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When a collection of Jai Paul demos leaked online in 2013, it had the makings of a celebration, not a catastrophe. Paul had previously released two rapturously received singles, and anticipation for his music was high. The songs on that collection were shared widely, and beloved. But rather than capitalize on the good will generated by the unintended release, Paul retreated, making almost no public noise or appearances for the following decade.
This year, he returned — first, with a pair of performances at Coachella, and then a pair of smaller headlining concerts in New York. He was shy and a little awkward onstage, but the music he played was sure-footed. Whether it was the conclusion of his prior arc, or a prelude to a new era, wasn’t clear.
On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about Paul’s anti-career trajectory, the persistence of fan enthusiasm for him even in his absence, and how mystery on the internet has changed over the past couple of decades.
Lindsay Zoladz, a pop music critic for The New York Times and author of The Amplifier newsletter
Jia Tolentino, a staff writer at The New Yorker
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