MAALA Speaks Out On Filling Nirvana's Shoes & The Legacy Of MTV Unplugged
MTV, since day dot, has played a huge role in youth pop culture. We gave you Jersey Shore, we gave you the meat dress and we gave you that infamous kiss.
But one of our more heartfelt, intimate moments we gave you took place in November 1993. It was on the 18th November 1993 that Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic - collectively known as Nirvana - took to the MTV Unplugged stage in New York City and gave us what would soon be known as one of the band's pivotal moments. Take away the raucousness and the heaviness of Nirvana's iconic sound and we were left with an awe-inspiring raw performance that no-one expected and that no-one can forget. Their set was released as an album - the band's first record post Kurt Cobain's passing - and even went on to win a Grammy. Not only was it a huge moment for the band, but it became a huge moment for us. MTV Unplugged was no longer just a show, it had a legacy to uphold.
Now, almost 30 years after the original airing, MTV Unplugged is finally getting a huge relaunch and it's all kicking off in New Zealand in August with a sure-to-be unforgettable performance from MAALA. Being one of NZ's finest exports, MAALA has already made huge waves in the music industry. His debut single 'Touch' has accumulated over 2.7 million streams on Spotify, and his 2015 MAALA EP reached the top 5 on the iTunes charts. His debut album, Composure, is a stunning electro-pop effort that is guaranteed to get you out of your seat. Now, deep in the process of writing album number two, MAALA - real name Evan Sinton - is ready to debut some new tracks during his MTV Unplugged performance and it sounds like the perfect environment to do so.
"If I was to describe the first record, in simple terms, it was quite abrasive and meticulously written in a pop manner," MAALA says, "Now I'm trying to adopt those same sort of qualities but trying to be a little more 'back-off-ish.'"
That less-in-your-face sound, as MAALA describes it, is going to fit perfectly on the MTV Unplugged stage. However, beyond that, the immense cultural impact of the program doesn't escape MAALA for one second and he feels absolutely honoured to be taking MTV Unplugged NZ on its maiden voyage.
"It's an honour, right? It's awesome," he says. "The one Unplugged performance I remember watching is the Nirvana one, obviously. So I've looked at that and thought to myself 'Well, that's the bar.'"
MAALA also spoke about how the concept of MTV Unplugged is so interesting now music is dominated by the electronic realm.
"It's an interesting concept. With a band like Nirvana, they're on guitars already and it's a smooth transition. It's interesting to think about how I'm going to tackle this one," he says, "It's actually an exciting challenge. It's something I've never thought about - the Unplugged concept. It was a welcomed challenge. I have strings coming along, a grand piano, I'm really excited."
One thing worth noting is that the generation who experienced Unplugged in its hey day probably won't be the same generation experiencing the relaunch. In that way, there's an inherent challenge to balance what made Unplugged so great all those years ago but still keep it relevant and interesting to an audience who grew up on social media.
"I've got a responsibility to myself to show a different side of performing, but I also have a responsibility to the viewers to show that unplugged music is alive and well," MAALA says.
So, strap yourself in fam. MTV Unplugged is coming to New Zealand and is sure to make you fall in love with acoustic music all over again.
MTV Unplugged: MAALA will premiere on Sunday 6th August at 8.30pm on MTV & MTV Music.
- Jackson Langford.