Celebrities Love This Mississippi 14-Year-Old’s Post-Everything Pop
Prentice Furr is 14 years old. He lives in Jackson, Mississippi. He sings at an extremely high, pre-pubescent pitch. He looks like the sidekick of the protagonist in a coming-of-age production like Superbad or Stranger Things. Yet by streamlining several current trends in mainstream music into two-minute bursts, he has worked his way to the brink of stardom. I would say “what a time to be alive,” but that phrase peaked in cultural relevance back in 2015, when this kid was eight.
I don’t know how much of the industry support for Prentiss is organic and how much has been orchestrated by powerful people behind the scenes, but he seems to be going places. Earlier this year he signed a recording contract with Cinematic Music Group, a mostly rap-focused label perhaps best known for helping to launch Nipsey Hussle, Joey Bada$$, and Big K.R.I.T. His new single “hazel eyes” features prominently on this week’s edition of Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist, alongside superstars like Billie Eilish and J Balvin. He has attracted cosigns from an impressive assortment of artists across the pop landscape, including Justin Bieber, his predecessor in teenage viral fame; Meghan Trainor (via her streamer brother, who discovered Prentiss’ music when somebody played it for him on Twitch and then invited him on for an interview); and Mark Hoppus, whose band blink-182 is shouted out on Prentiss’ breakout single “October.” Remember when the Chainsmokers and Halsey shouted out blink-182 on “Closer”? Prentiss was nine at the time.
“High voice, but you know I’m gonna rock with it,” Prentiss sang on “Rock With It,” his earliest song available on streaming services, which dates to Sept. 25 of last year. He has done just that. “October,” released a month later, sounds like a lo-fi Kidz Bop remake of a Juice WRLD or Lil Peep hit: breathy helium-voiced melody, moody guitar chords, trap beat laced with lurching digital bass. “Pull off in a Bentley/ I know that you miss me,” Prentiss sings on the chorus, never mind that he cannot legally get his learner’s permit until next year. (And you thought Olivia Rodrigo was young.) “Why Should I Care,” another 2020 track, found Prentiss layering his own pre-adolescent wails over the kind of bluesy chord-based guitar riff many of us might have written at 14 after learning how to play “Little Wing” and “Under The Bridge.”
These songs sound like less like groundbreaking pop music than demos a talented teenager would record at home and post online, which is exactly what they were. I like to think of myself as an openminded listener who stays in touch with the zeitgeist, but there are levels of “How do you do, fellow kids?” even I cannot transgress. As a dad who is inching closer to 40 with each birthday, I would be mortified if anyone happened upon me blasting these early Prentiss tracks. It is hard to hear them as anything but novelty. On “Circles,” when a wall of distorted guitar becomes the canvas for the lyric “So tired of this life/ I’ma have to get to bed,” my parental instinct kicks in and I want to make sure he finishes his homework first.
Still, like many teenagers, Prentiss is evolving rapidly. He has since infused his music with traces of pop-punk, synthwave, and hyperpop, the slightly uncanny and futuristic electronic subgenre popularized by the likes of 100 gecs and the PC Music crew. Recent single “thrill of it” races along the same breathless path Bieber and the Kid Laroi charted on “Stay”; it is a wonder his label did not recruit Travis Barker to feature on the track for clout. He comes off like a baby Makonnen on “i’ll do it again,” on which he boasts, “I just broke her heart, and I’ll do it again.” On the EDM ballad-turned-banger “hazel eyes,” he doesn’t have to pitch-shift his voice the way an artist like Katie Dey or Porter Robinson would because it’s naturally up in that register.
If all this is sounding familiar, it may be because Prentiss is not the first young teenager to emerge out of the South with a catalog that seems to boil down most of the mainstream into post-everything pop. His most obvious analog is glaive, the alias of Hendersonville, North Carolina native Ash Gutierrez, who experienced an online breakout last year at age 15. In a Fader feature last November, Colin Joyce wrote that glaive draws on “the vast unpredictable influences of an energetic kid raised on the internet: the bitter beauty of classic Midwest emo, SoundCloud rap’s erratic ecstasy, and the glow stick drip of glitch-pop luminaries like 100 gecs.” It’s obviously youthful material, but compared to Prentiss, glaive sounds like a seasoned veteran on new single “bastard.”
It’s obvious why so many industry people see potential in Prentiss. In the long term, when a kid can throw together music this accomplished before his hormones even kick in, there’s no telling what he could do once he matures a few more years. In the short term, the distance between anonymity and an “Old Town Road”-level phenomenon is remarkably short these days. Cinematic has taken the temperature of a market in which ever younger artists are breaking through — the aforementioned Rodrigo and Laroi among them — and placed a bet on Prentiss. And maybe it will work out for them. Crazier things have happened.
I am nonetheless reminded of a column I wrote in 2014, when Prentiss was seven. The subject was artists who broke through on the pre-TikTok video app Vine. One of them was Lil TerRio, the dancing 8-year-old with the “Ooh, kill ’em!” catchphrase, who had disappeared back into obscurity within a few months. Another was Shawn Mendes, then 15, who now tops the charts and headlines arenas. Prentiss looks and sounds so goofy that it’s easy to imagine him having a brief spotlight moment and then vanishing. On the other hand, TerRio returned from oblivion last year to re-establish himself as a rapper. In the famous-for-being-famous era, maybe this pipsqueak already has it made.
