Month: July 2024

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Gundam screenshot
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – this is a thing that actually happened (Activision)

A reader feels that the increasing fantastical crossovers and skins for Call Of Duty are diluting the experience, in a rush to be more like Fortnite.

The easiest way to tell if a game is popular or not is what percentage of players are complaining about it on a regular basis. The higher the percentage, the bigger and more successful the game is, which makes me wary of moaning about Call Of Duty, because I don’t want to come across as one of those sort of fans.

But I’ve just heard about the WWE crossover with Call Of Duty and for me that’s the tipping point. I’m not saying that’s the dumbest crossover they’ve ever done – that’s still probably Nicki Minaj – but there’s been so many completely random additions now, that I feel it’s out of control and it’s becoming impossible to take the game seriously.

They’re obvious trying to copy Fortnite but things started off reasonably fine, with Rambo and Die Hard. But then they went from there to Judge Dredd and Scream, which is a bit more random and not really very compatible with Call Of Duty. But after that things were just off the chain, with Attack On Titan, Godzilla, and Terminator. All of which, I would say, are a terrible fit for Call Of Duty.

After that we got Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then The Boys – most of which have zero need to use a gun, Tomb Raider, Spawn, and He-Man. Doom at least makes some sense but Lilith from Diablo 4 as an operator? I don’t care if Microsoft does own Blizzard, that’s just dumb.

It all seems so random and it’s only getting worse with Warhammer, Gundam, and now WWE. I mean… Gundam?! Call Of Duty is the least anime thing ever and those robots are meant to be, what? 50 foot high or more? How does it make any sense wandering round as one in Call Of Duty?

Modern Warfare 3 was terrible, so we’ve had more things to worry out than silly crossovers lately, but I’m hoping that this year’s Black Ops 6 will be a return to form for the series. What I’m also hoping is that the random crossovers stop.

I do not want to be playing as Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins in Call Of Duty, or whatever other random pop culture icon they drag up next (rumours say Deadpool and Wolverine are next).

Call Of Duty has never been a serious military simulation but I feel it has always kept a good balance between realism and fantasy. It’s grounded to a degree, but it doesn’t let that handicap it, and always puts being a fun video game above everything.

But it has a tone and atmosphere that I think is distinct and it’s being worn away by all these ridiculous crossover that are only in there so Activision Blizzard can make some easy money, which to them is apparently much more important than the integrity of the game.

So yes, I’m moaning about Call Of Duty but I do feel that things are getting worse with every new skin they add. With Black Ops 6 I’d like to see them take a step back and try to stick with the original concept of an arcade military sim, not a wrestling game or a mech simulator.

By reader Xane

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Skeletor artwork
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – do kids even know who Skeletor is? (Activision)

The reader’s features do not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. Just contact us at or use our Submit Stuff page and you won’t need to send an email.

MORE : Deadpool & Wolverine crossover coming to Call Of Duty reveals datamine

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Nintendo Switch console
Should Nintendo make a more hardcore Switch 2? (Nintendo)

A reader hopes that Nintendo will make a Switch 2 Pro device as the opposite to the Switch Lite, with better graphics and no portability.

The reveal of what seems to be a Nintendo horror game this week, was one of the more intriguingly odd stories of recent months. As I write this, nobody is sure what it is or who is making it, but judging by the age rating information it definitely is a horror game of some sort and Nintendo themselves seem to be publishing it.

This is a very strange thing for Nintendo to do, even for a company that owes its entire success to doing strange things. But it does raise the prospect of Nintendo making more adult-orientated games and I would certainly encourage that. Not at the expense of their traditional games but in addition to them. I’d like nothing better than serious, or at least more serious and/or violent, games that maintained Nintendo’s famous level of quality.

But what I’d really like them to do is make a version of the Switch 2 that is not portable and dedicated to high-end graphics. As much as I’m interested in what they’d do with a shooter or a horror game what I’d really love is for a Zelda game, and all their other series, to have state-of-the-art graphics.

The Switch’s Zelda games are fantastic, obviously, but I can’t help seeing open world games on other consoles, like Horizon Forbidden West and Ghost Of Tsushima, and wishing that Zelda looked like them. Its graphics are the best in show so why shouldn’t its graphics be as well?

They do what they can on Switch but it’s an underpowered hybrid console, so there are clear limits, and even a modest increase, as you’d assume the Switch 2 would be getting, would be difficult. So, what I’d love to see is a deluxe version, a Switch 2 Pro if you will, that was the opposite of the Switch Lite: it’d not be portable, it’d be more expensive, and it’d be more powerful.

Nintendo want to keep costs down for the Switch 2 and I get that. It’s a mainstream console, that they want to make tempting even for casual gamers. But given they’re so well off at the moment, why not invest the money needed to make an alternative hardcore machine for older fans?

My understanding is that the PS4 Pro was only around 10% of PlayStation console sales, so these things don’t have to sell billions to be profitable (it must have been profitable or Sony wouldn’t be about to announce a PS5 Pro). Make it an expensive luxury that people know what they’re getting into it for and I’m sure there’d be plenty queuing up to buy one.

The problem is backwards compatibility with the normal Switch 2, and I don’t know what to say about that, especially as we don’t know how powerful the standard model will be yet. But there’s a huge range of performance and graphics options on PC, so I don’t see why it couldn’t be similar on console.

I’d also be happy if some games were Switch 2 Pro exclusives. Maybe that could be the more adult-orientated ones, as Nintendo could assume the high price point was another means of keeping kids away.

I feel that since PlayStation and Xbox have dropped the ball this generation that Nintendo needs to show more leadership of the games industry, including expanding into areas they don’t usually deal with. They don’t have to, it’s not their fault the other two have messed up, but I’d like to see them do it, just because they seem much more level-headed and committed to gaming as a concept, rather than just as a means to make money.

