The Dove Cameron Renaissance Is Upon Us

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

The Dove Cameron Renaissance Is Upon Us

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Sometimes I feel like I’m missing a pop cultural chip because I never had the Disney Channel growing up. One time, many years ago, I was interviewing for a pretty high-profile job at a major pop-music website. I wanted that job so badly that for the edit test I 100% researched and faked a lifetime’s worth of knowledge about Demi Lovato, who I had never seen on Camp Rock or Sonny With A Chance, just like I had never seen Miley Cyrus on Hannah Montana or Selena Gomez on Wizards Of Waverly Place. (I ended up getting the job, so my 24-hour crash course paid off in the end.) This is all to say that I still have a note of being out of my depth any time I go to discuss a Disney or former Disney star crossing over into the mainstream conversation, simply due to the contextual history I grew up not having.

On that note, let’s talk Dove Cameron! If you’re like me and you are hopelessly out of the loop around all things Disney Channel, then the 26-year-old Cameron may be a newer name on your radar. At the moment, Cameron is blowing up via a song called “Boyfriend,” which just hit #1 on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart. “Boyfriend” is also hovering at #34 on the Hot 100 after peaking last week at #31. It has nearly 7 million streams in the US and 1,500 downloads in its first tracking week, according to Billboard and Luminate. Looking at Spotify, “Boyfriend” has more than 180 million streams, and it similarly went viral on TikTok, where it was used in over 580,000 videos in the weeks after release.

“Boyfriend” is a notable achievement on a few levels: It’s an openly queer pop song by an openly queer pop artist, who tells a same-sex love interest that she “could be a better boyfriend” than her current man via smoky, Billie Eilish-like vocals. “Thinking I’m gonna steal you from him,” the chorus continues. “I could be such a gentleman/ Plus all my clothes would fit.” The song’s noir music video features Cameron seducing and making out with a beautiful woman in a club and a phone booth, and it’s not pandering, male-gazey, or queer-baity. Everything about it feels very authentic (while simultaneously transporting you to a fantasy dimension), and that’s probably the vibe fans are picking up.

“Boyfriend,” in every respect, is a pivot from Disney content in the traditional sense. Historically, Disney stars are signed to the Disney-owned Hollywood Records and release chaste, teen-pop records before eventually making the leap to more adult pop stardom. A clear diversion, though, is Olivia Rodrigo, who signed with Interscope Records and Geffen Records in 2020 and skipped straight past teeny-bopping on debut album Sour. By the same token, Cameron signed with Columbia’s Disruptor Records label in 2018.

So much leading up to Cameron’s Columbia signing was pretty Disney-core: Beginning in 2012, Cameron — who is from Bainbridge Island, Washington — was cast in the Disney Channel comedy Bits And Pieces, which was later renamed Liv And Maddie. The show’s plot kind of hybridizes Hannah Montana and The Parent Trap, with Cameron portraying identical twins where one is a successful Hollywood actress and the other is not. The show ran for four seasons starting in 2013.

That same year, Cameron released a cover of Imagine Dragons’ “On Top Of The World,” which became her first entry on the Billboard Kid Digital Songs chart, peaking at #17. Later in 2013, she released a song called “Better In Stereo” via Walt Disney Records, and it ultimately became her first #1 hit on the Billboard Kid chart. Another #1 kids’ single, “Count Me In,” followed in 2014.

What’s interesting about this time is that while Cameron was churning through the Disney machine, in 2015 she appeared in her first non-Disney role — a teen action-comedy called Barely Lethal, which also starred Hailee Steinfeld, Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Alba, and Sophie Turner. (Side note: Who knew A24 produced teen movies?? That’s kind of amazing?) It’s a pattern that would continue for years, Cameron keeping one foot in the Disney world and the other in the broader Hollywood landscape.

In the middle of her run on Liv And Maddie, Cameron scored a lead role in a major Disney Channel film franchise called Descendants (not to be confused with the 2011 George Clooney movie). She also contributed songs to its soundtracks, which have consistently charted in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, including a #1 debut for the first installment in 2015. “Rotten To The Core” and “If Only” from that first Descendants soundtrack peaked at #38 and #94 respectively on the Hot 100. Cameron also did a cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie In A Bottle” for a related short called Wicked World in 2016. Descendants — about the teenage kids of famous Disney villains like Maleficent and Cruella de Vil — was so successful that it spawned sequels in 2017 and 2019 plus a CGI animated short-form series.

