As he embarks on his first-ever headlining tour through North America, pop singer and songwriter Mnek stopped by Billboard on Tuesday (Feb. 19) for a live Q&A with Patrick Crowley, senior director of Billboard Pride.
With the release of his debut album last year, Mnek finally stepped into the spotlight after a career of creating songs for a star-studded list of artists. The singer told Billboard that he titled his album Language because he felt he was learning the language of how to be a black gay artist. “All of this is stuff you learn, and that I’m currently still learning,” he said. “I think that this was the first chance for me to explore that. And on the flip side, it’s a chance for people to understand me.”
One of the songs from Language that caught listeners’ attention was “Girlfriend,” a trap-laiden track where the star asks his lover what their straight girlfriend would do if she found out about the two of them. “I haven’t experienced it,” Mnek revealed. “It’s the one song I haven’t had the autobiographical experience of.”
While Mnek has collaborated with a bevy of famous stars, including Dua Lipa, BTS and Madonna, he said the one time he felt truly starstruck was when he met Beyoncé to contribute to her seminal album Lemonade. “I was kind of downplaying it the entire day,” he said. “But then she stepped through and said ‘Hey,’ and I was like ‘Wait … Oh, OK, hi!’”
The singer also revealed that the track he co-wrote for BTS didn’t orginally have it’s an empowering message. “I had written a completely different song, right?” he said. “It was completely differnet lyrics — they changed it to like a self-help song. The orginally theme I talked about was much bitchier.” He also gave some love to the BTS Army: “They’re all so sweet and all really polite.”
Check out our full live interview with Mnek above.