Now, at 31, the multi-hyphenate performer is returning to those roots. He makes his solo musical debut with the new single, “Silence,” a slow-grooving track, premiering on MTV News, that boasts clear R&B influences. A metronomic beat clicks over soulful electronic production and under Burnside’s falsetto, which he uses to break the quiet on a painful stretch of time in his life, one where he found himself frequently turning to dating apps and hook-ups for validation.
“Where we are in dating is often a reflection of where we are personally,” Burnside tells MTV News. “I found myself in this place of really using dating, or sex, or connecting with people in intimate relationships as a way to self-soothe and distract me from the things that I was dealing with personally, or things that I wasn’t dealing with… It’s like a drug. I needed a real quick hit of validation, of some kind of affirmation of my beauty, of my worthiness, or my value.” “Silence” is the first track off a forthcoming EP, which will explore similarly cathartic territory through a sound Burnside describes as “funky, sexy, and super cool.” Because, as he says, “We can’t heal what we don’t talk about.”
The single arrives with a moody, largely monochromatic music video that was filmed while Burnside was quarantining at his mother’s house in Georgia. The visuals visit Burnside at home, alone, as he tries to fill the gray spaces of boredom. There are scenes where he dances for the applause of a virtual chatroom, wearing only a towel wrapped around his waist; in others, he gazes dangerously at a semicircle of broken glass. “Most of the shots you see are filmed by my mother,” he explains, “and the other ones are filmed by me just setting it up selfie-style.”
In many ways, his lyrics tackle similar themes to his Pose story arc — love, loneliness, and finding the balance between the two — but, this time, it’s personal. While Burnside says he still feels creatively nourished by his work as an actor, he is excited to share the hidden, or lesser-known, parts of himself. “Working on music again has really given me the space to just express myself, and to tap into the things that are truly important to me,” he says, contrasting the process to bringing to life the scripted story of a character. “It’s given me a voice and allowed me to amplify my voice in a way that I haven’t been able to do in quite some time. Now I get to tell my story.”
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