"It resembles everything I’ve gone through." Ava Max talks debut album Heaven and Hell, her dream K-pop collaborations, and coping with the pandemic

"It resembles everything I’ve gone through." Ava Max talks debut album Heaven and Hell, her dream K-pop collaborations, and coping with the pandemic

From car stereos to shopping mall playlists, it's almost impossible to go without hearing Ava Max's catchy pop anthem 'Sweet but Psycho' at least once. The monster hit has since amassed almost one billion streams alongside a monthly listenership of about 32 million on the music streaming app, after sitting atop the hottest playlists on Spotify.

Following her commercial breakthrough in 2019 with ‘Sweet but Psycho', the chart-smashing hit song went No.1 on the U.S. Billboard emerging-artists chart. Just like that, 26-year-old Ava Max was catapulted into the global spotlight.

Bandwagon caught up with Ava during a media conference last week to talk about her upcoming debut album, Heaven and Hell, which will be released on 18 September. The unabashedly-pop album features a total of 15 tracks and it does not have any song collaborations with other artists. 

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The tracklist I have been so patiently waiting to tell u 😭🖤 So excited for you to hear the rest of these songs! #OMGWhatsHappening OUT in less than 10 minutes ✨#HeavenAndHell #September18th

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Ava explained that she chose the album title "Heaven and Hell", because “it resembles everything I’ve gone through, and I think everybody goes through heaven and hell in their own ways, like good days, bad days, the yin and the yang you know? Both worlds, it’s never great all the time, so I think that’s why.”

The album is split into three sections: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell, with each part telling its own unique story sonically and lyrically. “Heaven is more of energetic, upbeat, and anthemic songs so if you’re feeling very happy, and Hell is more of a moody, sonically darker theme but there are no sad songs on that one, they’re all very bold and strong. I didn’t want any sad songs so they’re pretty much in-your-face anthems.” 

Following the release of her latest leading single ‘OMG What’s Happening’, the Albanian singer-songwriter also teased the upcoming music video, “It’s very dangerously fast, has to do with cars! It has a really big truck, just really fast cars and I don’t know, muscle cars, I can't give away too much!” She giggled then added at the end, “But basically a really, really fun music video in the desert!” 

With the great amount of music created for the album, Ava mentioned that her personal creative process stems a lot from spontaneity. Revealing that although the album was actually done at the beginning of the year, she added the "Heaven" introductory part to it and swapped the songs around, going with her gut feeling most of the time. The album was originally planned to be released last year, but had to be pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When asked which track on the album represents her own Heaven and Hell, she said the introductory track of Hell, ‘Take You to Hell’, “really takes you to hell!" She continued, "The lyrics are basically saying like hey, the girl or guy you’re with, if you’re not gonna treat me right, you’re not gonna go to heaven, you’re gonna go to hell!”

Listen to a snippet of 'Rumours' from the "Hell" side of the album: 

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Side B: Hell I hear your rumors... but I keep runnin into your room.. 🪐 Track #12 RUMORS. #2days #HeavenAndHell

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Though the debut album does not include any artist collaborations, Ava fielded questions on some artists she would like to work with in the future. Noting American rapper Post Malone, Ava also expressed excitement about wanting to collaborate with today's biggest K-pop groups, BTS and BLACKPINK

“Oh I love BTS, BLACKPINK, yeah oh my god I would love to. One day? Hopefully soon. I did one with NCT, we did a remix of 'So Am I,' so maybe soon!” One of the media reps mentioned that a dance choreography with BLACKPINK would be amazing, which Ava responded, “Oh my god that would be insane, I would love that.” 

Pre-COVID-19, artists would typically go on tour after an album release. However, with the pandemic looming endlessly, we asked Ava if she has anything planned in stores for her fans that wants to catch her live performances. She teased gleefully, “Ooh I have something very special coming up in just a couple of weeks, so I don’t want to spoil the surprise but its something to do virtually, and its really, really exciting, I’m excited!” 

As a young and female pop star, it can be challenging learning how to cope with fame and media scrutiny. Ava gave out some sisterly advice for those hoping to pursue a music career, “I think the number one thing is just having patience because it took me over 10-15 years, maybe 15 years, to make it to where I am right now, and it’s not an overnight thing. With Sweet and Psycho, it felt like it to some people but you know a lot of those people didn’t know my story and I started out really young, and a lot of people don’t know this but it takes years and years to perfect something and the more you focus on one thing, the better you’re gonna be at that one thing.” 

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Wowwwwweeeeeeee!!! Thank you so much for your endless support, I couldn’t have come this far without my Avatars. It’s so incredible to witness the global reach this song is having and the message I continue to fight for. Equality. All my love to you. 🖤 #Kingsandqueens

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Ultimately, what keeps the star going in the cut-throat music industry are her goals, “To inspire, to uplift and to help people get through hard times through lyrics and stuff. Like for 'So Am I,' I was actually on another Zoom and someone told me that they basically felt so overwhelmed with the message of 'So Am I' that they basically changed their whole life and made their life better because they feel like they can actually be proud of who they are. That made me tear up because this is why artists make music, especially for me, that’s the kind of message I want in my music, especially with 'Who’s Laughing Now,' with 'Kings and Queens,' with equality, and really not letting everyone treat you wrong, you know? And, having the strength to walk away from that situation.” 

Watch the music video for the new release single 'Naked':

Heaven and Hell is now out. Stream the debut album here: 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.