U.K.-based electronic producer Mura Masa and rising pop singer-songwriter PinkPantheress have been close collaborators for a couple years now — in both the artistic partnership sense and the more literal one. “She lives 10 minutes down the road,” Mura Masa, 26, tells Billboard with a laugh. “She has a friend who lives right next to me, so we’re always bumping into each other.”
It was that combination of proximity and kinship that led to the two cooking up “Boy’s A Liar” over a couple of hours together last year — a charming synth-pop twinkler born, Mura Masa says, of “borderline-misandrist tendencies” shared by the two artists. A minor chart hit in their country and a modest stateside streaming success, the song blew up earlier this month following the release of its “Pt. 2” remix, which adds a verse from New York rap phenom Ice Spice. After debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 (dated Feb. 18) at No. 14 — an eye-popping arrival for two artists with limited history on the chart — the collaboration leapt to No. 4 the following week and ticks up to No. 3 on this week’s list (dated March 4).
“Ice Spice is the most exciting artist right now, alongside Pink,” says Mura Masa, who adds he only found out about the new version when videos of the two of them filming the NY-set video went viral on TikTok. “I texted [PinkPantheress] straight away and I was like, ‘Yeah, genius, big-brain move. This is gonna be great.’ ”
Below, Mura Masa dives further into the process and inspirations behind the biggest global smash of his and his collaborators’ young careers, how the song’s success could lead to future U.K. hits crossing the pond and more.
You’ve worked with PinkPantheress for a while already. Can you talk about how that relationship started, and how it has developed over time?
I think I first heard Pink’s music around like “Pain” and “Break It Off,” and then I was reaching out to people to try to find out who she was and where she lived because there’s not much information about her online. And it turned out she lived 10 minutes down the road from me. [Laughs.] We started hanging out a lot after that, and it’s really easy for us to pull up on each other.
[The] first time we worked together, I think we made “Just for Me” that day. It was probably the first idea that we worked on, and I think it was very obvious that we have a similar set of influences, and I really see her in a really nice way. We share a lot of the same ideas. Quite often she’ll knock on the door and be at my house, like, “Hey, I was in the area…” There’s a little studio at the bottom of my garden — that’s where we made “Boy’s a liar” and “Just for Me” and countless other things that may or may not be released.
How did “Boy’s A Liar” come about?
We’re oddly not very verbal with our communication. We just kinda hang out and maybe one word or phrase will get tossed around, and then I’ll start a beat. I wish it was a more remarkable story, to be honest, but it was made in a couple of hours, like most things that we do. She took the idea and went away and worked on it by herself, and restructured it, wrote some different parts. But basically, the final record is what we did in those few hours, which I love. I think that’s really important.
She said something in the press release about how you both wanted to write a song about how boys are liars — which she said was a particularly common theme “this time of year.” Do you have any idea what she meant by that?
[Laughs.] Yeah, I think we share similarly borderline-misandrist tendencies. Just like, “Men are often problematic and can’t be trusted” — but I try not to involve myself too much in the lyric-writing with Pink as much as I might do with other artists. She’s so formed already and has such a great idea about what’s going to hit in terms of pop culture. In terms of getting Ice Spice on the record, it was entirely her proactive, genius brain.
So much of the song is about the melody of that title phrase. Did she come up with that? And if so, did you recognize immediately that it was something special?
The first iteration of the song came about very quickly, and then I sent her the instrumental. The whole “boy’s a liar” bit was actually something that she wrote on her own. I think the next week, she had leaked it herself, which she’s prone to doing — that’s the first time I heard that version. I texted her and was like, “Yeah, that’s it! That’s the hook! That’s better.” Full credit to her for that.
I didn’t really notice it until a handful of times listening to it, but the beat does kind of have that Jersey club bounce to it, which is getting to be a prevalent sound in pop music — especially on this side of the pond. Is that something you’re drawing influence from these days, or were listening to while you were making it?
Yeah. It’s really cool what’s happening with Baltimore and Jersey and these really localized American genres that are having moments. “Just Wanna Rock,” the [Lil Uzi Vert] song, is the biggest example of that. If I remember correctly, that is something that we talked about that day, but I really didn’t want to go fully into that and make a pastiche of something that I’m not locally a part of. But yeah, there’s bed squeaks in there, there’s the kick [drum] pattern, things like that.
When me and Pink work together, we’re never trying to make something that’s pastiche-y — it has to fit into her world. It’s interesting that you said you didn’t even notice it until recently, because that’s a good thing in my head.
Basically the song is left as-is on the remix, aside from swapping the second verse for Ice Spice’s verse. Was there any thought about changing it at all?
I left that up to her. She’s a brilliant producer in her own right, and she was able to take the stems of what I did and work it around what Ice Spice did. I’m just happy to even be a remote part of what she’s doing.
What do you think about the remix is lending itself to this kind of success?
I think it’s just the combination of two extremely zeitgeist-y artists. There are interesting through-lines between them as artists: they both have an interesting emotional center to what they do. It’s just a match made in heaven, and the video that makes the chemistry super-obvious. But as far as why it’s doing so well, I just think it’s a brilliant song, and Pink’s a great songwriter.
Is its chart progress something that either you’re monitoring, or your team is keeping you informed about?
No. I wouldn’t say it’s something I don’t care about, but it’s not something that I would normally follow actively. In fact, it was a text from a friend of mine out of New York — it was a tweet from one of these pop chart accounts, like, “Oh, it’s gone in at No. 14!” or whatever. I was like, “Wow, it’s so amazing that it’s ascended to kind of that level.” One of my publishers texted me out of the blue, like, “Well done.” I was like, “Oh, I must be doing something!”
PinkPantheress reacted to the song’s chart success in the U.S. with surprise, and I know a number of U.K.-based artists feel similarly about the challenges of landing that kind of an accomplishment. Why do you think that’s the case?
I could give an hourlong answer about the structure of radio in the U.S., and the need to break certain local markets before you get international success. But for most U.K. artists, it’s just a taste thing, an accent thing, or one [other] thing that’s holding them back. It’s been interesting seeing Central Cee really game the system. He did a whole freestyle about the differences between U.S. and U.K. slang. I love it when someone makes it their mission to break [into] the U.S. [market].
Was breaking the U.S. something you particularly cared about?
It’s a definite milestone for everybody involved. It’s interesting, like, post-Britpop and these kind of historical moments where the U.S. is tuning into what the U.K. is doing. But in the streaming era, it’s becoming more borderless and a lot more possible for international artists to break in the U.S. I don’t tend to see it as divided by territories. I just think a stream is a stream.
Do you think that the success of the song could lead to other opportunities, either for you or for like-minded U.K.-based musicians?
Absolutely. PinkPantheress is a huge example of that, where sounds that originate out of the U.K., like drum’n’bass and U.K. garage, are resonating with U.S. audiences at the moment. Something like this getting a chart position like it has is proof of concept where people really do enjoy this. “Boy’s a liar” is an interesting song because it feels like it has a U.K. sensibility, but ultimately it’s kind of in the shape of a U.S. song. It’s my favorite kind of thing.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Feb. 25, 2023, issue of Billboard.