Rowdy Magazine sat with Album Receipts creator Melody Han You to discuss representation in the music industry, creative design, and why Swifties are a little bit scary.
(Majo Morales/Rowdy Magazine Graphic Designer)
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Editor's Note: This interview was conducted at the end of May and postponed until June to properly and justly use our platform to amplify Black voices after the rise in Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the globe.
Internet, meet Melody Han You.
She’s just your average girl. She likes Tyler, The Creator. She wears cowboy hats out to bars. She thinks high school parking passes are too expensive–– so much so that she photoshopped her own.
That’s when Melody really found her love for design and art flourishing, even if it was a little sneaky. She did get detention for the rest of the year, but the $200 pass lit the creative spark that ignited a flame.
Melody is the creative mastermind behind Album Receipts, the Instagram-based art project that brings back liner notes and translates some of our favorite albums into the mundane pieces of paper often crumpled up at the bottom of our backpacks.
In an age where streaming services run rampant, Album Receipts reminds us that there’s something special about the physical representation of music.
You may have seen some of her work reposted on your story by a friend. Or by Ariana Grande. Either one works.
Melody, who recently graduated from Boston University with a BS in advertising, found herself gravitating towards the creative side of the field after several internships (and several binged seasons of Mad Men).
She was always creative growing up, doing painting, illustrations and photography in her formative years. But like so many of us, as time went on, she found herself slipping away from her artistic calling.
“After I went to college, I guess I just kind of lost that part of myself,” she said.
But one random late night in May laying on her bed after returning back home from college after COVID-19, she saw something that turned her gears a little bit.
The post sparked something in her, and she decided to spend the next waking hours making her own: IGOR, by Tyler the Creator, of course.
After she posted it on her personal Instagram, Melody got comments and DMs from friends asking if she could make versions of their own favorite albums. And that’s how the lovechild of Album Receipts was born.
“I just thought, I might as well just turn this into an Instagram account where I make things for people. So that’s basically how it started. I didn’t expect this to get popular at all. And then it kind of just, blew up.”
After posting Harry Styles' Fine Line into a receipt, it was only the beginning for the success to come.
Within the span of three weeks, what originally began as a Quarantine Cabin Fever project turned into an overnight sensation.
“I was joking around when I started and I hit 800 [likes] the first day I was like, ‘I'm super famous now.’ Like, yeah, this is great. When I hit 2000 I thought that was it. I was so excited. And I was screaming.”
As of publishing, Melody has nearly 100k followers and her work’s been noticed by artists like Kacey Musgraves, Anderson .Paak and Kevin Abstract of BROCKHAMPTON. To her, the overwhelming support from fans and artists has been absolutely surreal.
While the receipts may look simple to make–– take an album, write down the song lengths, and pick out a color–– it’s so much more. Each one takes a few hours to make, exclusively on Photoshop. There’s not a template Melody plugs things into, each one is made in detail on its own.
She reads her comments and messages each day, usually suggestions from her fans on what albums to tackle next. Melody has a huge spreadsheet with every request she’s gotten–– including the endless requests for Taylor Swift.
If you don’t already know, the Swifties don’t play around. Some have even gone as far as to track down Melody’s phone number and personally text or call her with a request. They’re really dedicated if you couldn’t tell.
“They’re like yelling at me. Like, yelling. It’s like, not one of them has been sending things that aren’t all in caps. Like, they’re all in caps. But I get it, I’d do the same thing for Frank Ocean.”
But it’s all love for the Twitter stans, trust us. It’s what keeps Melody producing art. The outpouring of love and support from fans when they see the album that changed their life or made them fall in love. Or the album that they dance around to when no one's watching. It means something special.
Her favorite album receipt to date? Smino’s NØIR.
“He’s one of my favorite artists and I just love his music. I've been listening to his album more for like the longest time. So when I saw that he had reposted it on a story that was like [the] Very First Celebrity that actually noticed me I was literally crying.”
Since that first celebrity repost, Album Receipts hit the ground running and didn’t look back. Melody worked with Carly Rae Jepsen to announce her surprise “Dedication: Side B” album. After being approached by Jepsen’s manager, Melody created an Album Receipt “leaking,” the tracklist.
“Seeing fans be super confused in the comments before it was announced the next day was so crazy,” she said. “Honestly, I haven’t even heard Carly Rae Jepsen’s music since I was in middle school. I can't believe I got to be a part of that.”
While many of us are sitting at home watching Netflix as we wait for the long summer days to pass, Melody spends her time working on Album Receipts and all the exciting projects she has pulled up her sleeve.
She’s been reached out to by celebrities and managers for collaborations and partnerships, all under wraps for now. For a design project made out of the blue, she didn’t expect any of this to happen.
“I cannot believe that any of these opportunities are happening to me, but I'm just so grateful.”
In the meantime, you can catch Melody’s work on her Instagram account. While the work seems all fun, it’s important to acknowledge Album Receipts doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Just like music is inherently political, so is she.
Since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, Melody has been using her platform to share information on social justice and exclusively spotlight Black artists through her designs.
In May, she began to collaborate with Karen Xiao of @DoodlesByKaren and Mariah Ao of @PinkArt.JPG honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander History Month. Representation is at the cornerstone of most projects she takes on, as an Asian American woman who’s been often overlooked by the media.
“These types of projects, I just want to continue doing them to bring hope in a time where it seems so difficult,” she said. “With independent artists as well, spotlighting them. Any way I can use my platform for good, I will.”
With Album Receipts, Melody is giving fans digital memorabilia to celebrate the soundtracks to our lives. Who knew a stir-crazy art project could make us all suddenly want to hold onto those slips of paper a little more closely?
Ana Escalante is Rowdy Magazine's Editor-in-chief. She likes podcasts, comfortable sneakers and yelling about being a Capricorn. You can reach her on Twitter @AEscalante22 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org