The Kid Laroi situation continues to escalate. The teenage Australian rapper-turned-pop star has reached #1 on the Billboard 200 with F**k Love a year after its initial release. The project has been climbing the charts since its deluxe edition came out last fall, which launched his crossover pop hit “Without You.” It was pushed from #26 to #1 after the release of F**k Love (Over You), a second deluxe version with six new tracks including “Stay,” his hit Justin Bieber duet.
Per Billboard, all versions of F**k Love combined for 85,000 equivalent album units, though only 2,000 of those units comprise actual album sales; streaming accounts for a whopping 82,000 of them. It’s the first album to hit #1 without debuting at #1 since the Frozen II soundtrack in 2019 and the first to reach #1 more than a year after its release since The Very Best Of Prince topped the chart in the wake of Prince’s death in 2016.
After Olivia Rodrigo at #2, Doja Cat at #3, Morgan Wallen at #4, Pop Smoke at #5, and Lil Baby and Lil Durk at #6 comes EST Gee’s Bigger Than Life Or Death, which climbs from #65 to #7 in its second chart week. It was released on a Wednesday, meaning its debut week only accounted for two days of tracking. In its first full week, the project tallied 30,000 units, though again, only 2,000 of those were proper sales. It’s the Louisville rapper’s first top-10 album. Rounding out the top 10 are Polo G at #8, Taylor Swift’s folklore at #9, and Dua Lipa at #10.
Over on the Hot 100, BTS and their fans are back at #1 for a ninth nonconsecutive week with “Butter.” It’s now the longest-running #1 hit of the year, surpassing Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license.” According to Billboard, although “Butter” is only #21 on the Radio Songs chart and #44 on Streaming Songs, it sold another 112,900 copies this week to top the Digital Songs chart for a ninth week.
Thanks to the Army’s aggressive buying strategies, Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow have to settle for a #2 debut with “Industry Baby,” the song that quite obviously ruled the zeitgeist this past week. It’s the fourth top-10 hit for LNX and the second for Jack Harlow, whose previous hit “Whats Poppin” peaked at #2 with some help from a remix featuring the now 😬-inducing lineup of DaBaby, Tory Lanez, and Lil Wayne. Kanye West, who co-produced “Industry Baby” with Take A Daytrip, grabs his 22nd top-10 hit as a producer. The rest of the top 10: “good 4 u,” “Stay,” “Levitating,” “Kiss Me More,” “Bad Habits,” “Montero,” “Permission To Dance,” and “deja vu.” That means BTS, Lil Nas X, and Olivia Rodrigo each have two songs in the top 10.
Silk Sonic – “Skate”
“Leave The Door Open” was cute, but this is the kind of straight-up incredible retro pastiche we as a society look to Bruno Mars for. I am bursting with joy. Get me the Silk Sonic album yesterday.
Billie Eilish – “Happier Than Ever”
A lot of the slower songs on Happier Than Ever are really good as standalone tracks (“Your Power,” “Halley’s Comet”), and I like the slightly more uptempo trip-hoppy stuff (“Lost Cause,” “I Didn’t Change My Number”). Maybe the album will open itself up on repeat listens, if I can motivate myself to dive in for the full experience again. But it sure is fun to think about what a full-on Billie Eilish rock album would sound like.
Pop Smoke – “Demeanor” (Feat. Dua Lipa)
Would love to know how much of this production was in place when Pop Smoke recorded his vocal. Either way, it’s an example of how he could have continued to go pop without losing too much edge.
Mickey Guyton – “Remember Her Name” & “If I Were A Boy” (Beyoncé Cover)
Not that much besides the pedal steel was tethering “Black Like Me” to country music, but: I see Mickey Guyton is attempting to sidestep country stardom altogether and just go straight to the lite-pop crossover.
Rozzi – “Mad Man”
This anti-gaslighting anthem sounds like a hit. Rozzi’s falsetto power move in the last minute is impressive.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Drake says Certified Lover Boy is done and “on the way.” [Twitter]
- Lorde did an episode of Hot Ones. [YouTube]
- Lorde also answered 73 questions for Vogue. [YouTube]
- One more Lorde thing: She’ll play a free show for Good Morning America‘s Summer Concert Series in NYC’s Central Park on 8/20. [1iota]
- Lizzo is in the studio with Mark Ronson. [TikTok]
- Saweetie is the next musician to get a McDonald’s meal. [USA Today]
- Ariana Grande is going to headline a Fortnite concert series. [YouTube]
- Demi Lovato will be a headline speaker the 19th Represents Virtual Summit later this month, along with Michelle Obama and Liz Cheney. Julien Baker and the Linda Lindas will perform. [19th]
- Taylor Swift’s rerecorded Red will include “Ronan,” Ronan’s mother reveals on her blog. [Ronan]
- In other Swift news, she sent a letter and a painting to two paddleboarders who sang her songs while stuck drifting in the sea for 15 hours. [Independent]
- Morgan Wallen made a surprise appearance at a Luke Bryan concert in Nashville. [Instagram]
- Machine Gun Kelly did a surprise side-stage set at Lollapalooza. [Twitter]
- BLACKPINK’s Rosé covered Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” with SHINee’s Onew and AKMU’s Lee Su-hyun. [YouTube]
HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME