Arts, Culture & Entertainment

JVKE, Gen-Z’s favorite digital romantic, gives fans a relatable representation of love

JVKE performed his first headlining show at the Fonda Theatre, bringing to life the down-to-earth singer-songwriter persona he originally created on social media.

A photo of JVKE singing into the microphone while hunched over on stage.

Since blowing up on TikTok with bouncy pop hit “Upside Down” and Billboard Hot 100 track “golden hour,” singer-songwriter JVKE has cultivated a dedicated fanbase with his relatable musical process and honest depiction of the ups and downs of relationships.

Born Jacob Lawson, the artist began to get involved in music from a young age through piano lessons and performances at his local church. Prior to social media, he wrote songs for international acts such as K-pop boy group EXO and singer Jason Derulo, but it was his initial virality on TikTok that gave him the confidence to fully pursue his individual artist journey.

Part of JVKE’s appeal lies in his down-to-earth, relatable persona as a young adult trying to work through his first experiences with love. He makes videos and beats with his mom, plays his melodies for his old piano teacher, and produces music in his childhood bedroom. He isn’t afraid to be vulnerable with his audience, singing with confusion and frustration as much as he recounts moments of outright joy.

In his first album “this is what ____ feels like (Vol. 1-4),” JVKE documents his first relationship, from the bliss of the initial honeymoon stage to the denial and frustration of heartbreak, ending with the process of healing and moving on from his lover. Although his lyrics are relatively simple and occasionally err on the side of cliche, he elevates them with empathetic delivery and sweeping instrumentals. Each song on the album rises and falls with a liveliness that takes the listener to the moments that JVKE describes, creating an auditory experience beyond the “sad boy in love” trope that the tracks might have otherwise fallen into.

A photo of JVKE standing over his beat-making machine on stage while singing into the microphone.

Above all, what sets JVKE apart from the ever-growing category of young, romance-fueled and predominantly white musicians on social media is his ability to connect with his fans in real life through songs that spark a unique reaction in each listener. He stated previously in an interview with VMan that he does not “connect very well” to the numbers fueling his rise in popularity, and that he is wary of the difference between millions of monthly listeners and real-life crowds. JVKE prefers to use his viral presence to evaluate what his fans want, teasing future songs with short snippets on TikTok and asking for feedback. In this way, he takes the storytelling behind his tracks to a more interpersonal level.

JVKE emphasized that connection with fans in his first ever headlining show at the end of January. He mentioned that the concert sold out within 5 minutes of being announced and specifically thanked fans who drove several hours or flew to see him perform.

The setlist covered JVKE’s top hits. He began with the song “this is what falling in love feels like,” starting the show off with a more laid back vibe. JVKE sang live and although he didn’t quite reach the vocal climaxes of his studio tracks, his unaltered voice brought a refreshing dimension to his most popular songs.

It was clear that JVKE had not let his rapid success interfere with his passion. He performed top-streamed tracks such as “ghost town” with the fire of an artist who had just begun their career. Although over 1000 people attended the show, JVKE maintained an intimate feel throughout the night, particularly during a cover of “Lucid Dreams” by Juice WRLD. During the middle of the concert, JVKE mentioned both the process of dealing with heartbreak from his first relationship and developing a deeper relationship with God.

JVKE also incorporated aspects of the videos that helped propel him to fame in his live performance. The concert stage was set up to resemble his childhood bedroom, and he wore an oversized sweatshirt and plaid pajama pants that emulated the relaxed demeanor of his social media presence. Throughout the show, he utilized a beat making machine to demonstrate how he made music at home.

A photo of JVKE's silhouette standing up in front of a colorful artwork projected onto the back of the stage

JVKE ended the show with a passionate rendition of “golden hour.” As he performed the song, animations created from AI generated art pieces played in the background, adding a unique digital element to the concert. For the encore, he performed “Upside Down,” as the crowd jumped up and down, bringing the show back to the dance-pop roots that helped him blow up.  As JVKE said goodbye, the smiles on their faces mirrored his own.

A photo of the audience members smiling and looking at the stage.

As JVKE continues to release new music and prepares for his first North American tour in August, all eyes will be on the strategies the artist uses to experiment with his sound and channel the stories behind his digital content in real-life performances. The tour announcement was widely anticipated, with all 23 stops selling out in several minutes. Regardless, there is no doubt that JVKE will combine his social media savvy and straightforward approach to music to create an experience that makes fans feel as if they are in their own “golden hour.”