Armaan Malik’s four singles, two each in English and Hindi, have been out in the last four months. One of them, ‘Control’, put his face on the famous Times Square billboard in New York. It seems the pandemic hasn’t halted the musician, who turned 25 last week. “It was tough when it started but gradually, I adjusted to the new normal,” he admits.
Armaan’s fourth single after the pandemic began, ‘Beech Raste’ (composed by Salim-Suleiman), which he sung with Nikhita Gandhi, has been viewed over 250,000 times on YouTube at the time of writing. Each of the four songs evoke different moods. This versatility is perhaps among the reasons for his fast-rising popularity in Indian film and non-film music.
The singer-songwriter discusses his latest single, his singing process, and the remake culture in Hindi film music among other things. Excerpts.
‘Beech Raste’ is a dance number. Your previous single, ‘Zara Thehro’, is a ballad. How do you get into the different moods that the songs demand?
Mood swings, especially in this time, are common. It is difficult to be in the right mood for every song. But that is part of our job. We need to know how to get into the skin of the characters we are singing for. I guess, like ‘method acting’, there is also ‘method singing’, where you try to get into the mental space of the character or at least pretend that you are in that space. I usually internalise the song by listening to the scratch version repeatedly.
Can you tell us about recording ‘Beech Raste’?
The song is about a journey and could have been shot in a car. We couldn’t due to the pandemic restrictions. We saw people trying out different things from their homes with their phones — I think 2020 is going to be the year of thinking out of the box. We also thought of doing something interesting. That is when we came up with the idea of making a music video with animojis. It has come out really well. Salim-Sulaiman have been my mentors. So, to work with them is pretty special.
When you sing for other musicians, do you get involved in other aspects of the song — for instance, the music or the video?
Yes. I never just sing. I try to be with the project from start to finish. Usually, it is a collaborative process. I sometimes even make the beats myself for non-film songs. With ‘Beech Raste’, I didn’t have to do much with the music, because it was already so good. But I shared a lot of inputs for the music video.
Are today’s singers expected to do more than just sing? Do they also have to perform on stage, be active on social media, etc?
Some artists are traditional. They just want to sing and not appear in front of cameras. I have always wanted to be a well-rounded performer. I would like our singers to be personas; people should know more than just their voices.
Has it become difficult to stand out as a musician now as compared to maybe 10 to 15 years ago?
Yes, because of the sheer number of people. In the past, every era had four to five big singers. Now, there are probably 50 good singers. To stand out, it isn’t enough if you just sing well. The way you perform, the way you present yourself on social media… There are many layers that go into the making of an artist today. Of course, there are exceptions like Arijit Singh, who just sings but has a great following.
Has it become easier in a way to take your music to other parts of the world because of the internet?
Yes, reachability has increased, thanks to the internet and social media. I know, for example, that I have fans in Japan and the Philippines. But social media doesn’t guarantee prolonged success. You can become viral overnight and a lot of people will notice you. Today, however, the game is about longevity. People can easily dismiss you as a one-hit-wonder if you don’t follow up your success with more good work. For me, it isn’t just about being popular now; I want to sing well till I am 75 or 80.
Several prominent musicians, including AR Rahman, have criticised the ‘remix trend’ in Hindi film music. What is your take on it?
Remixes were popular. Even I have done it. They have given me hits — I won’t deny that. However, at some point, there were more recreations than original songs. That is bad for the industry and sets a wrong precedent for upcoming music talent. A lot of people are demanding original songs. The remix trend is dying. Bollywood music is going through a rebirth of sorts.
You recently featured in the Times Square Billboard for ‘Control’. It also became No 1 on iTunes in India. You have spoken about your fondness for singing English pop. So, is ‘Control’ more special to you than your other songs?
Yes, my patience has paid off. I was not waiting to be featured on the Times Square Billboard or topping the iTunes charts. For me, releasing two English songs itself was special. And all these nice things happened. I want to take Indian music to the global audience. Indian popular music is still about Bollywood. Our artists aren’t recognised much. We do not have someone like Lady Gaga or Shakira. I want to try and create a pathway for Indian artists to be global icons.