Photos and Interview by Jordan Edwards

It's been four years since we last spoke to Stela Cole. While her commitment to infectious pop has remained, everything else has evolved. Her sound is more sophisticated, her styling is upgraded, and yes, she's blonder.

As Cole has grown, her career has picked up momentum. The Georgia native signed to Ultra Records in 2021, and this past spring, she represented her home state on NBC's American Song Contest. After appearing on the show, she released the single "Rhapsody in Pink," which crosses the Gershwin classic with a booming dance club beat. "Star," released on Sept. 23, is a proclamation of her ascension. It's also fun to dance to.

We met up with Cole in downtown Los Angeles to talk about her latest music and how she got to this point.
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Popdust Presents

Popdust Presents | Stela Cole Will Absolutely Blow Your Mind

Cole's Debut EP, Throwing Up Butterflies, Mixes the Very Best of Hip-Hop, Pop & Doo-Wop Into a Delicious Blend

Cole is here to rearrange the status quo.

August 17, 2018 | Stela Cole is an intergalactic warrior. One listen through her debut EP, Throwing Up Butterflies, will tell you that much. She's equal parts sunshine and gum-drops but isn't afraid to take a few hostages if need be. Anchoring single "You FO" splices together doo-wop style with the kind of high-powered hip-hop that bites hard and leaves you breathless. The opening track is quite the high-flying displaying, almost delightfully acrobatic in nature, as if to backdrop a Cirque de Soleil routine, complete with extravagance and feather boas.

During a stop into the Popdust office, Cole pulled out her guitar for two essential cuts and chatted with host Deascent about her childhood in Atlanta, how she came to pursue a musical career and the backstory and intent of her new tunes.

A Nashville transplant, by way of Peachtree, Georgia, a rural, self-proclaimed "golf cart community," as Cole puts it, the 20-year-old is as explosive in acoustic settings as she is on record. Where "You FO" rides the blurred lines of various genres, the EP's title song comfortably inhabits a more straightforward hip-hop grind, containing a slickly-produced and ethereal hook. "In My Pocket," the set's closer, bubbles and ticks with electronic blips and burps like a vintage Nintendo original.

Watch "You FO" | Live & Acoustic

If Throwing Up Butterflies is indicative of what lay ahead, Cole is going to completely upended the music scene. The playful venom of "You FO," which has raked in nearly 300,000 streams on Spotify alone, hits a sweet spot between larger-than-life cinema and deeply-rooted pain. Cole's vocal is icy, and she's not about to back down from expressing her hurt. But she channels those chest pains into a song both cerebral and intensely bombastic. "I've been thinking, why don't you FO," she hisses.

"Lucky Day," which is a bit smokier in tone, slugging along at a more vulnerable pace, highlights a more restrained sensibility. The hip-hop chew is still ripe and earnest, but Cole's nearly whisper-like cadence is wistful, perfectly-cooked and quite addictive. As you'll witness below, it rises quite tall with just an acoustic guitar, too, which is in large part to her impressive song-craft.

Watch "Lucky Day" | Live & Acoustic

Growing up, Cole's father made a concerted effort to expose her to as much music as possible, from Led Zeppelin to Run DMC. But on her own, she naturally gravitated to the music of The Chordettes, The Mamas & the Papas, The Beach Boys, and even Elvis Presley, instilling within her a cool, breezy, and commanding understanding of how to construct and deliver melodies and grooves. "There is something so...charming about the simplicity in those songs," she told us in our exclusive sit down.

"I also grew up as an athlete. That's kind of what I did my whole life," she continues, "I also love hip-hop. It was something I grew up listening to. Before every practice and every game, it was what my teammates and I grew up listening to together." Music later became a passion project for her when she was 16 or 17, and through drawing up on such an eclectic musical past, the irresistible blend of hip-hop and doo-wop only made sense in her own work.

Throwing Up Butterflies is not only an impressive start to Cole's career but stands as one of 2018's best EPs across all genres.

Kacie Tomita

Follow Stela Cole on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Jason Scott is a freelance music journalist with bylines in B-Sides & Badlands, Billboard, PopCrush, Ladygunn, Greatist, AXS, Uproxx, Paste and many others. Follow him on Twitter.


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MUSIC

READY TO POP | Stela Cole, Brett Cameron & More Ride a Roller Coaster of Love

Also, Sam Setton, E^ST, and Kyan Palmer Regal Tales of Lover's Quarrels & Makeups

Kacie Tomita

Fall deeper and harder with these essential tunes.

Ready to Pop succumbs to Cupid's twisted arrow this week. Sometimes, that newfound love can spark a deep well of euphoria, and other times, it quickly sours like year-old milk but you're so hooked, you can't escape from between the sheets. Still, at other moments, you make up and move on to uncover a new layer of adoration. Below, check out our latest obsessions, rated on a (slay) scale of "Super Chill" to "Shook" to "Wig Snatched."


Stela Cole - "Throwing Up Butterflies"

Kacie Tomita

Following the absolutely insatiable single "You FO," Stela Cole delights with a bit of tummy-tingling with "Throwing Up Butterflies," the titular cut to her forthcoming debut EP (out this Friday). "I can't stop throwing up these butterflies," she asserts, the hook framing exactly how far in love she's fallen. It's a blast of neon, and Cole (once again) will rip your heart wide open.

Slay Scale: Wig Snatched

Follow Stela Cole on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


E^ST - "I Don't Lack Imagination"

E^ST

Nah, bro, E^ST isn't be dramatic over a silly summer fling. "I'm better at wanting you than having you," she sings. And we've all been there: we've built up this fantasy of the smoldering, perfectly-chiseled life guard, to find out they're a complete jerk. It happens. "You should have stayed a fantasy," she tells herself, clouds of production popping over her head. Gurl, same.

Slay Scale: Shook

Follow E^ST on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Brett Cameron - "Mazes"

Alessandro Chille

Relationships are complicated. We know that much. Electro-pop singer-songwriter Brett Cameron paints a series of "Mazes" in his trek to find himself and a love that is so befuddling that it rises like a corridor around his heart. "My intuition is the guide," he concludes in the finale stanza, crafting what could be both his and his lover's resurgence. The synths snap at his feet, and we may never know exactly how it ends (you'll just have to spin his EP of the same name to find out).

Slay Scale: Super Chill

Follow Brett Cameron on Twitter | Facebook


Sam Setton - "Wine"

Sam Setton, 'Wine' single cover art

"Where'd we go the wrong way?" R&B smooth-talker Sam Setton probes with his new single "Wine," a boozy mid-tempo about wine's sweet "healing" power. Well, it's only fleeting, but perhaps they can rekindle that love they once had and left strewn in the streets of "Santiago" that one summer. "There's nothing this bottle of wine can't do," he later sings, his lips curling as he tries to woo back an ex. Dear listener, you're likely to submit to that buzz, too, just a warning.

Slay Scale: Super Chill

Follow Sam Setton on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Kyan Palmer - "Make It Up"

Jennica Abrams

Instead of ending it and moving on, Kyan Palmer and his lover fall deeper into the passionate, clothes-tearing romance that has thus far defined their relationship. "Is it wrong that the fighting turns me on?" Palmer asks as the production burns until only embers remain. His voice carries with it the weight of their history together, but in a way that's provocative and irresistible.

Slay Scale: Wig Snatched

Follow Kyan Palmer on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Jason Scott is a freelance music journalist with bylines in B-Sides & Badlands, Billboard, PopCrush, Ladygunn, Greatist, AXS, Uproxx, Paste and many others. Follow him on Twitter.


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