For rising pop star Greyson Chance, solace can always be found in the studio.
On his 2019 album, “Portraits,” Chance ruminated on a past relationship and its painful demise. His sterling new single, “Dancing Next to Me,” presents him as a man back on the market, but nonetheless heartsore by a non-committal lover’s rebuff.
That narrative is reinforced by the “Dancing Next to Me” video, unveiled Feb. 21. In it, Chance pursues a handsome stranger through a crowded nightclub, and the two men share an embrace amid strobe lights and sweaty revelers as the track reaches its crescendo. The video concludes, however, with him pondering his reflection in a mirror, leaving the viewer to wonder whether his would-be suitor was just fantasy.
Visually and lyrically, the song recalls a romantic encounter the 22-year-old, who grew up in Oklahoma, had last summer. “I’d come across a few people this past year and there were a few different cases — this was the most specific one — where they were just afraid to love,” he told HuffPost. “It could have been a case of someone not feeling confident in their sexuality. It could have been an age thing. They just wanted a taste of love to see what it’s like, and then they were gone. They wouldn’t commit to it fully.”
“Dancing Next to Me” arrives less than a year after “Portraits,” a sophomore effort Chance said he considers his “proper” debut in that it was the first of his albums to represent his artistic vision. The new track, co-written with Teddy Geiger, sets a confident and reflective tone for the next stage of his career. It will appear on his third album, due out later this year via Arista Records and Sony Music.
“This album catches me going through the trials and tribulations of a musician’s life,” Chance said. “I talk a lot about what it feels like to be in a hotel room by yourself late at night. I talk a lot about some of the relationships I’ve had this year [and] how I miss a center of gravity.”
“My goal last year was to feel confident about myself on stage again, to really know I belonged there,” he continued. “I think I accomplished that pretty well. So my goal for this year is to be fully present ― to be like, ‘OK, this is what I do.’”
A lot has shifted both culturally and in terms of music distribution in the decade since Chance’s talents first received national attention, when a 2010 video of him performing Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” hit YouTube.
The clip went viral, and has now been viewed more than 66 million times. It also landed Chance, who was then 12 years old, on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” His subsequent debut album, “Hold On ’til the Night,” was released under DeGeneres’ record label ElevenEleven in 2011, garnering minimal fanfare.
Though he admits to being “embarrassed” by that initial rush of tween success at first, he now looks back at his origins fondly.
“There were so many things thrown in front of me that could have derailed me as a person, an artist, a brother, a son — all those different things,” he said. “I feel proud of that kid because of the way [he] navigated the waters.”
Eventually, Chance’s success as a tween prodigy began to fade, so he returned from Los Angeles to Oklahoma for college. But he didn’t turn his back on music for long. In 2017, he came out as gay in a heartfelt Instagram post, explaining that a young fan had inspired him to do so.
Two years later, he was ready to re-establish himself as an adult singer-songwriter with the release of “Portraits,” expressing his authentic self as a gay man through his music. The music business, too, had changed by then, with LGBTQ artists like Troye Sivan, Kim Petras and Lil Nas X scoring mainstream hits.
Best known for her collaborations with Shawn Mendes, Geiger “forced me to be honest, asked me tough questions that not a lot of people would ask [and] views an album as a body of work with a first and last page,” Chance said.
Reflecting his sexuality in a song like “Dancing Next to Me,” he added, is “something I don’t think about now.” Still, he’s anxious for the day that witnessing an LGBTQ person live their truth in the public sphere won’t be considered an anomaly. “This is the life I live, and I’m portraying it within my art the same way any straight artist does,” he said. “I don’t view it as a statement and I don’t want to.”
Chance will follow up the release of “Dancing Next to Me” by embarking on a European tour, slated to kick off later this month in Madrid, Spain. He’s currently in talks for a U.S. concert trek, too, to coincide with the new album’s release.
These days, he sees writing and performing music as “the only way I know how to get through life,” even though being “hyper-focused on numbers, performance, whether I have another record to put out” is counterproductive to creativity.
“I’m very focused on how I’m feeling about things,” he said. “Am I happy with my music? Am I happy with my show when I get off stage? Am I happy when I go to bed? All of those things are a lot more important to me because I’d much rather be happy than on top of the music industry.”