I doubt they’ll do anything I’ve just outlined but then maybe that’s for the best. Never doing what other people think or ask has been the bedrock of their success over the years and they’re probably right not to change.

By reader Gifford

Emio teaser image
What is this mysterious horror game? (Nintendo)

The reader’s features do not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. Just contact us at or use our Submit Stuff page and you won’t need to send an email.

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Xbox logo
Has Xbox paid too high a price? (Microsoft)

A reader is unsurprised by the recent rumours about Xbox and argues that the cost of buying Activision Blizzard have been more than even Microsoft realise.

They say money can’t buy you love and we’ve seen that that’s definitely true for Xbox. In the last few years, they’ve spent over $76 billion (billion!) on buying up Activision Blizzard, Bethesda, and various other developers and their reward for that is… hardware sales lower than the Xbox One. In fact, they’re doing so badly that reports claim they’re just going to give up trying to push the consoles in Europe and just focus on Game Pass and cloud gaming.

The counter to this is that their revenues are up because Activision Blizzard games like Call Of Duty sell really well and now all that money is coming to Microsoft. That’s true, except… they had to spend $69 billion to buy them, so they’ve got to make that much in profit before they even break even. And no matter how well Call Of Duty sells that is going to take a lot of sequels, and well over a decade, before they get even close.

To be honest, I’m shocked anyone higher up at Microsoft agreed to this, since presumably Phil Spencer and co. would’ve had to explain things in great detail, including their predictions of what they thought was going to happen. So why is it that everything that has happened since seems like a sudden knee jerk reaction? They seem to change plans almost every week, with reports of in-fighting over multiformat in particular, which we know for a fact was not meant to be going the way it is.

When Xbox first bought Bethesda everything was going to be an exclusive, there was no talk about going multiformat at all. A few months after buying Activision Blizzard though and suddenly everyone’s in a blind panic, games are going multiformat, and thousands of people are losing their jobs. Was part of the plan? It clearly wasn’t but even if you pretend it is, why has it been unveiled in such a haphazard, amateurish way?

All these sudden changes make it feel like the top execs at Microsoft weren’t really paying attention when the sale first happened and since then they’ve had a proper look at the books and got the shock of their lives. That would explain all the sudden complaints about a lack of growth and having to expand the audience. All at exactly the same time as Xbox sales take a nosedive worldwide.

Microsoft are now one of the biggest video game companies in the world but at what cost? Nobody’s buying their consoles anymore, to the point where it seems they’re happy to let the current gen just fade away and be forgotten.

Their biggest money maker is Call Of Duty, which was multiformat before and is multiformat now. So, what has Microsoft gained from any of this? Especially without any meaningful console sales, the Xbox division has just become Activision Blizzard in all but name. Except for cloud gaming there’s almost nothing they’re doing now that Activision Blizzard couldn’t have done when they were independent.

I believe the rumours of a ‘civil war’ at Xbox, between those that wanted to see things stay exclusive and those that didn’t. I assume the latter also don’t care about hardware sales and are happy for Xbox to become just a service, even though Game Pass is also failing.

Like many I’m nostalgic for the Xbox 360 days, when Xbox seemed to have a unique identity. They were the young usurper, outselling Nintendo on their first try and putting PlayStation on the back foot. Nowadays though they just seem to pinball from one bad headline to the next. Every year they put on a good summer showcase and then immediately after everything unravels for another 12 months.

I don’t see anything of the old Xbox today. Instead, it feels like they’d do or so anything just to make an extra buck, and then immediately reverse their plans a moment later. All that money and they’ve gained nothing. Instead, they’ve lost their direction and their identity, the soul of Xbox has been extinguished and all that’s left is the empty shell of Activision Blizzard.

By reader Ratso

Xbox cloud gaming asset
What is the future for Xbox? (Microsoft)

The reader’s features do not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. Just contact us at or use our Submit Stuff page and you won’t need to send an email.

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Have you or someone you love been a nasty girl this summer? Looking for someone to match your freak?

Well, so has Tinashe, the singer behind the viral “Nasty” hit track and our summer muse. Speaking of inspiration, Urban Outfitters recently tapped the star for the Shift Happens Back-to-school campaign, and PAPER was there Wednesday night at New York City’s Chelsea Factory as the campaign came to life.

After walking through multiple rooms made to inspire design ideas and elicit grins (or maybe that was just the wine and adorable to-go bouquets?), we took some time to chat with Tinashe and ask her firsthand how to survive this scorching summer heat while looking good and keeping it “nasty.” Her answers didn’t dissapoint.

Watch our interview, exclusive shots of her performance (yes… she does the TikTok dance) and get your summer survival guide straight from Tinashe, below.


@Tinashe spills all the tea on her song of the summer, keeping it nasty in this heat and if she’s team edward or jacob at the @Urban Outfitters space shift event 🙂‍↕️❤️

Tell us about your collab with Urban Outfitters. Why did you want to get involved?

This collaboration has been super fun because I built my own “match my freak fort,” which is so cute. I’m still looking for someone to match my freak. Urban Outfitters has been a great brand to collaborate with because they’re super to expressing your individuality, and I feel like my personality could really come through today. So, it’s very cool.

What’s your advice for keeping it cute while still keeping it “Nasty” in the summer heat?

The summer heat is very intense so to enjoy the summer heat while keeping it nasty but keeping it cute at the same time you definitely have to wear some tiny little shorty shorts. These shorts are up my butt crack, but that’s exactly the way it should be during the summer.

Tell us about your new album. What can fans expect?

