"I hate that I don't know you like I used to, like I used to" sings Leland over raindrop synths on his new song "Middle Of A Heartbreak," as he convulses, trying to shake a painful thought away. It's the kind of line that's easy to imagine a full stadium crowd screaming back at him. A simple, but impossibly sad, blunt-force expression of heartbreak, designed to travel straight from the brain to the heart. But what else is pop at its finest all about?
Leland knows all about pop at its finest. The veteran songwriter is a master of bottling euphoria and packaging it with the maximum velocity and universality to make bodies move and a lyric stick. With the hits he's helped craft for Selena Gomez ("Fetish), Troye Sivan ("My, My, My," "Suburbia"), Allie X ("Paper Love"), Daya ("Hide Away"), Betty Who ("The Other Side"), Carrie Underwood ("End Up With You"), MNEK ("Half Of You") and Charli XCX ("1999"), and the original score he recently co-wrote for Netflix rom com Sierra Burgess Is A Loser — he's proved this over and over again.
But he's shown himself just as capable of applying his skill to his own vision, as he is helping bring others' to life. His third solo single, "Middle Of A Heartbreak," which PAPER premieres today, is a sugar-sweet lonely banger, that splits the difference between Maroon 5's aching pop-rock croon and Kim Petras' sparking bubble gum. In the music video, directed by Jasper Soloff, Leland locks himself in a softly lit, lavender and millennial pink prison: a visual that intimates the lonely, fleshy space where many of us spend the first days after (or the middle of) a heartbreak.
"For the 'Middle Of A Heartbreak' music video, I was really inspired by the way artists like David Bowie would use lighting to create sensual silhouettes," Leland told PAPER. "I wanted this video to live in a world that felt warm in color but ultimately lonely. It surprised me how exhausting it was to deliver take after take where there was a high amount of emotional intensity required. I had so much fun dancing in the video and I'm excited to incorporate it into the live show."
Watch and listen below — and stay tuned for Leland's debut solo EP, due in 2019.