The excitement hums from the hundreds of teens who fill the Rickshaw Stop, a concert venue, in San Francisco. Screams emerge from the crowd as a girl of small stature appears on stage with a ukulele, in plaid pants and a graphic t-shirt. With her ukulele in hand, mxmtoon has captured the raw emotions of thousands of teens with her songs.
In 2018, Maia, also known as mxmtoon, released her debut extended play, "plum blossom", which received over 100 million streams on Spotify. Teens were enamored by the soft picking of her ukulele and the lyrics that gave voice to emotions about navigating complex feelings.
On October 17, mxmtoon released her new album, "the masquerade,” stating in a press release that she named the album as such because the songs on the album are her uncensored emotions that don’t hide behind the facade of being okay.
“Writing songs was a way to express all the things I couldn’t talk about in face-to-face interactions And share them with a community of people who maybe also needed to put up a façade to get through the day.” — mxmtoon
The new album brings higher production quality and uncharted lyrical territory, yet still maintains the melancholy merit of "plum blossom.”
The album was produced by Robin Skinner, an emerging artist also known as Cavetown, and Maia. Mxmtoon stated that she wanted to work with Skinner, who she said understood where she was coming from.
“I wanted to work with someone . . . who exists in my world and can understand where I’m at right now in terms of this transitional period of being an artist." — mxmtoon
The new album still preserves the same acoustic sound of "plum blossom" — soft vocals with a ukulele accompaniment. Songs like “suffice,” “high & dry” and “my ted talk” maintain the strong ukulele back track; however, mxmtoon's evolution in production quality and sound is evident.
Throughout the album, songs include synths, drums, snaps and even phone sounds, such as clicks from a phone keyboard and calls. According to mxmtoon, Cavetown found iPhone sounds off the Internet to use as “unspoken words.”
In "the masquerade," mxmtoon delves emotional topics with her lyrics. She touches on past relationship — processing why it ended, longing for more time with that person and learning how to be alone after being connected to someone for so long.
In many of her songs, which she calls “rhyming diaries,” she writes about her experiences in high school and the proverbial masks she has to keep people from understanding her true self.
“Prom dress," her lead single which has received over 17,000 streams on Spotify, touches on keeping a façade and being disappointed by her expectations. Mxmtoon stated that "prom dress" was written after she ate an In-N-Out burger and couldn't fit into her dress which caused a panic attack.
“I think it’s so funny and stupid how when you cry, you’re supposed to shut yourself off from the world. So I posted a tweet that said ‘crying in my prom dress,’ and then I made it into a song." — mxmtoon
Her second single, "seasonal depression," brings light to the depression that some people experience in certain times of the year. Mxmtoon stated that she wanted to write a song that embodied the emotions of those who experience seasonal affective disorder and help them get through it.
"I wanted to be honest about the feeling of waking up and having no desire to do anything with your day. Then also maybe help people feel a little better and lighter when they’re stuck in that gray moment.” — mxmtoon
She stated that she hopes "the masquerade" will resonate with listeners and make them feel less alone.
“When I listen to the album, it feels like a musical of the things I’ve gone through and the life inside my head. I hope people come away from it feeling like the songs belong to them too — like now there’s a piece of art in the world that speaks to their own experiences.” — mxmtoon
Mxmtoon showcases various unspoken topics and explores complex feelings about love that typical pop songs seem to ignore.
"The masquerade" is out now and available for streaming or purchase on Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube Music.