Published on September 20th, 2023 | by Dr. Jerry Doby0
Sheldon Universe “Poor Boy”
In the final verse of his latest single, Sheldon Universe makes a noteworthy confession. Even if he had a million dollars, he tells us, he’d still be the “Poor Boy.” It’s a statement of frustration and an acknowledgment of the brutal difficulty of social mobility. It’s also a bit of a boast. The Toronto-based Goan-Canadian pop singer is telling listeners that no matter what happens to him, he’ll retain the qualities associated with poor kids: humility, persistence, drive, and an unquenchable thirst for achievement.
All that ambition comes through brilliantly in the wildly catchy, passionately performed, stubbornly unique “Poor Boy” — a summer anthem for a season spent on the grind and an electropop anthem with the soul of the blues. In two tight verses and one indelible chorus, Sheldon Universe has given us a character sketch with terrestrial concerns and cosmic implications. The narrator looks longingly at the houses of the rich and wonders how the inhabitants got their money; he sings about his dedication to music and his past life as a hardworking percussionist; he pledges his fidelity to a girl who, he believes, deserves more than he can give. The implication is clear: if a man this talented can’t get ahead, what hope do the rest of us have?
He’s exaggerating a little. Though he sings, “I should have made it by now,” Sheldon Universe has plenty to crow about. He’s worked extensively with the internationally popular Indian-Canadian pop singer and rapper AP Dhillon, performed with Manic Drive, and served as the drummer for the Toronto Raptors. His production company has become a staple of the music scene north of the border, where he’s been the driving force behind shows and festivals of all kinds. He just hasn’t had a massive hit yet, but that’s likely to change at any moment.
Marco Veltri’s bright, energetic, and offbeat clip for “Poor Boy” makes the star’s hunger for achievement manifest through a gripping visual metaphor. The director shoots Sheldon Universe alongside the trappings of wealth: mansions, expensive cars, and beautiful women. But the soul of the clip is a gently choreographed sequence performed by four dancers wearing mask replicas of Sheldon Universe’s face. They’re otherwise quite distinct — four men with different body types in casual business dress. The effect is intentionally destabilizing and calls into question the flimsiness of identity in the corporate world. It’s a commentary on the masks we all must wear to climb the ladder and a visual expression of the singer’s lament about getting “lost in the crowd.” He’s determined to stand out. Don’t bet against him.
Sheldon Universe weighed in on the new song, fighting through creative blocks, his outlook on where he is in his career, and a bit more!
Can you walk us through your creative process for “Poor Boy”?
It’s simple. I bought an instrumental and got the license to have it exclusive. Sounds sort of uninspiring, I know. But the truth is, often when I create music, my expression comes out through the instruments. However, sometimes instrumentals from other composers bring out emotions and feelings from deep within me. Sometimes it helps me to write. It’s often therapeutic. For the longest while, I wouldn’t even let others contribute to my songs because it felt like then it wasn’t MY art. After many reminders from social media that my friends are touring the world, winning GRAMMYs, flying on private jets, and owning luxury cars, I stopped making excuses and started just creating.
I was frustrated with the productions and songs I was making not getting the results I needed for the time in my life where I feel I should already have a major placement or hit song on the radio. I chose to go a route that would appeal to the most listeners in the quickest time knowing that if I created a song like “Poor Boy,” people would like it because it sounds like what a decent amount of people are looking for. The song is a good sounding instrumental with today’s typical drum sounds with guitars that get you hooked from the start, and I found it after a decent amount of search on the internet. Then, I used AI to help write lyrics and utilized the technology to get nice inspirations and suggestions to drive home the point that I am so frustrated with my current occupation and wanting to give my significant other everything that I believe we deserve.
This songwriting approach was about effectiveness, a need to deliver sonic quality ready for export, and timing. I have lots of songs that I have created on my computer that require more production, better recordings, a lot more budget to acquire the sound it takes to deliver the quality of poor boy. My hopes are that I can fuel my creative desires with a commercial hit that allows me to gain an audience and momentum within this music industry so that I can spend time and creativity on things that I actually love.
How do you deal with a creative block?
I don’t have creative blocks, I only have blocks in the way of my creativity. I’m full of ideas and some get me so excited that nothing gets in the way of the drive to accomplish them and make some of dreams or visions come true. I believe that if you can dream it, you can achieve it. You need to feel the moment and actualize that potential! Then, work your critical path in reverse from that moment of accomplishment to the very beginning of that inception.
Who or what inspires you, and why?
Justin Bieber inspires me because his voice is very distinctive and he can do vocal runs and “licks” that I can’t do so flawlessly. His R&B sound is inspiring! He also comes equipped with a massive team and company of high caliber talent. I am always striving to work with the very best in the world and I want all my work to reflect the amount of time and energy I have spent over the years getting better at my craft. When an artist like Justin Bieber is surrounded by greatness and big budget, he is moving in circles that can only exponentially allow him to improve all things from physical strength to vocal coaching to fashion to investing to travel to experiencing life that not many can relate to.
What was it like working with Marco Veltri for the “Poor Boy” music video?
Marco is a very organized and systematic director. He knows how to get shots and how to schedule people and to keep the energy going! It’s easy to lose motivation in a process that looks like it’s really fun and it usually is but it’s not always. He also takes my creative input and helps me with my process to deliver the best story and he often has ideas that I welcome. Because we both have a lot of resources and prior experience, and because we had worked together before, the process of making the video was easy. He is very passionate about filmmaking and I am very passionate about creating something world-class that resembles the same level as any other big-budget record label shoot; together we both make do with whatever we have and make it the best we can with what we have.
What was the hardest thing about making “Poor Boy”?
The song was easy because I recorded it in a basement apartment with my home studio, but the music video was harder. The hardest part was just getting people together at the same time because schedules are so busy these days with everybody working so hard. To be honest, even filming all the cars, I needed to drive them in front of the house in very hot weather and even found myself stuck in the McLaren overheating at one point. We had to get the shots in a short time span because the cars needed to go to the race track that day. The hottest commodity is time! Rarely do we have the freedom to spend time on things we love and want to do vs. what we have to do. That’s the basic concept of my music video.
What is your favorite theme/message to sing out about and why?
My favorite theme vs. most frequent theme I sing about might be different but it’s always somehow connected to love. I don’t necessarily have one theme or message in mind because it’s often affected by the style of music, the context and environment the music is heard in. It’s all intertwined!
How do you want your fans to feel after hearing “Poor Boy”?
Ready to take action
I want a person to get out of their comfort zone and do something that excites them. They should get up and take action. Do it! Become who they always wanted to be. Live happily and freely. Smile. Laugh. Love. Share that energy!
What’s next for you?
A short film production that mixes a music video with a movie with magic… who knows?!! Whatever it is it should be something that is better than my last project and pushes me to a new height of accomplishment. I have a collaboration with some NBA players that will be released soon. It should be out anytime now! “13 Rules” is the name of the song that will show honor to James Naismith, the Canadian inventor of basketball. My connection is I used to be an official drummer for the Toronto Raptors – 6ixStix, coming out of our drum group Rhythm Works which tours schools and, with Blueprint Pathways, visits Indigenous communities and incarcerated youth in correctional facilities across Canada. At one of the arts high schools where I was hired as a guest artist and an accompanist for their dance program, there was a dancer whose father works in marketing. He made the connection to the original creators of the Toronto Raptors identity: David Strickland and the founder John Bitove. Let’s see where this one takes me!
Sheldon Universe Always Expanding!
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