Crystal Murray’s music is dark and beautiful

100%: The Parisian musician’s upcoming debut album, Sad Lovers and Giants, is a work of pure passion featuring poignant break-up anthems and rage-fuelled, club-ready tracks.

Calling in from Athens, Crystal Murray is soaking up some well-deserved sunshine, and just a little bit of booze.

I’m taking a few days off because I’ve been running around everywhere,” she says in a charming French lilt, from the comfort of a rooftop sunlounger. For the last two months, I’ve had no weekends – no time to sit down. I’ve tried to do the tourist thing but I’ve decided I can’t be bothered!”

No wonder Crystal’s been so busy. She’s in the throes of promoting her debut album, Sad Lovers and Giants, which charts the 22-year-old’s journey of emotional self-discovery in a web of sadness, love, beauty and darkness. Having all these contradictory feelings, like hating someone so much but having so much love for them in your heart. I was enraged while writing the album – but why? Why am I sad? I was really working through these things.”

Crystal doesn’t pull any punches on the project, which is catharsis writ large. On Payback she raps ferociously over booming drums about, you guessed it, payback. Meanwhile, Starmanik is one of the album’s standouts – a super-charged synthpop anthem that doubles up as a serious takedown: Every time you get out I say great! /​I wanna be a champion, a butcher, a wolf,” she sings over pulsating synths.

Born and raised in Paris, Crystal absorbed much of her influences via her parents: her African-American dad was a free jazz saxophonist who played Marvin Gaye and John Coltrane around the house. Free jazz is like punk jazz; revenge music,” she says. Crystal’s mum, meanwhile, is a French-Canarian who exposed her to the overlooked Spanish culture of Las Palmas, where she grew up. At home, music always came first, not your career. My dad was never interested in being a jazz artist who was accepted by white people. Then my mum was a booker who always looked for musicians who played Afro-descendent music.”

The road was well-paved for Crystal to become an artist in her own right, then. Since breaking out with her smooth, neo-soul EP I Was Wrong in 2020, she’s fleshed out her sound into something more theatrical and grown-up: I think that with Sad Lovers and Giants, I wanted to make something where people were like, Woah, you really can’t put this in a box.’ I wanted to make something popular, sure, but also alternative and weird. At the end of the day, I believe in emotion above all. They’re universal and they touch everyone.”


What kinds of emotions and experiences influence your work?

For this album, a breakup. The more singles I release on this project, the more I’m unveiling about myself. My first feeling around it was rage, then rage but more thought out. After that, vulnerability, sadness, before coming back to your senses and finally, redemption.


What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?

To stop thinking about yourself so much in the studio – just let go, especially when you’re coming up with melodies. Try not to think too much about what you want it to be or what you want it to sound like. And my mum always tells me to get myself straight, ha!


If you were cooking to impress someone, what would you make?

I’d make something I know how to do well: sukiyaki. It’s like a Korean fondue, with broth and vegetables all cooked in a big pot. I like it because it’s easy to make, but very comforting and nice to look at.


What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?

When I’m trying to protect myself or I’m feeling vulnerable, I can be rude. I’m really trying to stop doing that – it’s so annoying. I swear I’m not a rude person!


If you ruled the world for a day, what would go down?

I would stop every genocide and war happening in the world right now. I don’t know how, but I would try to save all the oppressed people in the world. The world is so sick right now, and I’ve found it hard to even promote my own music.


Dream holiday destination?

I would really like to go to Japan. I love Mexico for the beaches and all that, but I love the Lost in Translation kinda vibe when you’re in the city and you don’t know anything about it, how people do things there, what they eat – just being completely lost somewhere.


Love, like, hate?

I love duality, I like mangos and I hate injustice.


Favourite song of all time?

I love Blue Moon because it’s been sung by so many people – Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Cowboy Junkies. I love the idea of a song being so timeless that it means something new every decade.


Most memorable DM you’ve ever received?

The ones where people send you love about your music are the best. I cry every time. Someone sent me a really long message once at 4am, explaining everything that they felt listening to my song. They sounded so high! I happened to be awake and we started talking. It was so beautiful.


What can artists do to help save the world?

If you have a voice, you need to use it. I’m not the best political speaker, but I try to give a voice to people who do that much better than I do. I think in this generation, you can’t be just a musician. We all have social media now, and we have to be aware of what’s happening in the world.

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