Taylor Upsahl, better known as UPSAHL, is one of the brightest new flames in the onslaught of fresh talent to emerge from the depths of 2020. At just 22 years old, the Arizona native can already boast a host of recognizable bops, more than 100 million streams, two EPs, and a viral TikTok hit, “Drugs,” which has been used in well over 2 million videos as of this writing (and has been used on the platform by the likes of Jason Derulo and James Charles). But the ingenue is only just beginning her music takeover in 2021.
Coming off the acclaimed release of her most recent EP, Young Life Crisis — an excellent if not a bit short sophomore effort, filled with terrific hooks, hot lyrics, and plenty of bad-bitch synthesizers; listen to the slinky “Sad Sorry After Party” for some thrumming good times — UPSAHL is back with a new single and music video entitled “STOP!” Singing about a beau she’s so hot for that her heart might explode, UPSAHL shows us just how pent up her sexual energy has become coming into 2021. Written two years ago, well before COVID, when having multiple sexual partners at once was all well and good, “STOP!” still reflects the current times; no shot in the video has more than a small handful of people in it, and the vibe is more yearning than reactive.
“I’ve lived with the song for two years, so now it means a whole new thing to me,” UPSAHL tells us. “Being in quarantine, trying to date. It’s been cool to have a song that started off based on one thing, and now that I’m basically a completely different person, it takes on new meaning.”
Currently in the midst of working on her first full-length album due later this year (from home, of course), the now LA-based babe caught up with LADYGUNN to chat about “STOP!,” being a sex-positive role model during lockdown, and how TikTok virality is affecting both Gen Z and her own life as an artist.
Hi UPSAHL! How is your quarantine going these days?
Well, for a couple of weeks I was with my parents back in Arizona. And it was cool for a sec. I was like, “Oh, my mom’s making dinner every night, this is fuckin’ great!” But then I got over that. Haha! I was like, “I need to go.”
Totally. Parents can be a lot, especially right now. So let’s start with the “STOP!” music video. What’s the story there?
The energy of the song is, “my heart’s beating so fast I’m running out of breath.” It’s that anxious feeling you have when your significant other or whoever it is, is on their way over… and I wanted to embody that feeling, not only in the song but in the music video. So we shot a lot in the pool because we were like, “how do we make people feel like they’re literally like running out of air, via video?” So being underwater made sense. It’s breathless vibes.
Who were the people you’re with in that car?
The story is: I’m hanging out with my two friends, we’re having a chill day. But, of course, I’m third-wheeling, because clearly, they’re together and totally obsessed with each other. So that gets me kinda jealous and also really horny, I need somebody to come over. So, me and my two friends are at this pool, doing our thing, and I’m waiting for my fuck buddy, slash significant other, slash whatever the viewer wants him to be.
And whose idea was the vodka shot-infused blue slushie? That’s a personal 7/11 favorite of mine.
Iconic! I love that. Tsarina Merrin, our director, she’s a badass. She was like, “I want you to be in the back of the car with a big blue slushie.” And I was like, “Can I spike it?” She said, “Even better!” It was funny. We wanted the consistency of a real slushie, but it would melt throughout the day. So we put a whole block of cheese into it with more food coloring. It was a mixture of the grossest stuff, and I’m holding it trying to pretend to drink this concoction that smelt like cheese. It was the worst, but we did it for the shot!
It looks real!
“STOP!” is obviously about being so hot for somebody that your heart’s about to explode. Did you have someone in mind when you were writing it?
Yes, I wrote it years ago when I was with somebody that I was totally obsessed with. And it was during a time where I was touring a bunch, too. So anytime I would come back into town, the excitement of getting to see this person after two months would get me super riled up. It was fun. I’ve lived with the song for two years, so now it means a whole new thing to me, being in quarantine, trying to date. It’s been cool to have a song that started being based off of one thing, and now that I’m basically a completely different person, it takes on new meaning.
