Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
When she won season 13 of The Voice in 2017, Chloe Kohanski was known for playing classic rock. In that chosen genre, she garnered a dedicated group of fans, thanks to the reality competition show, but still felt that there was room to expand, musically. “I feel sometimes people think [winning “The Voice” was] almost like a guaranteed success,” chloe says. “Everybody's journey is different, and I never expected to go as far as I did on the show.” But she did. Enter: Internet pop.
‘Internet pop’ is a genre of music you probably don’t recognize. At one time, neither did chloe mk — that’s what she goes by now in this 2.0 moment in her career. After being on the show, she realized how magnetized she always felt to some of the greats: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Gwen Stefani — innovative moguls who influenced the music sphere. So, she pivoted, moving on from her rock star-esque musical destiny as she entered her mid-20s.
First, in May of this year, she dropped her first single “To Be Young” and in July her first EP, Fantasy. Now, she’s exclusively debuting the music video for “David Bowie” on Refinery29. The video’s visuals are fast-paced and electric — it’s a nostalgic video, mostly centered around an old-fashioned television screen. Chloe’s voice spells out a longing for something more and from a different dimension, as her lyrics are capsuled in static waves of blue and green.
Ahead, we talk to chloe mk about Fantasy, the Internet’s role in our lives, how she incorporates every era of music into her songs and visuals, and why her story as a singer is only just beginning.
Refinery29: What was the career-transition like moving from classic rock to your current sound?
chloe mk: “I'm sure a lot of people that do reality TV or any of the singing shows out there feel this way: you are definitely yourself, but you're kind of using other people's songs as vessels. You're trying to channel yourself the most you can, but there's just something about singing someone else's words versus singing your own. I obviously will always love 70s music, 80s music. But, equally so, I grew up in the late-90s, early 2000s. I was a Britney Spears fan, a Spice Girl fan. I was Christina Aguilera all-day, every day. And Gwen Stefani! For me it was like, okay, what is my sound when I'm given all these resources and being told, make what you want to make? I feel [my sound] just didn't sound like rock music, which was fine. I felt there wasn't really a lot of pop music or — whatever you want to call it — that showcases this [kind of] raspy, somberish tone. Especially for a woman!”
You’ve called your brand of music “internet pop”. How has that influenced your music?
“I really don't love a label, you know, because I definitely dealt with that after [“The Voice”]. I think ‘internet pop’ is kind of like a middle finger up to a genre. I don't have to really give you an explanation because once you listen to it, you know what it is. It’s a melting pot of sounds and influences. Internet pop felt like a cute, short way of being like, “I don't really know what the fuck this is, I’m just really out here trying to live my truth.”
“‘To Be Young’ is probably the most separate from the other [songs] on the EP. That was the first [song], and this nice bridge between the stuff I did on “The Voice,” leading into this new sound. I wanted the colors to be warm [in the “To Be Young” video] because that song is supposed to make you feel like you’re not alone. I wanted it to feel more tangible and welcoming.
“David Bowie” is emotional. The blue felt very genuine. Whenever we were writing the songs and starting to dive into [the sound] and aesthetic, I started seeing and feeling a lot of cool tones, if that makes sense. So, this greenish-bluish, digital vibe felt at-home with this song.”
There’s a scene towards the end of the video, seen on the screen of the last TV, where you almost look trapped. Was that a metaphorical resemblance of something more personal?
“This song, it’s not about being in love — but it could be. Or, it could just be about having someone in your life that means so much to you and then losing them and the effect of that. We were like, how does this translate and relate to the digital elements of the EP and to the visual element of this futuristic, but early-2000s aesthetic. With the TV when I put my hands up to the screen, I'm being like, taken into the digital realm. Then, in the car with all the numbers flying by, I’m just in this car with like, my matrix friends (laughs). It was this teleportation and signifying being stuck inside. And being lost in the sauce with technology.”
“David Bowie” seems very internet-influenced. If so, how was it?
“We've never been so — not to get all spiritual — ‘connected,’ But [also] alone. I’m definitely a victim of that. I'll be on my phone and then all of a sudden—like, I'm in LA right now — and I was just in my hotel room and I was just like “Oh my God”. In [that] moment, I wasn't talking to anyone and sitting on my bed, and it’s crazy how you feel like you’re not even really there...if you’re not on your phone! Like, nobody knows if I’m breathing. I need to do a report that I’m still alive! That was another part of the song, the simplistic writing of the chorus. I saw it as text bubbles when you send a text: “You’re not here / it’s not the same / it’s not okay.” It’s not poetry, it’s just very raw. That’s how we all communicate now; it’s a lot less pick-and-choose your words. Everyone just says everything, and you just say it. This song in-particular was influenced by technology and that feeling of not being [fully] present.”
I remember seeing the Instagram story expressing that people stop “harassing” you for new music after “The Voice.” Did it affect your writing process?
“Things [have moved] a bit slower than maybe I would have wanted them to, and I was kind of dealing with that [frustration]. Then any time anybody on the Internet said pretty much anything to me, I was very triggered. I just [felt] nobody understands the process. But then I step away and of course people don't know all the ins-and-outs. And they don't have to know; it's my job. I could be way more transparent. There’s something I like, [though], about the mystery. But, I definitely did channel that.”
What’s next, especially after releasing your first EP ever?!
“This is the first step. I’m a Capricorn [so] you know I’m already on my third album in my head. But, I think your biggest competition right now as an artist is to get people to stop scrolling and actually listen to your shit. It’s so hard; and I feel it all the time. This is me re-meeting people for the first time. Like: Hi, I’m chloe.”
Check out the premiere of "David Bowie," below.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.