ryn weaver

Credit well-connected collaborators, what is almost surely a fake indie label, and, sure, a pleasant, resonating chorus.

There’s a dark horse in the race for song of the summer—a complete unknown racking up rewards points by way of SoundCloud mileage. Ryn Weaver’s electro-pop ballad “OctaHate” has enjoyed more than 750,000 plays since its June 24 debut, topping Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart in the process. Credit well-connected collaborators, what is almost surely a fake indie label, and, sure, a pleasant, resonating chorus.

The track’s success is easily linked to a bevy of prominent collaborators—co-writer Charli XCX, Passion Pit singer Michael Angelakos, Norway’s DJ Cashmere Cat, Midas Touch producer Benny Blanco (who’s written for Maroon 5 and Ke$ha). But Weaver ardently downplays major label involvement, citing an organic, yearlong friendship with Blanco as the driving force behind the amalgamation of hitmakers.

It’s a smart preemptive strike, a glad-handing campaign of social media transparency that undermines the Internet at large’s Lana Del Rey-recalling, pitchfork-wielding quest to uncover the smoking men with briefcases who orchestrated sudden fame. We’re friends. This is a passion project. You can’t imagine how much fun we’re having.

Weaver—formerly actress Aryn Wuthrich—even took to Stereogum’s comments section to defend herself from the skepticism and snark. She credits her big break to a chance meeting at a cocktail party:

“hehe that would be nice to have some major label money. Actually, i met benny [Blanco] at a party a year back and showed him my sound cloud . . . [Benny] had already been working with cashmere cat a bit… and he showed michael some of my music that I had produced and written on my own … and we all kinda just started to make some music.”

Weaver also says she flew back and forth between New York and Los Angeles to record “OctaHate.”

Here she is two months ago with Blanco and British singer-songwriter Jessie Ware.

In 24 hours, as Mic points out, Ware, Charli XCX, and Hayley Williams tweeted hearty endorsements for Weaver’s “OctaHate.” The crew love was good for 100,000 plays on opening day.

For her part, Weaver has been earnestly exuberant about her streak of good fortune, hanging out backstage at Bonnaroo and kickin’ it like the charismatic new kid that she is.

What makes her ascent questionable isn’t that Weaver’s name was made so abruptly. Jennifer Lopez couldn’t sell a CD if it was sold by area Girls Scouts and included Thin Mints; the game needs to trot out alternative business models.

Make no mistake: “OctaHate” isn’t popular because famous and connected people worked out a hot sound and then sent Japanese lanterns of goodwill floating into the Twittersphere. What happened was the right people got “OctaHate” into the right inboxes (Fader, Stereogum, BuzzFeed).

Weaver’s public relations are managed by industry titan Sacks & Co. This PR firm works with artists like David Byrne, Julian Casablancas, and Emmylou Harris. They presumably do not work for free. Weaver’s PR representative Reid Kutrow has not responded to a request for comment, but to be fair, it’s a holiday week.

Consider the case of Fall Out Boy. Ten years ago the band was paraded around American punk clubs and released material under indie label Fueled by Ramen. 2003’s Take This To Your Grave remains a headrush of pop-punk theatrics. Unfortunately, Fueled by Ramen operated under the watchful eye of Island/Def Jam, and that bubbling emo scene was basically a grapefruit league for the majors. It wasn’t very punk, but it did involve an inordinate amount of live performances, risk-taking, and research to see what actually resonated within the circuit. 

Weaver is “signed” to Friends Keep Secrets, either a winking front for larger players or the most poorly run indie label in America. It has a Twitter page with fewer than 100 followers. It has a dead Tumblr page. It makes an aggressive point to not promote anything. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, Friends Keep Secrets couldn’t be reached for comment.)

The handle follows—and is followed by—Blanco, Ware, and several artist managers including Blanco’s Andrew Luftman. Its logo was drawn by New York City artist Todd James. Its first public tweet was retweeted by Blanco.

Whatever is going on, it’s almost certainly not a face-value surge. We all love that great The Devil Wears Prada speech where Meryl Streep goes off on Anne Hathaway’s blue sweater and debunks the notion of unique taste because everything comes from people that market things. But the notion that Weaver’s ascent stems from an organic groundswell without a serious, covert public relations push is insultingly dishonest.

Photo via Instagram/Ryn Weaver 

Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez is the Upstream editor, and his work has appeared in the Washington Post, Grantland, Washington City Paper, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Monitor.