From TikTok to touring the world with the Grammy-nominated pop-rock band OneRepublic, Mishaal Tamer continues to find ways to elevate his position in the global pop pantheon. Singing in English, Arabic and Spanish while mixing guitars with a self-made modified electric oud, not to mention a poignant songwriting and performance style that is entirely his own, Mishaal represents a rising generation of trilingual pop stars that are not only bridging cultures but sonic references to create something entirely new.
Since childhood, Mishaal has been driven by making the impossible possible. When he was nine years old, Mishaal broke his arm, suffering nerve damage that would have left him handicapped had he not found the guitar. Powered by his dreams, he used the instrument as part of this physical therapy, which eventually built the foundation for his songwriting and artistry.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia saw a major turning point with the announcement of the 2030 vision, with music, art and entertainment at the forefront. During this transformative period, Mishaal emerged onto the scene, establishing his presence through his first Instagram post with a self-reflective, somber guitar clip of “Can’t Love Myself.” Producer Monty Datta later found the track, sampled and released it, propelling the track to amass almost upwards of a billion views across platforms.
2019 witnessed Mishaal’s evolution as an artist with the release of his debut music video for “Arabian Knights.” Filmed in his hometown of Jeddah, Mishaal kicked off the trilingual trend by singing in Spanish, Arabic and English, cushioned within a Spanish strummed guitar and a lo-fi beat.
Afterwards, Mishaal went on to release an outpouring of singles, culminating with his debut EP, Life’s a Ride, in 2020 through RCA Records. Driven by indie-pop and genre-bending aesthetics, heard chiefly in tracks like “Friends,” Mishaal found his voice and self-contained style of songwriting.
In this behind-the-scenes video, Mishaal explains to Billboard Arabia what it means to be a songwriter from Saudi Arabia on the brink of global stardom and the importance of dreaming big. On the tour, Mishaal also teased several singles from his forthcoming album, Home is Changing, a double entendre for undeniable progress happening in the Kingdom, but also deep within the artist. The album consists of five EPs that collectively tell a story of transformation and personal growth. Thus far, the lead singles include the self-reflective “Superman,” followed by “Disco Cowboy,” a blending of post-punk guitar lines, momentous drums and anthemic lyrics.
This notion of change is ever present in Mishaal’s work, particularly when looking at his early work and the evolution of his songwriting leading up to getting signed by Empire, and Home is Changing. It is perhaps out of his ability to embrace change that the young artist continues to rise. For example, in the process of receiving his visa in the United States, Mishaal spent many nights sleeping under a table in a recording studio in New York, unable to return home to Saudi during COVID, and instead writing through his homesickness. The outcome was a body of work that continues to flourish.
In the summer of 2023, Mishaal joined OneRepublic as the opening act on their multi-city tour across Europe, and in this video, he takes Billboard Arabia behind the scenes and through the many milestones reached along the way. The tour came after singing with Empire and co-headlining the 2022 iteration of MDLBEAST’s SoundStorm in Riyadh alongside stars like Bruno Mars, DJ Snake, Post Malone, David Guetta and more.
Building off the momentum of the tour, OneRepublic teamed up again with Mishaal in a partnership between Interscope and Ubisoft to release the track “Mirage” for the video game Assassin’s Creed Mirage. “To be featured on a song with my musical heroes, OneRepublic, that soundtracks my favorite video game, is a dream come true,” says Mishaal Tamer.
The song dropped in the lead up to the game’s release, with the lyrics co-written by Ryan Tedder, and a feature by Mishaal singing in Arabic, where both verses take inspiration from the video game. A week later, Mishaal dropped another single, “Painful Paradise,” paired with a music video made of footage from the tour with OneRepublic.
Last December, OneRepublic announced a Dubai stop on its Artificial Paradise world tour on Jan. 25, with Mishaal Tamer set to open up the stage with tracks from his new EP, The Deep. In his rapid rise to the global stage, Mishaal’s trilingual prowess and genre-blending continue to push the boundaries of indie-pop, where his lyrics echo personal and cultural growth, while his collaboration with OneRepublic heralds a new era for the artist and musicians from Saudi Arabia.
This article is a translation of a piece that originally ran on Billboard Arabia.
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