In Residence: Yuna debuts R&B-pop gem and covers the White Stripes in live performance video

Yuna. Photo by Ajarina Hitomi.

At a time when our immediate worlds feel small due to COVID-related restrictions, Yuna’s sound and global perspective becomes all the more important. Yuna splits her time between Malaysia — Kuala Lumpur specifically — and Los Angeles, blending cultures and influences into a seductive, R&B-pop that soars through her vocals and grooves behind her band. Her 2019 album, “Rouge,” found her widening her musical scope with a hip-hop slant — collaborating with Tyler, The Creator, G-Eazy, and Little Simz. It propelled her to new heights and big stages, including the aforementioned Tyler, The Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw festival in LA. 

While typically taking a few years between albums, Yuna has been keeping busy during this unique time, recording in Kuala Lumpur and releasing new music. “Stay Where You Are” is the first new track we’ve heard and it is a prescient ode to self-reflection, and an absolute gem. A beautiful and intimate vocal turn that just begs to be seen on a live stage. Lucky for us, Yuna’s In Residence live session features video of her performance! And furthermore, we get a look at the worldwide debut of her forthcoming single “Invisible.” 

Yuna detailed her latest work, balancing time between Malaysia and LA, her career crossing over to the fashion space and much more in our conversation below. Enjoy the session and insight from Yuna.

Your newest single “Stay Where You Are” is a song about self-reflection and taking some time for yourself. Though you wrote it before quarantine, can you talk about how it resonates in our current environment?

I feel like we are all trying to better ourselves, especially right now, it’s a very challenging time for all of us, so it’s really important to take a break and kind of go on our own journey to become a better version of ourselves. “Stay Where You Are” is a beautiful song about how maybe we know we are flawed, and we are humbled by our mistakes, and it’s time to be better for the people we love.

Yuna’s Studio. Photo by Yuna.

You split your time between Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles. Can you tell us about the music scene in Kuala Lumpur? Popular genres, venues, etc. Any musical similarities you find between the two cities? How about sources of inspiration? 

The KL music scene is small, but it’s constantly growing. I've been spending a lot of time back in Malaysia and I'm getting to know all the new, younger artists that are brave to be themselves, they're just having fun and they're independent, it’s very inspiring to see that! With LA, it’s super competitive, but at the same time, artists are always collaborating and I think in Malaysia that culture is getting very popular... different genres intertwining with each other, it’s very refreshing.

Your career has crossed over to the fashion space with some coveted and high-profile designers. Music and fashion have always played a role together, can you tell us about that balance and how you approach both worlds.

I just try to be as real and comfortable as I can! I’m glad I’m that kind of person now who would just do something for the sake of art without thinking of 'what will people say?' in comparison to the younger Yuna — I was very calculated and careful. I think you just have to be authentically you, not trying to be someone else, you're original, and what you say and what you stand for has to be YOU and not scripted or picked up from the internet. That's a challenge but that's what separates you from everyone else.

When we get back to live performance — where do you look forward to playing the most? 

Honestly, it would be Kuala Lumpur. I've always wanted to play a stadium show in my city, bringing my all-female band and just have fun and perform all of my songs (even the ones in Malay). That would be amazing! I'm working towards that! Hopefully, when things are better we can all enjoy a Yuna show again!

— Written by Tyler Hale

Check out more In Residence sessions:
Norah Jones
Jensen McRae
Peter CottonTale
Rufus Wainwright
Rocky Dawuni
Lianne La Havas
Blake Mills
Laura Marling
Aloe Blacc
Devon Gilfillian
Jonathan Wilson
Juana Molina





Yuna - Vocals
Aizat Amdan - Guitar
Wan Muazzam - Keys

Edited by Paul Dreux Smith