Ava Max

Amanda Ava Koci (born Amanda Koci; February 16, 1994), known professionally as Ava Max, is an American singer and songwriter. After moving from several states in the United States to pursue a music career since her childhood, Max signed with Atlantic Records in 2016, where she released the song "Sweet but Psycho" in August 2018. It became her breakthrough single after peaking at number one in 22 countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, and New Zealand. The song also peaked at number two in Australia, and at number 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Max released her debut studio album, Heaven & Hell, in September 2020, which charted at number two on the UK Albums Chart, and at number 27 on the US Billboard 200. Following the release of the album, the songs "Kings & Queens" peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at number 19 on the UK Singles Chart, while "My Head & My Heart" peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at number 18 on the UK Singles Chart.

Ava Max
Max meeting fans in Australia after her appearance on Sunrise in April 2019
Born
Amanda Koci

(1994-02-16) February 16, 1994
Other names
  • Amanda Kay
  • Ava
  • Ava Koci
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Years active2013–present
Musical career
Genres
InstrumentsVocals
LabelsAtlantic
Associated actsCirkut
Websiteavamax.com

Early life

Amanda Ava Koci was born Amanda Koci, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on February 16, 1994.[1][2][3] Max's parents are from Albania; her father, Paul, is from Qeparo and her mother, Andrea, is from Sarandë.[4][5] Max also has an older brother.[3] In 1991, her parents fled Albania after the fall of communism in the country, and lived at a Red Cross supported church in Paris for a year. While in Paris, they encountered a woman from Wisconsin and were given passports by her before immigrating to the United States to reside in the state, where Max was born.[5][6][7] During her childhood, Max often saw her parents struggle to earn an income, as they each worked three jobs without speaking English.[8] Her mother was a classically trained opera singer, while her father was a pianist.[5]

Max moved with her family to Virginia when she was 8 years old, where she was raised in Hampton Roads. While living in Virginia, she competed in numerous Radio Disney singing competitions at Greenbrier Mall in Chesapeake and debuted at the NorVa in Norfolk when she was 10 years old as an opening act, where she performed Whitney Houston's 1987 song "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)".[2] Max often traveled to Florida in order to perform in singing competitions,[7] and began releasing music under the moniker Amanda Kay.[9] At the age of 13, Max came up with the middle name Ava and adopted it as her first name after stating that she did not like being called Amanda while growing up.[3][10][11]

When she was 14 years old, Max moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of a music career at the suggestion of her mother, but was constantly rejected for being underage.[2][6][7] Max relocated to South Carolina a year later, where she began writing songs about relationships she had observed, including those of her brother.[12] She later stated that she was grateful for the move, as it allowed her to experience a normal childhood.[3] During her time in South Carolina, Max attended Lexington High School for a year, where she recalled being constantly bullied.[13] After she turned 17, Max returned to Los Angeles with her brother, who acted as her manager.[14][15] She acknowledged that the partnership "did not work out" due to differences in receiving orders from her brother, and both not knowing anyone in the area. Max's difficulty in searching for producers and songwriters alone caused her to spiral "down a really bad path", which led her to drink at an early age, and survive with 20 dollars a week.[6]

Career

2013–2017: Career beginnings

Max's logo, which displays the 'Max Cut'

Under the stage name Ava, "Take Away the Pain" was released in 2013,[16] which was remixed by the Canadian duo Project 46 in July 2015.[17] After years of having demos rejected and not returned by record producers and songwriters,[18] in addition to sexual harassment incidents,[13] Max met Canadian record producer Cirkut at a dinner party in 2014.[19] Cirkut was also an acquaintance of her brother.[20] Max sang "Happy Birthday" to him,[12][21][22] which led both musicians to work together, writing hundreds of songs and releasing "Anyone but You" on SoundCloud in July 2016.[19] The song gained traction and attracted the attention of various record labels that contacted Max through email, ultimately leading her to sign a record deal with Atlantic Records in 2016.[2][18] Max acknowledged that working with Cirkut changed her life, as she considered leaving the music industry after being creatively stifled.[23]

After signing the deal, she began searching for a last name to use as her stage name, eventually deciding on Max. The name was chosen since it combined elements of being masculine and feminine. From 2016 to 2017, Max adopted her signature hairstyle titled the 'Max Cut', which is seen in her logo as a substitute for the 'A' in Max.[3] On August 4, 2017, Max was featured on the Le Youth song "Clap Your Hands", where she sang two different melodies.[24]

