrics, the song is about feeling depressed and having to try and cheer yourself up.

Vardaan said that the song is meant to mock pop songs that insist audiences forget about their problems and dance the sadness away. “Other songs ask you, ‘Put your hands up in the air, act like you don’t care,’ when it’s like, ‘No, I’m not going to do that,’” he said.

The song stemmed from Arora’s long struggle to live with obsessive compulsive disorder, which he said is so much more painful to live with than society would have you believe. “It is the hardest, biggest hurdle of my life to live life with OCD,” he said. “I’m still getting help for it, it’s an everyday struggle and battle.”

Arora said he used music as a way to cope with and deal with his OCD, channeling his compulsions into songs, like “Feel Good Song,” that took an honest look at how he was feeling.

“It hurts, but it truly makes me stronger,” he said. “There are times when I feel so beat up and I don’t want to get out of bed, and it’s like, ‘You know what, let me channel that into something productive.’”

As for Arora’s future? He said he’s working on new music that he’ll begin recording in March. “It’s gonna be a different sound for me,” he said. “So I want to take my time with it.”