My upcoming album Quantum Baby is coming soon, August 16. I’m very excited about it. It’s definitely a journey through different genres. I love to play with different sounds and different vibes. I think the old fans will love some of the music that feels very nostalgic as well.


song of the summer queen @Tinashe performing at @Urban Outfitters last night in NYC 😍😍😍 #nasty

What’s your song of the summer?

My song of the summer is “Nasty,” obviously. I have to pick her. She’s just been slaying all summer.

Team Jacob or team Edward?

This is an OG question, but I’ve always been team Jacob since day one. I never really saw the hype with Edward. I just never found his pasty glittery skin attaractive… that’s just me.

Photography: Elvin Abril

It’s impossible to be across all the new music out each Friday. Luckily, PAPER is here to help you out: each week, we round up 10 of our favorite new songs from artists — emerging and established — to soundtrack your life. From the surreal to the sublime, these songs cover every corner of the music world. The only criteria: they all have to absolutely rip.

Subscribe to our Sound Off Spotify playlist here and check out this week’s tracks, below.

Kylie Minogue, Bebe Rexha, Tove Lo – “My Oh My”

Charming and unapologetically silly, “My Oh My” is a perfect late-summer confection, down to Kylie, Bebe and Tove name-checking themselves on each verse.

Metronomy, Nourished by Time – “My Love”

Off-kilter synth-pop that’s atmospheric and catchy, “My Love”’s low-key tone belies a profound hookiness.

Moses Sumney – “Gold Coast”

Moses Sumney’s latest self-released single is diaphanous and funky, even as it remains staunchly committed to minimalism.

Molly Nilsson – “Naming Names”

Big fan of this dewy-eyed power ballad from Berlin-based underground star Molly Nilsson’s new album Un-American Activities, a rich exploration of communism and freedom.

Ice Spice, Central Cee – “Did It First”

Defiant, icily-toned Jersey club from two of the biggest young rappers of the moment, the culture clash between British and American rap creates an appealing friction.

Clairo – “Add Up My Love”

A jubilant highlight from Clairo’s brilliant third record Charm, “Add Up My Love” is filled with small, sweet details that make it feel like a self-contained universe.

Remi Wolf – “Soup”

Dewy, ’80s-indebted electro-pop from Remi Wolf, whose ability to glide effortlessly between genres is remarkable.

Miss Madeline – “OMG”

Miss Madeline takes on liars and cheaters on this goofy, fun electro-clash track.


Madison Rose takes it back to the era of maximalist 2010s EDM with “FALLING OUTTA HEAVEN,” appropriately capturing the genre’s woah-oh-oh euphoria.

Jonah Almost – “Clean Cut”

The latest track from rising New York producer Jonah Almost is a furiously-paced techno rager that speeds by in an instant.

Photography: Ragan Hendersonagan Henderson

A few things I’d like to say about The Beaches: First, their song “Blame Brett,” a fun pop-punk alt-rock ditty about giving up on dating rock stars, is so infectious that it plays in the background of my mind constantly. Two, I once met them at Lollapalooza, Chicago for an interview and they were every bit as delightful as their song. Three, their new track, “Takes One To Know One,” proves that there are more hits where “Blame Brett” came from. We love a track that wades in on the messy vulnerability of love over rising guitar riffs, and, bless The Beaches, they’re happy to do it with a sing-along melody, not to mention the ridiculously well-written lyrical admission: “God, you’re a piece of work/ Oh, it takes one to know one.”

“I wrote our new song, ‘Takes One To Know One,’ about my new relationship with yet another complicated person,” lead singer Jordan MIller tells us about the track, premiering today on PAPER. “In ‘Blame Brett,’ I said that ‘I wasn’t ready to take accountability.’ In this new song I’m finally holding a mirror up to myself and am beginning to see that perhaps I also contribute to the flaws in my relationship, because I’m also a complicated and flawed human.”

The Candian band hope that “when people listen to our new song, they take away that it’s okay to be messy and imperfect.” “Those are the things that make us unique,” Miller adds. “One of the steps to being a happy person is embracing those flaws. And one of the ways to have a happier relationship, is embracing and loving the flaws of your partner.”

The band are set to launch off on tour with dates in North America opening for The Rolling Stones and Greta Van Fleet. For now, they’re just excited to share a fresh song with listeners. “We’re so proud of this new single,” Miller says. “And we can’t wait to keep sharing new music with our fans!”

Photography: Meg Moon

River Moon and LSDXOXO are NYC staples. Wait, are they?

When I referred to River Moon as a “NYC it-girl” last week in PAPER’s LadyLand write-up, it inspired a jubilant response on X. “Omg paper magazine called me an NYC it-girl!” River wrote. “I haven’t lived in this city in 5 years. Period!!!!!!!!!!!!” Okay, so I may be guilty of spreading some light misinformation, but who can blame me when the Berlin-based DJ, producer, artist and meme scholar can be seen gracing NYC stages year-round?

The same goes for fellow Berlin-resident, LSDXOXO, who made his name in our beloved metropolis but has been busy buzzing around the world as both a DJ and performer for years now. With an album due September 13 and a brand new music video styled by Shayne Oliver, LSDXOXO isn’t slowing down any time soon.

That is except to have a quick chat with a comrade. The two DJs and performers have a lot in common, from their mixing styles (genre-fluid, hard-edged, sensual, ever-moving), to both opening for Beyoncé at her Renaissance tour, to now gracing stages under the K Bridge at Ladyfag’s epic pride fest, LadyLand. Needless to say, there’s much to gab about for these two. And PAPER was lucky enough to sit in on their chat, which moved a mile-a-minute, but always stayed the course.

River Moon: Let’s keep it PG. We’re in PAPER magazine.

LSDXOXO: Do you have to be PG for PAPER? I didn’t realize that.

River Moon: Well, [PAPER social media editor] Alaska works there. So I don’t think it’s that PG anymore.

