When Joel Corry started working on what would become his song “Head & Heart” exactly a year ago, he could have never foreseen what the next 12 months had in store. But somehow, the British DJ was creating exactly what the world would need in a song come springtime: an effervescent, sing-along dance track that takes your mind to someplace where nightclubs are still open and festival lawns are still packed with care-free crowds.
And Corry landed a perfect partner for the dance-floor gem in MNEK, who was passed Joel’s demo in March — just as the world was locking down — and sent the DJ an Instagram DM to join in on the fun.
“I was fascinated anyways just to get a DM from MNEK, ’cause I’ve been a fan of his for so many years,” Corry tells Billboard‘s Pop Shop Podcast (listen to the full episode below). “…We couldn’t get into the studio because all of the studios were being closed. But he recorded his vocals at home, and he’d written the new parts to the song that needed writing and sent it back to me. And I was just like, ‘Bang!’ I was like, ‘That’s it! You’ve absolutely smashed it.’ He kind of put all these missing pieces of the ‘Head & Heart’ puzzle together that I needed.”
Now, the unstoppable song has spent six weeks at No. 1 in the pair’s native U.K., and it breaks through to the Billboard Hot 100 just this week, after already hitting the top 40 at U.S. pop radio last month.
For MNEK’s part, it was a change of pace from his normal double-duty of producing and singing on a track. This time, he sang the vocals already laid out on Joel’s demo and added a pre-chorus. “It was great to just hear a song and be like, ‘This is a great song, and I’m gonna sing it. Oh, you want me to add a part to it? Great! Cool! I’m just adding to an already great song,'” he says. “And I can be objective, be a fan of it, and then contribute to it as well. And I think that was what was most fun about it — that I could collaborate and just be confident that I’m being a part something I really think is great and that is worth having loads of ears on it.”
Below, find out more about why they think the song connected, promoting music during a pandemic, and what’s next for each of them.
Why “Head & Heart” was the right song at the right time:
MNEK: “When I’d heard the song, it had come at the beginning of lockdown, and it was very much a godsend. I think that song, like, I think when times are dark and kind of uncertain … When I got sent it, from the moment I heard it to when I recorded it, it was less than 24 hours. I just knew there was something about it and something that I wanted to be a part of. And the entire process was just so great and so fun and just a really quick turnaround and quick response.”
Corry: “I do think timing as well. Like MNEK said, it came at a time when the world needed a positive, uplifting song and a sort of track that’s gonna brighten up people’s days, and I think that’s what this track does.”
Promoting the song in a pandemic:
Corry: “All my touring and gigging has been canceled or postponed. The weirdest thing about this single for me is I never tested it in a nightclub or played it in front of a crowd during the production process. … I’m dreaming of those days when the festivals come back and I can play that record in front of thousands of people. I think it’s just gonna be the most amazing moment. Next year, me and MNEK, I’m sure we’re going to be on the festival circuit.”
MNEK: “It’s been fun to promote a record and not leave your house. [Laughs] Like I’ll just be in bed and have an interview.”
What’s next for Joel & MNEK:
Corry: “I’ve been working on loads of new music, and obviously when the time’s right, I’ll come with the next one — probably next year, just because ‘Head & Heart’ is still growing around the world. But I’ve been really busy doing a lot of remixes at the moment as well. I’ve just remixed Sam Smith’s new single [‘Diamonds’]. I did Katy Perry’s ‘Smile’ track as well. I did Clean Bandit’s new song [‘Tick Tock’ with Mabel and 24kGoldn], I’ve just done a remix for Jax Jones. So yeah, I’m going in on the remixes right now as well. But yeah, I’m in a really good quiet space. I’m just really focused on my music, and I’m really excited for next year.”
MNEK: “I have been focusing more on the behind-the-scenes stuff. … I’m also on a new dance song by Sleepwalkrs called ‘More Than Words’ that came out a couple weeks ago. So that’s also cool. But I mean, for the most part, I’m just, I’m now at a place where I’m just happy to make music. So it’s really not even about me being the face of it or like the voice behind it or anything. I look up to people like Timbaland and Pharrell and Quincy Jones. I really just want to be that as far as my career, so that involves just being a part of music, period. So that said, I’ve done a lot of stuff on this new Little Mix album. So their new single ‘Sweet Melody,’ I’ve co-written and co-produced. And I’m literally, I’m actually in with Mabel today, just recording some stuff for her new album.”
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard‘s weekly charts. 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‘s deputy editor, digital, Katie Atkinson and senior director of charts Keith Caulfield every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)