Here’s Why Music Nerds Are Freaking Out About Jai Paul’s Return
"As things unfolded I went through a number of phases, but the immediate, overriding feeling was one of complete shock."
On April 14, 2013, a collection of songs allegedly written by Jai Paul were uploaded to Bandcamp. Within hours, the blogs were all over it.
Songs get surprise released all the time, of course, but that the music was supposedly by Paul made things different. Since 2007, the young English musician had transformed from a cult performer with a small but dedicated fanbase into something of a phenomenon.
His debut track, ‘BTSTU’, made it big on MySpace, and ‘Jasmine’ and ‘Higher Res’, which dropped over the following five years, only cemented his status as one of the most interesting performers in pop.
Soon, rumours swirled that Paul was about to drop his debut album. The hype machine began to power up — led by digital tastemakers Pitchfork, the blogs began hurriedly reporting that the musician was working on a full collection of songs.
Then April 14 came around, and the Bandcamp leak threw everything into chaos.
The source of the Bandcamp leak was hotly contested. At the time, some blogs suspected that the whole thing was a gimmick on behalf of Paul’s label XL Recordings, designed to drum up even more intrigue and support around an artist who had made his esoteric personality a cornerstone of his public image.
Others still claimed that Paul himself was behind the leak, hoping to release his debut album on his own terms rather than his labels’. That narrative was only in early stages of development when a new one emerged: A few days later, rumours began to swirl around a Twitter user, who claimed that the leak came from a stolen laptop.
For their part, the critics and the blogs largely acted as though the leak were an official release. Despite having no statements to work off from Paul, they proceeded on the assumption that the songs were complete and reviewable, although a few writers acknowledged that some of the songs sounded “unfinished.”
That’s not to say, mind you, that the leak affected Paul’s critical standing or the opinion of his fans. Diehard Paulheads signed an online petition calling for XL to drop the record in full, and the leaked version hit top spots on several best of the year lists. For some, this was enough to justify supporting the leak — clearly Paul’s career was gonna do just fine.
But Paul, for his part, stayed silent — for years and years.
Over the weekend, some songs apparently by Jai Paul were uploaded to the internet.
But this time, it was only a few hours before ‘the leak’ was confirmed — by Paul himself. He uploaded two new songs — ‘Do You Love Her Now’ and ‘He’ — as well as the entire leaked record from 2013, under the name Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones).
In a long open letter to his fans, the musician dispelled some of the rumours around the 2013 leak, and explained his own grief and sadness following the event. “As you may know, some of my unfinished demos were put up for sale illegally via Bandcamp,” he writes.
“The leak consisted of a fairly random collection of tracks I had made over quite a long period of time (from roughly 2007 to 2013), in various stages of completion…A large proportion of this music was to be completed and released officially in some format.
“Regarding how this music got leaked, the short answer is that I don’t really know. I believe these particular versions of tracks may have come from a burned CD that got misplaced — a fair amount of people would have had access to my music in various forms between 2010 and 2013.”
— Jacob Tender (@jacobtender) June 1, 2019
Apparently, Paul first heard about the leak following a late night phone call from his management. He tried getting in touch with the police in the hope that they might be able to stem the online tide quickly. But he couldn’t make contact.
In the days after the leak, Paul tried to reckon with what happened. “I understand that it might have seemed like a positive thing to a lot of people — the music they had been waiting to hear was finally out there — but for me, it was very difficult to deal with.
“As things unfolded I went through a number of phases, but the immediate, overriding feeling was one of complete shock. I felt numb, I couldn’t take it all in at first. I felt pretty alone with everything, like no-one else seemed to view the situation in the same way I did: as a catastrophe.”
“I felt numb, I couldn’t take it all in at first.”
A year after the leak, Paul claims, the police believed they found two of the perpetrators. But by then it was too late — there was nothing that anybody could do. The incident hit Paul hard. He experienced a “loss of trust”, and was dismayed that the public would think that he’d leak his own music.
But now, Paul writes, after years of therapy, he is ready to return to making music. “We have decided now to make the April 2013 leaked music readily available so that those who want to hear it can access it via platforms they’re used to,” he writes. “In order to do this we had to remove a bunch of samples that we were unable to clear, so what you hear won’t be exactly what leaked in 2013 — but I know the original stuff is still floating about if you know where to look.”
So now, six years after the fact, one of the most controversial leaks is out there, in full, in the same sequence decided upon by the leakers. And Paul is okay with it.
“Finally I just wanted to express how grateful and appreciative I am for the friends, artists, colleagues and strangers that have stuck by me and shown so much love, support and mad patience over the last however many years,” he writes. “I truly appreciate the help.”
Listen to Jai Paul’s two new tracks below.
Joseph Earp is a writer and critic based in Sydney. He is on Twitter.