LSDXOXO: But she’s a Disney princess though, so I don’t know about that.

River Moon: This is our first podcast episode. Sponsored by PAPER magazine and Alaska Riley Inc.

LSDXOXO: PAPER gives you wings.

River Moon: I thought they were gonna send us dirty questions [to ask each other], like goofy questions, but this is really professional.


River Moon: I was about to turn PAPER magazine into Toilet PAPER Magazine. [Reading question:] “As friends, what inspires you about the other person’s creativity?” The deepest question out the gate!

LSDXOXO: I think your pen inspires me. Also you are really good at beat selection. I guess as a producer and DJ, that’s something I pay attention to from other artists, when they’re tactful with choosing their beats, because it’s so important. If you want a dookie beat then nobody wants to hear your music.

River Moon: I could do something hot on a dookie beat.

LSDXOXO: I’m going to ask you not to.

River Moon: I just got a dookie beat in my email last night.

LSDXOXO: Okay Ice Spice with your skat fetish.

River Moon: Woah! I told you this is not toilet PAPER Magazine. What inspires me about your creativity is your ear for samples. You would hear something from a movie, like a line from Kill Bill, and you will take that one part and turn it into a whole song. I’m talking about from back in the day, the Tumblr mix days. I’ve been listening to you since I was a child. You would take the wildest sample. I think my favorite one was “CODENAME COTTONMOUTH.” No one else does that. Yeah, producers take things from other songs and that’s cool, but I think your references with film and other media other than music is kind of unmatched. The girls are playing catch up.

LSDXOXO: Why, thank you. I feel like that was bred from necessity because I was not a vocalist back in the day. So I had to create the vocal from somewhere in order to provide a narrative. I didn’t want to be one of the producers that was just dropping beats which is fine, but that just wasn’t what I wanted to do.

River Moon: I also feel like you have ADHD.

LSDXOXO: Clocked! Not a soul can clock!

River Moon: You also told me about the Baltimore club mixtape CDs that you would have. And the Philly club CDs that you would have. I feel like we both pulled from the same cloud, because I had a lot of those DJ K swift mixes that I downloaded from Limewire.

LSDXOXO: Not Limewire! Not Kazaa!

River Moon: What was the other thing called? Napster?

LSDXOXO: I never used Napster. That was for the bros.

River Moon: Okay, I was one of them. We had to make do. I grew up with a bunch of boys in the house and it was Napster. Girl, what’s the next question?

LSDXOXO: When it comes to performing live, which song, track or a moment, gets the fans most excited?

River Moon: I don’t have many live performances. Without having my recording artists music out, I don’t have that much material to perform. But the one that always gets everyone up, like the straight bros, the gays, the girls and the dolls, is “HOT” with Manny Dee.

LSDXOXO: Absolutely. If you didn’t say it, I was gonna say it.

River Moon: Yes, I performed it live for the first time opening for Coucou Chloe here in Berlin. I put it right at the end. The way the club went up for that one. Even when I just play it in a DJ set, people are like, “What’s that track? What’s that track?”

LSDXOXO: The pen was on.

River Moon: The pen was not on! That was completely freestyle.

LSDXOXO: That was freestyle? Then, it was the medulla. The medulla was on. But I think for me, it’s probably, I mean “THE SATISFACTION OF BEING A SICK BITCH”. Whenever I perform that, even if it is just like a stereo mix and it’s not super clean, it just wakes the girls up. It just does something to the people.

River Moon: The crunch!

LSDXOXO: I think it’s the combination of the crunch and the sleaze with the lowbrow techno. It gives the girls what they need. And I think that you and I might have to be performing her for the first time at LadyLand.

River Moon: I love a surprise special guest moment. Do we need choreography for that?

LSDXOXO: We don’t need choreography but you will need a trap door for you to fall through.

River Moon: A trap door? Okay don’t make fall through the thing like Fifth Harmony [at the 2017 VMA’s]. Okay, for those of us making our Pride summer playlist, which tracks should we be adding?

LSDXOXO: I feel like that new “f@k€” by Shygirl ft. Kingdom (VTSS remix) goes so hard. And then there’s this track called, “People Are Still Having Sex” by LaTour. It’s an oldie, but she’s Pride for sure. She’s queening out.

River Moon: That’s for the old queens?

LSDXOXO: I don’t know about “old,” but —

River Moon: Seasoned!

LSDXOXO: It’s for the seasoned girls.

River Moon: What’s your last song? It should be one of yours.

LSDXOXO: “Mutant Exotic” in that case. That’s very much my pride song.

River Moon: You were queening out.

LSDXOXO: People like that from all walks of life. Like my mom loves that song. Because it just gives bad bitch energy. It’s like an affirmation, you know? What about you?

River Moon: I think I’m gonna go really cliché with my first choice, but it’s just the song that brings me so much euphoria.

LSDXOXO: Is it RuPaul?

River Moon: Anyways … it’s “Free” by Ultra Naté. It was one of the dance tracks that my dad played for me. It just opened my world a lot. So whenever I hear that song, it just reminds me of childhood and asking myself, “What does this music mean?” It’s very like gospel-ey. And it’s an affirmation. It makes me actually feel proud about being queer. That makes me feel like we’re united, kumbaya, you know? And my second track is my Leo sister, Dua Lipa, “Whatcha Doing.”

LSDXOXO: Right, her disco slay. Her Donna Summers slay.

River Moon: Right like Quincey Jones and Donna Summer, their spirits were in the room that day when she recorded that. Shout out to Tame Impala. Shout out to Danny L. Harle. They tore. And I guess my last track would be “Hard 2.0” by myself and Only Fire.

LSDXOXO: Fuck it up! The next question is: What was it like for you to open the Renaissance tour? And did you learn anything from that experience?

