Sunday, January 02, 2022

Weekend Diversion: The Kid LAROI

It’s not everyday that a blog post is inspired by a comment on a different blog post. It could be, but commenting on blogs is becoming rarer, so those posts are rarer still. Even so, this is such a post, and it's the perfect reason to re-re-start my Weekend Diversion posts.

Last month, I published a post with year-end pop music mashups and said that one mashup had more of some artists, who I named, than the other one did. Specifically, I wrote: “…The Kid Laroi (who I think is exceptionally interesting—which really ought to be the subject of a post)”. That led Roger Green to comment, “Ask Arthur Anything: which one is The Kid Laroi?” This post, then is the response—and the perfect excuse to re-re-start Weekend Diversion posts about music.

So: The Kid Laroi (often styled as “The Kid LAROI”) is the stage name for Australian singer, rapper, and songwriter, Charlton Kenneth Jeffrey Howard. At the ripe old age of 18, he’s quickly making a name for himself in pop music.

Now based in Los Angeles, he was born in the New South Wales town of Waterloo in 2003, and is of Aboriginal ancestry through his great great grandfather, who was part of The Stolen Generation. The stage name "Laroi" is a reference to his heritage, and that he is Kamilaroi (or Gamilaraay). At one point very early in his career he was referred to as “Charlton Laroi”.

I first came across him on one of our video music channels. The song (Fair warning: All songs in this post have “naughty words”) was “Go” (video above). The song was recorded in August 2019, when Laroi was 15-16. The song and video were released in June 2020, which is when I saw it.

The song itself (which Laroi wrote) featured American rapper Juice Wrld, who had been a mentor to Laroi, who considered him his “big brother”. Parts of the video were filmed when they were in Greece, and Juice makes a reference to missing Laroi’s 16th birthday party, and how he was going to give him a verse “worth $200,000”. Laroi incorporated that verse into the song.

When I saw the video, my first thought was something like, “this song’s certainly different to everything else at the moment”, and it was. I started to research the song for a Weekend Diversion post that never was, and that’s when I found out that Juice Wrld died in December 2019, not even a week after his 21st birthday (and also four months after the initial recording of “Go” and six months before it was released). The opening shot of the video is a visual reference to Juice recording his verse.

The song was the most popular in Australia, where it hit 23 (Platinum). It also reached 40 in Canada (Platinum), 32 in New Zealand, 43 in the UK (Silver), and 52 on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” (and also 22 on their “Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs” chart). The song reached Platinum status in the USA. Overall, the song was on around 10 music charts around the world (watch this stat in particular for the other two songs).

The next song that I knew about, also through the music video channel, was “Without You”, originally released in December, 2020:

Like “Go”, this song (which Laroi also wrote) was again different from other songs at the time, and it was the point where I began to think that this guy had real potential to hit it big. This wasn’t me making some sort of clinical assessment of the song, it was just kind of a sense of what was possible based on what else was being done in pop music as well as the merits of the song itself.

I felt somewhat vindicated by the chart performance: The song hit Number 1 in Australia (5x Platinum), 7 in Canada (2x Platinum), 8 in New Zealand (Platinum), 2 in the UK (Platinum), and it hit 8 on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” (2x Platinum). All up, it made it on to approximately 42 music charts around the world.

There was also a remix with Miley Cyrus [LISTEN] released in April 2021, but I don’t care for it. Even so, it wasn’t unusual for Laroi to do collaborations with other artists, and the next song for this post was another—and far better—collaboration:

The song is called “Stay”, and it’s a collaboration with Justin Bieber (another one of several pop music artists who I feel don’t get the recognition or respect they deserve). To me, this song is arguably far more pop than R&B, but that’s absolutely not a criticism—I love pop music in all its many-faceted glory (I’ve seen this style referred to as “hip pop”, which seems fair). The song is undeniably catchy and its fast tempo is perfect for dance clubs (or, maybe, playing while cleaning the house, even; I’ll have to try that). To be fair, I have a very, very long love affair with synth pop, so I was probably predisposed to like the song. Laroi wrote this song, too, and among his collaborators were Bieber and also Charlie Puth, yet another artist I’d add to the list of underappreciated folks in pop music.

I wasn’t the only one who liked this song: It was a huge hit. The song hit Number 1 in Australia (5x Platinum), 1 in Canada, 1 in New Zealand (2x Platinum), 2 in the UK (5x Platinum), and Number 1 on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” (3x Platinum). The song was on around 68 music charts around the world.

I think that these three songs show that The Kid LAROI is willing to try different things, different song structures, arrangements, tempos—in short, he’s willing to create. I think that’s a great place for any pop artist to start. I also think that the fact his chart performance has been rising suggests he has staying power. Personally, I’ll be interested to see whether he follows a purely pop route or sticks more to his R&B origins. Either way, there could be some really interesting songs and collaborations for a future Weekend Diversion post.

Whatever happens, it’ll be for a future post. In the meantime, there are plenty of pop artists I think are interesting, and if I keep making offhand remarks about artists, like I did in that mashup post, I’ll probably have plenty of subjects in the future. Right now, though, it’s nice to return to a “familiar old friend” sort of post. Maybe I needed a Weekend Diversion, too.

Footnote: I always leave posts to "rest" after I finish them, and then come back to give them another read before posting (and sometimes I even catch typos!). Just before I headed back to the computer to finalise this post, I turned on the hits-oriented music video channel that gave rise to most of my Weekend Diversion posts over the past couple years. The first song that came on: "Stay".