You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Songs for Screens: Starchild & the New Romantic’s ‘Hangin On’ Is the Soundtrack to a Future Favorite Film

Songs for Screens” is a Variety column written by Andrew Hampp, a VP at New York-based music sponsorship and experiential agency MAC Presents and former branding correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column will highlight noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as new and catalog songs that we deem ripe for synch use.

Bryndon Cook has helped shape the sound and visuals of some of the most transformative R&B projects of the past several years — including co-writing “Don’t Touch My Hair” for Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” and being musical director for its accompanying tour, multiple collaborations with Blood Orange mastermind Dev Hynes and indie duo Chairlift’s farewell tour.

But for his own music as Starchild & The Romantic, the Brooklyn-based musician had trouble visualizing where the project’s combination of Prince funk, futuristic soul and left-in-the-sun psych synths could live in the world — until a friend helped him score a synch for the song “Relax” in 2014’s Netflix series “Dear White People.”

“I’m not a natural minimalist, even though I strive to be — like a lot of people in 2018,” says Cook, whose debut full-length as Starchild & The Romantic, “Language,” was released on Friday (Feb. 23). “So sometimes it surprises me when people get different inspiration from the imagery and lyrics that I’m making,”

Though most of the album was performed and composed by Cook and collaborator Chester Raj Anand, Language has a full-bodied sound full of Minneapolis throwback cool (it’s hard not to imagine Morris Day & The Time wailing their way through “Black Diamond” or “Lost Boys” in a “Purple Rain” sequence), dream-filtered quiet-storm soul (“Ophelia’s Room,” the early Boyz II Men-esque “Boys Choir”) and the jittery funk that car commercials are made of (“Hands Off.”)

But it’s the album’s centerpiece “Hangin On” that deserves to reach the album’s widest audience. The optimistic ballad pays sonic homage to ’70s singer-songwriters Carole King and Todd Rundgren while Cook croons lyrics inspired by civil-rights leaders like Medgar Evers (“My mama said ‘Follow your dreams’ / Well I guess you were my warning.”) It could be equally at home in a Lena Waithe Showtime drama as it would for a brand commercial looking to promote unity the right way in a post-Pepsi/Kendall Jenner landscape.

“That’s always the goal of putting together a 14-track album – I wanted to be able to have songs that stand out on their own and speak to who I am without having to prove anything or be a smash hit,” Cook says. “To me, my music is pop music, but there’s some tension to it.”

More Music

  • Troy Tomlinson, president and CEO of

    Troy Tomlinson Leaves Sony/ATV to Head Universal Publishing; Will Taylor Swift Follow?

    Troy Tomlinson will become the chairman/CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville after leaving his longtime home, Sony/ATV, where he served as CEO since 2005, it was announced Monday. He assumes the newly created position July 15. It’s widely believed that Sony/ATV’s most prominent songwriter, Taylor Swift, will follow after her contract expires at the end [...]

  • R&B Singer Ann Marie Signs With

    R&B Singer Ann Marie Signs With Interscope Records (EXCLUSIVE)

    Chicago-based R&B singer-songwriter Ann Marie, known for her hit “Secret” with YK Osiris, has signed with Interscope Records, the company announced exclusively to Variety today. “Ann Marie is the prototype for today’s artist,” says Nicole Wyskoarko, the label’s EVP of urban operations. “She’s developed and cultivated a dedicated fan base using the tools of today [...]

  • Soundgarden’s Immersive 'Artists Den' Experience Premieres

    Soundgarden’s Immersive 'Artists Den' Experience Premieres This Week (Exclusive Preview)

    There’s no question that the posthumous release is the most difficult to get right: Human beings are unpredictable, and trying to guess what a person’s intentions might have been is an unhill (if not a losing) battle. Yet posthumous releases ranging from Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” to recent Prince and Jimi Hendrix collections prove [...]

  • Dwayne Johnson Skyscraper

    People Really Want The Rock as the Voice of Their Smart Speaker

    Maybe Google was onto something when it used John Legend as the voice of its smart speakers: Nearly 1 in 3 participants in a recent Adobe smart speaker survey said that they want a celebrity as the voice of their AI assistant. Participants of the Adobe Analytics June 2019 Voice Report also had some clear [...]

  • Thom Yorke of Radiohead at Grant

    Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to Tour North America This Fall

    Thom Yorke has confirmed “a new series of live electronic performances” to take place this fall in North America with collaborators Nigel Godrich and Tarik Barri under the name Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. The new shows will feature Thom Yorke along with longtime Radiohead producer Godrich and visual artist Barri, performing songs from Yorke’s solo works “The [...]

  • Taylor Swift Reunites With Katy Perry

    Taylor Swift Reunites With Katy Perry in Star-Studded, Pro-LGBT 'Calm Down' Video

    Following the release on Thursday of her pro-LGBT song “You Need to Calm Down” and a surprise performance at New York’s gay landmark Stonewall Inn on Friday, Taylor Swift has tripled down on her Pride Month activity this morning with the release of the video for “Calm Down.” She promised in a social media post [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content