“I want to be positive, I don’t want to be destructive, but sometimes all I feel, sometimes all I feel, is…. FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU!” In her latest track, “Los Santos”, Mavi Phoenix lines up targets, addresses frustration, and deploys the cleanest sounding dirty word in a rapid tirade of spit.
Los Santos is a real city in Spain. Los Santos is also the location of one of the best-selling video games of all time. In Grand Theft Auto 5, the city is based on modern day Los Angeles. It’s a place of toxic culture, violence, miscreant sex, dark comedy, and brilliance. Here Mavi Phoenix is playing more with the hyper-reality experienced via a video game, than she is documenting life in the sleepy Spanish town.
The Austrian lo-fi hip hop / pop artist is also taking tipping herself at the world of online interactions, and the odd collapse of community from within community. “Los Santos” represents a place where the best intentions become corroded by the disingenuous, mistrusting, and maddening behaviors of strangers without faces.
Mavi Phoenix explains that this is her response to the bullies that occupy all areas of life: “Bullies are present everywhere in our lives, from the playground to adult life. I think the Crookers’ remake of ‘Los Santos’ strengthens my message not to care too much about it, show them the middle finger and keep on doing your thing and live your way”.
Since dropping her highly regarded Young Prophet EP in 2017 Mavi Phoenix has been developing a sound that’s best described as acid-pop. All the tools of conventional dance-floor fillers inform her approach. Peeling back the surface of overly sharp sugar, these straight-from-the-box synths, beats, and vocal treatments build to create something other-worldly.
At the core of her lyrics, here and elsewhere, Mavi Phoenix exposes herself as a soul of some sensitivity, but as an artist who digs heels into the issues that cannot be backed away from. Sure, she may be telling the broader population to go fuck themselves, or shove things up their collective anus, but you’ve got to believe me; she’s saying all this from a place of deep and genuine affection for the higher values of life.
In one regard it appears as if Phoenix is aware of the disposable nature of pop art and the commodification of her sound, and in another regard she seems utterly determined to die on a hill of decency – reconnecting community, culture and soul.
HURRY – LISTEN – MAVI PHOENIX
PHOTOGRAPH BY SUZANNE KOENIG