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Indo-American Artist Archana Gopal Celebrates Queer Desire in Vibrant ‘Heat’ Video  

The singer-songwriter and producer channels a bit of early 2000s pop and R&B with Carnatic vocal flourishes

Anurag Tagat Jul 04, 2022

Indo-American singer-songwriter and producer Archana Gopal. Photo: Cindy Sung

With about 20 years of training in Carnatic music, New York-based singer-songwriter Archana Gopal was among the desi kids in the U.S. who often compartmentalized Western music. “I don’t think I started singing pop music until I was 14,” she says.  

At the age of six, Gopal’s family settled in New Jersey and even though the artist says she “struggled a bit with fitting in,” she found a new sense of freedom to explore when she moved to New York later on. After attending a performing arts summer camp and auditioning for a musical in her early teens, she took a more keen interest in singing beyond Carnatic music. “I’m glad I had the confidence to go out and audition for things as a kid because I don’t think I would have ever really known that I could sing western music otherwise. I do credit my Carnatic training as the main reason why I sing today. I have such a strong hold over my voice thanks to my training and it brings me so much joy to combine the disciplines now,” she says.  

That mélange of the singer’s influences is heard clearly on her latest single “Heat,” produced by Evan Linsey and complemented by a music video jointly directed by Gopal and filmmaker Raashi Desai. The visual world of the singer-songwriter and producer is unveiled with a story about queer desire – in which they’re figuring out how to have fun but also set their own boundaries – complete with dancers and saffron set designs. Gopal channels a little bit of Beyonce and early 2000s R&B-tinged pop, while also working in Carnatic vocal melodies on “Heat.” It was important to her that the song – written over the span of eight weeks – was gender-ambivalent in its lyrics. Gopal explains in a press release that even if she wanted to write about her desire for “one human,” she couldn’t. She adds, “What felt true to me was to be deliberate about my queerness, because it was part of the renaissance of desire and longing that I was feeling after the height of the pandemic. Queerness forces us to confront the parts of ourselves that are seen as unlovable by the rest of society and that’s a lot of weight to put on a person. This song is a rejection of that notion and a celebration of who I love and how I love despite where I come from.” 

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“Heat” is wholly different in terms of an artistic statement for Gopal, who previously released her single “Say It” in 2020 but, admittedly, didn’t do much to promote it. The new song is part of her aptly-titled upcoming EP Begin Again, which will release on August 26th. “I wrote these songs in the summer of 2021 shortly after getting laid off. I really didn’t know what to do with myself and my time. I started to casually collaborate with some friends of mine who I had never made music with before. ‘Heat’ came out of the second session I had with my co-writer Kayla [Pichichero]. We brought our friend Evan Linsey on to produce it and the rest is history,” Gopal says.  

She’s also being realistic with the release of her music, as someone who got laid off work in March 2021 and begun pursuing music full-time. A fully independent, self-funded and self-managed artist, Gopal admits she doesn’t know what exactly the rollout of Begin Again is going to look like. “I simply plan to honor my music the way my instinct tells me to. I look forward to seeing how that unfolds,” she adds. Nevertheless, where she’s got to so far – creatively and also, fresh from a launch party for the song and continually performing at least twice a month for the last four months – is liberating. “I feel like I’ve finally broken some cycles in my life that were holding me back from truly being honest and writing honest music. Music serves such an incredible purpose in my life of helping me express myself and process all of the beauty and melancholy that life has to offer,” Gopal says.  

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Watch the video for “Heat” below. Stream on more platforms here.