How rising Toronto artist LU KALA is redefining pop music


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For too long the genre of pop music has been as exclusive as it is vast. With his catchy melodies and anthemic choruses, it is easy to understand what still places him among the most popular genres in the world more.

But the image of who is on the other end of those voices was, and still is, uniformly the same: a hyper-polite blonde woman, dare we say it, who ticks all the right boxes for narrow Western beauty standards. .

As Toronto artist LU KALA will tell you in her mega-viral single “DCMO (Don’t Count Me Out)”, she will “never be that image, babe.” Yet his three words chosen to describe his sound to anyone who may be new to his music are universally welcoming: honest, vulnerable, fun.

Congo-born vocal power takes these common pop tropes and playfully twists them on the head for incredibly rewarding results, like a much-needed personality shot at the heart of the genre.

Often worthy of the earworm and optimistic, the songs of LU, like those of his first EP Worthy, released last yearalso delivers hard-hitting lyrics that push the curtain back on his innermost thoughts; lyrics like “Don’t smile too hard because my teeth aren’t perfect” and “Say whatever you want about me, I probably heard it / Thought I deserved it”.

“It’s not that I ever thought anything about it would be easy… but I’m constantly in the pop music spaces where I am.” the only woman or the only Black person in the room.

Writing about different versions of herself is one way for her to be so outspoken and vulnerable with her fans. “A lot of times I write songs about the things I’m facing or the things I’m feeling. At first it was really hard — it was hard to face me and write things that I wouldn’t say out loud… I guess I never imagined that a bunch of other people would feel the same and relate to the same thing. So now it’s like second nature [writing these lyrics] helps my own personal healing.

The journey up to this point, however, has not been without cost.

“It was an uphill battle for me. Not that I ever thought anything about it would be easy … but I’m constantly in the pop music spaces where I am. the only woman or the only Black person in the room. For the benefit of his fans, LU didn’t let his voice drown in the isolation and uniqueness that comes with being the only in a space populated by a choir of those who were nothing like him.

“I loved the challenges, Rihanna would have been [the only Black woman] Make [mainstream] pop music [when I was growing up]… It’s music that I have always loved and I want to leave a legacy in this kind of music, ”she says.

Beyond undeniable talent and a tenacious work ethic, LU has also benefited from the support of programs such as First Up with RBCxMusic. “I was very lucky and lucky to be selected,” says the artist, who always knew she would be a musician, even from a young age. The program provides a platform for emerging Canadian talent to showcase their music, grow as an artist, share their story and reach a wider fan base. It also helped LU to receive much needed funds.

Rising Toronto artist LU KALA poses
Image via Publicist

LU is also in favor of paying for the benefits she has received in advance: “Therapy can be very helpful, but I find that a lot of people, especially blacks and people of color, are not really up to it. comfortable with that. When I released my first EP Worthy, we worked on an initiative to give free therapy back to my fans and the people who support me. Because not everyone can afford it. So just to be able to give back to the community and support people and get them into therapy – some for the first time – that meant a lot because it was so much bigger than music. For the initiative, LU partnered with NU Counseling & Psychotherapy in Toronto, putting 12 people in touch with a therapist.

LU is also looking to work and collaborate with other women and other black artists to make sure she doesn’t stay the only. “I make an effort to work with as many women as possible, whether in my team, directors or writers, I do it on purpose. My job is to open the door for other people to open the door for many, many more. I can do my part.

And it’s not hard to see why she gained a loyal following in the process, especially among other frequently marginalized communities. “It’s just interesting to see the people listening to the music. They come from all walks of life: a lot of women, a lot of men and people from the LGBTQ + community.

As for what’s on the horizon for LU KALA, fans can look forward to a new EP soon. Since last conversation with Complex, LU has been busy creating music and collaborating with other artists to create new sounds to be repeated. “I’ve worked on a lot of new music – some of my favorite music, ballads – and I’m really excited,” she adds. “Expect to see more of me and some of these songs soon.”

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