River Moon: That whole day was such a blur for me. We landed in Houston and went to the hotel. We spent about an hour at the hotel, went to the venue, had an hour of soundcheck and then it was showtime. It was the least nervous that I’ve ever been in my life. I was born to do it. And that was the most people I’ve ever played in front of. And the thing that I learned was that you can do anything. So to me, I don’t remember much of that experience. All I remember is the show. I think because it was so overwhelming that I didn’t have time to process it. Like, I still haven’t celebrated that. That was the first time that my family saw me work with someone that they know, because I work with the underground girls. They don’t know what’s going on in our world. But they know Beyoncé. You know that’s someone who I grew up on. So it was a thing that my mom and dad can finally be proud of.

LSDXOXO: Yeah, I feel that for sure. It’s the same thing for me. It was similar. It was a lot to process. I did two shows so I was in their travel party at some point and it felt very much like a fever dream. Even during sound check, Blue Ivy standing over my shoulder. I don’t need to do anything else in life ever again. But it was so fun. And I mean, as far as learning anything from it: I just learned that Beyoncé is a bad bitch and she could do anything. Watching her perform for three hours straight, not a single note missed, right? Like, she was on. It was commendable, a commendable experience.

River Moon: And I just want to know how her hair stays like that?

LSDXOXO: Girl, it must be witchcraft. It’s sacred.

River Moon: What does it mean for you to be performing at LadyLand?

LSDXOXO: When I left New York six years ago, I set off to figure out what I was going to be able to get in my career. I had the inkling to create an album, but I wasn’t there yet. I’m just happy to be going and excited to see what it’s giving, back in the city with my friends. It’s gonna be a very cathartic experience for me because I did just finish an album.

Photography: Jason Thomas Geering, Santiago Felipe

In June, Simon Cowell announced he would be holding open call auditions to find the next big boy band. In an attempt to capture the lightning-in-a-bottle phenomenon that Cowell once did when he formed One Direction in 2010, the industry veteran encourages any boys ages 16 to 18 to show up and try out.

“Every generation deserves a megastar boy band and I don’t think there has been one to have the success of One Direction in over 14 years,” he says. “It usually takes someone from outside to put a group together.”

It’s true — the best boy bands don’t just appear out of thin air. Throughout pop history, the most zeitgeist-defining boy groups have been meticulously formed and trained like they’re being put through basic combat to serve teen girls (and boys and nonbinary people, of course) all across the country. But with the TikTok-ification of the music industry in the past few years, it seems that pop boot camp ideal has been traded for overnight viral sensations.

A boy band is an ephemeral thing. When that really special one pops up once every decade or so, everyone pretty much knows that they won’t last long. The boy band formula is almost designed so that there’s that initial honeymoon phase, a couple years of chart dominance and then one of the members will shine too bright and break out as a solo artist, leading to the group’s demise. But that’s what makes it so magical in the moment — the subconscious knowledge that it soon will end. It’s all about giving into the fantasy and savoring the boy band while it lasts.

Over here at PAPER, we’re all about submitting to delusional pop culture fantasies. Maybe relatability is over, and it’s time for some mass market pop consumerism again. Below, we’ve put together an anthology of our favorite boy band moments in history.

No. 5: Menudo’s Many Morphs

Menudo were like gay Puerto Rican Power Rangers. I mean, they weren’t even gay, but look at the costumes in this performance of “Cannonball” at a telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 1984. The group was arguably one of the most popular acts in Latin America at the turn of the century and became known for shifting the idea of what a boy band could even be. Formed in the ’70s by music producer Edgardo Diaz, the five-piece group is an ever-evolving entity with new members rotating in and out throughout the decades. Menudo has gone through more iterations than you can count on one hand (a 13-year-old Ricky Martin even got his start with them in the ’80s), and they even relaunched just last year with a Gen Alpha version that hasn’t quite stuck, at least in the US. But that’s Latin American history right there.

No. 4: Backstreet Boys Pave The Way

Maybe it’s controversial that the Backstreet Boys aren’t higher up on this list, but I was always like, Why would I listen to Backstreet Boys when there’s *NSYNC? I do have to give credit where credit’s due, though. BSB came first and were under the same management and label as *NSYNC, sort of acting as their more experienced older brothers. They truly paved the way for the Max Martin-led bubblegum pop that would come to dominate the turn of the century, and that $2.1 million “Larger Than Life” music video is really something. The harmonies and hooks were there, but the natural charisma and raw chemistry wasn’t. Maybe my brain was too Disney Channel-pilled, but even as a kid, I remember feeling like the Backstreet Boys were for older people. The one with the mustache was always a little creepy to me. But respect. And shoutout to Charli XCX’s cover of “I Want It That Way.”

No. 3: The British Are Coming

I can’t just talk about One Direction. I could also talk about The Wanted and the entire early Obama-era context that made the US’s British pop invasion possible. 1D was surely the era’s most glistening stars, though, seemingly AI-generated twinks plucked from obscurity on The X-Factor and shipped off to Western shores to make teen girls quiver. For these five lads, it was less about the mass market and hyper-produced choreography and more about crafting relatable narratives surrounding each member that girls from Minnesota to Mumbai could feel through their computer screens and diligently write fan fics about. One Direction was for the Tumblr Girl generation and truly gave the world hope for the future of boy bands. There was also that one time Zayn did drag in the “Best Song Ever” music video. He was real for that.

