How Leonelle Is Bringing Back The Pop Music Of The Early 2000s
Nothing gets the club going like a throwback track — think Usher’s “Yeah!” or Britney’s “Boys.”
But, what if today’s music had the same upbeat tempo, singalong lyrics, and early 00’s vibe that we all love?
Pop artist Leonelle cites Britney Spears as her biggest inspiration, and her goal is to make pop music cool and fun again. She’s started doing just that with her latest release, “Push,” a play on Salt N Pepa’s 80’s hit “Push It Good.” The music video reminds us of an early Britney with a modern twist, and the beat will be stuck in your head all day. We talked to Leonelle about pop music’s glory days, which Instagram trends need to die, and which drugstore beauty products are worth your time.
You were born in NYC, but raised in Ohio. Do you think that you always had a bit of the city in you?
Definitely. I’ve always been told that I was, and I considered myself to be, a big fish in a small pond. I had big dreams and lots of confidence and ambition when it came to pursuing my music career. A lot of kids in school wanted to be lawyers or doctors, but I knew my destiny was to be an artist. I was also always breaking the rules and trying to stand out. Seems like a city trait? Lol. My immediate family and I went to the city often each year to see family. I loved it; the culture, the noise, the fashion, the ambition. So yes, I think that the city still lives within this small town girl.
We saw that you rocked an Ohio State bomber jacket in your “Push” music video, what do you miss most about where you grew up?
Not having any real responsibilities and being around my family. Moving to LA right out of high school, life got real, fast. So I definitely appreciate the fun that I had and the zero fucks that I gave growing up. I had a great childhood and my parents are to thank for that. When you grow up around loving and supportive parents you feel free and empowered to do what you love. I wanted to show people who Leonelle is through “PUSH,” since it was my debut, so I felt it was only right to include the town that raised me.
You’re super inspired by 2000s pop legends, specifically Britney Spears, what’s your favorite song of hers? How about music video? Why?
To pick one song is hard and it changes depending on how I’m feeling. For a while, “Sometimes” was my favorite. Right now, it’s “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” in part because of the music video. Before shooting my video for “PUSH” I watched the making the video for “Crazy” and it inspired me. I love the choreography, the energy, and overall; the entire performance aspect. I aspire to emulate that same energy for my shows and videos. It’s so fun and theatrical. I’ll be putting out an acoustic cover of that on youtube.com/iamLeonelle shortly!
What male pop star from the era did you used to have a crush on?
Usher! For my 12th birthday, my parents took me and a few of my girlfriends to see him live. Kanye and Common opened for him. Looking back at it, that was such a dope concert. I remember pulling into the stadium parking lot and freaking out like an obsessed pre-teen because I was “breathing the same air as Usher.” I also loved Justin Timberlake and was obsessed with the actor, Paul Walker (RIP). Don’t let me forget Shia LaBeouf back in his Even Stevens days!
What was the first album you ever purchased?
NSYNC’s “No Strings Attached.” I love that album! NSYNC was also my first concert.
What’s the most difficult part of being a female artist in today’s music industry?
I used to think I had to look a certain way, to sing a certain way, to be a certain way if I was going to make it in the music industry. That was a lie my head told me, which I know now symbolized my fear of failure. Not comparing myself to other artists (looks, talent, and timing) has been a difficult yet freeing part of my journey. In a world where every picture posted is chopped and screwed, and validation comes from how many likes you have on Instagram, it’s most valuable to me to maintain my own identity and love myself no matter what.
What’s your secret for your perfect blonde hair?
As a prior brunette, going blonde in steps and being patient along the way was key to maintaining a healthy head, not to mention using certain products to protect my hair. My hair, slowly and without bleach, was lightened. It took some time before getting this blonde. The last thing I want is to damage my hair. Today I make sure to use color safe shampoo (L’Oreal Vitamino Color) as well as a purple shampoo (Davine has a great one) to keep my blonde from turning ashy. I also use Kerastase Nectar Thermique after washing my hair to moisturize and protect my hair from heat damage. As a struggling artist trying to stay on a budget, hair products can be a bit pricey, but they last a long time and are so worth it!
You seem to be rocking a natural look in many of your Instagram photos, what are your favorite “barely there” beauty products?
I always make sure to cleanse, tone and moisturize (with SPF) before applying makeup to get that fresh look. Beauty Counter products are currently my favorite. They’re safe/all natural products [that] keep my skin feeling so nourished and hydrated. In my everyday routine, I typically only use Lancôme under-eye concealer, a sexy golden shadow by Stila, Cover Girl eye liner from the convenience store, mascara (Rimmel London), Anastasia’s eye brow wiz and a good bronzer (currently loving one by Too Faced). For lips, I like to use Anastasia’s Pure Hollywood liquid lipstick as a base then add Mac’s Matte Viva Glam lipstick for a good berry color. I keep it pretty simple and basic. I usually don’t use a foundation, but if I do want a more polished look, I’ll use a tinted moisturizer. Right now I’m using one by Dr. Dennis Gross. I like to keep it healthy and natural when off camera.
The beginning of your video for “Push” bears resemblance to an 80’s hip hop video, what aspect of the 80’s would you want to bring back today?
“PUSH” was inspired by the original “Push It” record by Salt N Pepa. I wanted to make a fun, high energy dance record and “Push It” was the perfect platform to create that. Back then people were [actually] dancing to records. Our generation is slowly bringing that back with dances like “The Milly Rock” and songs like “Finna Get Loose” by Diddy and “Ain’t Your Mama” by J.Lo, so that’s awesome to see. I love fashion from the 80’s as well. The hats, oversized jackets, and gold chains are some of my favorites.
What’s a current trend that you wish would die already?
When girls post pictures of themselves in waist trainers! Or promoting those skinny detoxing teas. It seems so staged!
What’s the creepiest DM you’ve ever received?
Unfortunately, a dick pic. Phony lines like “I’ve never met you before and you’ve never met me, but we could change that.”
What do you think today’s music scene needs more of?
Some fun, high energy records. That feel of the late 90’s early 00’s pop music. I feel like it’s actually starting to come back now, which is great timing for me and my project.
What’s next for you?
I like to stay where my feet are and focus on what’s in front of me. Right now, I’m focused on getting my record, “PUSH” out there! I believe in it. But stay tuned for more music as well. Over the last few years I’ve built a catalogue of music that I’m very proud of. I’ll be releasing about one track at a time on a monthly basis as well as an EP, which will come out around September of this year! You can stay updated by following me on my main social network, Instagram, as well as liking my Facebook page.