Toronto can’t escape a narrative of being a little bit gloomy. Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s miserable. Sure, we go through this every winter. When it comes to the city’s extraordinarily vibrant hip-hop and R&B scenes, a common throughline is that, because we’re often very cold up here, the music we make is just as frigid and distant. The beats are despondent; a downtrodden sort of mood sprinkled with just enough shimmer to get movement on the dancefloor. But that is, and always has been, a reductive way of looking at the way Toronto’s artists have been able to embrace the hard-bitten truths of life and being human; proving that they are more resilient and durable. Which is a spot jaycouldneverdie sits in comfortably.
The 19-year-old singer is relatively new, but causing a fair amount of encouraging ripples for her lonesome-sounding, nimble work. Her self-titled first EP was released in November under the promise to her then 16-year-old self to accomplish such a goal. jaycouldneverdie’s sound is agile and murky, like an aural fog before sharp and tense beats pulsate through. Her newest single and video, “Blueberry Love,” is no different. Though it takes the shape of a ballad, the context of the track is more like a Billie Holiday song over a beat. But through it all, there’s a glimmer of something more than just the obvious sentiment of woe. Even with her name—jaycouldneverdie—,the singer says that comes from a place of hope.
The video for “Blueberry Love,” directed by Toronto-based duo Devo Thomas and Genelle Cruz, is a hazy trip through the remarkable pain that comes with loving and then losing that love. Of the song’s rendering on screen, jaycouldneverdie says: “Channeling the complexity of my feelings when writing this track into the video was tough because it’s hard to explain exactly how I feel when I’m alone, y’know? Writing is such a personal process, I try not to overthink it. A naturally-developed video like this is the best representation I can offer of my experience.” Watch the video and read our interview with Toronto’s newest chanteuse.
Noisey: Can you tell me a bit about the concept for the video for “Blueberry Love”? And what it was like working with this team?
jaycouldneverdie: Sonically and lyrically, “Blueberry Love” is very raw. It’s a painful ballad reflecting painful love — but it has an element of sweetness and beauty. Because of that, my team and I thought it would be best if I wasn’t wearing extensive makeup or a flashy wardrobe for this video — something much more minimal and stripped back than the video for “Progenitor.”
We had a rough idea of what we wanted to accomplish with the video — we knew we wanted to tell a story about a boy and a girl trapped in a toxic relationship — [directors] Devo Thomas and Genelle Cruz took really took our idea and transformed it into something amazing and wholly authentic to me. I am so thankful to work with such insanely creative peeps because I honestly couldn’t come up with this stuff on my own.
You can immediately feel tension and loneliness in the song. You wrote this song, along with the other songs on your EP, very much locked away and secluded. How does that experience and the themes on the track translate visually?
There are several shots of Ben Roberts and I in the video where we’re surrounded by pure darkness. This reflects the seclusion and delusion of being in a bad relationship and being okay with it, or thinking you can just wander your way out of it. The darkness is wanting love, in any form, even if it’s unhealthy.
When the second half of the song comes in, the video opens up into a cascade of blue light and natural tones. In these shots, you can see the pain on my face, the resentment, the anger. You can see that I’m not okay with being in the dark, and I’m angry at the person who was in the darkness with me.
What does the term “Blueberry Love” specifically mean to you?
For me, it’s about appearances versus reality. Just like the inside of a blueberry is not blue (it’s white—for those who have no carefully inspected the inside of a blueberry before), the love I describe in this song, which looks passionate, is actually cold and stale on the inside. There are underlying tones of regret and pain within “Blueberry Love,” even though on the exterior it sounds like a love ballad. Like most things in life, it’s not what it seems.
Can you speak a bit about what your name—jaycouldneverdie—means?
As someone who has battled depression for the majority of my life, death has been a common theme of my thoughts. jaycouldneverdie is a monument to the moments where I wanted to leave this planet—and the fact that I’m still here. When people listen to my music, I can’t control how they feel, or assume that they’re feeling anything at all. I can’t fix their circumstances. But I can send a message. A signal through the fog so to speak—about feeling indestructible in a world that naturally seeks to destroy all of us.
People tell me to change the name all the time. I’m assuming because it sounds like such an egotistical and provocative statement, people automatically assume it comes from a place of negativity or competitiveness. But that’s not it. For me, it comes from a place of hope.
You released your first EP in November in part because you wanted this body of work out in time for your 19th birthday. With that come and gone, and the EP available now, how does that inform any of the work you’re doing going forward? Do you have any new goals in mind for what you’d like to accomplish next?
I promised myself that deadline when I was 16 because I’ve been surrounded by people my whole life who talk a lot and yet never accomplish anything. “I'm gonna do this amazing thing! It’s gonna be sick!” It never happens. Vocalizing goals is a great step, but it can’t be the only step. I refused to let myself get caught up in talking.
My team and I worked our asses off on the JCND EP, and as beautiful as the experience was, it was just the first iteration. This was just the first level. The dark industrial sound was something I needed to get off my chest because I had to live my sad girl truth. But now I have a whole bunch of different songs that I’m excited to release, a lot of which are a whole different sound. We’re in the working stage. There’s still a lot of details I haven’t ironed out and a lot of ideas I still need to explore, so I’m not going to talk about how amazing the new stuff will be. I just have to make it and show you. Bops confirmed though, I promise.