How Singer-Songwriter D4vd Became the Mouthpiece for Gen-Z Heartache

how-singer-songwriter-d4vd-became-the-mouthpiece-for-gen-z-heartache

David Burke spends most days recording songs in his six-year-old sister’s bedroom closet in his childhood home near Houston—including eight of the nine songs on his new debut EP, Petals to Thorns. The BandLab app has been his steadiest companion since 2021, when his Fortnite montages kept getting flagged for copyright infringement and his mom suggested he solve the problem by making original music. He’d never before considered being a musician, but couldn’t think of a better alternative, so into the bedroom closet he went.

What emerged was D4vd, the 18-year-old singer-songwriter taking Gen Z by storm with his paradigm-shifting music. Many factors signal that he’s a new kind of artist. For one thing, he barely sings. D4vd says he tried choirs out twice, first when he was his sister’s age, then later at age 12, but neither stint lasted a year. While he never imagined he’d sing them, he was fascinated by verse, growing upon poets like Nikita Gill and Martina McGowan. Before transitioning to homeschool, he stole notebooks from school so he could write whenever he felt compelled, laughing at the memory of downloading Japanese manga page-by-page on his Motorola.

The result of those influences, plus a Fortnite-assisted need to try singing again: “Run Away,” which dropped in late 2021—driven by piano, with D4vd’s hushed, mumble-singing serving almost as an undertone. Seven months later, the melodic “Here With Me” featured distorted vocals, but D4vd’s increasing confidence shined through experimental vocal runs. 

It was his next song that would position him as an unassuming yet undeniable mouthpiece for Gen Z.

The grungy, morose ballad “Romantic Homicide” arrived last July, as cutting as the title suggests. In the accompanying video, which has tallied over 55 million views, a blindfolded D4vd sulks in a rainstorm, expressing his hatred for his ex—“In the back of my mind / I killed you — to free himself from waiting any longer “for someone that won’t even arrive.” Yet thanks to “Romantic Homicide,” arriving is the least of D4vd’s concerns: He signed with Darkroom/Interscope last August and infiltrated the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 33.

D4vd was empowered by the simplicity of “Romantic Homicide.” His voice didn’t have to be perfect; it just needed to say something real. He poured his newfound conviction across Petals to Thorns.

The project is sonically diverse, but D4vd’s writing is still the star, with lyrics like“Tell me I’d be better off dead / But don’t tell me you forgot about me” (“Don’t Forget About Me”). While his audience is multiplying, his intention is singular: Let the words lead. D4vd talked to GQ about his unlikely origins and the larger universe he’s building within his music.

GQ: Did cutting through with “Romantic Homicide” allow you to see your artistic potential?

D4vd: That is the perfect way to describe it. I still feel like I’m becoming an artist every day — with every song that I make and every piece of art that I create — but at that moment, it was like, This could really be something. Before then, I didn’t realize it. After, it was like, man, people actually are listening to my music of their own free will. Like, I’m not even pushing anything in their faces. They’re trying to listen to me.

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How Singer-Songwriter D4vd Became the Mouthpiece for Gen-Z Heartache

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