Matt Maltese isn’t afraid to pinpoint his own morosity. Despite his charming ebullience, the 24-year-old musician has mastered the art of trapping his own cynicism, analyzing its inner workings under a microscope before infusing these somber musings into his music.
Having experimented with songwriting at a young age, Maltese routinely channels his youthful despondence into illustrative lyrics, identifying a kind of melancholia that is almost impossible to articulate. His first single, “Even If It’s A Lie,” encapsulates the torturous pain of first heartbreak, complete with impassioned vocals and lyrics that relay the desire to be loved.
“(‘Even If It’s a Lie’) is a bit of a sobbing song. It kind of sounds like I’m sobbing when I’m singing it,” Maltese joked in an interview with The Daily Californian. “My heart breaks when I listen back to it just for that person who wrote that song.”
Looking back at his discography, “Even If It’s A Lie” may seem detached from Maltese’s current sarcastic ruminations on contemporary society. Yet, its visceral descriptions of sorrow, particularly in relation to growing out of adolescence, stays true to his refined artistry.
“I feel like maybe I’m a calmer person than I was at like 17,” Maltese remarked. “When something like that happens at that age it does feel like the end of the world, but it’s not, luckily.”
Despite his newfound sense of calm, Maltese rose to fame for, arguably, his most despairing, dramatic track — “As the World Caves In.” Documenting the final night of humanity, the song details a romantic affair between two political figures as the earth crumbles around them.
Yet, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the song has transformed from a solemn depiction of the end of democracy to a swirling, mournful recounting of gloomy feelings spurred on by the global health crisis. The track picked up traction on TikTok, inspiring covers and edits that amassed millions of views.
“Now when I sing it, it just feels quite real, not necessarily in an enjoyable way you know, it just is what it is. I’m glad that people enjoy the song and find comfort in it, but how sad that it’s more real as the years go on,” Maltese reflected. “Love is kind of the only thing we have left sometimes, so I think having a song that gives that to people is hopefully nice.”
Despite the sobering reflections, Maltese’s work isn’t void of humor. Underneath a dense layer of woe, each of his songs oozes with sarcasm and wit. His music carries an inviting sense of self-awareness, as listeners begin to feel as if they are in playful conversation with the artist.
“We live in an incredibly bleak and tragic world a lot of the time, and the moments where you can laugh at things or sort of smile through the darkness, those feel like the best bits,” Maltese noted. “And so I guess that naturally goes in my songwriting.”
It is fitting, then, that Maltese finds joy in a television series like HBO’s “Succession” — a show that amalgamates humor, sadism and solemnity with ease. Given his knack for sprinkling scintillating, quick-witted lyrics within socially relevant ballads, it seems only natural that Maltese’s music should fit right in with the “Succession” canon.
“They are very heartless people and I’d like to think that I’m not, but what (song) would they relate to most … maybe ‘Misery.’” Maltese said, discussing the characters on the show. “I feel like that’s quite a ‘it’s a dark world’ kind of song. I can picture Roman listening to that.”
Though Maltese’s discography may bring the perfervid Roy bloodline to mind, his latest album, Good Morning It’s Now Tomorrow serves as his most optimistic album to date. Crafted during the pandemic, the record celebrates the sedulousness of humanity.
“(Recording Good Morning It’s Now Tomorrow) was amazing, really to be at a studio, but also in that time to have a togetherness, which I think is why it also came out as the most hopeful sounding album I’ve got just because there was a lot of joy in making it,” Maltese said.
Now, headlining a tour around the United States, Maltese shares his sparkling euphoria with eager fans across the nation, grounding himself in moments in which he belts guileless lyrics that vulnerably represent the frustrations of early adulthood.
“I generally have the same headspace that I feel most people in their twenties have, which is this conflicting sense of wanting to enjoy things but then knowing that generations that enjoyed things too much f—ed up the world,” Maltese remarked.
Maltese is sure to continue reaching audiences with his earnest, if sometimes pessimistic, ache for a more empathetic world with the release of his latest single “Smile in the Face of the Devil” and the prospect of a fourth album this year.
“Albums are funny,” Maltese said. “They just mirror you at that time and you know we all change like that and we all have those feelings. I guess the only difference is I’m lucky enough that I get to put it onto something and share it.”