The new wave of musicians rising to fame through social media platforms like TikTok have brought many a star into the light, one of the brightest ones yet being Maia — also known as mxmtoon. The self-proclaimed ‘internet musician mom’ played a celebratory, engaging and deeply personal show at Electric Brixton as the last stop on the tour for her album rising, released in May this year. After cancelling most of her European tour dates — with the exclusion of Paris and London — due to poor mental and physical health, the American singer-songwriter delivered a spectacular finale to a tumultuous year.
With the wonderfully talented Ricky Montgomery performing as the opening act, the atmosphere inside the venue was a mixture of loving excitement and heartbroken unity. The gut-wrenching lyrics of ‘Mr Loverman’ had the audience bawling at the top of their lungs, which set the tone for an emotional night. Montgomery, whose success on TikTok lead to a record deal with Warner Records in 2020, is much like Maia; a rising star which is only getting brighter. ‘Line Without a Hook’, Montgomery’s most popular song on Spotify with almost 350 million streams to date, ironically had the audience hooked immediately. There is no doubt that people came to get a glimpse of Ricky as much as they were anticipating Maia. After his 30-minute set, the 29-year-old took a few more minutes to receive gifts on stage, sign drawings, and quickly wave a pride flag — to the massive applause of the audience.
Mxmtoon can only be described as a quirky, warm ball of light. Dancing around the stage in her white dress and an impressively humorous attitude, the 22-year-old grabbed the crowd’s attention without the pompous gestures some fellow industry sweethearts like to pepper their performances with. Even songs like ‘sad disco’, which describe loneliness and isolation, still had the audience dancing and singing along. There is no question that Maia feels a deeper connection to the people that she is sharing her music with than is typical to the common, impersonal artist-to-fan relationship. Between songs she talked about depression, sexuality and told anecdotes about her family that made the audience chuckle and cheer. Her brain-to-mouth filter seemed delightfully non-existent once a certain familiarity had been established, and one would have never guessed that this cheerful, rosy-cheeked, joke-telling girl had ever felt any kind of insecurity if not for her almost brutally honest lyrics. One which comes to mind is “Fading like a t-shirt left to dry out in the sun / It’s too much time to spend alone”, from her delicately dim song ‘bon iver’. However, there was an undoubtful hopefulness in the way she jumped excitedly up and down and encouraged the crowd to wave their arms while she played the ukulele, regardless of how seriously depressing some of her music might be.
The internet persona Maia presents on TikTok is exactly what you get; there is a truthfulness to her that makes it easy to believe she is just a childhood friend you haven’t seen in a few years. While ‘fever dream’ is part of the soundtrack for the critically acclaimed queer Netflix show Heartstopper, she also proudly declared that her song ‘coming of age’ was inspired by another soundtrack; ‘Everything is Awesome’ from The Lego Movie. Despite her talent being presented for the world to see through the window of the internet, Maia remains incredibly down-to-earth and has been able to create a safe space, especially for queer fans. She proudly talked about her identity as openly bisexual, danced with a pride flag around the stage, and, upon seeing a rainbow light project some of the fans had organised, promptly exclaimed ‘This is so gay, I’m gonna cry!”.
Adored by the social media spotlight and her individual fans alike, mxmtoon was always able to create the small, quiet, notable moments in-between songs that make a show special, with an oxymoronically professional amateurism throughout. Overall, her set at Electric Brixton was a wholesome concert that left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside, which is exactly how it should be.
To keep up with Ricky Montgomery, you can find out more about him here.
Edited by Talia Andrea, Music Editor