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Holy Shit

Steve James Teams Up with LIGHTS for the Expletive-Laced "Warrior"

Bit of a banger from this 18-year-old production wiz who's Grammy nominated for his work on Bieber's 'Purpose.'

by Avery Stone
30 January 2017, 9:17am

Sounds like the first big fight song of 2017 is here. That song is "Warrior," and it comes to you from a dynamic—and delightfully unexpected—duo: 18-year-old EDM-pop artist Steve James (production) and Canadian indie-pop artist LIGHTS (lyrics, vocals). The track starts slow: over a sleek, measured groove, LIGHTS (née Valerie Poxleitner) begins with a meditation on living in the moment: "I was yesterday / and I will be tomorrow / I'm just hanging in a moment." But as the chorus approaches, James' production builds to a breaking point, when LIGHTS growls the song's battle cry: "I'm not stopping for you / I'm a fucking warrior." What follows is James' syncopated, exuberant drop—and you're off to the races.

The track's message is simple: LIGHTS, who originally penned the lyrics over a year ago, wanted to write about empowering yourself. "We were sitting in the studio talking about these warrior moments when you really feel strong," she says. "[Like] just before you go into battle—when everything is in slow motion, everything makes sense, and you have no fear. The song had a serious meditation vibe at first—a lot of bells and cymbals—and then we had a [beat] drop in it. But it's funny how quickly a drop can evolve into something not cool. So we sat on it for a while until the right person got their hands on it; and Steve [James] is totally fresh. He's got a huge career ahead of him. He's so solid [as a human, too]. He gets so excited, like me, and he just talks as fast as I do and takes these big breaths between sentences. He's totally genuine. I think that's something really special."

By virtue of his resume alone, James is special—he is one of this year's youngest Grammy nominees, for his work on Justin Bieber's Purpose LP—but what makes him stand out is exactly what LIGHTS articulates: in a world of too-cool producers, he radiates positivity, speaking with unbridled enthusiasm about the song's empowering vibe. "I'm as much for equality as anybody," he says. "That might be [in terms of] race, that might be special needs, and gender as well. I think it's really cool to have someone like LIGHTS write this song, but I connect with it because it's a fight song. And she belts it—she sounds fierce. It's like, 'I'm a fucking warrior.' I think no matter who you are, this song is like, 'I'm not going to take this. I'm going to fucking do it.' But it's great that she's the one delivering the message."

And in the wake of the US Presidential election, this message takes on a whole new meaning. Does LIGHTS view the song as an anthem for women? "Hell yeah," she says. "Especially after the Women's March, I'm so proud of what women have [accomplished] and will accomplish. [The song] can work for anybody, but I'm obviously coming from a woman's perspective. I'm a mother in the industry; I still feel like a kid all the time. Any little thing that makes you feel stronger—[when you're] trying to face the world and trying to make the right decision—is helpful."

Warrior is out now on Spotify.