Speaking of being stuck inside, do you think this extended time being stuck inside has made people more or less horny?
Are you kidding? I feel like everyone’s like, I would fuck anything at this point. For me, it’s actually been a pretty empowering experience. I went through a breakup in quarantine, and it was an interesting experience not being able to go out and party and forget about my problems like I usually would. I was forced to deal with my feelings. And it’s been a cool way for me to look inward and kind of date myself.
What’s it like being a sex-positive artist during COVID, since we’re in a time right now where physical promiscuity is actually dangerous?
It’s perfect timing for me because I just want to focus on myself anyways. I put out my song “12345SEX” at the beginning of quarantine, which is half about sex with someone else and half about masturbation. And masturbation is really where we are right now, that’s what everyone is doing anyway. And there are so many females putting out dope shit right now… I mean, the biggest song this year is “WAP.” So I actually am feeling super empowered, even if it doesn’t involve somebody else, you know?
Speaking of 2020, it wasn’t actually a horrible year for you, career-wise. How do you think being quarantined has affected your own creative output?
It’s definitely changed a lot because you can’t really get into the studio anymore. So I’m just making music on Zoom. But I have more time to focus, instead of rushing to and from sessions and running around LA all day. I have more time to dive in on the production end, which has been really fun. I’ve learned to track my own vocals, so all my new songs we recorded in quarantine. In some ways, it’s been a very freeing experience for me as an artist.
Also in 2020, your song “Drugs” went super viral over TikTok. What do you think about TikTok in general and as an artist?
Well, are you like me? Do you look up and suddenly realize you’ve been scrolling on TikTok for, like, hours?
I actually don’t have TikTok these days, and I don’t have the app downloaded.
Honestly, that’s smart and something I should try to do too. It really is a black hole. Literally, you blink and you’ve been on for two hours. But I feel like it is this platform filled with people who just literally don’t give a fuck, which is really exciting. I think Instagram is so filtered. Everyone’s showing off the best version of themselves. On TikTok, you can roll up with no makeup and just talk about some shit that went down that day. And people are like, yeah, girl, me too. It’s really a positive for the most part, and just a really unapologetic form of social media. So as an artist, it’s fun because not only do people fuck with my music on the app, I feel like people get to see another side of artists that they normally don’t see on other social media.
Do you think TikTok is more or less sex-positive than other platforms?
I feel like TikTok is definitely pretty sex-positive as an app. You have all these super hot body-positive women, posting the hottest videos and everyone’s like, “yas queen, we love you!” And it’s supportive. You’ll see people going on and talking about their hookups and crazy sex stories, which is great. There’s definitely a dark side to it, there’s definitely trolls. But fuck those guys. From my experience, and from what my For You Page looks like, it is very supportive and people are on there to have a good time.
I think every social media platform has its positives and negatives, and most of them give you back what you put into them. The algorithms remember what you’re actually tapping and looking at, so if you’re looking for, say, mental health support, and you seek that kind of content, then that’s the kind of content you’re going to be given.
How do you think the pandemic has affected your fellow Gen Z-ers?
I have a lot of hope for my generation. I actually think we’re pretty cool! For instance, “coming out” used to be such a big deal. But for Gen Z, it just isn’t. I think we’re open-hearted and open-minded. We’re also unapologetic, and we don’t really give a fuck about our differences, which I love. Obviously, again, there are bad sides to everything, but I think we’ll be okay.
Do you think 2020 has only made us stronger?
For sure. A lot of my friends are seniors in college right now and trying to figure out what the hell they’re gonna do with their lives now. But watching everybody make do with what they have and find new ways to work and new ways to hustle and still live their best lives during a time where we’re all alone most of the time, has been really inspiring. I feel like everyone’s gotten at least a little stronger from this… I know we’ve all had our share of mental breakdowns in 2020. But I think we’ve all learned from our experiences. I definitely have!
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story / Alex Blynn
photo / Maya Fuhr