NEW YORK — Dove Cameron’s latest single starts with the sound of maniacal laughter and then a piano riff that could have been swiped from “The Phantom of the Opera.” She’s just getting started.
“Lethal Woman” is a club banger about a woman “sharp as a knife under the table” that includes sounds of banging on a door, a gun being cocked and heavy production elements. The lyrics include the playful rhyme: “Game recognizes game/By the way, what’s your name?”
“We threw everything including the kitchen sink into that song,” Cameron tells The Associated Press ahead of its release, the latest track from her debut album due Dec. 1, “Alchemical: Volume 1.”
“I think my favorite thing about the song actually is that we switch keys like six times and you hardly really notice,” she says, laughing. “It just adds this kind of unhinged quality that to me just really takes us over the top.”
“Alchemical: Volume 1” contains six new songs and two previous hits, “Boyfriend” and “Breakfast.” The second volume could come as early as the top of next year. The title is inspired by the transformation of matter.
“In this first half, it’s very much about exploring all the different sort of versions and avenues of yourself as you’re growing and changing and transmuting into something else,” she says.
“Lethal Woman” may be a bit unhinged but it’s the sound of a young artist enjoying herself, embracing naughtiness, adding a sprinkle of her beloved Broadway and strutting away with a switchblade on her hip.
“Music should be always like an ever-changing grand adventure. You’re doing it because you’re having way too much fun or because it’s scratching some emotional itch,” she says.
“It’s like when you’re a kid,” she adds. “What would I do if I just had no rules? And that’s kind of like what a lot of the album ended up sounding like.”
Cameron has had a heady few years, winning new artist of the year honors at the 2022 American Music Awards and being named Best New Artist at the 2022 VMAs. She also was s scene-stealer in season two of “Schmigadoon!” playing a parody of Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.”
The album breaks Cameron’s rule about ballads. She has hated them for herself and wasn’t willing yet to go to any vulnerable places. If she heard a sad song, her day was over.
“I wake up in the morning and I listen to the most loud, aggressive, someone’s-working-in-a-car-body-shop that you’ve ever heard,” she says. “If I don’t feel like I’m being thrust out of a cannon, I just won’t get out of bed.”
But as she’s matured, that stance on ballads has shifted. On the new album is “Sand,” a slow-burning, wistful track about an ex that contains the lovely lines: “You have more pieces of me than the desert has sand/And I have less pieces of you than I can hold in my hand.”
“I’ve sort of learned to reclaim what actually has happened and learn how to be able to talk about it in a way that feels vulnerable and that feels more honest. A lot of the album started going in that direction,” she says.
Cameron first gained fame on Disney’s children’s show “Liv and Maddie” from 2013 to 2017, which earned her a Daytime Emmy Award in 2018. She also starred on Disney’s “Descendants: Wicked World” from 2015 to 2017, while juggling the launch of her music career.
Cameron debated about whether or not to include her queer anthem “Boyfriend,” which reached No. 16 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the summer of 2022. She added it because it is such an important song for her, a milestone in her evolution.
“I always knew I was queer, but that’s a challenging thing to talk about, even in your own small social sphere, your family,” she says. “When ‘Boyfriend’ came about, it was one of those things that had been boiling, bubbling up in me that felt like something I needed to address and express.”
“Boyfriend” — with the sly, witty lyrics “Up all night, I won’t quit/Thinking I’m gonna steal you from him/I could be such a gentleman/Plus all my clothes would fit” — was the announcement of Cameron’s real self. She says she had until then felt the need to be small, chaste and palatable.
“I wasn’t taking up any space. And in my own life I was really diminishing myself because it felt like the right thing to do as someone who had never done anything different,” she says.
“It really did feel like I stepped into a new reality where I was actually allowed to be myself — because I allowed it.”
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits