By Aliya Chaudhry
A day after the release of Jxdn’s electrifying debut single “Comatose” in March 2020, Travis Barker got in touch. Jxdn, whose real name is Jaden Hossler and who styles his performance moniker in all lowercase, was at that point known primarily for his dancing and lip-syncing videos on TikTok. He was, in fact, attending the creator convention Playlist Live in Florida when Barker called his team. A few months later, Hossler became the first signee to Barker’s label, DTA records.
More than a year onwards, he’s finally releasing his first album, Tell Me About Tomorrow, which opens with Barker’s voice saying Jxdn’s going to be the next big thing.
“He's literally like my dad,” Hossler says of Barker. “He's my family at this point.”
For Hossler, who decided he wanted to make rock music before he released his first song, there was no one better to work with. Barker has become central to pop-punk’s re-entry into mainstream music, helming new projects from an ever-expanding roster of artists including Machine Gun Kelly, KennyHoopla, and Willow. Last year, Barker produced, co-wrote, and performed on Kelly’s Tickets to My Downfall, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Jxdn appeared in the album’s tie-in film, Downfalls High.
Hossler, now 20, was one of the earliest stars from the TikTok generation to successfully cross over into music. His soaring second single, “Angels & Demons,” has over 100 million streams on Spotify. His brighter-sounding later release “Better Off Dead” was co-written with Lauv and Blackbear.
“I've been surrounded by music my whole life,” said Hossler. His father was a musician and a member of the worship team at their church. Growing up in Texas and Tennessee, Hossler also sang in the choir and acted in plays in high school.
Despite his early interest in singing, Hossler didn’t initially pursue music, gaining internet fame through TikTok instead. He filmed dances, skits, and trends; he lip-synced to popular audio clips and occasionally sang himself. His videos ranged from goofy to edgy. Hossler became a member of the creator collective Sway House in early 2020 alongside other platform celebs like Bryce Hall and Noah Beck. He now has over 9 million followers and 260 million likes on the app. “I feel like social media was just a stepping block for me to get where I gotta go,” Hossler said. “I definitely needed it at the time.”
It was a Juice WRLD concert that ultimately gave him the spark to pursue music. “I just had the biggest epiphany of my life in the middle of this mosh pit,” he said. “I knew in that moment that I needed to make music because of how much I felt connected to it.”
Hossler was inspired by the late singer and rapper’s ability to speak openly about his experiences, good or bad. “The reason I felt confident enough to go after what I wanted to do was because I was like, ‘If Juice WRLD’s being vulnerable so all of these thousands of kids can be vulnerable, so I can be vulnerable and we're all doing it at the same time, then there's no way that I can't do this too,’” Hossler said.
Having seen creators from different platforms try to make the switch to a music career, with varying degrees of success, Hossler knew he would have to do something different. “I saw people come from YouTube, I saw people come from Vine, and I knew what I had to do to separate myself,” he said. “That's why I went with such an active rock song for my first one, and a pop-rock song for my second one. I really was just trying to break the current.”
It’s impossible to tell from listening to his music, but Hossler only started listening to pop-punk two years ago. “It's funny, I didn't grow up in the punk scene at all,” he said. “I didn't grow up listening to punk music ever.”
The first pop-punk song he ever heard was Blink-182’s “Darkside,” which the veteran band released only in 2019. “From that moment on, I think it just naturally grew into: If I was 14 right now and I was listening to punk music, that's what it feels like, because I'm changing my hair color,” he said. “I just really want to find out who I am.” He refers to legendary California punk icons Descendents as his favorite band, but he’s also a fan of Motley Crue and Justin Bieber.
In the time since Hossler launched his music career, pop-punk has exploded into a proper resurgence. Olivia Rodrigo’s rollicking “Good 4 U” hit No. 1 shortly after she set the table with the much softer “Drivers License” — a song Jxdn covered with Barker’s help. After Tickets to My Downfall landed in the top spot, so did “Mood,” Iann Dior and 24kGoldn’s rap-rock hit. Both Dior and Machine Gun Kelly feature on Hossler’s debut album, on the songs “Tonight” and “Wanna Be,” respectively.
TikTok has also been integral to the genre’s rise. The short-form video app has helped alternative culture go viral, whether it’s the e-girl and e-boy aesthetics that call to mind Myspace scene-kid style or the era-appropriate songs like All Time Low’s “Dear Maria, Count Me In” and Paramore’s “All I Wanted.” (Hossler has cited both bands as influences.) “I think it was the perfect storm of COVID giving millions of adults the ability to go back to a time that was more nostalgic,” Hossler said.
With Barker’s help, Tell Me About Tomorrow is packed with plenty of pop-punk essentials that would make it sound at home in the genre’s 2000s heyday, from the high-speed power-chord thrills of “Pills” to the singalong choruses of “DTA” and “Last Time” to the quick-building hooks of the darker “No Vanity.”
“I'm really just the epitome of pop-punk,” Hossler said. He describes his album as “a really good representation of say, Taking Back Sunday, and Blink literally [having] a baby. That's what it sounds like. I really would love to be the poster child of pop-punk.”
Tell Me About Tomorrow at times also takes influence from trap and emo rap. On “Angels & Demons,” Hossler draws from the melodic singing style of his idol Juice WRLD, though he’s quick to point out he doesn’t rap. “One Minute” starts off with a Blink-style riff before rushing into a trap beat paired with chugging guitars.
It’s not shocking to hear Machine Gun Kelly’s voice on “Wanna Be,” but it was a surprise for Hossler, however, when Barker showed him the guest vocals. “I come back to the studio and Travis is like, ‘Yo, listen to the second verse. I want you to recut it.’ And I was listening to it, and they're videoing me, and I was like, ‘What the fuck?” And then I heard Kells’s voice and I was like, ‘There's no way.’ I freaked out,” he said. (Hossler will be joining Machine Gun Kelly on his Tickets to My Downfall tour this fall.)
Tell Me About Tomorrow has been almost a year in the making. Hossler started working on it in August 2020. The album artwork and title were locked in early — about nine or ten months ago — and were the few things about the album that stayed the same throughout its long creation process. Hossler titled it after a phrase he used to say to a close friend who was going through a difficult time. “We'd always say, ‘Yo, if you tell me about this, I’m gonna tell you about tomorrow, and it's gonna be better,’” Hossler said.
The album artwork portrays Hossler as a baby, sitting in the bathtub. “That was a moment where I was so vulnerable,” he said. “I'm not worried about what's coming, and I'm not really worried about what's happening in the moment. I don't have to do anything. I'm just told about tomorrow. I'm told what's gonna happen. I don't have any anxiety.”
The choice was informed by the album’s focus on vulnerability and the frankness with which he speaks about mental health. “It's been cloudy with a chance of depression,” he sings on “Better Off Dead.” He’s spoken about his experiences with depression and suicidal ideation. “Why would I ever downplay it? I feel like it's an injustice to myself and everybody around me, to what I've been through and what people have gone through,” he said, saying that Juice WRLD inspired him to connect with audiences by speaking candidly about his struggles.
Those experiences may likewise one day lead him into experimenting with other types of sounds as he explores what else he has to say. But that’s in the future. “Right now,” he said. “I'm a pop-punk baby.”