There are plenty of singers on YouTube. But most of them aren’t like Alus, a 20-year-old from New Jersey with a voice like Aaliyah and an eye for cool music videos. She chatted with OKMagazine.com about setting herself apart from other pop singers, and how she maintains that brilliant red hair.
OK!: How did you get your start in the music industry?
Alus: I’ve been singing ever since I was a kid. My parents say I was singing before I was talking. I did that whole theater thing as a kid. I was 11 when I started training my voice in opera and Broadway. All through high school, I used to take the bus into the city. I didn’t tell my parents! I would go in with a headshot and a resume. I’d be like, hi, I’m Alus, I’d like to sing for you! I was really hungry. I auditioned for Warner Music Publishing, and I sang “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.”
OK!: How would you describe your sound?
A: I like to call it urban pop. It’s reminiscent of the people I grew up listening to. I love the divas—Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Diana Ross, Janet Jackson. I love Billie Holiday, if we’re going to go way back. I also like Aaliyah. I incorporate all of that into who I am. I am a ’90s baby, you know. They all do that soft tone, whispery thing when they sing.
OK!: And you write a lot of your songs, which makes you different from most pop singers. What inspires your lyrics?
A: Real life experiences. Usually boys! I would call them men, but they’re boys because you know… that’s how they wind up in the song! Because they’re boys, and not men. “Relapse” is the most recent song I released on my YouTube channel. That was about a real-life situation, a toxic relationship I was in. It was dangerous, and I get getting out of the relationship and going back in. When I was telling my friends about the situation, I said, I feel like a drug addict! I keep going back! And that was the inspiration for the song.
OK!: Have you ever heard from the guys you’ve written about?
A: They know it’s about them, because I was texting one of the boys, and he heard the song and knew it was about him. There were some examples from the song that were in the relationship, so I was like, he definitely knows, you know! I Taylor Swifted him a bit. It doesn’t matter. It’s my therapy. It sucks for them.
OK!: Your videos are really unique. Is that how you’re setting yourself apart in the pop scene? I know that can be hard to do.
A: I have an obsession with Tim Burton and dark movies. I love all his work. I love how he takes something that would be so bright and beautiful and so child-like, like Alice in Wonderland, the classic Disney movie, so innocent—though of course it’s about all kinds of drugs—and then when Tim Burton did his spin, it was kind of scary. So many emotions in his work. When I do my music videos, I take from that. In “Relapse,” I have this alter ego where I’m kind of crazy.
OK!: What are you listening to right now?
A: I always go back to my Mariah days, because when I’m in the shower that’s what I like to sing to. I’ll sing to like, “Emotions” when I’m having a good vocal day. Great acoustics in there. I like a lot of artists coming out now, like Jhene Aiko. I think she’s really dope.
OK!: You have a cool fashion style. How would you describe it?
A: I love the ’50s and ’60s. I love Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot. I love all the fashion, red lipstick is classic, the empire waistline. I kind of like to incorporate that, the high-waisted shorts, into what I wear, but in a contemporary way. It fits my body type, and it works for me. A few months ago, I dyed my hair red. It’s describing me right now. I’m coming into my own, and understanding who I am as a woman. The red hair is bold, just like my personality.
OK!: I love red hair, but it’s so hard to maintain! How do you take care of it?
A: I get deep conditioning treatments done a lot, and hair masks. I have to dye it every two weeks. It’s a pain. But I love it, so I put up with it and try to keep it healthy!
OK!: Where would you like to be in five years?
A: Well, a Grammy or two wouldn’t hurt anybody. [laughs] I just want to be touring. I have fans on Twitter saying, ‘Come to Brazil,’ and I want to travel and meet them in person! That will probably happen sooner than five years.
OK: What’s next for you?
A: I have a lot of exciting things coming up. I’m in the studio right this moment, and I’m working on new material. I’m always writing. I’m always working. I just released a cover of “Loyal,” the Chris Brown version. I have a lot of interest… from certain people… but I really can’t say anything! So I’m excited.
What do you think of Alus’ sound? Do you like Tim Burton movies, too? Would you ever dye your hair this red? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @OKMagazine.