At the mid-2010s height of her Disney era, Cameron formed a band with her then-boyfriend Ryan McCartan called the Girl And The Dreamcatcher, but they only released one EP, 2016’s Negatives, before splitting up.

Aside from Disney stuff, Cameron has popped up all over the place, appearing on NBC’s Hairspray Live! (2016), a Hollywood Bowl production of Mama Mia! in 2017, the Netflix film Dumplin’ (2017), and even played Cher Horowitz in a stage adaptation of Clueless. In a Disney-adjacent move, Cameron had a recurring role in the fifth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and voiced Gwen Stacy in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man Vs. The Sinister 6. She’s also voiced an Angry Bird and appeared in — oh, let’s see — Shameless, The Mentalist, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Apple TV’s Schmigadoon!, and will play Bubbles in the forthcoming Powerpuff Girls TV reboot.

With so many screen credits, it was easy to lose track of the smattering of songs Cameron has been releasing since her two-song EP Bloodshot / Waste in 2019. But suddenly, with the release of “Boyfriend,” she’s developed a foothold in the pop mainstream to go along with her well-established acting career.

Something Cameron said in a recent interview resonates with me, and I think offers a peek into why she’s been successful, at least with “Boyfriend.” “…I wasn’t creating [‘Boyfriend’] for anybody else. It was me and my producer pal Evan, very intimate, shoes were off, you know. And so when I was like, ‘plus all my clothes would fit’ we were just trying all these cheeky little lines and things that I said offhanded conversationally. I think the reason they sound so comedic and almost like a little wink is because that’s the kind of conversation you have with your friends, right? They were never really intended to be heard by anyone, which is why it’s really changed my creative process. The things that you write just to please yourself are going to be what ended up resonating with a larger group of people, which is the opposite to how most people, myself included, create.”

Maybe this sounds too simple, but I do think writing for yourself, as opposed to keeping an audience in mind, can act as a special sauce. At the very least, it means that you’re self-assured, which really helps when trust-falling into the total chaos that is pop stardom. Between her writing philosophy and the snappy, seductive “Boyfriend,” I think Cameron’s on to something.

Eric Rojas

CHART WATCH

Chris DeVille here as usual with your weekly chart update!

Bad Bunny boasts the biggest album debut of 2022 so far with Un Verano Sin Tí. Per Billboard, the album launched with 274,000 equivalent album units including 12,000 in sales. It’s the Puerto Rican superstar’s second chart-topping album and also the second Spanish-only album to ever hit #1, following Bad Bunny’s own 2020 release El Último Tour Del Mundo. And with the simultaneous debut of Eslabon Armado’s Nostalgia at #9 with 29,500 units, there are two exclusively Spanish-language albums in the top 10 for the first time.

After Future at #2 comes a #3 debut for Jack Harlow’s Come Home The Kids Miss You with 113,000 units including 8,000 in sales. It’s his highest-charting album, surpassing the #5 peak of his 2020 debut Thats What They All Say (the title is missing an apostrophe; yes, it bugs the shit out of me). After Morgan Wallen at #4 and Olivia Rodrigo at #5 comes a #6 debut for Arcade Fire’s WE, which moved 32,000 units including 26,500 in sales, making it the bestselling album of the week. Lil Durk is at #7, Encanto is at #8, the aforementioned Eslabon Armado album debuts at #9, and Drake is at #10.

Over on the Hot 100, Harlow’s “First Class” climbs back to #1 for a second nonconsecutive week, followed by former chart-toppers “As It Was” by Harry Styles at #2 and “Wait For U” by Future, Drake, and Tems at #3. Next comes a trio of tracks from the Bad Bunny album: “Moscow Mule” at #4, “Tití Me Pregunto” at #5, and “Después De La Playa” at #6. His Chencho Corleone collab “Me Porto Bonito” is also in at #10, making this only the seventh time an artist has debuted four songs in the top 10 in the same week. According to Billboard, it brings Bad Bunny’s career total to eight top-10 hits overall. It’s the first visit to the top 10 for Chencho Corleone. This is also the first time four Spanish-language songs have been in the top 10 simultaneously.

