Exclusive Interview: Vardaan Arora on his new single Drama — “It’s time we start shifting queer talent into the mainstream”

This week The Queer Review’s Eric Langberg sat down with his friend, gay pop artist Vardaan Arora, to discuss his latest single Drama, a delightfully catchy bop about the pleasures of gossiping with your best friends. Vardaan spilt the tea on all things Drama, a collaboration with nicopop co-written by fellow pop singer Emily Vaughn, overhearing strangers gossiping, and what listeners can expect from him in the future.

Back in 2016, Arora arrived on the scene with his first release, Feel Good Song; as you might expect from the title, it was an upbeat, danceable track about closing your eyes and giving yourself over to the music whenever the world seems overwhelming and depressing. The song was a viral hit, landing on several influential Spotify playlists and racking up more than 2 million streams.

Since then, Arora — who also acts, including in this year’s upcoming Wrong Turn: The Foundation — has followed up his early success by dropping an impressively-consistent string of fun, catchy, cleverly-written pop singles with an edge. Like Feel Good Song, much of his works sounds upbeat and happy, but the lyrics reveal darker emotions like jealousy (thirty under thirty), anxiety (What If), and imposter syndrome (Famous). Drama is no exception — while the song shamelessly revels in how much fun it feels to talk trash with your friends, the lyrics acknowledge that it’s not always the best idea. “I wish I was better than this, but I’m not, so…” he shrugs. “Start some shit, that’s what I want.” It’s an earworm that’s destined to soundtrack Sunday Funday brunches across the nation.

Eric Langberg, The Queer Review: Can you tell me how this collaboration with nicopop came about? What were he and Emily Vaughn like to work with in the studio?

Vardaan Arora: “It came about quite organically. I’d been a fan of nicopop’s for a while, I think we ended up on the same Queer Necessities playlist for Billboard a while ago, and were following each other on social media. I pretty much reached out to him cold and told him that I was going to be in LA, and we were luckily able to squeeze in a session. Same with Emily, I’d been following her music for a while, and she’s so, so good. By some miracle, she ended up being free on that day and joined in on the session. It was pretty short, we all worked pretty fast. Nicopop is effortless with his production, Emily’s a beast with melodies. I write pretty lyrically, so it all worked out pretty seamlessly.”

The single cover for Drama, showing nicopop and Arora

What inspired the song? Are you as big of a gossip as the song suggests?

“Haha! I think we all like to gossip from time to time, don’t we? That’s why I had this concept. I think we try to hide it and say that we’re ‘better than that,’ but I wanted to make a fun, catchy pop song that unapologetically embraces loving gossip. It’s also cheeky, and we wanted to do something fun for the gays. For me, personally, obviously I think there’s a point wherein gossip can be dangerous and hurtful. But if that line isn’t crossed, it can also be harmless fun. Just something to talk about! I wouldn’t describe myself as the biggest gossip, but who doesn’t love some tea from time to time?”

Have you ever overheard a stranger’s drama and desperately wanted to know more about the situation? What was it?

“I feel like looking into a stranger’s drama from afar is ideal, because it doesn’t affect you, and you can be invested in it as a third party. That’s why reality shows are so popular. I can’t think of any drama I’ve overheard as of late, but I can tell you about when I recently wanted to ‘start some shit.’ This straight white guy sitting next to me getting his hair cut was talking about how he didn’t think Parasite should’ve won Best Picture, and I wanted to call him out. This was like, last week. I held my tongue, but imagine being so loud and proud about such a bad take?!”

What’s the juiciest bit of gossip about yourself you can share with us? “Tell me what you know!”

“And who am I? That’s one secret I’ll never tell. You know you love me! Xoxo, Gossip Girl”

What’s your favorite celebrity gossip story of all time?

“Oh my God there are so many! One that comes to mind is the conspiracy theory that Avril Lavigne was replaced by a clone who is actually named Melissa. It’s just, so so absurd. I mean, it’s obviously not true…unless…?”

Photo: Lizzie Morgan x John Ward

Your new song Drama has been getting love from publications like Billboard and Gay Times, and your music has appeared on playlists like Spotify’s OutNow and Grindr’s NMF.What does it mean to you to be recognized as an up-and-coming queer pop star ?

“I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love in an honest, authentic way. It’s liberating, and the support from queer media has been phenomenal. I’ve gotten a few messages from people who have told me I have helped them with their coming out, or that they’re just happy to see an Indian artist who is also queer out in the world. That makes everything worth it to me. That being said, I think it’s time we start shifting queer talent into the mainstream. We need allies to use their large platforms to uplift queer artists who may not have access to the same opportunities as them. Start booking more queer talent to headline Pride! Sign more queer talent! Give them the cover instead of a blurb! There’s so much work to be done.”

Is there anything you can share with us about future projects in the works?

“I’m working on a longer length project. It might be an EP, it might be a mixtape — I’m in the process of writing and recording. I don’t want to go on record about when it might come out, but it’ll definitely be out this year. I’m so excited about it.”

Vardaan Arora’s Drama is out now on your preferred music service!

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