Welcome to the new episode of the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast, your one-stop-shop for all things pop on Billboard‘s weekly charts. In addition, you can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop.
Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard co-director of charts Keith Caulfield and Billboard deputy editor, digital, Katie Atkinson, every week on the Pop Shop Podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in iTunes. (Click here to listen to the previous Tuesday’s edition of the show on Billboard.com).
On the latest show, we’re joined by our special guest Olly Alexander of Years & Years! The front man of the pop trio called in from London to chat about the act’s new single “Sanctify,” the tune’s cryptic — and extravagant — music video, and the group’s upcoming second-full length studio album (due this summer).
The set is the follow-up to Communion, which hit No. 1 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart and Billboard’s Top Dance/Electronic Albums tally. Also in our chat, Alexander talks about his continued hope of working with Rihanna, and even how he recently had a dream about Ed Sheeran and Britney Spears working together.
“I just wanted to go as big as we could, as crazy as we could, as dramatic as we could,” Alexander tells Billboard of the video for “Sanctify.” “Because how many people get to make a second album in their lives, you know? How many people get to make a music video? So, I was just like, ‘okay, we’ve got the time, we are just going to really go for it,’ so that’s what we did.”
The music video, directed by Fred Rowson, is set in the android society of Palo Santo, where there are few humans. In the clip, Alexander is a human, living in the “wild ruins,” who is captured and taken to the city for the androids’ entertainment. Alexander’s form of entertainment is a suggestive dance routine where he bumps and grinds on and around a chair, for a room full of stoic androids.
“When I was kind of dreaming up the whole visual concept,” Alexander says, “and imagining a storyline about this sort of human being who’s one of the few remaining humans in this android society and what would happen there, it touches on a lot of my thoughts on technology and how that affects our humanity. But also as a queer performer, how I move through different spaces as a performer as well, so there’s a lot that’s going into it. Also, I’m a performer and it’s a music video so I wanted it to be heightened and… be a bit unexpected for people.
The “Sanctify” video is the first in a promised series of clips that will further the story of Alexander’s character in Palo Santo. How many? “As many as I can get budget for,” Alexander says, laughing. “But there’s definitely a couple more, because we’ve already shot a lot. So, there’s definitely a good chunk that’s coming your way soon.”
Did Alexander feel pressure going into the making of Years & Years’ second album, considering the success of the first set?
“It definitely was a completely different situation,” he says. “Because on your first album, you basically have your entire life to make that record because, you know, you’ve got so much time and so many experiences and you’ve never made one before.”
Alexander says that after touring in support of Communion for two years, he says they had “18 months to make our next album.”
“It sounds like a long time,” he says, “but it went by so fast. I definitely felt it was quite overwhelming thinking, ‘Oh, we’re never going to be able to pull this off,’ and at times it was a real struggle.” Though, he says he was “very inspired by everything that happened in the last few years… I just wanted it to be the best it could be, you know? So, I put a lot of pressure on myself as well.”
Of course the Pop Shop team had to ask about Alexander’s own love of pop music, including the early works of Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, and if he’d like to collaborate with any of those stars.
“Well, you just reminded me,” Alexander says, “last night I had a dream that Ed Sheeran collaborated with Britney. I just don’t know why I had that dream. I was slightly distressed when I woke up because I was like, ‘What has happened in my dream? Did I just wish-fulfill something that I wasn’t aware of?’ Because I don’t know how I would feel about that collaboration. But, I would kind of be down to hear that.”
But does Alexander himself have hopes of collaborating with Spears and company? “My dream is Rihanna. Always has been, always will be. I’m kind of holding out for her.”
Elsewhere on the show, the Pop Shoppers discuss chart news about Jack White, Drake and Shawn Mendes. Plus, Keith and Katie dive into an in-depth chat about what they want for from new albums from Madonna, Ariana Grande and Spears, and how they are hoping for albums from *NSYNC, Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones and Guns N’ Roses.
Listen above and click here to subscribe/rate the Pop Shop Podcast on iTunes.