After his 2018 debut album Pink Noise, which featured the likes of Ayesha Erotica, Slayyyter, moistbreezy and Kitty, singer/ songwriter and producer Boy Sim solidified himself as the go to internet-hit pop producer which amounted to production credits on Slayyyter's debut self-titled mixtape and an opening act spot on Slayyyter's debut US tour. With a hangover from success, Boy Sim has spent the last two years reinventing and reworking his sound, with his new album Rowdy marking a significant shift from his days of bubble-gum-pop frosted beats. Boy Sim's sights are now set on breaking through to the commercial pop world and on his latest self-produced, written and performed effort it is clear that he is an artist that cannot and will not be boxed in. "Everyone contains multitudes, but I've always loved to show them off," he says.
Rowdy is a rip-roaring synth-based joyride pumped up with smooth melodies, emotive guitars, thumping baselines and million-dollar choruses. Boy Sim describes Rowdy as a switch up from his trademark sound and, whilst maintaining a futuristic edge, is inspired by '70s and '80s pop. Dressed in his finest cowboy gear, Boy Sim guides us through an emotional journey of toxic relationships, intimacy and heartbreak. Rowdy is tangled in melodrama and vulnerability and this is epitomized by the lead single, "Emotional." "'Emotional' is about being in a crazy, toxic relationship that makes you feel like you're both soulmates and enemies at the same time," he explains.
"'Fire' was my first step toward making this kind of big, commercial pop type music and I was really proud of it, so I decided to keep making music and see what would come out of it." Boy Sim plans to continue to develop this direction and even went as far to say that his next album is going to be even more commercial.
Inspired by the likes of Max Martin and Shellback, Boy Sim set out to make Rowdy sound as big and over the top as possible, "I'm huge on melodies and counter-melodies, so I love incorporating tons of different melodies into one song because it makes for something huge and over-the-top." Boy Sim enlists FIA, Alex Zone and '90s legend Lisa Hall for guest spots with their inclusion adding extra layers of emotional depth and perspective.
Below, Boy Sim breaks down every track on Rowdy.
Let me preface this by saying (almost) every song on the album is about one person. The typical ex-boyfriend heartbreaker: always working on his cars, late night drives in convertibles, smoking weed and fights about stupid things. An intoxicating relationship that made us feel like we were both soulmates and enemies at the same time. This album was my way of getting past that, getting over it, and using life's lemons to make my own lemonade. I've always thought that there are only two things you can do after your heart gets broken: you can cry, or you can get rowdy. I decided to get a little rowdy.
I always knew this was going to be the first song on the album. I wanted the first song to just fully immerse you into the world of Rowdy, with that thumping bass, fast tempo, '80s synth/ rock revival. The song is about a boy who I can't let go of after all this time, and he's like a monster keeping my heart captive and dancing on it at the same time. It's about the kind of love that doesn't go away, even after so many times someone has hurt you, there's nothing you can do when your heart still craves that person. I decided to have FIA feature on this because I knew she would deliver a sick, powerful vocal in that lower range that I hadn't really heard a lot from her before. She knocked it out of the park, when she sent it back I was jumping around! Her bridge was so incredible I had to add the guitar in the background to make it even more epic, she deserves that moment, it's such an iconic bridge.
"Driving Me Crazy"
Like I said, he loved his cars. The title of this song is a play on that. This song was originally more of a big pumping pop song but I slowly turned it into a big '80s inspired ballad instead, with the chorus also taking cues from one of my favorite '90s songs by Sheryl Crow. The song is about battling with mental illness while trying to get over a relationship, reflecting over how my mental illness affected the relationship, and the struggles one faces when in that situation. It's my way of saying "You were way too good for me, and I'm way too fucking crazy for you." I mention not being able to stomach the medicine as a way of speaking about my struggles with drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the pain of losing someone, which is the first time I've spoken about something this personal in any of my music. This song is really personal to me. It's almost hard to listen to sometimes because every word came from the heart. I sat down after a hard cry and wrote this song in my bedroom back home at my parents house, and just let the emotions write the words for me.
This song was meant to be a huge contrast to the one before it. In the previous song I'm reflecting over how hard it is now that he's gone, but in this one, it's just pure revenge fantasy. I just want to set his house on fire. This is also something I wrote about struggling with mental illness. Sometimes I want to cry about it, sometimes I want to set his house on fire. It comes and goes. The production on this song was inspired by big heavy commercial pop music, with the big chorus drop and hard pumping bass synth. It originally sounded way more top-40-esque, but I wanted it to fit in the world of Rowdy, so I added the guitar drop and some big gated toms for that sleek big retro sound. This is one of my favorite songs on the record and was my first step into the world of Rowdy.
This is the big one, IMO. "Emotional" was the culmination of months and months of going in circles with this one person, constantly battling the urge to just kiss and make up, or fight and never speak again. Yet no matter what, there was something that kept telling me we were meant to be together. Sometimes I stop breathing, sometimes I can't sleep, because something in my heart tells me we are still meant to be together. The song is again about how I'm just fucking crazy when it comes to love, and my battles with finding someone who can match that energy. I always end up being the one hopelessly in love and left by someone who just never really felt the same. This song was my way of reflecting on that and being like, sorry, I'm just really emotional.
