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 Ava Max. The Wisconsin-born, Virginia-raised rising artist is one of today’s freshest pop voices. Her breakout bop “Sweet But Psycho” has become a ubiquitous presence on top 40 radio and has so far peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 after earning more than 650 million streams globally to date. Helmed by Cirkut (Maroon 5, Miley Cyrus, The Weeknd), the twisted pop cut topped the charts in 20 countries and led to performances on The Late Late Show With James Corden, Today, Ellen and more.
Signed initially to a publishing deal with Artist Partner Group/Atlantic Records in early 2017, Max has since collaborated with everyone from Le Youth (“Clap Your Hands“) and Vice & Jason Derulo (“Make Up“) to David Guetta (“Let It Be Me“), and has continued to drop a series of solo earworms like viral hits “Not Your Barbie Girl,” “My Way” and her latest single “So Am I” — a defiant fight song for all the “misfits” in the world. The latter is about “loving yourself, being different and not fitting in the format that society wants to put us in, just celebrating what really makes you different,” she says. “Whenever I’m feeling down, I remind myself that my flaws make me perfect, because in reality there is no perfect.”
The hit doubles as a self-acceptance and empowerment anthem — in keeping with this weekend’s World Pride 2019 event in New York City, where Max will perform twice this Saturday: First, at the teen-focused Youth Pride concert at Central Park Summer Stage and then at PrideFestival Tea Dance at the Rooftop at Pier 17, which will also feature Eurovision star Conchita Wurst.
For Billboard’s Summer of Pride, Max curated this week’s #TBT Mixtape to toast this weekend’s World Pride 2019 festivities, comprised of the tracks that remind her of the power in owning your own uniqueness.
“Some of the anxieties and vulnerabilities you have growing up can stay with you even as you get older and closer to achieving your goal,” she tells Billboard. “I’d be lying If I said I feel confident 100% of the time. We’re all human and can’t be expected to be on at any given moment of the day.” Many of the tracks — which includes anthems like Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor,” Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” and Mariah Carey’s “Love Takes Time” — deal with the idea of shaking negative voices or people that try to keep you down. “This playlist helps soundtrack the moments I’ve needed to rid myself of insecurities and get comfortable leaning into who I truly am as a person, artist and performer. These songs have helped me explore my individuality and they give me a boost when I need it most.”
Ahead of her set at Youth Pride, Max is looking forward to the act of coming together with like-minded individuals more than anything else and is “so excited” about supporting the LGBTQ community. “My fans are constantly reminding me how important it is to celebrate yourself and what makes you unique,” she says. “I can’t wait to perform, dance and party with everyone this weekend!”
Give the hook-heavy playlist a spin and also check out some retro snaps of the artist below.
The internet is a funny place. Everyone and everything always looks perfect. While things may look amazing on the surface, I’ve always struggled for my authentic self to feel accepted. Growing up I dealt with anxiety, I was bullied and I was made to feel that I wasn’t fitting into the mold that society expected of me. It wasn’t until much later in life that I was able to feel truly comfortable being myself, and owning the differences that I tried to hide for so long. Once I was able to truly love myself, I was free. Free to be me, still be creative and not lose myself. This is the story of So Am I. I only hope you all feel loved and valued for who you TRULY are inside. Once you are able to love yourselves, you will find that your whole life can change. #SoAmI