Of course, working with Beyoncé was a total dream come true for the Queens-native, who grew up with posters of Destiny’s Child plastered on her walls. But it’s been a long road for Gordon—one that includes an abusive childhood, botched record deals and a reunion with her long-lost brother on the streets of Los Angeles—to get to her debut solo record.
Released earlier this month, Pure is 16 minutes of ‘90s-tinged R&B with references to Kool Aid and E.T. But underneath Diana’s catchy pop hooks is her own, much darker story. Tracks like “Wolverine” that on the surface sound like they’re destined for never-ending airplay, are actually subtle references to the singer’s trauma—and proof that she survived it.
We sat down with the artist to talk about the EP and why she chose to be so open.
Tell me about your EP Pure.
The EP is about my childhood and my family. I had a brother who was missing and last September, I actually found him living on the street because he’s schizophrenic. But when I saw him for the first time and really looked at him, I could just see all of the years of trauma in his face. It was like, ‘This is what happens when children are abused.’ At that point, I decided I had to tell my story. I mean, I’ve been working in music for the last 12 years, and in all of that, I’ve never really given anyone a look inside my life. Pure is for all the kids who have really suffered.
Was it difficult to revisit some of your most traumatic memories? I imagine when you’re writing about something like trauma, it can be really difficult to have to get back into that headspace.
It actually wasn’t like that for me, especially because in telling the story, I used the positive things I attached myself to when I was smaller to survive, like E.T. and Harriet The Spy. Those were the things that inspired me. So, it’s more about childhood innocence than it is the negativity. But I also tried not to be so judge-y. “Too Young” is about my mom and really trying to empathize with her, and humanize her, instead of blame her, even though it was really hard to live with her. I just wanted to take a different approach. But the whole record wasn’t like, ‘Oh I’m so angry, I’m so sad.’ It’s more like, ‘There were happy days and let’s focus on those.’ But I also want to tell my story.