"All Your Love"
The production on this song was really inspired by disco music, and Skylar Spence who I love dearly and would consider a good friend. The song is about someone who is constantly holding back their love for you, constantly holding back their true feelings for you and pretending like you don't see it. It's me being like, "Hey, come out of your shell, live a little, let's have fun, you don't need to worry!" I always have this constant struggle with getting people to just accept joy and love into their lives and this song is my way of trying to bring that out and express that. The person this song is about was always working, always busy, always trying to avoid confrontation and always shy about showing love. This was my way of being like "dude, fuck it, just tell me you love me".
This is another contrast to the one before; another sad song. This song's production is very inspired by disco classics like "I Feel Love," but also very inspired by Robyn and Jessie Ware. I wanted that acid bass sound with no snare and just some strings and synths to kind of match the subject matter. It never resolves, it never goes to a big final chorus, it just stays steady the whole time. I wanted it to invoke the feeling of going through the motions of heartbreak, how it never goes away, it stays constantly in the back of your head and heart and sits there. The song is about how I always knew that somehow it was gonna be this way. I always had a deep insecurity that I wasn't good enough, that he was too good for me, that I was never going to be good enough, and when I eventually lost him, I was like "Why am I hurt by this? Didn't I see this coming?"
This song is a remake of an older song I did with AlexZone. I wanted to include it on the album because I think it's one of the coolest baselines I've ever made! This is one of the songs on this album that isn't about the same boy (I can hear you breathe a sigh of relief), but about the people I've seen in this industry who come out of the woodwork when you become successful and try to sabotage your career. It's about the "haters" if you want to make it simple. Anyone who knows me knows I've had a lot of people try and take me down, but I'm resilient. I know who I am and what I do and I know how to do it well. This song is my way of being like, fuck you, I own my body, I don't need permission to do anything, I'm going to make it on my own.
"Waste The Taste"
This song is one of the first songs I wrote for the album. It's about bumping into an ex and having a one night stand with them. It's meant to say "we have one chance to do this, so don't waste it by trying to beat around the bush. Let's just get to it. The games you're trying to play are overrated, don't act like you don't want it too." Production-wise I was really inspired by Kylie Minogue and Dua Lipa, with the big disco guitars and funky bassline. I had a guitarist, Jim Hampton from Springful, come in and play the guitar parts for the whole album and he knocked it out in four hours. I was blown away. I would just play the songs for him and he would start playing along immediately. He really elevated the song. The song ends with my first time ever doing a vocal solo, heavily distorted and autotuned to sound like a guitar or saxophone solo. This was inspired by Caroline Polacheck on "So Hot You're Hurting My Feelings'', where she also has a distorted vocal solo. It was something that I found really really interesting and thought I could try my hand at it, and it ended up sounding really, really cool!
Is This Real?
If you've ever seen the movie Practical Magic, there's a scene where Nicole Kidman is walking down the hall to meet her sexy vampire cowboy looking boyfriend in bed, and this amazing slow and sexy song from '98 is playing in the background, with Lisa Hall's sleek autotune vocals singing about sex and love (one of the first instances of autotune in recorded music). It's probably one of my favorite scenes, because I've been both Nicole Kidman and the evil cowboy vampire, but the song itself makes the scene that much better. When I heard the song again rewatching Practical Magic back in October of 2020, I knew I had to cover it. I had never done a cover song before, so I did some research and ended up finding the guitarist's email. I sent him an email asking if it was okay for me to do the cover, and that I'd pay the royalties and everything, etc. He ended up sending me an email back and connected me with another member of the band. Eventually Lisa Hall herself was in my inbox, asking me about the cover and telling me she was excited to hear it. I worked on the cover that night and finished it in one night. I sent it to her the next day and she was floored! She showed the band and they loved it so much, they offered to record Lisa's vocals for a feature. It was truly a magical, magical moment. Lisa and I chatted about what the song is about, which she described as just a "fucking" song. Ash, blood, bone, love. It's about deep, intimate sex which leaves you questioning "is this real?" I upped the production while keeping the original vibe of the track because it fit the album so well. I am so proud of this one because it truly is a magical moment in music, the original song came out in 1998 so to hear my 2021 version of it with the original artist featured is so special to me.
This is the final, big honky tonk pub-ballad meant to be sung with a beer in hand and a cowboy hat on. I wrote this song back in early 2020 with a friend, and then completely redid the production to make it this big pop/ country/ rock ballad with some modern sounding vocals. This song is my last goodbye to the boy who broke my heart, the boy I wrote the album about, and my way of saying, hey, at least we tried, but no matter what I really did want to stay this way "Forever." The bridge mentions the skylit drives we used to take, and how after all this time he's still a mystery to me, and I'm still coping. Production-wise I really just wanted it to have that nostalgic classic ballad sound. I wanted my very own big karaoke ballad that people can sing for ages to come. Jim's guitar solo is iconic. I'm obsessed with it. I know every note and I play air guitar to it every time I listen. He's seriously so talented and this song would be nothing without him!
Stream Rowdy, below:
Photos courtesy of Boy Sim
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- AlexZone and Boy Sim Team Up on "Tie Me Down!" - PAPER ›
- Boy Sim Lives His Revenge Fantasy in "Fire" - PAPER ›