2018–present: Breakthrough and Heaven & Hell

Max performing at the Gothenburg Rix FM Festival in August 2019

Max released the song "My Way" on April 20, 2018,[25] which peaked at number 38 on the Romanian Airplay 100 chart.[26] On May 11, 2018, "Slippin", a collaboration with Albanian-American musician Gashi, was released.[27] On June 8, 2018, Max was featured on the song "Into Your Arms" by American rapper Witt Lowry.[28][29] A month later, "Salt" was sent to SoundCloud.[30] On August 13, 2018, she released "Not Your Barbie Girl" as a promotional single.[23][31] "Sweet but Psycho" was released on August 17, 2018. The song became Max's commercial breakthrough, reaching number one in more than 22 countries including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, where it stayed at number one for four consecutive weeks.[32][33] In January 2019, the song reached the top of the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, and later peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.[34] Max was also featured on the Vice and Jason Derulo song "Make Up" on October 23, 2018,[35] and made an appearance on David Guetta's 2018 studio album 7 on the track "Let It Be Me".[36]

On March 7, 2019, she released the follow-up single "So Am I",[37] which reached the top 10 in Poland, Norway, and Finland.[38][39] A remix of the song was released on July 3, 2019, which featured South Korean boy band NCT 127.[40] The songs "Blood, Sweat & Tears" and "Freaking Me Out" were released as promotional singles in July 2019.[41] On August 7, 2019, Max was featured on the song "Slow Dance" by American singer-songwriter AJ Mitchell,[42][43] and released "Torn" as a single on August 19, 2019.[44] On September 4, 2019, she entered a joint co-publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music and Artist Publishing Group.[45] On October 31, 2019, she released a music video for "Freaking Me Out" as a Halloween special.[46][47] Max won Best Push Act at the 2019 MTV Europe Music Awards.[48] On November 6, 2019, a duet called "Tabú" between Max and Pablo Alborán was released.[49] The previously released song "Salt" was sent to digital streaming platforms on December 12, 2019.[50] She collaborated with British-Norwegian disc jockey and record producer Alan Walker on the song "Alone, Pt. II", which was released on December 27, 2019.[51] "On Somebody" was released as a promotional single on December 30, 2019.[52][53]

On March 12, 2020, Max released "Kings & Queens" as the fifth single from her debut studio album Heaven & Hell (2020).[54] The song topped the Billboard Adult Top 40 on the chart dated December 12, 2020.[55] She also appeared as a featured artist on the country song "On Me" with Thomas Rhett and Kane Brown. It was included on the soundtrack of the 2020 film Scoob! on May 15, 2020, accompanied with a music video.[56][57] Max released "Who's Laughing Now" on July 30, 2020,[58] and "OMG What's Happening" on September 3, 2020, as singles from the album.[59] Heaven & Hell was released on September 18, 2020, alongside a music video for the song "Naked".[60] The album peaked at number two on the UK Albums Chart[61] and at number 27 on the Billboard 200.[62] On November 13, 2020, Max was featured on "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" as part of the BBC Radio 2 Allstars Children in Need charity single,[63] which peaked at number seven on the UK Singles Chart.[64] "My Head & My Heart" was released on November 19, 2020, which served as a bonus track from the digital re-issue of Heaven & Hell.[65] On May 11, 2021, Max previewed an upcoming song titled "Everytime I Cry" on her Instagram.[66]

Musical style and influences

Max has been labeled as a pop[8][21] and dance-pop[67][68] singer. Her music has been compared to contemporary artists such as Sia, Lady Gaga,[33] Bebe Rexha, Sigrid, and Dua Lipa.[69] Max grew up listening to artists such as Alicia Keys, Norah Jones,[12] Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, Fugees,[70] Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston.[71] She has also cited Beyoncé,[70] Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Fergie, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Gaga as some of her influences.[71] Max has stated that Carey is her biggest influence, recalling how she grew up listening to her music on loop,[72] such as "Vision of Love" (1990).[21]

Public image and persona

It was funny, 'cause I was actually experimenting with different haircuts and colors, pink hair, blue hair, all that kind of stuff. Nothing felt like me. One day I cut my hair, my actual hair, cut it on the right side, and I remember I had something in the oven; I think they were chocolate-chip cookies. And I run downstairs without cutting the other side. I run downstairs, and then I'm like, 'Oh my God, [the cookies] almost burnt.' As I'm going [back] upstairs, I see in the mirror my reflection and the haircut, and...I literally tilted my head, like, why does this feel like me? It felt like me, like I had found myself.

