To the riff melody of White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, the Omicron-defying crowd in a packed O2 Academy Islington in North London are roaring: “Oh, iann diooooor!”
They drop the chant between songs, then, when the beats start up again, thrust their phones in the air and launch their plastic glasses. On stage, the man himself (two “n’s”, one “o”) pinballs from right to left and back again. This is iann dior’s first UK show and, just visible beneath the giant sunglasses that cover half his face, his incredulous smile suggests he’s having the night of his life.
“Y’all making me wanna move here!” the 22-year-old American grins between the mass singalongs that greet every song, from the hip-pop [sic] nursery rhyme feels of 2020’s Good Day to the party-all-the-time bounce of last spring’s Shots In The Dark (a collab with Trippie Redd). By the time he plays V12, his recent hook-up with Lil Uzi Vert, and Mood, the 2020 chart monster from 24kGoldn on which he was the featured vocalist, dior’s UK debut is the best kind of superspreader: of euphoric, celebratory vibes. Just what a gig’s meant to do.
Speaking in his fancy Mayfair hotel the day before, a languorous, tea-sipping dior foreshadows that on-stage announcement: he is, in fact, planning a move to London.
“Out here, it gives me the same feel as New York, but with different people and it’s not as congested. I love it,” he says, sincerely, on this none-more-grey wintry morning. “I think it’s pretty cool. And I feel like I fit in out here.”
Before he books a transatlantic man-with-a-van, though, dior has a second album to promote. After multiple standalone tracks and collaborations galore (with Clean Bandit, Mike Shinoda, Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker, to name but four), On To Better Things is the follow-up to his 2019 debut. That was called Industry Plant, “because, you know, everybody was calling me that, which I’m not. I’m pretty sure I’ve shown that I’m not an industry plant – I write all my own music, I direct my own videos. Like, people were just surprised that I came out of nowhere.”
But as rightly pointed out by this musician with 12 million monthly Spotify listeners, one who keeps his punchily melodic songs tight on the sub-three-minute mark, “for some artists, it happens like that. But I want to push in the direction of being the best artist in the world. That’s all I care about the most.”
10% Where were you born, where were you raised, and where are you based now?
I was born in Puerto Rico. I lived there ’til I was five or six years old. We were homeless at the time. My dad joined the Navy and he was gone for about two years. When he came back, he took us out of there. After that, we kind of moved around a lot. I went from Texas to Florida to Virginia, then back to Texas. So I grew up most of my life in Texas. Now I’m in LA, but I’m gonna run away to London.
20% How was it being in the US Top 10 with a tune (Mood) for 33 weeks?
It was cool. But those types of things never get me super-excited. I look at Michael Jackson. He has 14 number ones. I finally got my first one. I know that it takes a lot of work to become a legend. And that’s what I want to be. So I just took the number one as validation that I can do this.
30% What did you think of the Justin Bieber and J Balvin mix of Mood?
Amazing. I love both artists. I love Justin Bieber and I definitely love J Balvin, because he’s from Puerto Rico. If you’re Puerto Rican, you see the other person as family. So, Bad Bunny is someone else that I definitely look up to. And maybe this spring we’ll have a summer jam for you guys.
40% Nice tease. So, on Instagram you have, currently, only five posts up there for your 1.6 million followers. What’s up with that?
As a person, I’m changing a lot, so I archive my pictures. Some people don’t like that, but I’m more about living in the moment than living on a screen. I love Instagram, obviously, but it’s a wormhole.
50% You have Travis Barker on two tracks in the new album. What’s he like, not as a musician but as a man?
He’s amazing, especially given everything that he’s gone through, a plane crash and everything. I’ve had deep conversations with him and he feels like he got a second chance at life. So he’s taking care of himself. Not only is he an amazing producer but he’s an influence in my life.
60% What’s your dream sandwich?
I don’t even know if this would be edible, but I would get the biggest sandwich I could possibly get. I would do steak and cheese, and I’d add provolone cheese, chicken and maybe creamy jalapeño sauce. That would slide nice on that.
70% Why was Lil Uzi Vert a good fit for V12?
Because I look up to him. He’s someone that inspired me and showed me that I could do something like this. So working with him and having a song with him was very cool. And Uzi is exactly what you expect – it was probably one of the funnest music videos I’ve ever shot. Shout out to him – he just dropped a new single Demon High. I love it.
80% What’s your number one resolution for 2022?
90% You want to try acting. What kind of role would be a good fit for you?
The first black Spider-Man was Puerto Rican. So that’s the role I’m going for: the next Spider-Man. This is my pitch. I feel like I’d be the perfect Spider-Man. Tom Holland’s physical skills? I’m down with that. I can do anything.
100% Speaking of skills: your recent Let You video was set in a circus. What would be your circus skill?
I keep the crowd entertained. The reason I shot that video is because I feel like LA is a circus and everybody’s wearing a mask. And I’m the greatest showman. Hugh Jackman? I don’t know who he is. But I know who iann dior is.
On To Better Things (10k Projects) is released on 21st January