No 2: The Jackson 5 Create The Blueprint

It’s safe to say that The Jackson 5 was the effervescent engine behind the modern-day entertainment industry and birthed (quite literally, in the form of Michael Jackson) what the Pop Star with a capital P even is. Joe Jackson also set the stage for the inevitable toxicity and unethical working conditions that unfortunately get tied to a lot of young boy bands working their way up the industry. Still, we’ll choose to look at the positives: The Jacksons were the American Dream. Coming up around the same time as The Beatles, the Jackson brothers were more homegrown and down to clown with full choreo and cheesy, in-your-face poptimism. They taught you how to spell. Literally the fundamentals of family and evergreen euphoria, as fresh as it comes. There will never be another one like it.

No. 1: *NSYNC Takes Us To The Moon

*NSYNC burst the boy band bubble. They really took it there. The discography is unmatched, and the whole package is undeniable from top to bottom. I could point to their performance of “Tearin’ Up My Heart” (one of the best pop songs of all time) at the 1999 MTV Spring Break with a simultaneous beach runway show. Or when they flew through the air like actual angels in the arena during “Sailing.” Maybe I could talk about the perfection that was the concept album No Strings Attached, where every music video carried the throughline symbol of the boys being puppets on a string, a nod to freedom after parting ways with their long-time management and label RCA. But I really wanna point to the music itself, the original ‘Hyperpop’ and a treasure chest of tracks that could, and did, go toe-to-toe with Britney Spears at the time. The songs aged really well and still sound fresh. Until Adele dropped 25 in 2015, *NSYNC held the record for the highest one-week album sales in the country, and it felt deserved. They were doing flips on stage, literal acrobatics, and making sure that they infiltrated every part of your eyes, ears and brain. It was a golden era. I remember running straight to Toys “R” Us and buying the Hit Clip with “Bye Bye Bye” on it. Having these pop gods as a physical cube in my hands was true bliss, and I wonder if we’ll ever have anything like *NSYNC in pop culture again. To be honest, I don’t know if these eBoys have it in them, but who knows? The Poptimist in me is hopeful.

Photography: Getty

Brace yourself, America; Good Neighbours are coming.

The UK band have been bringing their high-octane sets and feel-good tracks to venues worldwide, and now they’re kicking off a fall tour with stops in Toronto, New York City, Los Angeles and more. In February, they dropped their debut single “Home,” which has amassed 200 million streams and counting), made it to No. 26 on the UK’s Billboard Hot 100 chart and found viral success as fans use it to soundtrack their TikTok videos.

Earlier this week, they dropped their single, “Daisies,” a track that, according to Oli Fox, started with a voice note. “It was right at the beginning of when we were writing,” he tells us of the message Scott Verrill sent him. “Usually, I’ll be sending Scott murmurs of me singing. This was the first one he sent, which was basically the first voice melody all the way through to the chorus. It was produced as well. I remember cycling home and hearing it and being like, ‘Fuck, we need to write this as soon as we can.’”

At the time, Fox thought Verrill was saying “I look so good I could cry,” on the track. “I though it was a cool concept if you could flip it to something that wasn’t egotistical,” Fox adds. “Then we found the follow up line of ‘I see myself in your eyes.’ It felt like something really cool I’d never heard before especially sung so unapologetically.”

They wrote it in an afternoon, a chill organic process that you can hear and feel in the song’s production. “Oli totally flipped it into this self-love thing,” Verrill says. “It feels free and euphoric and a lot more uplifting than the music that’s been around the past couple years.”

The band has plans to release an official video, but they decided to share the track with visuals from their live performance, a way to show the world what their fans have been experiencing at their gigs. “People always came up to us after the gig and to say, ‘Wow, that lifted the room.’ It was nice to hear that people had such a physical response to it. We wanted to put that out online to show people a little bit of what a Good Neighbours show looks like. That’s when we’re having the most fun is when we’re on stage. It’s a special experience for everyone who comes to see us, it’s really joyous. I feel like we captured that nicely, especially for the most joyous song of the set. Hopefully more people will want to see us live now.”

“On ‘Daisies,’ we’ve played it and people have already known the words to the chorus,” Verrill says. “We were in Australia playing songs we haven’t released, and people are still singing along.”

Fox describes being on stage as an incomparable moment. “That’s the one time you can feel the love … not through your phone,” he says. “As soon as we jump on stage we hear people screaming and it’s like ‘Oh shit! People really know us not just a username.’”

Speaking of high-energy shows, the band is more than ready to show off their sonic skills in the US. “What sets us apart is sheer energy,” Fox tells us. “We bring a festival show to every stage. It’s bombastic. It’s a house party on stage. Lots of sing-a-long bits. It’s us and our mates from London on stage, we are just having pure fun when we’re out there. Very sweaty and fun.”

Photography: Courtesy of Good Neighbours

“Hold on, you gotta see this,” Philly-born, Los Angeles-based singer Orion Sun tells me. We had been chatting for a long while over Zoom about life, music and weed, and I was politely moving our conversation to a close before she jetted away to grab something. She wanted to show me the artwork for her forthcoming self-titled album, Orion, a hand-painted portrait of her head, colorfully rendered, floating in the water, with a small city landscape jutting out of her scalp and hair. She pointed out its intricate details: the city’s buildings are her thoughts, she tells me. The hair encroaching upon it resembles fog. She pauses for a moment to laugh. “I’m just so excited,” she says. She’s giddy like a child showing their teacher a new collage. “I just love analog.”

That earnest embrace of creation — as defined by all of its joys and challenges — could be felt throughout our conversation, which centered on Orion’s next chapter. Since her self-titled debut, 2017’s self-released A Collection of Fleeting Moments and Daydreams, Orion Sun has helped define a strain of genre-fluid indie music that has one foot in the internet and the other in the dusty sunlit interior of a bedroom studio. Marked by a charming DIY quality, there’s a lovable tactility to her music, the strong sense that the singer and producer you’re listening to is giving you something straight from their hands and heart.

