It has all the trappings of a classic New York story.
A young kid from Hell’s Kitchen equally enamored by the bright lights of Broadway and the booming spirit of everyone from Billy Joel to James Brown quietly grows into a platinum-selling pop force of nature clad in a sequin jacket as loud as his voice. That kid is now pop sensation MAX.
His Big Apple stomping grounds invariably impacted a meteoric rise from busking in Central Park with a ukulele to electrifying late-night television and stages worldwide.
“Living in New York, I’ve always been surrounded by the city’s energy,” he affirms. “You feel it when you walk in the subway. Somebody’s playing music everywhere you go. That seeps into who I am. Every bit of my being has soaked up the different, diverse vibe that is New York. You can’t step outside of your apartment without interacting with people. I’m really grateful for that, because it instilled a belief in human connection within me.”
MAX makes a connection with everything he does. Following tours with the likes of Fall Out Boy and Wiz Khalifa and the breakout success of “Gibberish” [feat. Hoodie Allen], his 2016 full-length debut, Hell’s Kitchen Angel [DCD2 Records/Crush Music/RED MUSIC], yielded an inescapable smash in the form of “Lights Down Low” [feat. gnash]. Not only did the single generate a half-billion streams within two years, but it also earned a platinum plaque from the RIAA, featured as a Snapchat lens, and soared to #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, Top 5 at Top 40 radio, #1 on Shazam, and #1 on the Billboard Adult Pop Radio Airplay Chart. Moreover, he delivered seismic renditions of “Lights Down Low” on The Late Late Show with James Corden, Live with Kelly and Ryan’s After Oscar® Show, Good Morning America, and TRL, to name a few.
Billboard labeled him among the top pop stars to watch in 2018 as Pepsi sought him out for its Sound Drop initiative whose previous alumni include Lukas Graham, Alessia Cara, and Khalid. At the onset of his dynamic career, he made headlines in a Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign alongside Madonna and appeared in films such as the Beach Boys biopic, Love & Mercy, in addition to Law & Order: SVU, Crisis, and more. Meanwhile, he graced tracks for everyone from 3Lau, Audien, Whethan, Illenium, Noah Cyrus and Matoma.
Along the way, he crafted his 2018 second full-length, House of Divine. Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the more personal moments on Hell’s Kitchen Angel, MAX opened up more than ever. “What people loved about ‘Lights Down Low’ was the story,” he goes on. “I’d never been more honest. It just clicked. I only scratched the surface on Hell’s Kitchen Angel though. I’m taking even more risks on House of Divine. I wanted to be as authentic as possible whether it was about losing people in my life or just who I am. The new music continues to dive deeper into spreading a message of being true to who you are, wearing what you want to wear, loving who you want to love, and being accepting. High energy and my voice are the consistencies. I called the albumHouse of Divine, because I want my records and concerts to feel like a home for people where they can be their truest selves and find acceptance.”
The first single “Still New York” [feat. Joey Bada$$] brings listeners to the heart of his hometown. Over a kinetic beat, he makes a proud declaration as a New Yorker between bars from Brooklyn’s own Joey Bada$$. MAX’s dynamic delivery and traffic-stopping range immediately attract the spotlight.
“I spend so much time on the road, but I always rep New York everywhere,” he goes on. “I’m a diehard Knicks fan. I’m a giant Yankees fan. I’m a fan of everything that is New York. It’s not only an ode to my city, but a way to keep NYC in my heart wherever we go on the road. My Hell’s Kitchen tattoo is a symbol for me to make sure I carry the message of diversity and love I grew up with everywhere.”
In the end, that message echoes throughout House of Divine.
“I hope the album means something to people,” he leaves off. “I hope it speaks to their own personal stories. I’m at the service of the amazing fans who accept my music into their lives. I hope it brings them joy and elevates them to an emotional place that they’ve always wanted to get to.”