Constructing Expectations: La Politique des Auteur
Every work of art speaks to some part of its creator. Sometimes, that is intentional – the artist intends to say something and send a message out into the world through their work; other times, that message is almost accidental, the product of subconscious drives that the artist may not be totally aware of. It’s clear that Nasri – talented producer, prolific lyricist, passionate musician and self-entitled “fire starter” in the recording studio – thoroughly considers what he wants to say with his music and how best to say it.
When Nasri Tony Atweh was one year old, he had a habit of dancing around and singing whenever he heard the sound of music. It may not be remarkable or noteworthy that a young child enjoys music. However, there was something about the way in which baby Nasri engaged with music that gave his parents pause. The baby's enthusiasm was not like that of other children. There was something different about it – an intensity, a zeal that one rarely finds in one-year-olds.
Now, as a Grammy-winning songwriter/producer and one half of the writing/production duo The Messengers, Nasri has written songs for the likes of Justin Bieber, Pitbull, Christina Aguilera, Iggy Azalea, David Guetta and Shakira. However, he is best known as the lead singer of MAGIC!, the reggae-fusion band that burst into the music scene in 2013 with their chart-topping smash “Rude.”
Nasri gives off an air of effortless chill. Talkative, easy-going, vegan, sporting a five o’clock shadow, he doesn’t appear to be all different from what one would normally expect the L.A.-based “No Way No” artist to look and act like (except that he doesn't often wear a suit – contrary to what you may expect). However, beneath the cool and laid-back surface, there lies an idiosyncratic mind in tandem with an energetic, introspective soul as music is his ideal creative medium to explore his deepest feelings and to communicate his inner truth to the outside world. Nowhere is this dynamic more evident than in MAGIC!’s latest album, Expectations, released this past September. He admits that the album is “definitely leaning more towards me emotionally than the other albums where we’d all kind of sit together and make records,” and that he wrote most of the lyrics for the album on his own because he felt so protective of his idea. Unlike MAGIC!’s previous albums (Don’t Kill the Magic and Primary Colours), Expectations is firmly and unabashedly Nasri’s brainchild, the artistic representation of the 38-year-old singer’s own musings and anxieties. “Compared with the other albums, [Expectations] is the most lyrically interconnected and personal. The lyrics, it's about me at a certain time when I was contemplating what was important in life and realizing that love is most important and that all of the stuff that I'm doing doesn’t come with me when I die,” he opens up, adding that making the album was “almost like making a solo album in a band, being totally expressive from one person’s standpoint and everyone supporting that expression.”
In addition, Nasri brought his vision to life as a director and filmmaker for music videos for the album, such as “Kiss Me” and “Expectations,” despite not having any previous experience as a filmmaker. As a matter of fact, he taught himself how to edit film during a weekend by watching online tutorials while alone in his room to make sure that the final product was faithful to his vision and artistic expression.
It’s easy but totally unfair to see him as a self-important, self-absorbed pretentious artist who micromanages his band’s creative process because he takes himself way too seriously, and, by his own account, his authority over the development of his creative vision was sanctioned by his bandmates – guitarist Mark Pelli, drummer Alex Tanas and bassist Ben Spivak – who went along with Nasri as he grabbed the creative reins of the project (“They were really patient with my vision”).
That said, though, Nasri (who recently worked with Cash Cash on “Call You”) is still aware that music is a communal effort, and despite his creative control over the album’s theme, tone and vibe, he was careful not to shut himself off from his bandmates during the process of creating Expectations, and made an effort to draw them into his vision and make them understand his intentions and see what he was seeing. “We were able to find ways to kind of put the band in there,” he elaborates. “A lot of times, with this album, I was making a bunch of it on my own, and calling them and saying, ‘Hey, I have another idea,’ and then, when we collaborated, everyone put the parts that they wanted to put in.”
With the pleasant, casual relationship that MAGIC! has established with their sizable fan base, Nasri genuinely wants to release music that they enjoy and are able to relate to. But, more than fame, which he claims not to chase, he wants recognition, not only on a professional level but also on an artistic and personal one – he wants to have his true inner self be known to others and understood. “This album wasn’t really written like a band – it was written like an emotion,” he shares, making sure to offer everyone a clear window into his mind and emotional state.
Writer: Monica Dias
Photographer & Videographer: Brandon Andre
Photographer Assistant: Preet Christian
Stylist: Roman Sipe
Men’s Grooming: Benjamin Terry
Editor: Eiko Watanabe