SG Lewis Is Predicting the Future of Pop
SG Lewis has had a lot to celebrate. As he sits down for coffee at the Hoxton hotel in Brooklyn, he’s still reeling from performing at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon the night before for the first time.
“Those things are always over in flash,” he says, noting that he’s still a bit “sore” from celebrating after the performance with his band. “There’s a surrealism where you see something so many times on TV and in popular culture and then you’re in it.”
The past few years have been equally surreal for Lewis: After cutting his teeth as a buzzy DJ and producer in the UK, he quickly got signed and began transitioning his underground dance career into pop domination. He’s had huge moments over the last three years in particular, both with his 2021 debut album Times and credits on Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure?, and Tove Lo’s Dirt Femme.
This week, he’s back with AudioLust & HigherLove — an album he began working on before Times was even released — and one that sees Lewis stepping even more to the front as a lead vocalist on his own songs.
After finishing Times in 2020, he intended on taking some time off. He walked the dog, watched TV, and committed himself to doing absolutely nothing while quarantining with his parents. He lasted approximately 10 days before on AudioLust & HigherLove. It was a totally different approach to recording for Lewis, who ended up holing up in a studio in the English countryside for a month straight with a small group of friends and collaborators, like J. Warner, Ed Drewett and Ruben James.
“We kind of set up like a band in the room,” Lewis explains. “I had my laptop and vocal mic in front of me, very much using production as an instrument, with Ruben on keys and J. on guitar.”
The final result ended up as an album with two sides, exposing light and dark reflections on love that Lewis had been mulling during the pandemic. The first half of the album — AudioLust — represents an ego-driven and toxic approach to relationships. Songs like the sparkling “Infatuation” and sweaty Tove Lo collaboration “Call on Me” are full of obsession and urgency in their lyrical and sonic approach.
The album’s latter half — HigherLove — represents the more romantic approach to love that is “sold to us,” as he describes.
“There’s a yin and yang element to those two sides. I think that there is pleasure and joy in the toxicity, otherwise people wouldn’t be drawn to it. And at the same time, there’s toxicity in that kind of perfect fairytale version of love and relationships.”
Lewis only started to reflect on his past relationships when life slowed down. He had spent his twenties up to that point on the road and launching a global career.
“Life had been really fast,” he says. “The life of an artist is a self-centered one. I spent the majority of my early twenties promoting myself and thinking about my music. That pause in the world made me think more about the long term. Everyone eventually wants to find love and and find happiness, so I reflected on what that would look like and what I would want for myself.”
Of course, the structure of this album did also force Lewis to think about what the future of his career could look like. He was pleasantly surprised when Times single “Chemicals,” a song where he is on lead vocals, ended up being such a success. It gave him confidence to sing more, especially since there was little room for collaborating with people outside his countryside bubble during the recording process.
“Even if I don’t consider myself to be the most incredible singer, clearly that’s not the most important thing here,” he says. “The most important thing is delivering an emotional sentiment. It really made me want to explore that in myself. I now know a lot more about myself as a musician, as a singer and songwriter because I just hadn’t explored that side.”
While the lyrics and concept behind AudioLust & HigherLove are more introspective, Lewis was pleased that the direction of lockdown albums and hits weren’t always leaning towards that style sonically. He had a hand in many projects that brought back a massive disco wave in pop music, and that has been integral to his own sound. During lockdown, however, he was listening to a lot of yacht rock, especially playlists a friend of his had made.
“It kind of started as an ironic exploration,” he admits. Soon, he and his friends became obsessed with all the crazy chord sequences and cheesy pastiche of the genre and its biggest artists, like Steely Dan and Bobby Caldwell. The inspiration he culled from it made its way into his own music.
Lately, Lewis has been a little better about taking time off, even while he gears up for the album release, tour and the official launch of his club label House of Shy. Back in his new home of Los Angeles, he’s been watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with his girlfriend and “finally” having a Radiohead moment. But he’s still searching for inspiration and even thinking about what’s next not just for himself, but for the sound of pop music more broadly.
His big prediction? “I have a theory that Nineties trance is going to make a comeback. I think a pop star is going to have a trance hit int he next year.” He’s noticed DJs like Nina Kraviz have been putting more trance records into their sets, which is usually a good indicator of what gets picked up in the mainstream next. And who knows? Lewis may very well be the person to get this trend officially into motion.