Self-labeled as the “one man boy band,” pop singer, songwriter and producer Ari Leff, known professionally as Lauv, took over the world in 2017 with the single “I Like Me Better.” Currently at over 1 billion streams on Spotify, the track opens the artist’s compilation album, “I met you when I was 18. (the playlist),” which was released in 2018.
Throughout 2019 and the first two months of 2020, Lauv released 10 singles from his debut album, “~how i’m feeling~,” including collaborations “i’m so tired…” with Australian singer-songwriter Troye Sivan and “f—, i’m lonely” with British artist Anne-Marie. “~how i’m feeling~” was released worldwide in early March as many states declared states of emergency due to the coronavirus and Americans were encouraged to stay home.
Even as the worldwide pandemic forces people to stay inside for months on end, Lauv continues to create, not out of obligation, but instead out of love for his work. In the four months following the release of “~how i’m feeling~,” Lauv released music videos, old and new songs, merchandise and has hosted conversations with other artists on mental health.
“Modern Loneliness,” the final single and track on the 21-song album, has been a substantial part of Lauv’s quarantine. He performed it on “Fallon Tonight” the day of the album release, and put out an acoustic version with a video in early April, donating all proceeds to Partners in Health, a Boston-based nonprofit working to provide quality healthcare to vulnerable populations all over the world. On April 16, the official “Modern Loneliness” music video was released, chronicling the artist’s life on his phone. Throughout the first two verses, viewers see Lauv rethink Instagram captions, ignore texts and calls from his parents, swipe on Tinder and attempt to meditate.
But as the song reaches the bridge, Lauv opens TikTok to see all of the fans who dueted the song with him, goes on Snapchat and YouTube to comment on covers, and sends iMessages to his friends that say how much he loves them. The track fades out as he receives a FaceTime call from his mom, which he picks up. The song’s chorus, which features lines like “We’re never alone but always depressed” and “love my friends to death but I never call, I never text” has resonated with fans deeply as social media continues to impact mental health, which Lauv continues to be vocal about in and outside of his music.
On May 30, 2019, Lauv released the official video for “Sad Forever,” the third single off of “~how i’m feeling~.” The video, which shows Lauv performing the song live in the Philippines 10 days prior, includes the story of his prior struggle with both OCD and depression before eventually going on medication.
All proceeds from “Sad Forever” are donated to organizations that work to remove stigma surrounding mental health, all via his nonprofit, the Blue Boy Foundation. Started in 2019, the foundation is “devoted to raising funds and awareness around mental health and the stigma of asking for help” and $1 from every Lauv ticket sale is donated to that effort.
During the pandemic, Lauv has continued to work to remove the stigma around mental health by hosting “Breaking Modern Loneliness: a Conversation on Mental Health” in early May, and launching the episodic podcast “Breaking Modern Loneliness” centered around “all things human relationships, mental health, and technology” later that month. The live show is composed of Lauv and three featured artists on “~how i’m feeling~” — Anne-Marie from the upbeat “f—, i’m lonely,” Sofía Reyes from “El Tejano” and Alessia Cara from the softer “Canada.” They each discussed coping during quarantine and answered fan questions to raise money.
While the podcast, so far comprising three episodes featuring artists mxmtoon and Jeremy Zucker and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, doesn’t entirely focus on mental health, it provides the opportunity for conversations about hard things that many might avoid. Lauv’s dedication to making fans feel less alone is clear, visible through both his mental health work, and in all his creative work during quarantine.
Along with his mental health and fundraising efforts, Lauv has released new and old music since March. In early May, the single “Love Like That” was added to “~how i’m feeling~ (the extras).” The song, which was originally written and recorded in early 2019, didn’t make the final version of the album, but instead joined remixes, and acoustic and stripped songs on the bonus EP. The official music video for “El Tejano” with Sofía Reyes was released later that May, but Lauv made sure to make it clear that the video was recorded pre-outbreak.
More than three months into the shutdown, the “Without You” EP was released in late June. Composed of four songs — including “Miss Me (Demo),” which was released on SoundCloud in early April, and “Dishes,” which came with a single-shot music video — the EP represents Lauv’s passion to create music.
Looking at all of his creative endeavors, it’s clear how much Lauv enjoys his work. Each track on “~how i’m feeling~” is accompanied by an official music video, short film or visualizer featuring the members of the pop star’s “one man boyband” — the different colored versions of him that appear on the album cover.
“You ever feel like there are different versions of yourself inside your head?” he asks in “‘Sims’ [Official Short Film].” For Lauv, there are six: a purple one, “pessimistic and introverted”; blue, who’s “a hopeless romantic”; green, “goofy” and “wild”; a yellow one that’s “free-spirited and uplifting”; the orange “f—boy”; and a red one that’s “a bit spicy.” These different versions of himself appear in the visualizers for the album.
Whether it’s green and yellow in “Invisible Things,” a nostalgic track about carefree childhoods, or purple and orange in “Lonely Eyes,” backing up normal Lauv on piano and drums as he sings about finding someone as lonely as he is, Lauv gives viewers visual representations of his tracks. He invites them to feel everything they feel along with him.
Throughout social distancing, Lauv has shown that music is not work for him; he creates for the joy of it and for the catharsis that comes along with creating. This enthusiasm for his work is contagious for fans, so much so that he created a loungewear set with a popular pun, “live laugh Lauv,” that sold out within hours. His dedication to his fans and his music is especially evident in all of his efforts during the coronavirus pandemic as he creates music for himself to be happy, and then extends that same happiness and escape to his fans.