Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
For Hamilton, pop has no boundaries.
A danceable synth can break into an anthemic hook, or a sensitive croon can curl into pure electro ecstasy. With a touch of hip hop and a dash of rock 'n' roll, Hamilton will make you think twice about what's possible within pop music. His latest single, "Sun," soars through a saccharine soundscape colored by flourishes of guitar and a whole lot of keyboards. The chorus could carry a dance party or a packed arena. He shines on "Sun" as well as every other song he stirs up.
About his sound, he declares, "It's a fusion of hip hop and pop. We write everything on guitar, but we use a lot of hip hop beats. In the end, every element comes together seamlessly."
Hamilton arrived on that perfect blend after years of tampering with different styles. Growing up in Orange County, he spent a lot of time rocking in high school bands, until he moved up to Los Angeles as a teen. Cooking up all kinds of sonic concoctions, a chance encounter in the studio led to Hamilton's breakthrough. While recording one night, a music supervisor heard Hamilton's "Alive" pumping through the hallways, and he instantly fell in love with the song. Months later, it closed out an episode of the MTV hit, Laguna Beach.
"That opened a lot of doors for me," explains Hamilton. "I'm from Laguna Beach and it really brought things full circle early on."
One of the doors it opened was for Hamilton's first deal. Signed to a development deal with J Records/RCA, he began creating intriguing new music, but due to shifts in the label, none of the music saw the light of day.
Soon after, he made a pilgrimage to Sweden. Invited by producer Alex Purple, Hamilton hopped the pond, and the trip opened his eyes to a new style. He goes on, "Stockholm is where the synth-pop-electro-thing kicked in for me. That's when the sounds really started to change because I was truly inspired by the music I was hearing in Sweden from Max Martin and Alex. They're the masters of pop confection. I came back and started working with The Cataracs, and that's where I'm at now."
The Cataracs [Far East Movement, Mickey Avalon] produced "Sun" with Hamilton, and it's lit up the online landscape with countless downloads, plays and views. The song officially hit airwaves in August 2010, and the video—directed by Colin Tilley [Justin Bieber, Chris Brown]—won MTVU's contest for "Best Freshman Video" a month before. Voted for by fans, the video has become a veritable sensation. Hamilton's done it all without a label too.
The story behind the song is significant. He says, "It's a real exploration of emotion but not in the self-help way. Dark and the light exist in the same place. People wait for that one big moment or that one thing they believe will solve all of their problems and cause happiness—whether it's a record deal or graduating college. It's seems like the waiting never ends though. You're waiting for the sun to shine essentially, and that's what the song is about. Darkness comes and goes, but the sun will always be back. Things may be shitty, but they'll get better."
Hamilton's other collaborations with The Cataracs include the insanely fun "Mr. Sexual" and the uplifting "God Knows." The hot production duo has added an edge to Hamilton's music, sharpening it beautifully. He exclaims, "They really bring that raw underground effect into my art."
It's impossible not to vibe with Hamilton though. An aural chameleon, every song is a ride all its own. "My writing style is very different," he says. "The formula always changes. We aren't scared to get random as far as beats go. Every song is unique. No tracks are alike, yet it's still Hamilton."
In the end, Hamilton's just following in the footsteps of those that inspired him. "I get inspired by so much music, and I just want to continue the chain. I just do this because I love it. Once you give in and decide this is how you're going to live, there's no turning back. Once you carve out that path, there's no return. I just keep going because I love it."
You're gonna fall in love with Hamilton too. — Rick Florino, August 2010