An artist of extraordinary vision, Dove Cameron redefines what’s possible in the confines of a three-minute pop song. As revealed on her breakthrough single “Boyfriend”—an empowered piece of noir-pop turned massively beloved queer anthem co-written by the 26-year-old—the singer/songwriter imbues her music with equal parts drama and confession, raw abandon and unsparing self-awareness. A self-described “field-notes-taker on the human experience,” Cameron is now set to deliver a debut body of work exploring the complexities of human nature, matching her whip-smart observation with wild imagination and pure joie de vivre.
“My music tends to be laced with a lot of loss and death and darkness, but also a sort of levity and celebration of life, because I think those things go hand-in-hand,” says Cameron, also an accomplished actor who’s currently starring in the Apple TV+ musical-comedy series Schmigadoon! alongside the likes of Keegan-Michael Key, Alan Cumming, and Kristen Chenoweth and who won a 2018 Daytime Emmy Award for her dual role as both title characters on the Disney Channel’s Liv and Maddie. To that end, Cameron’s latest batch of songs mine inspiration from the archetype of larger-than-life male movie villains, such as Joaquin Phoenix’s hypnotically unhinged take on The Joker. “The idea of interlacing tragedy with glamour is really intriguing to me,” Cameron says. “These are characters who are so broken but so flamboyant at the same time, and often cross the boundaries between masculine and feminine. That’s the kind of character I empathize with and understand, much more so than any protagonist.”
A perfect embodiment of her bold sensibilities, “Boyfriend” marked a major breakthrough for Cameron. “‘Boyfriend’ is an amalgamation of how I felt growing up queer and the experience of wanting to be with a girl who was with a guy who was mistreating her,” she says. “I was telling that story and said, ‘I could be a better boyfriend than him’—which was a concept I’d wanted to articulate for a while, but had never expressed so simply.” Produced by her frequent collaborator Evan Blair, “Boyfriend” finds Cameron inhabiting a heady collision of desire and frustration and irresistible confidence, infusing each line with an intensity she partly attributes to her acting background. “The theatrics are a big part of what I love about making music, and what I look for in other people’s music—I get bored if it doesn’t have that element,” says Cameron, whose forthcoming film projects including Machine Gun Kelly’s Good Mourning with a U and the B.J. Novak-directed Vengeance with Issa Rae and Ashton Kutcher. (Also a stage actor, she originated the role of Cher in the Off-Broadway production of Clueless, starred in NBC’s Hairspray Live!, and performed in the West End and L.A. Opera productions of the six-time Tony Award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza.)
With its bombastic rhythms and cinematic strings, “Boyfriend” spotlights Cameron’s singular musicality, a quality influenced by the jazz and classical records her late father often played for her. Raised on Bainbridge Island (a town off the coast of Seattle), she discovered her obsession with music as a small child and quickly began relying on it as a lifeline. “I grew up in the woods in the middle of nowhere, and I was bursting at the seams for some kind of creative stimulation,” she says. “I knew from a young age that my community was not going to be found in rural Washington, so music and poetry and film became my outlet and my escape.” At the age of 15, she started creating music of her own, then continued honing her craft as her acting career took off; by 2019 she’d landed a deal with Sony’s Disruptor Records/Columbia Records, and soon made her long-anticipated debut as a solo artist.
With her most recent triumphs including a sold-out fall 2021 tour, Cameron has made a point of following her most unfettered impulses in bringing her debut project to life. “The way I work with Evan is I’ll send him music along with pictures of street art or a bird on a branch or somebody’s nails I saw on the subway—just this strange collection of things I’m drawn to because of the way they make me feel,” she says. And in that devotion to her intuition, she’s made her way toward the unbridled freedom she sees as essential to creating art with real impact. “When I was writing ‘Boyfriend’ I had no intention of anyone ever hearing it, and it ended up showing me that as long as I’m creating things that resonate with me, then there’s a good chance they’ll resonate with other people too,” says Cameron. “I actually think that any artist in the world is charged with the responsibility of creating for themselves, because that means they’re creating something that nobody else could come up with—and that it will take us places we haven’t ever gone before. To me that’s the only kind of communication that’s really worth anything.”
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