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Artist Spotlight: mxmtoon’s music understands the complexity of adolescence

Last month, Ohio University announced that mxmtoon would serve as their annual music industry summit’s keynote speaker and featured artist in April, following in the footsteps of past artists such as Phoebe Bridgers and Michelle Zauner from Japanese Breakfast who were previously in attendance at the two-day event. 

While the 22-year-old singer-songwriter has a mass following on YouTube and Spotify, it’s also important to highlight how she got to this point in her career at such a young age. Starting her musical journey in middle school, mxmtoon was still known as Maia, a girl making bedroom pop songs in her room. Slowly, she started posting these songs on YouTube and TikTok, gaining her a following overnight.

In an interview with The Bold Italic, she said, “I made an account one day, and I found myself scrolling through videos for hours because they were so funny and reminded me a lot of Vine. It was kind of my redemption arc of trying to get internet clout on an app. I never had a huge following on Vine, but with TikTok, I thought I could try again.”

A few years after promoting her music via social media, mxmtoon dropped 10 singles in 2017, including “1-800-DATEME,” “Falling for U,” “please don’t” and “cliché.” The following year, she released four more singles, preparing her for what would become a turning point in her career two years after publishing her music on streaming services and also producing her first album, “plum blossom.”

This turning point was the release of “prom dress,” a song about relying on oneself in states of emotional crisis, too afraid to let others see them be vulnerable. It also served as a social commentary on the ways adolescents experience mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, with the singer admitting that her generation tends to mask their real concerns. 

The single immediately went viral on TikTok, making it the soundtrack to users’ videos, especially during prom season. From there on, the single helped the singer set up the foundation for her second studio album, “the masquerade.”

In an interview with NPR at the time of its release, the singer said, “So much of the themes and the topics of this album are just about, you know, being a teenager and being in that space where you have literally no clue who you are. You're trying to figure it out. You don't know what your story is and how that's perfectly fine and OK.”

Along with her second album, mxmtoon also created her first graphic novel based on it called “The Adventures of Mxmtoon: The Masquerade,” proving her artistry went even beyond singing and songwriting. 

In 2020, mxmtoon continued to make music even in the midst of a global pandemic, creating another album, “dawn & dusk.” On the album, the singer accomplished much more than her previous works, growing in her songwriting and thematic vision. She even got to collaborate with Carly Rae Jepsen on the song “ok on your own,” another sign that the singer was gaining traction in the pop scene.

After a two-year break between album cycles, mxmtoon came back to pop music with her fourth album, “rising.” In terms of the album’s content, DIY Magazine said, “…‘rising’ maximizes mxmtoon’s sharp pop acumen, now leaning into a complete, rounded personality in the form of disco-tinged verdant self-love anthems.” With this work, it was clear that the singer had matured even more, moving on from songs centered around being a teeanger and now writing ones that focused heavily on the transition from adolescence into adulthood.

As the university begins to prepare for mxmtoon’s arrival to Athens, the singer is also gearing up for a busy summer. Opening for Bittersweet Daze from July 20 to Aug. 5, mxmtoon will be traveling all over the United States from Los Angeles, CA to Cleveland, Ohio alongside artists such as Cavetown and Ricky Montgomery.

With over 800,000 followers on Instagram, mxmtoon is definitely an artist that has been able to relate to adolescents all over the world with her songs full of emotional relatability and vulnerability. If you’re looking for an artist to check on at this year’s music summit, mxmtoon is the perfect match as an open and honest singer-songwriter around the college age.


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