“Do I relate to my old music anymore? The answer is kind of… no.”
Dove Cameron might be better known for her work as an actress, but she’s coming on strong as a force in the pop world. With the release of her latest single “Boyfriend” a few months ago, Dove honed in on her sound and catapulted onto the charts at the same time. The dark, tongue-in-cheek hit went all the way to No. 40 on the Hot 100, proving that queer pop songs are more than welcome in the mainstream in 2022. “I could be a better boyfriend than him,” she begins, “I could be such a gentleman” — before delivering one hell of a punchline: “Plus all my clothes would fit.” It’s the kind of carefree, sexy pop song that puts an artist on the map and gets the industry’s attention, and Cameron isn’t wasting any time doubling down on this moment.
But looking forward also means reckoning with what came before, and in her case, a lot of it is just not relevant to where she’s going from here. “Probably my favorite song before ‘Boyfriend’ was ‘Waste,’” she mused in a recent phone interview about the shifts in her music career. “I love everything that I’ve released, but as an artist, my perspective on things changes so much. There’s so much that I’ve created that’s no longer really relevant to my life or my creative process. I’ve just changed so much as a human being that I’m really more focused on the music I have going forward.”
Dove, born Chloe Celeste Hosterman, has been open about her queerness for some time now, coming out in a cover for Gay Times last year and discussing her fear of being accepted. “Maybe I haven’t said it, but I’m super queer,” she recalled telling her fans in a coming-out video on Instagram Live. “This is something I want to represent through my music because it’s who I am.” That confession came after accusations about queerbaiting in her “We Belong” lyric video, a moot point once she set the record, ahem, straight. And though she’s been making her way in the music world for a few years now, putting out covers here and there and contributing to soundtracks related to her film projects, Cameron’s debut EP came back in 2019 with the release of “Waste” and “Bloodshot.” Since then, she’s put out a string of exploratory singles, but all her searching snapped into focus with “Boyfriend.”
“Finding your sound is like feeling around in the dark, looking for a heat signature or something,” she said. “For years, artists will try to verbalize what their sound is to their A&R, to their label, to the people they work with. Everyone historically knows that’s like next to impossible, because a sound is intuitive and goes beyond language. When I was making music before this, I was doing things based on ideas of who I was. Once I figured out who I was, it was an intuitive thing. Now, I have a roadmap of what I want to do and where I’m going. It feels like waking up into a new reality where suddenly everything makes sense.”
For Dove, when she’s not “literally on camera” or filming a TV show or movie on set, she’s in the studio — so producing new music isn’t as much the problem as much as making sure it’s music she’s passionate about. Self-identifying as a writer more than a musician, or even an actress, Dove shared that she carries around four different sets of notebooks with her wherever she goes: “One for poetry, one for songwriting, one for journaling, and one for essays. That’s what I do, all day. I write songs all day. I wrote poems all day.” Given that amount of creative output, and a decent amount of time in the studio, it’s not a huge surprise that more new songs are definitely in the works for release.
“I have about five other songs that I love, that I feel like are on par with ‘Boyfriend,'” she said. “But besides those I’ve written hundreds of others that probably no one will ever hear… and they should be happy for that. [Laughs] As of now we’re still adjusting the sails of the ship, because we really weren’t expecting ‘Boyfriend’ to do what it did. We only put it out, because people were asking for it on the internet. And that’s a very strange experience that TikTok as a platform has changed for artists.” In the past, after an artist wrote and recorded a song, there could be months before it gets approved, gets a video treatment and a release schedule with the label, and finally makes its way to the public. But with TikTok as a real-time measure for what an artist’s fans are connecting with, that timeline has shortened considerably.
A prime example of that is the next song Dove has already been teasing on the short-form video platform, this one titled “Breakfast.” Since she first posted a snippet of the track — which is dark and synthy, and akin to “Boyfriend” in some ways — the clip has racked up close to four million streams. Dove wrote that she’d “just finished” the song when she first shared it in late March, so it seems likely that we’ll get that as the next single. Earlier this week, she further displayed her chops as a vocalist by delivering a reimagined cover of Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” and debuting “Boyfriend” on late night. As touring is slowly but surely returning, it seems like some live shows will make sense in the very near future. And based on both of these live performances, that tour will be a huge part of establishing Dove’s position in the pop ecosystem.
As for a longer project, Dove is leaning full-time into flexibility mode. “The next big move I make, I want to be really sure of — be behind it 100% and be intentional about it,” she said. “So, the idea is to keep collecting songs, and if it shapes up to be thirteen songs then it’s easy, that’s an album. But if I go on tour, and write a bunch of stuff on the road, and it makes sense to do two EPs, then that’s what we’ll do. Maybe for some projects there really is a lot of planning behind the scenes, but for mine, because it’s so off-the-cuff, I have to watch how it’s shaping up like an animal and then decide as I go.”