— Max on the formation of the 'Max Cut'[3]

Max has often been compared to Lady Gaga for her music and "ostentatious presentation", which includes her platinum blonde hair, persona, and stage name.[3][73][74] Chris DeVille of Stereogum criticized Max's music for being too similar to Gaga, stating that it "falls short in terms of lyrics, production, melody, dynamics, personality, and every other conceivable metric", despite recognizing that the latter was also highly compared to Madonna.[32] Max responded to the comparisons, stating that while Gaga was an "incredible" artist, people should not compare her to other people only for having the same hair color and releasing pop music. Although she described the comparisons as "lazy", she understood that it is "an easy thing to do" after being fascinated with pop artists since her childhood.[75]

Max acknowledged that she often goes against the grain while making public appearances, often seeking designers who are overlooked, and wearing outlandish outfits, as she wants "to give people an experience".[3] She stated that she was influenced by fashion in the 1990s, citing Gwen Stefani and Cindy Crawford as influences.[67] However, Max preferred making music in the studio than appearing in public, stating that she did not like the attention of the fashion and cameras on the red carpet.[8] Her self-cut 'Max Cut' hairstyle consists of her asymmetric peroxide blonde hair parted down the center, with the right side containing a chin-length bob cut, while the left side was longer and wavy.[18] She explained that she did not feel authentic with her normal haircut,[10][13] and that it was about embracing herself and being unique.[12][76] While interviewed by Audacy in 2020, Max described her hair as "symbolic of having the freedom to do your own thing" and a "visual representation of her self expression", stating that it was an escape from conformity.[77]

Personal life

Max has described herself as "100% Albanian" and stated that she wants to give back to the community.[8] She is able to speak the language, but cannot read it.[12] She is also outspoken about female empowerment, which is featured in her music.[70] In a 2019 interview with Attitude, Max revealed that she had been attracted to women in the past but has chosen to not label her sexuality, explaining that she appreciated "when it's about who you are as a person. I don't like people putting me, or anyone else I know in a box".[78]

Discography

  • Heaven & Hell (2020)

Accolades

Awards and nominations

Name of the award ceremony, year presented, award category, nominee(s) of the award and the result of the nomination
Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
2019 Attitude Awards Breakthrough Award Herself Won [79]
BreakTudo Awards International New Artist Nominated [80]
Global Awards Rising Star Nominated [81]
GAFFA Awards (Sweden) Best Foreign New Act Nominated [82]
Best Foreign Song "Sweet but Psycho" Nominated
LOS40 Music Awards Best International Song Won [83]
Best International New Artist Herself Nominated
MTV Europe Music Awards Best New Act Nominated [84]
[85]
Best Push Act Won
MTV Video Music Awards Best New Artist Nominated [86]
MTV Video Play Awards Top 20 Music Videos "Sweet but Psycho" Won [87]
NRJ Music Awards International Breakthrough of the Year Herself Nominated [88]
Teen Choice Awards Choice Summer Female Artist Nominated [89]
Choice Song: Pop "Sweet but Psycho" Nominated
2020 BreakTudo Awards Artist on the Rise Herself Won [90]
iHeartRadio Music Awards Best New Pop Artist Nominated [91]
iHeartRadio Titanium Awards Winning Songs "Sweet but Psycho" Won [92]
LOS40 Music Awards Best Spanish Song "Tabú" (with Pablo Alborán) Nominated [93]
Best Spanish Video Won
Best International Video "Kings & Queens" Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards Push Best New Artist Herself Longlisted [94]
NRJ Music Awards International Female Artist of the Year Nominated [95]
International Song of the Year "Kings & Queens" Nominated
People's Choice Awards New Artist of the Year Herself Nominated [96]
Soundtrack Song of the Year "On Me" (with Thomas Rhett & Kane Brown) Nominated
Spotify Awards Most-Streamed EDM Female Artist Herself Nominated [97]
2021 GAFFA Awards (Denmark) New International Name of the Year Nominated [98]
Hungarian Music Awards Foreign Modern Pop-Rock Album of the Year Heaven & Hell Nominated [99][100]
Premio Lo Nuestro Pop Song of the Year "Tabú" (with Pablo Alborán) Nominated [101]
Pop Collaboration of the Year Nominated
Swiss Music Awards Best Solo Act International Herself Nominated [102]
[103]
Best Breaking Act International Won
Top Hit Music Awards Best Female Artist Song "Salt" Won [104]

Listicles

Name of publisher, name of listicle, year(s) listed, and placement result
Year(s) Publisher Listicle Result Ref.
2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 Placed [15]

References

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