Vardaan Arora Breaks Down His Debut EP 'Heartbreak On the Dance Floor' Track-By-Track

Vardaan Arora
Lizzie Morgan

Vardaan Arora

Vardaan Arora will tell you that releasing a long-awaited project in the middle of a global pandemic is not as easy as it looks.

Take, for example, his new music video for "Heartbreak On The Dance Floor," the title track off of his debut EP; Arora tells Billboard that shooting the visual became a much more arduous process than he could have anticipated. "We wanted a whole bunch of people to be a part of it, but it's basically just me in the video," he says. "It actually looks great, so I guess it all worked out."

Getting this moment just right is important for Arora — after four years of writing and releasing his own music,  Heartbreak on the Dance Floor is his debut EP. Having waited this long, Arora says he wanted to make sure that his irresistible dance-pop didn't go unnoticed. "I think I went into this industry pretty blindly, and because of that, I was still figuring out who I was as an artist for those four years," he says. "I'm aiming to make a big impact — I want to make a statement with this."

It's clear that Arora succeeded: the pure synth-pop he delivers on Heartbreak is some of his best yet, all packaged within the cohesive confines of a well-defined '80s aesthetic. Below, Arora breaks down each of the project's six songs:


"Heartbreak On the Dance Floor"

"I actually came up with the title of the EP in my head before I even had any of the songs written or recorded. I went into a writing session with Natania Lalwani and Matt Ferree (a.k.a. Not Famous), and I was freshly out of a relationship at the time. I had been thinking a lot about how big of an impact a breakup can have in your life, but nobody else except for you knows what you're going through, because nobody else has been in that exact relationship.

"It essentially turned into the first breakup song that I had ever written! I really wanted to get to this feeling of loneliness and isolation, that feeling of being in a room surrounded by people, and none of them really know what's going on with you. I don't wanna say it's the centerpiece of the record, because it literally starts the whole thing off, but it really is like announcing a new era!"

"Rare" (Selena Gomez cover)

"It is a cover, which is pretty tricky — I'm usually not a cover person. But for some reason, I listened to that song, and it touched on self-love in such a beautiful way. Leland, who I don't know personally but I love, co-wrote on the song, and the writing on the song is just really beautiful. I don't often look at songs and think, 'Oh, I could've written this!' But with this one, I just was in Canada working on this, and woke up like, 'I'm covering this, this makes so much sense for where I am at right now.' I was so nervous that her fans were going to pick it apart, but it was well received, which made me very happy.

"Sonically, it was very important that I made this my own, so we did this synth-y reimagination of the song; there's layers of vocoders, we gave it this '80s Jazzercise feel. But also, to be honest, Muna was an inspiration too, just in terms of vocal production. I wanted to imagine myself in my high-waisted mom jeans listening to it on my Walkman, you know?"

"Do You Hate Me?"

"'Do You Hate Me?' came from this very specific experience that I still struggle with: The morning after drinking too much. Like, hangover anxiety is so bizarre. The idea came after a release party for my song 'Drama,' where I got a little too drunk, and I woke up the next morning a mess. I was crying in bed thinking that I had said or done all of these things that I had no evidence of, and all of a sudden, I was hit with this wave of, 'Every single person hates me, nobody wants to be my friend anymore, I was such a mess last night, I was unprofessional, oh God.' And I literally texted so many apologies out, to which everyone responded, 'What are you apologizing for?'

"I always jump to conclusions about what people think of me, and it's always negative. That's where the first line comes in, 'Jumping to my conclusions, that's my favorite sport.' Also, I am not a sports person, so I liked getting to say that line. [laughs]"

"I Don't Wanna Know (feat. MRSHLL)"

"So this song was recorded and release ready, but then I found out about MRSHLL through a friend who works in management. I just think, and have thought for a while, that there is just such a lack of queer Asian talent in pop. I mean, there's just a lack of Asian artists in pop music, period. I saw that MRSHLL was Korea's first openly gay pop act, and then I saw that he's between California and Seoul. I looked at myself, who's between Delhi and New York, and a lot of things just aligned.

"The song, even though it was one of my favorites at the time, I still felt like it could use some lifting up. He recorded his verse for it during quarantine from Korea, mailed it over, we put it in, and it just made the song so much better in a way that I didn't even know was possible. His voice is so different from mine, and the way it blends together brings such a dark, unique, sexy energy. Listen, it slaps!"

"Imposter Syndrome"

"This was our first tease into the EP, and I think 'Imposter Syndrome' is the most reminiscent of my older stuff, like 'Feel Good Song.' I wanted it to essentially work as a transitional song — it touches on my old stuff, but it also gives you a tease into what the newer stuff will sound like with those strong pop melodies.

"I still feel imposter syndrome to this day. Even during this [interview], I've probably had thoughts about, 'Am I even good?' There are days I will listen to this record and be so proud of it, and then I'll listen to the exact same songs hours later, and I'll feel like they're garbage. I have such conflicting feelings about my own work, which then fuels this ridiculous idea that I've somehow secretly faked my way to where I'm at or whatever I've achieved."

"Expensive on Me"

"My original idea was to write about how I can go to Target and buy a t-shirt, but on me, it'll look expensive. [laughs] I call this song 'runway chic,' because it's very strut-worthy, and it makes you feel so good about yourself. I wrote it from a fantastical perspective, where I'm playing a character of a super confident person, which only led me to realize while I was writing it that, on my good days, I really do feel this way before my brain decides to spiral on me. We didn't think too much about it, honestly — this was one of the most fun days I had in the studio, just laughing and walking fake runways."

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.