Columbia student Maude Latour redefines pop genre

20-year-old pop musician Maude Latour’s Nov. 7 performance in the Mug exhibited her infectiously catchy songwriting and refreshingly candid stage presence. Latour balances her blossoming music career with a philosophy and business double major. Courtesy of Justin Higuchi via Flickr

“I’ve had a great time tonight sharing my secrets with strangers,” quipped Columbia student and rising pop star Maude Latour before closing her Mug performance with the syrupy song “Superfruit” on Nov. 7. Each and every artsy Vassar student in the 15-person crowd couldn’t help but emphatically jump and scream along to Maude’s movie-sized stories of orange juice, cracked iPhones and death. Latour is a rare breed of a performer, possessing a unique ability to make any unfamiliar venue feel like her own living room; to make a crowd full of strangers feel like her oldest friends.

Both watching Latour onstage and interacting with her one-onone induce a striking feeling of intimacy. After her ViCE Weekly-sponsored performance, Latour encouraged the audience to come chat, greeting attendees with a hug and a multicolored shooting star sticker (“Stickers are my favorite thing in the world,” she exclaimed). When I spoke with Maude before her set, she immediately welcomed me into her world, spilling details about her recent breakup, disastrous midterm season and love of Citi Bike.

Latour’s candidness is unique in the modern age, in which women in the music industry are expected more than ever to be poised, polished and elusive. But her gift for open communication is not a mere stage gimmick—Latour appears similarly unfiltered in her personal life, particularly on her Instagram. Rather than using the infamously performative platform to construct a perfect pop star persona, she instead openly engages with her audience, encouraging her fans to DM their deepest, darkest secrets while also sharing her own struggles. Latour stated that genuine communication is integral to her personal and professional philosophies. She uses her artistic platform to make both herself and her audience feel less alone.

The lack of separation between Latour’s stage presence and genuine self challenges traditional notions of the female pop star—a completely contrived, invariably beautiful, over-the-top performer. But Maude is part of a new, young generation of women in pop who are redefining the genre’s vapid reputation. Her work challenges the notion that music cannot be both deep and bubbly, both poetic and uplifting. The lyrics on songs such as “Ride my Bike” and “Shoot and Run” transform life’s mundane and depressing moments into colorful, larger-than-life vignettes. “I don’t have that many sad songs,” she mused. “But my songs do have more gravity than their sound [initially] comes off as, which is pop. But I think that’s what people want.”

Latuour’s impetus for creating pop music is similarly unorthodox. Pop has historically been the antithesis of genres such as alternative and indie, the latter of which are thought of as less fame-oriented, more authentic musicianship. Given pop music’s association with wealth and glamour, it’s difficult to believe that such a young musician in the genre could be content with an under-the-radar career. Yet when Latour insisted fame is not central to her artistry, it comes across as profoundly sincere. “I’m always doing [music] for songwriting and for emoting … It was always just about having fun, always,” she declared.

Latour defies easy categorization—she’s not the typical moody, pompous student musician, nor is she a one-dimensional pop princess. But listening to Maude Latour makes the music industry’s labels seem meaningless and limiting. At the end of our interview, I reflected to Maude that her core message seemed to be simply to “be yourself.” She laughed, “I’ve been trying to find a 21st-century, non-cliche way to say exactly that.”

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