That’s all helped Orion maintain an exceptionally close relationship with her many fans around the world and grow a listenership that is uniquely large for an indie artist. Songs like the pleading “Dirty Dancer” off her 2022 EP, Getaway, or the punchy “Antidote” from her debut have streams in the tens of millions. Her tours sell out rapidly. All of these career milestones are flashy and fun, but they’re only important in the sense that they genuinely allow her to sustain a life in the arts, a life that is, miraculously, rarely, dictated on her own terms. “I never want to conform,” she tells PAPER. “I never want to get into a position where I’m making TikTok songs or making stuff that doesn’t serve me first, selfishly.”

Today, she continues on that self-directed path. She’s announcing her headlining US Rising Sun Tour (dates here), which will bring her around the country, and allow her to finally perform an album that she’s been honing for years. Orion, out September 20th on Mom+Pop, is a continuation of all that’s connected fans to her world thus far. But with the benefit of time and space, Orion is a clear expansion, a chance to reflect on this past stretch of her life, which has been marked by a move across the country, a breakup and a dream-like ascent into becoming a globally known musician.

“Mary Jane,” the second single off that album, released today, ruminates on the push and pull between the desire to express oneself and the strain of being watched. An aching rumination on her long-term relationship with marijuana and its attendant feelings of solace and paranoia, “Mary Jane” is an introvert’s ode to the things we do to feel whole and human.

PAPER caught up with the busy musician to talk about nature, this epic album process, and the joys and challenges of touring the world.

Hey! Thanks so much for taking the time. I’m excited to chat.

I’m very hyped for this. I don’t really like talking on social media, so I really value interviews.

To be honest, that’s quite rare with musicians.

Maybe it’s because I’m such a geek about being an artist. Watching other interviews with my favorite artists has become very valuable not only to my artistry but also to how I shape myself as a human. This is such a moment right now: us trying to figure out social media and the internet landscape. It’s kind of similar to the first person ever to try a dragon fruit. They had to have been so brave because it looks so wild when you think about it. “Like, no, you try it first. Are you gonna die?” You know what I mean? There are a lot of things right now, but blogs, PAPER, just the written language … it’s not going anywhere.

You’re right in the thick of it right now because you’re entering album release mode. How are you thinking about that if you have this trepidation with social media?

It just excites me cause I love learning new shit, and I like to grow. I told myself, I could either get left behind or just try to figure it out in my own way. I don’t think getting left behind is bad per se, but with the goals that I have, it’s not really conducive to what I want to accomplish in terms of creating as much shit as possible before I die. So you gotta get up and be like, Okay, this is weird, but how can I do what I wanna do and feel good about it? Hopefully it works.

It’s very much just like, if this works, cool. But I’m more focused on what feels good and what I want to leave behind. I’m the kind of artist who [believes] everything in time. I’m not planning on going anywhere. I want to do this forever. So let me just figure it out and see where I can take it.

It helps that you have fans who are really committed to your work and have been for a while. People have a really deep relationship with your music and have been for years now.

I’m really grateful. As I continue to grow, I’m realizing I’m speaking to myself, but I’m also speaking to who I’m actually connecting with. It really makes me feel good, because I know when I started writing and getting into music, I always felt alone. So whenever I go on tour, or I happen to see a comment or something where it’s just like, “Thank you. I was thinking this too,” it helps me on my worst day. I have it saved in a little mason jar where it’s just like, “Okay. Don’t lose the plot like. This is why I’m here.” It’s very dramatic, but it’s just like, If I’m not doing this, I could not tell you what I’m here for. So that means I gotta roll with the punches. But whenever I do feel that connection it makes it all worth it, you know?

I was suprised that it’s been so long since you put out a full length album, because you’ve been consistently in the mix with your EP and collaborations. What has the process been like of putting together your first full project in a while?

When I put out my first album with a label, Hold Space For Me, there were a lot of “firsts” in that wave of things. It was just so many eyes on me, and that was the turning point for me, because it was just like, “Oh, I’m not putting it on Soundcloud. I’m just giving it to a label.” I had to re-ask myself, like, Okay, do you want to actually do this? Because fame is not something that I got in this for. I actually think that will be one of my biggest battles in terms of it not changing who I am or making me disgusting and weird.

I just want to express myself. There’s something about being able to create songs and then go out and sing those songs. When I hear them back I’m just, Okay, I’m ready to tackle anything, including myself, to make sure that I can do it again. I had a sneak peek of working with other people with my EP, but this album was the first time that I did that with a full-length project. I was meeting so many people, trying to figure out who the right fit may be, finding the right vibe. I’m so sensitive, so it has to be perfect for me. And that just takes time. It was a lot of pushing through doubt. I wanna make good shit. I’m happy with whatever I make. But there is an added pressure that I can’t deny when you get to a certain point in your career where you are thinking, “Where are these things gonna be played? Who’s even listening?”

I was sitting down like, “Okay, all I have to do is show up every day. If I make something cool, cool. If not? Also cool, but at least I showed up.” I was doing that for a couple of years. And I had to sit down too, and be like, Hold on, I can keep making shit forever. I know I have something here. So at the end of last year, I sat down with everything over the course of a couple of years and carved out this story of what I was going through at the time, which was a breakup and finding myself again.

It’s interesting when you break up in your mid-20s. You were dating since you were 21, so there’s a lot of growth that has to happen, because I was just kinda chilling, not experiencing real life in a lot of ways. So it was also dealing with that, and juggling my personal growth with my musical growth. And that’s why I wanted it to call it Orion, because it really feels like my first project. I know who I am more than I ever have before. To the point where I feel like a child. The last time I felt like this, I had to have been like six or seven, just very curious about the world, wanting to try everything. That really is the process. A lot of thinking, a lot of pushing through. And I allowed myself to have a little bit of fun, too. But I did kick myself in the shins, cause I would have been done way earlier.

