You've heard of triple threats, those rare birds who can sing, dance and act their way across any stage, in front of any camera, straight into the hearts of millions, but Ansel Elgort puts even those stars to shame. He's some kind of quintuple threat.
He broke through with acting roles on hit films The Fault in Our Stars and The Divergent Series. Then he made a name for himself as producer-DJ Ansolo. He rocked a crowd of about 40,000 at Ultra Japan before deciding even that was a little too much cage on his creativity.
“I don't want to be bound by making music that always has to make people jump up and down,” he tells Billboard. “I want to make whatever I feel like, but I can produce my own records, and that's what I've been doing now.”
Music was his first love. He started taking singing and piano lessons as a small child. His biggest dream was to perform in Broadway musicals, which meant he had to sign up for acting classes. He was discovered shortly before graduating high school, and soon found himself on the sets of major motion pictures. Still, the desire to return to music was always there.
“It's much more satisfying,” he says. “When I show up on a set as an actor I have to take someone else's lines and play someone else's part – which is a lot of fun, but with music, it's all my vision.”
“Thief” is Elgort's latest musical offering, a smoldering '80s-inspired dance-pop tune that tells the story of a wicked womanizer who steals a woman's body and heart without an ounce of regret. He channels his icons Michael Jackson and Queen's Freddie Mercury to deliver a one-two punch of catchy hook and vocal power, with an edge for lyrical storytelling that's much more mature than most of his contemporaries.
“(The '80s) was a really great time in music when people really had to be great performers and also be great vocalists,” he says. “I'm not planning to do every song '80s, but it just so happened that way, and I was happy with it.”
The single artwork and viciously sexy music video echo that Miami Vice vibe, all by definite design. Elgort doesn't leave any room for outsiders to mess with his vision. His own brother directed and edited the video, and that sexy video vixen is his real-life long-term girlfriend.
“She's the ideal woman,” he says. “There's no one else I'd rather watch in the video, but she also ended up doing a great job. She obviously really likes me, so she's able to be seduced by me.”
There's no shortage of exposed skin in this three-and-a-half minutes. Fans will particularly enjoy a scintillating bath tub scene.
“There's something really great about a bathtub,” Elgort laughs. “Some of the greatest scenes in movies and also art work (are in bathtub), everything from DMX sitting in a bathtub full of blood, or Prince sitting in a bath tub on stage, and Eminem, too. Bathtubs are provocative things. People have sex in bathtubs, they touch themselves in bath tubs, they kill themselves in bathtubs. Bathtubs are a real place where a lot of shit goes down.”
“Thief” is Elgort's second solo single, following the upbeat “Home Alone.” He's got a whole lot more music on the way. The plan is to release a single a month, leading up to an album in the summer. He's got one track coming up with the rapper Logic, a rework of a song he originally wrote on piano at the tender age of 14.
His catalog is likely to play around with a lot of different styles, tempos, and sounds. Elgort is nothing if not done being told what to do and how to do it. The one thing that's certain, there will be more cinematic music video.
“I always envision a music video while I'm writing the song,” he says. “I want there to be a story.”