Aja Discusses Feeling Pigeonholed, Artistic Integrity, & Their New Single 'Commercial'
A RuPaul's Drag Race alum and bonafide musician, Aja has accrued more than a million followers on their social media accounts and a truly dedicated fanbase. But along with fans come the haters, and as an artist who attempts to reach higher for themselves (Aja is now an official Starbucks ambassador and often graces the covers of fashion and art magazines), the outside negativity can come out of the woodwork in droves.
That is what Aja is talking about on "Commerical," their latest single since releasing the EP Box Office just four months ago, and the first single off of their next EP All Caps (due out June 28). “Commercial,” premiering below, features an even darker sound, tighter production value, and lyrics more forceful and thoughtful than we’ve yet seen from the multi talented artist.
Billboard sat down with Aja to discuss their inspirations behind "Commercial," who the song's messages are for, and what it's like fighting against artistic typecasting.
What was the inspiration behind “Commercial?”
Everybody kept telling me to write about this transitionary period in my career. But I don't really see it as a transition at all. I've always been an artist. I feel like people are so obsessed with labeling things. A lot of people on the outside started to play games, too... calling my gigs and talking shit about me, telling venues, "are you aware that you're not getting the same Aja you saw on TV? Do you know who Aja is now?" People post rumors on rumors the more I produce, but I guess that's what it’s like when you're somebody who has a name. And to be honest with you, if I wasn't important, people wouldn't be talking about me! So that always gives me the giggles.
Is that what you’re trying to say with “Commercial?” That you’re achieving greatness regardless of haters?
Yes! It tells them, "Hey, you're a contradiction. You say I'm not important, you say I'm so wack and you say I'm such bullshit, but you all follow me, you all have my notifications turned on. You literally post about me every chance you get. You seem to pay a lot of attention to me, and it's funny because I feel like you're watching me with no commercials!"
“Commercial” is for the ones who love me and the ones who hate me. My fake fans. Because even when you’re hating on someone, you're still a fan. A fake fan, but a fan.
Only love can garner hate like that.
Hate is an extremely strong emotion! You have to pay attention to someone to hate them. Me, I don't have room for hating in my life. Why? Because if I don't like you, I don't pay attention to you. So "Commercial" is that girl who is just letting you know: Everything that happens in my life you're going to know about because I'm a public figure, but I don't even know your name. I don't know you. You hate me but I will never know you.
In the chorus I sing, “I turned my back on these bitches who think they fans, but they all snitches.” That's really all about the fake fans. People who might be a fan of something I said on television, but that's it. So “Commercial” really goes out to all the people acting so surprised about my every career move… when in fact I feel like I've been very vocal for over the last year talking about all the things I want to do with my career.
People don't realize that I am respected in my industry. And yes, consumer opinions are important, but when it comes to creating art, which do you put first? Do you put your artistic integrity above the opinions of others, or beneath them? For me, I'm always going to put my artistry above.
Do you feel like you’re still being compartmentalized as an artist?
Yes and I think it's important to acknowledge that if a person is an artist, we need to let them be artists. It doesn't matter what they're doing, what kind of art they're producing. You know, we have people right now who are acting, singing, modeling, rapping, doing everything under the sun all at once. There’s this shitty idea that once you get exposed to the world, you have to stay in that box. Trying to fit people into a niche or a trope is incredibly myopic, and very stupid.
Would you say that happens more often to queer artists?
For sure! I do think that that has a lot to do with people not taking queer art and artists seriously. Like right now in music, most queer artists are underground. Few queer artists ever really hit the mainstream. I’m not saying that that's what I aspire to do, because that's not what I aspire to do. I'm just making music and being happy. And if people like it, they like it, and I still got to express myself. But people don’t seem to respect the fact that artists have all the right in the world to be dynamic, to grow, and for their views to change. Tomorrow I might wake up and decide I want to design fucking cowboy boots for the rest of my life… that might seem random but as an artist, I have that right.
And how are you feeling now as a music artist?
Music has been very gradual for me, but I do feel like I'm finally at a place where I'm 100% comfortable. I’m getting closer to finding my actual voice as a musician. I've been writing music for 12 years, but I’ve only been recording and performing my own music for a year. So when people say I suck, I'm always like, all love. Remember, I've been doing this shit just for one year, but I will never deny I have room for growth.