British artist MNEK is walking into the spotlight.
After almost a decade of working behind-the-scenes in the music industry, MNEK is releasing his first solo album and trying to make music for himself and people like him.
If you don’t know MNEK, you probably still know some of his work. After starting in the music industry when he was 14, MNEK spent almost ten years writing songs for famous artists like Beyoncé, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Diplo, Bastille, and BTS.
On that later note, MNEK talked about his experience of working with the internationally celebrated K-Pop boy band.
“I actually worked on that the same day I worked on ‘Phone’ on my album,” MNEK told Billboard about his working with the group to create '낙원' -- which means "Paradise" on the boy band’s new album Love Yourself: Tear. “All of a sudden we heard a Korean version of it and were like ‘Whoa, this is a completely different song,' which was really the first time that had happened for me. That whole group is super talented and really nice and I really didn’t realize how big they were -- [their fan base] is massive.”
But now, MNEK’s debut album Language has dropped and he’s ready to step out from behind the curtain. After doing so, MNEK sat down with Billboard to talk about his career so far, where he’s hoping it will go, creating a full album, and making music videos.
“It’s been a process. It’s a current process that I’m figuring it out, with all this really. The conversation that I had with my label was also just that I want the chance to figure it out. I wanted the chance to make a body of work and come with the creative and all the visuals that I wanted and really give a full idea of what I was putting out there. From a personal point of view it was also about figuring out what that process was and what greater good my music could do besides being on stage and singing. I’m glad that I was at least able to touch on a few things on the album that I hope really resonate with people.”
When asked what perspectives and topics he was trying to put into his music, MNEK said it was two things.
“Well, I really wanted to touch on love from a male perspective. I wanted to touch on how it can be extremely complicated and at the same time it can be great. I also wanted to touch on self-confidence. ‘Correct’ is a song and an exercise for me where I’ve been able to reclaim who I am and the good that I’ve done when in real life sometimes I struggle with that. I struggle with owning what I’ve been able to achieve at a young age. So “Correct” is to lift people and make them feel comfortable with themselves so they can feel like the boss bitch that I’m trying to be on the song. I want to tell my stories with this album, but I want people to feel a part of it as well. I don’t want it to be self-indulgent.”
With LGBTQ talents becoming big names in the industry lately such as Troye Sivan, Hayley Kiyoko, and Janelle Monae, MNEK spoke on what it means to be among them.
MNEK also spoke on how tough it is to live in the space of being a black singer and a queer singer.
“There’s just a long way to go. I’m definitely a testament of it. I don’t want to blame anything on racism or homophobia, but there’s a lot of segregation that what I do comes with. I’m not necessarily wholly welcomed by the UK black community, industry-wise, because the root of that has a lot of homophobia in it. From the gay side of things, I’m a minority within that — [different than] my white counterparts — which is fine. This is all about me defining my own success and measuring however I’m doing by what I’m doing. So like, for what i’m doing, this is great.”
“I’m touching people, helping people, and I’m making music I love. I like to think a lot of other black queer artists feel that way too. It has to start with that -- everything else is so variable and out of our hands and we don’t really have that much control over it. I can only hope that enough people listen to what I do and that enough people fuck with it.”
If you’re excited to check out MNEK’s new album Language, you can start listening now as it’s already out. In addition, you can read more of MNEK’s talk with Billboard by clicking the link here.