Skip to main content

Home Music Music Features

Meet Ari Abdul, the New York rockstar taking over the internet 

The rising dark-pop artist on her viral breakthrough, paying tribute to Lana Del Rey and bringing her Ecuadorian and Middle Eastern roots into the alt scene. 

By Zoya Raza-Sheikh

Ari Abdul (Picture: Press)

Ari Abdul’s hit song ‘Taste’ describes a feeling of romantic obsession and longing that never quite goes away. The 21-year-old pulled on stories from comic books and spun her own gothic tale of out-right infatuation. Soon enough, the singer’s trance-like tune hit the TikTok waves and exploded online. 

It wasn’t until her internet fame landed a deal with Slumbo Labs and RCA Records that Abdul considered a career as an artist. And now, the newly-found New York singer is building out her discography to give fans a look into her emo-pop world. “With most of my songs, I want them to have multiple interpretations so people can relate to them and translate them in their way.” 

With her debut EP, Fallen Angel, out now and new music on the way, we caught up with Abdul to learn more about her break into the industry and her first-ever UK/EU tour.  

What’s life been like for you as an up-and-coming musician based in New York?

I’m born and raised in New York. I always get asked the question of when I’m moving to LA but I love it here. Everyone’s in LA but it’s easier for me here and to focus on my music. And, right now, I’m working on my next project which is coming out so soon. It’s really exciting, we’re just putting together those last details. I’ve had this idea since my debut EP, Fallen Angel, came out.

You’re known for your alternative pop hits ‘BABYDOLL’ and ‘Taste’. How would you describe your sound?

People usually discover me from ‘BABYDOLL’ and I love that song – it feels like The Neighbourhood to me, which is one of my biggest musical influences, sound-wise. I’m not definitely not shying away from that dark sound but in that first era of music, I wanted to experiment. I’m also really new to music and creating my own sound. I’ve had this new song ‘You’ come out which is like club music, and different to my style, which I really like. So, I’m using a lot of old sounds as well as new ones. 

Speaking of ‘BABYDOLL’, that track went mega-viral on TikTok and has clocked in over 200 million streams on Spotify. What was that experience like for you?

Honestly, I still have not processed any of it. As Bob Ross would say, it was like it was a happy accident! I’ve never sung before. I was like never like ‘When I get older, I’m going to become an artist’ or anything like that. We were making that song out of boredom and my best friend suggested I record the song and put it on TikTok. I was like that is the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard. One, I don’t sing and, two, who’s gonna listen to it? It was late 2021 and there weren’t that many upcoming artists on TikTok and the way it happened was truly incredible. I’ll never forget waking up and seeing all the comments. I was kind of panicking because I’m not an artist but I wouldn’t trade this for the world.

Who has been your ultimate alternative icon that has inspired you and your sound?

I always say this; Lana Del Rey, especially lyrically. It’s more in the way she writes and conveys the emotion. I’m such a Lana girl. With my sound, I was, in particular, chasing that 2012-2015 Tumblr feeling. I was in middle school around then and you really absorb and create your own music taste around that age. You’re becoming a teenager and The Neighbourhood, Arctic Monkeys, Marina and the Diamonds were around, but Lana stuck out for me. Production-wise it’s definitely The Neighbourhood. I didn’t want to stick with one particular sound and I became really open-minded with music. ‘BABYDOLL’ and ‘Taste’ are very much the same but I want to create different things that other people may like. 

You’ve strayed away from collaborating so far but who would be your dream artist feature for a song? 

Obviously, Lana would be absolutely incredible and like a dream that I’ve had ever since I discovered her music. I love The Weekend and that’d be a sick collaboration, especially with his new sounds and, of course, my close friend Isabel LaRosa. We’ve grown up through teenhood and we’ve written together loads and experienced this music journey together. We both played Lollapalooza recently and it felt like both of our first time performing at a major spot. It was truly incredible.

As an artist, you’re in a scene that has been viewed, traditionally, as a white genre. It seems like there’s been a wave of artists challenging this status quo and causing a shift in recent years. Have you felt like you’re a part of that shift?

I remember having one of my first meetings ever and I was told that one of the biggest consumers of alternative music is Latin America. I didn’t know that until I had ‘BABYDOLL’ blow up. If you go on my YouTube or TikTok, most of the comments will be in Spanish and I think it’s so cool. It’s very tricky because a lot of the big mainstream alternative artists are white. So I think it’s for [people] to probably have an artist that shares the same roots as they do. TikTok is also bringing up so many other artists that share different backgrounds and cultures too. It’s truly really cool to be Latin and Middle Eastern and to have this break in music.

How has your background shaped your relationship with music?

I listened to so much different music growing up, especially because my mom would always have Latin music on and my dad liked different music like classic rock so I was open to hearing everything. It influenced me because I could listen to anything and I didn’t want to be stuck on one style. Also, in Latin music, there are so many different types of beats and sounds. It really opened my mind to being able to listen to so many different genres and cultures of music and taking what I like and incorporating that.

You’ve been building your profile and rolling out new music. What’s your next big career goal? 

Going back to my EP, that was supposed to be longer and more of a mixed tape as I didn’t want to do an album. An album still isn’t my goal yet. Growing up and being a fangirl, an album coming out felt like a huge moment and I don’t feel like I’m ready for that. So, for now, my next big ambition is morphing my music into other things whether that’s cinema or fashion. I had the craziest experience of having my music featured in Fashion Week last year and this year. I got sent footage and I had no idea that my songs were featured in this show. Fashion is another reason I’m really excited to go on tour because I’m ready to check out the style of each location. It’s really cool to bring art together whether that’s music and fashion or music and cinema. 

What else have you got in the pipeline? 

There is a music video coming out for the next single, Bury You, and I am so excited about it. It’s a bit twisted and dark with a pre-chorus line and hook which is ‘If I can’t have you / no-one else could’. It’s about being so obsessed with that it’s possessive. If you can’t be with that person then you’re not allowing anyone to be with them and, so, you want to bury them with you and be with them forever. It was written with Mikky Ekko and he was so amazing. ‘Stay’ by Rihanna was a huge song for me growing up so having him be a part of this song was truly incredible. The song is really different but in the best way possible. 

You’ve got a new tour on the cards too…

Yes! It’ll be my first time playing a lot of new places – it’s my first tour. Besides New York and LA shows, it’s all new territory. I’ve been super excited for London. Everyone has said that if you like the New York music scene, you’ll love London. Also, fun fact, London has my favourite fashion scene and it was my first show to sell out. I would have never imagined that and it’s also three days before my birthday.