Greyson Chance Walks Tall in “Boots”
Having gone viral at 12, the YouTube sensation is all grown up.
As 22-year-old Greyson Chance knows, the life-cycle of a pre-teen YouTube sensation is short. After striking viral gold at age 12 with a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” the Oklahoma native became an early social-media success story, leveraging internet traffic and daytime-TV appearances into original albeit jejune material like “Unfriend You” (co-starring a burgundy-haired Ariana Grande). But at 17, Chance decided to put music on pause, pursuing a degree in, of all things, Byzantine Empire studies.
Nowadays, Chance bears little resemblance to the squat boy-next-door who ruthlessly unfriended Grande. Having come out as gay in 2017, latter-day Chance is a vampy pop prince, specializing in authentic, subtly subversive pop. In March, he released his full-length album portraits, made up of self-penned, lyric-driven bops.
For his latest song and video, “Boots,” Chance upholds his vow of authenticity. Harnessing his Okie cred, Chance good-naturedly claps back at what he describes as the “post-Lil Nas X” propagation of cowboy-inspired fashion. “Don’t wear the hat just because you think it’s cool,” he tells us. “Don’t say you’re a cowboy because you have a hat on. That’s what the song is about.”
Here, we chat with Chance about boots, bar fights and Lady Gaga.
VMAN Hi Greyson! Can you tell us how your viral “Paparazzi” video came about?
GREYSON CHANCE There was no plan behind the craziness [of that video]. It was just a talent show, which my dad recorded so my mom could watch it later—she was out of town at the time. I chose [the song] because I really liked it, [even though] my piano teacher thought it was a total waste of time—she hated it!
VMAN Did you ever get a chance to meet Gaga?
GC I [still] feel connected with Gaga, because she’s been truly the only person that will always answer the phone. She’s been a mentor to me for 10 years. And you know, I think she’s seen me go through a lot in my career, and she’s always encouraged me to keep studying and keep working and keep on putting my head down. She’s always been there for me when no one else has been.
VMAN What kinds of topics or themes were you most excited to explore, once you’d started independently writing your own stuff?
GC [After I left college] I devoted myself to a year of just writing and telling my own story. Like, [about] how I felt on my first date with my [ex-]boyfriend. I thought about what it felt like to throw a glass at him in my apartment. And [how] I kind of wish sometimes that he wouldn’t have [ducked] [laughs]. There was no specific theme that I was searching for… I just knew that I wanted to stay authentic to my life and I just wanted to write about it.
VMAN How would you articulate what “Boots” is about, in a nutshell?
GC “Boots” is an observation about pop culture, I think—about this sort of over-utilization of western-wear. My friends from Oklahoma and I would just kind of laugh at people our age wearing these vintage Wrangler jeans that probably cost $150 bucks… I’m not trying to claim anything, but there’s so much more that comes with [that]. It’s about an attitude—it’s about loyalty, and a wildness. So it was just like the song was born out of just constant conversations with my friends about things that we just thought were very inauthentic in pop culture… If someone wants to correct me, put a cowboy hat on and throw a punch in a bar and then I might be like, “Okay, yeah, you get it. You understand it.”
VMAN Have you ever thrown a punch?
GC I have. I’ve been in a few fights.
VMAN What happened?
I’ve been in three fights in my life… The first few were when I was younger… Fuck Matthew Randoff, he called me a “faggot” on the playground. But the most recent… I saw this guy trying to spike my friend’s drink at a bar. I just threw a punch and then got the shit beat out of me… I would never condone violence, but this was in the name of justice… Yeah, it was a good, [justified] bar fight.