Glass Animals’ former chart champ “Heat Waves” is hanging around at #7, followed by Latto’s “Big Energy” at #8. Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” rises to a new peak of #9, fueled by a TikTok dance craze, giving Lizzo her fourth top-10 hit. And with that, I’ll hand the keyboard back to Rachel for the rest of the column.

POP FIVE

Post Malone – “Cooped Up” (Feat. Roddy Ricch)
Posty sounds right at home on this moody, hazy cut from the forthcoming Twelve Carat Toothache. Ricch’s verse — a rumination on fame and fortune — is particularly poignant.

Noah Cyrus – “Mr. Percocet”
“You’re only kind when you’re all fucked up/ You’re only mine till your high is gone but/ I wish you’d still love me when your drugs wear off in the morning.” Oof, hit me right in the gut with these lyrics, Noah Cyrus! Love the twisty vocal manipulation here too.

James Bay – “One Life”
This is a sweet bit of schmaltz from Bay, who croons about his longtime girlfriend, Lucy. That said, it’s no “Amazed” by Lonestar, which is my personal high water mark for wedding-dance mush.

Måneskin – “Supermodel”
“Alone at parties, she’s working around the clock/ When you’re not looking, she’s stealing your Basquiat/ Low-waisted pants on OnlyFans, I’ll pay for that/ She’s a ’90s supermodel.” OMG, these lyrics. I have so many questions. Is this meant to be about a literal ’90s supermodel? If so, how do you justify the OnlyFans reference? I don’t care, consider my belief suspended.

5 Seconds Of Summer – “Me, Myself & I”
This is my favorite cut so far from 5SOS5, even though I think it could stand to be a little longer. Also, dig the Midsommar flowers overflowing through Ashton Irwin’s drum kit in the video.

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • In his first TV talk show interview, Jack Harlow talked to Jimmy Fallon about his awkward viral Met Gala encounter with Emma Chamberlain. [YouTube]
  • Twenty One Pilots’ Tyler Joseph told KROQ he was commissioned to write a new song for Top Gun: Maverick, “then I believe Tom Cruise just came in and just fired everyone.” [Music News]
  • Drake’s producer Noah ’40’ Shebib is the subject of new documentary. [YouTube]
  • Dua Lipa told Vogue her new album is half-written. [Vogue]
  • Kylie Minogue teased a Peggy Gou remix of “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” for Magnum Ice Cream. [Instagram]
  • Justin Timberlake made a surprise cameo in his wife Jessica Biel’s new series Candy. [Instagram]
  • Ed Sheeran released a new remix of “2step” with Budjerah. [YouTube]
  • Shawn Mendes partnered with Tommy Hilfiger on a sustainable clothing line. [Twitter]
  • ROSALÍA released a video for “Delirio De Grandez.” [YouTube]
  • J. Cole attended the college graduation of a fan whose high school graduation he attended years earlier at her request. [Complex]
  • Owl City remixed Smash Mouth’s “All Star.” [YouTube]
  • Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Eilish, and Olivia Rodrigo are among the artists lending their names to a full-page ad in ‘The NY Times’ condemning the Supreme Court’s plan to overturn Roe v. Wade. [Twitter]
  • Drake joined Dave onstage in Toronto. [Line Of Best Fit]
  • Charli XCX will play a concert in Roblox on 6/17. [Samsung]
  • Cardi B slammed the NYC strip club DJ who misidentified her as Nicki Minaj, as seen in a viral video, and he released a social media apology. [Power 1051]
  • Camila Cabello and Maria Becerra released a video for “Hasta Los Dientes.” [YouTube]
  • Alexander 23 and John Mayer covered Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” in Boston [YouTube]
  • “I feel like it’s one of my missions in life to let everybody know about Ted Lasso,” writes JLo in her latest newsletter. “Every time I meet someone new, I just say ‘have you seen Ted Lasso!?’” [Twitter]
  • OneRepublic shared a new song “I Ain’t Worried” for the Top Gun: Maverick soundtrack. [YouTube]

CLOSING TIME

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