Welcome to #TBT Mixtape, Billboard’s series that showcases artists’ very own throwback-themed playlists exclusive to Billboard‘s Spotify account. The curated set features the artists’ favorite tracks from their youth and childhood.
This week’s spin comes from Jesse Saint John. The Los Angeles-based pop newcomer and star Sony/ATV songwriter (who also serves as a creative director at Sony Music Entertainment) has netted credits for some of today’s top stars and brightest new voices, from Britney Spears, Camila Cabello, Sia, and Charli XCX to Kim Petras, Lauv, Lizzo, The Neighbourhood and more.
Over the past two years, the talented upstart has built quite the solo following as a rising artist to watch in his own right, with the release of early buzz singles like “Move,” “Fake It,” “What Do U Like” and “Wiser,” as well as his most recent 2019 EP Don’t Stop Dancing. Life Gets Sad., which dropped last month and features collaborations with Brooke Candy, lil aaron, August 08 and more.
“I love straightforward, by-the-numbers pop songs, which I am constantly a part of,” Saint John told Billboard earlier this year. “But for my project, I was asking myself, ‘Why is pop just this three minute ‘verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus’ formula?’ Why?”
To help ring in Billboard‘s Summer of Pride, the queer force put together this week’s #TBT Mixtape to accentuate his main mission in the industry: to shine a light on the LGBTQ+ voices in the industry that are written off, or forgotten altogether.
“Pride, to me, is such an important time each year because it truly empowers marginalized people to feel and receive opportunities that they deserve 365 days a year,” Saint John tells Billboard. “One of my main objectives as a music industry figure is to empower members of the LGBTQ+ community.”
One way he’s able to do so is to use his platform to “pay forward” opportunities that were afforded to him during his early rise. “It’s our responsibility to spread out the opportunities we receive and welcome less fortunate members of our community that deserve a chance, especially the systematically oppressed POCs and trans members that feel forgotten within our own community,” he says.
Give Jesse Saint John’s playlist a spin, and check out his track-by-track reflections on each bop’s relevance to his own journey and come-up in the biz below.
Britney Spears – “…Baby One More Time”
“From the second I saw this naughty schoolgirl I knew I had a queen for the rest of my life, one who would guide me and grow with me. I was 10 and this is the first CD I owned.”
TLC – “Silly Ho”
“This entire album and aesthetic is still so relevant and these were my queens as well, I knew I was listening to something naughty so I had an extra little thrill.”
Aaliyah – “We Need a Resolution”
“This is the first album I bought with my own money (whatever little money I earned at the age of, like, 12, ha). I was so shook by her sound and visuals.”
Fiona Apple – “Limp”
“When I got into my early teens, I started internally feeling my queerness and the anger and sadness I felt from my clinical depression, as well as dealing with bullying, so I looked to the past and Fiona was an icon for me, and kind of spawned my love for lyrics.”
Rilo Kiley – “The Moneymaker”
“Another angsty femme lyrical icon for me. This album was particularly dance-y so I was in heaven.”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Heads Will Roll”
“I’m sure you’re sensing a theme here. This album was playing when I first kissed a boy, so in my mind, it’s the gayest music in the world.”
Kanye West – “Runaway”
“I’ve always loved him with all my heart because it feels easy to hate him, but everything that he is makes him so loveable. He’s a top 10 genius in my eyes. Every album is a masterpiece.”
The Killers – “When You Were Young”
“I’ll die happy if I make a song this nostalgic and perfect. Also, The Killers felt pretty revolutionary, playing with gender norms from the perspective of a straight guy in mainstream.”
Robyn – “Be Mine”
“MAJOR for me in high school, finding an indie dance-heavy sad queen. Icon forever.”
Kanye West – “Monster (feat. Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Bon Iver & Jay-Z)”
“Another Kanye (because obviously) but this one is all about the introduction of Nicki. Every human alive knows her verse. Incredible song from a classic album.”