Photo by Broderick Baumann
Over a decade into his career, Greyson Chance is, somehow, still considered underrated. Those who know him only as “that kid from Ellen” – referencing the viral piano cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” that made him famous as a tween – are missing the many vital layers of a man who has forged his path in the music industry almost entirely on his own. That Gaga cover alone showcased Chance’s impressive and disciplined musical prowess at just 12-years-old; if done right, he could have been positioned as a Joey Alexander or Jackie Evancho-type in the world of pop music. Instead, he was discarded when his five minutes of fame seemed to be over, and, after a while, he decided to leave the music business and go to college. Eventually, he made his comeback with 2019’s portraits, a record that could almost be considered a modern classic by indie-pop standards, and one that would reinvigorate his career as a musician. He went on the road to perform the album, and displayed his intense and magnetic onstage persona, bursting with all of his bottled-up emotions, aggression, and angst.
Now, at the end of 2022, a year riddled with both setbacks and triumphs, he’s back with his deeply personal new album Palladium.
The record is a vocal and lyrical showcase for Chance, highlighted by tracks like “Mercury Year,” “Aloe Vera,” and “Homerun Hitter,” but the album’s centerpiece is, undoubtedly, “My Dying Spirit.” Suitably placed at the tail end of the album, the track soars like a Kings Of Leon arena anthem. Chance growls, yells in exuberance, cracks, and emotes to the extent of his capabilities as he sings about the demons he’s faced that have tried to take him down, but, ultimately, he defeated. The video for the track is a gritty, erratic counterpart, showing Chance struggling through multiple stages of grief that cause him to quickly sift through emotions and temperaments. One minute, he is despondent; the next, he is sexually charged; the next, he is consumed with anger.
“I knew I needed to be very vulnerable,” said Chance, who wanted to be able to grab the attention of “a very critical listener” with the song. “I needed to paint a picture that was truthful in the way that we all feel in those moments. When you’re looking at yourself in the mirror saying, ‘I’m never going to heal this bulls***. This is who I am, this is what we’ve got.’ So I think I just started out with that song from a very raw place.”
Chance had his heart set on shooting the video on 16-millimeter film and said he would “sell his soul” to find the money in order to cover the costly demand. “So much of my art I find meaning and purpose in retroactively,” said Chance. “I don’t know why I was so adamant about wanting the video to start in a support group, but I knew it had to be that. It was a grueling 48 hours shooting that video, but I think it’s probably one of the videos I’m most proud of, if not THE video I’m most proud of.”
Many comments under the video commend Chance for his vulnerability, and some even share their own stories of pain, loss, and moving forward. This isn’t new to Chance, who is no stranger to acting as a vacuum for others’ pain, but even now, still doesn’t take the responsibility lightly. “When I was a kid, I had this record called ‘Waiting Outside The Lines’,” said Chance, eliciting a big, nostalgic smile from this writer. “You listen to the lyrics of that song, or read them… I didn’t write the song, but it’s brilliant. It’s about how, ‘You’ll never enjoy your life living inside this box,’ taking risks, all these things. Even as a kid, other fourteen-year-olds would come up to me and say, ‘That’s resonating with me because I’m being bullied in middle school right now.’ Now, when I’m on tour, it gets a little more serious. I never feel uncomfortable in that conversation. I feel more so relieved and encouraged that I’m able to contribute something to the world that is maybe going to help someone through things. For me, as a consumer, music is something that has always been able to be there for me… as I’m getting older, I’m realizing that art is the best vice, the best drink, the best smoke, the best drug. It gives me a sense of, ‘OK, you’ve gotta be strong for not only yourself, but for these people that are coming to your shows, and that are listening to this. I love that I’m able to contribute something positive.”
2022 was an eventful year for Chance, who, in an interview with Rolling Stone, told his unfortunate side of the story of his time under the eye of Ellen DeGeneres, who put him on the map after seeing that “Paparazzi” cover all of those years ago. It was a shocking revelation, and was something he said he did not want to address again, but felt that it was the right time to come forward. He also went out on his Palladium Tour, but didn’t make it through unscathed. A nasty skin infection put him in a hospital bed for several days, forcing him to reschedule two dates of the tour. Once cleared, he finished the remaining dates.
The tour itself was his first since COVID, as he had decided to postpone a tour in support of his 2021 record Trophies. Chance explained on social media that going back into the studio to create what would become Palladium led him to the difficult decision, as he did not feel that Trophies was an accurate representation of him as an artist at that point in time. “I postponed that tour because I did not feel 100% in the music,” he said. “That shows you how much growth I’ve had as a person, and as an artist in my career. I was able to say ‘I’m not 100% there for this, so I’m going to put my foot down and do what’s right for me.’”
Trophies is a solid eight-track record, highlighted by “Holy Feeling” and “Nobody,” but listeners would not have known that, due to signing to a major label, Chance was pressured by the powers that be to do what they wanted, and had to beg for certain songs, like “Hands,” to be included. Another track on the record, “Hellboy,” a gay club anthem, was an example of the label’s influence on his work. “’Hellboy’ is the worst thing I’ve ever been a part of as an artist,” said Chance, who said he was feeling “unhinged” enough to talk about it openly and humorously. “That song is a good example of what happens to queer artists at major labels. Older white people, both men and women… straight people, go, ‘Ah, THIS is what’s going to work with those freaks.’ That was right at the TikTok surge, so you have 40 and 50-year-olds making me get on conference calls every week, telling me, ‘Hey, this is what your fans are going to like… this is what is going to happen.’ But, when I was able to finally start directing the ship creatively again, that’s when all of my numbers started going back up. That’s what I was pleading to these people, going, ‘You don’t get it! You are in a f****** office. Let an artist be an artist. Let ME tell you… I see my fans every night when I play to them, so let ME tell you what they want to hear.” That determination and fierceness led him to Palladium, but he is not stopping there.
Chance remains politically outspoken about things that are important to him, such as queer rights and reproductive rights. He also took a stand in a recent election for State Superintendent in Oklahoma City, OK, where he currently resides, to attempt to make a difference in his local political scene. “I’m encouraging people to stick up for themselves,” he said. “If you don’t like what I’m saying, don’t come to my show. I’m fine. I will do absolutely OK without you.”
As far as music goes, Chance, with his constant and unwavering work ethic, has already mapped out what will likely be the next few years of his career. “Palladium, I think, is really just the beginning,” he said. “I think the next two to three albums will likely be the best of my career when you look back on them because this is a moment in time that is very important to me to show people who I really am as an artist taste-wise and visually-speaking, too.”
You can stream “My Dying Spirit,” Palladium, and the rest of Greyson Chance’s discography on Spotify.