Sixteen-year-old Isaac Dunbar has been dispatching his tender, sparkly pop to the internet since he was a tween. The Massachussetts-raised artist broke out in 2018 with his paean to high school trauma, "Freshman Year," and caught eyes as an opener for girl in red's US tour last last fall. Heralded as the latest of the Clairo-Cuco-Khalid model, he recently stepped from the bedroom to the big leagues, when his bedroom-recorded EP Balloons Don't Float Here scored him a deal with RCA.
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Today PAPER premieres Dunbar's first single and music video from his new project: "Makeup Drawer," a queer discovery song for the YouTube generation. Dunbar tributes how make-up source of healing and identity for queer people, as well as addressing those who "locked his make-up drawer." "I shattered to mirrors to cope/ you made me hate what I saw" he sings, before breaking into an ecstatic chorus.
The song is a document of the last few years for Dunbar. "I wrote 'Makeup Drawer' nearly two years ago, when I was 14 and just learning about my sexuality," he tells PAPER. "I was fighting an inner battle, trying to learn how to love and accept myself despite a lack of support by some members of my family. I made a deal with myself: I would wait until I loved myself fully to release the song."
The colorful video, directed by Jasper Soloff, matches the glittery production and bright melody that's pleasantly reminiscent of MGMT's "Kids." Dunbar has a one-boy dance party in a luxurious walk-in closet, playing dress-up in a rainbow of snatched cool kid and diva looks.
"Writing this song gave me a surprising, and exciting sense of victory," Dunbar says. "I hope this song empowers anybody who can't be their truest self at home. You will love yourself, it will take time, but claim it and believe it."
Catch Dunbar on his first ever headlining tour, kicking off in April. See dates here.
Photography: Jasper Soloff