Bustle Mixtape

Ava Max Mastered Turning Her Heartbreak Into Club Bangers

The “Sweet but Psycho” sensation worked through post-breakup sadness on her new album with zero ballads.

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When Ava Max dropped her danceable debut album, Heaven & Hell, in 2020, songs like “Sweet but Psycho” and “Kings & Queens” solidified her as an empowering figure of self-acceptance for Gen Z outsiders. “My first album was personal, but it was more about my career — how I felt being a woman in the industry trying to make it and how I felt like I was never going to make it,” Max, 29, tells Bustle. “I just wanted to make fun dance floor music.” The same held true when she first set out to record her sophomore record, Diamonds & Dancefloors. But then she got her heart broken.

In the wake of the breakup, Max relied on writing music as an outlet to express her sadness and heal. “I was living through my music and I still am,” Max says. “It was very bizarre and emotional, and it was like a rollercoaster.” The result is an album that sounds like reading a diary entry at the club, from cinematic stompers like “Hold Up, Wait A Minute,” which tackles potential infidelity, to breakup anthems like “Maybe You’re The Problem.”

It was Max’s most difficult creative process, drawing out the grief of her relationship. “It was very hard for me because it was right away, I was just going to the studio and singing it and writing it,” she says. “It was therapeutic, but I think it also was adding to the heartbreak in the moment.”

“It’s still sad, but you can at least dance to it now. You don’t have to just cry.”

To cope, Max turned some of her most heartbreaking songs into pop anthems. “I created ‘One of Us’ as a ballad, but I just felt like I didn't want to be so sappy and sad in a song on this album,” she says. “I made it into a dance song immediately after because I couldn’t handle the sadness. It’s still sad, but you can at least dance to it now. You don’t have to just cry.”

Below, Max talks her love for pop music, her plans for her last night on Earth, and why she can’t sing a certain Bette Midler classic ever again.

On Her Apocalypse Plans & The Power Of Pop Music

What is it about pop music that’s so magical to you?

It just makes you feel, like, so powerful and strong lyrically, and it’s danceable, and I think it’s all intertwined in one. I feel like I’ve always been a big lover of pop music because it makes you feel so good.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

I don’t go to karaoke anymore, but when I did, it was “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston. Now, I like to watch people do it.

What’s one song that you would want played at your wedding?

Oh my goodness. “Bittersweet Symphony” [by The Verve], maybe? It’s pretty.

What was the first song that you slow danced to in middle school?

It was Usher. What’s the song called? [Singing] “I want to make love in this club, in this club.” It’s so good.

What was the first CD that you ever bought?

Britney Spears’ ...Baby One More Time, the pink and the blue version.

On Her Country Dreams & Why She Can’t Sing Bette Midler Again

Is there an instrument that you wish you played?

I started the violin when I was younger and I never finished learning it, so definitely the violin.

Is there a song that you already never want to play live again?

Probably “My Way.”

Is there a genre that you want to make music in, but you haven’t yet?

Ooh, I love country. I've dabbled in country, but I want to do a pop-country song. A little crossover.

Is there a song that you can never listen to again and why?

“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler. I sang it at my grandma’s funeral.

What is the weirdest thing that you’ve ever written a song about?

End-of-the-world movies.

In honor of that song (“Last Night on Earth”), what would you do if you had one night left on Earth?

If I had one night left on Earth, I would want to eat my favorite meal, party, drink, be with my family and friends, and make love.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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