I’ve only heard the two songs so far, but I’m loving how it still feels connected to your old work, but still definitely like a progression. How are you thinking about shaping the sound of this next chapter?

Going into this, I knew it was important to build upon the world that I already had. I do notice that a lot of artists that are relatively “new” — even though I’ve been doing this for a while — drastically change their sound or direction, kind of like David Bowie, which I love. But I knew that I was in this for a really long time, so I wanted to just kind of stretch that out. My main concern was like, Okay, I want people to know the name. I always joke like I’m on a Key and Peele skit with the substitute teacher, where he’s like, “Hey, A-aaron.” I get people saying my name like “oh-rih-on” and want to make a statement that it’s “oh-rye-on” and just make what feels right.

You were largely in LA while you were making this?

Yeah, I started in New York. “Already Gone” was written in New York, but I was just feeling claustrophobic. I wanted that city to work for me so bad, being from the East Coast and idolizing that city so much. But it just wasn’t conducive to what I needed. I needed to heal. I needed to breathe and grind differently, and New York was just very loud and bustling. I realized I love to visit there, but come home to Los Angeles. And it just felt right. You know, it was really the people. I’m still not used to seeing mountains every day. You are a product of your environment. I really do feel like it’s changed me for the better.

I know that nature was a big part of this album. Did the natural landscape of Los Angeles find its way into the project too?

Nature is definitely a through line in all of my projects, only because I’m very connected. I have to be present to even be tapped into what I’m feeling. It’s almost like magic where I could be having the worst day and go for a walk out here. It’s just different [from New York], too, because you can walk out here and not see anybody. It’s just something about seeing the ultimate creation as a creative.

It gives me inspiration every time, and also grounds me cause I think this is the most pressure I felt with the project because of the long time since the last project. You just never know if people are gonna fuck with you. It only matters to me because I wanna live off of this. I don’t genuinely care if they like the shit. It’s just like: Can I pay my rent? [laughs] I never want to conform. I never want to get into a position where I’m like making TikTok songs or making stuff that doesn’t serve me first, selfishly.

This interview is coming out with “Mary Jane.” And I’m super excited for that song. I’m listening to it at the exact right time, because I used to be a stoner and am thinking a lot about my relationship to marijuana right now. I know it’s also a metaphor, but I’m just curious what you were thinking about when you wrote the song?

I wrote that on tour in 2022, because I had lost my wallet in Toronto, and it really shook me for some reason. I’m just like, I don’t lose that.I don’t really lose things in general, even though everyone was like, “This happens.” But I was just like, We’re on tour. I’m super stressed. It’s my first headline tour, and I lost my wallet. So I was just feeling down, and I was in the band with other stoners too. But all eyes were on me and I was super nervous being on tour. I wasn’t smoking, and I remember looking over, being like, I wish I could [smole] in this moment, because I hate this feeling.

And then I got back from tour, and I was able to sit with it for a little bit. It made me think about my coping mechanisms and just how I get through life. [Weed has] just held me for so long. I remember being really grateful for it, because when I couldn’t talk to anybody, when I didn’t want to talk to anybody, but I knew I had to be here still to see this life through, it got me through. But the more I started having more responsibilities, or just having to socialize more, and not be this hermit that just tinkers away in the studio, it began to betray me, and I was really sad about that, because I was like, Well, what do I do now? I guess I have to talk to my friends about my problems, to step out in the world and be a person, even though it feels safer to just be in my little weed bubble. So when it gets to the bridge of the song, it’s about everything I have to face when I’m not smoking.

So it’s a lot of fear. Even thinking about it moves me, because weed in a lot of ways hyperdrives through that paranoia so I can just get to the other side and be like, I’m exhausted [raises her arms in exasperation and laughs]. It’s that tug and pull, and you’ll see as the album progresses, my relationship with it, because I had to take a break. But when I do take a break: now I have nightmares. It’s just the battle with it being a good thing for me. But I love that song, because it’s like, Please work for me still, because I don’t know how I’m going to navigate this part of my life without it?

You mentioned tour being stressful. This is also gonna come out with the announcement of your next tour. What’s your relationship with tour now? Has it changed?

Thank God for growth, right? I mean, shout out to my fans that continuing to support me, buying my merch, buying these tickets, streaming my music because I’m able to grow my touring team. So my most recent tour was opening for Daniel Caesar and I had tour management. The more you grow, the more you can make it comfortable for yourself by having people looking out for certain things, because things get wild.I’m not the kind of artist that’s like, I don’t want to see my fans. I don’t care if there’s no setup for the meet and greet. If they want to meet me, if they went out of their way to contact my tour manager or one of my bandmates, I’m going to pop out. But that can be dangerous.

And I just don’t want to ever become just a product. I think my fans understand that I’m very human. I post when I wants to, or when something’s coming. I want to be a human first, product, second, like I’m self aware enough to know that I am both things. But on tour, it’s elevated right? They don’t give a shit. If you’re tired, they don’t care if you’re talking to this person. They want a picture. Now, you have to just really learn how to navigate all these different mirrors right?

Like, I don’t see separation between any of us. I look at them, I see myself, and I hope they look at me and see themselves whether they’re black or not, whether they’re a woman or not. I take all of that into consideration, and I think I put that on myself and make touring difficult, because outside of that, it’s really fun.

I see something new almost every day [on tour]. And being the introvert that I am, that’s so important for me. Thank God for my job because I’m still healing from trauma. It’s not really natural for me to be like, “Let me go to Paris today.”

I get to see the world and come back to tell my friends, tell my family, who might be more afraid of the world than I am, you know? and it gives them hope. You’re an inspiration, like, I want to leave my block. I want to leave my hometown. That moves me.

Photography: Eric Johnson