In early September of this year, when Cooper B. Handy, who goes by the stage name LUCY, opened for King Krule in Atlanta, Georgia, a concertgoer who uses the TikTok handle @macmandyy filmed six seconds of his performance and posted it with the text overlay: “when the opener so bad u have to pull up slime videos to zone out.” The video went semi-viral, racking up over 360,000 likes and nearly two and a half thousand comments, which offer a fairly robust summary of the pop musician’s current status.
Those comments could be divided into three gradient categories. The first is those who agree with @macmandyy, and found LUCY’s set to be confusing and disjointed, and couldn’t comprehend why he continuously intoned “Georgia… Georgia…I’ve got a few more for you,” into the microphone between songs. The second category of commenters meekly admit that they actually kind of liked his set, and relished both his uncannily earnest cover of “Beauty and the Beast” and the strange theatrics that accompanied it. The third and smallest tier consisted of real heads: “He’s your favorite artist’s favorite artist,“ wrote one commenter. “IF YOU DON’T GET LUCY, DON’T GO.” wrote another.
“I think I make pop music, but people who really listen to pop music say it’s not that,” Handy admitted. “I guess it’s more experimental.”
I met up with the man behind the LUCY moniker on a crisp afternoon at The Met Cloisters, and found him sitting on a terrace overlooking the Hudson (“Oh, yeah,” the info desk told me. “He’s down past the big crucifix and to the right.”) Handy, 29, is almost startlingly soft-spoken, dressed head-to-toe in primary colors, and is charmingly prone to blushing, especially when he’s asked to talk about himself. We walked through chapels filled with medieval ephemera, pausing for an extra-long time in front of the unicorn tapestries, which tell the tale of a hunted magical beast.
Handy started performing as LUCY in 2014, while working as a dishwasher at UMass Amherst—”lunch lady-style,” as Handy puts it. It was a passion project he developed at the college town’s multitude of DIY spaces. Sonically, the project is of a piece with the Soundcloud rap that emerged around that the time—Handy created simplistic beats in GarageBand that sublimated the basic musical tools the Internet provides into something that feels homespun and handmade. He found a niche within that universe by hitching his wagon to the art and music collective Dark World, releasing music videos that fit into the collective’s farm boy-meets-acid-rap aesthetic and put his name on the map for a very specific corner of the Internet and the thriving local scene in Western Massachusetts.