Two months ago, the family of Isaiah Faber (aka Powfu) moved from Mission, B.C., to a new house in Chilliwack. The place is going to need a trophy room to display all the platinum plaques the 21-year-old singer-songwriter/producer is amassing for the international success of his blockbuster hit track “death bed (coffee for your head).”
“The first one [for certified U.S. platinum sales] arrived a week ago,” says Powfu. “It’s pretty crazy to look at that.” More are coming, as the single has officially gone double-platinum in Canada and Ireland, and platinum in Australia, Sweden, Mexico, New Zealand, Italy, and Norway.
“It was getting a lot of views on YouTube, and TikTok took it the rest of the way”
Originally released in 2019, the breakthrough track made the Top 25 on the Billboard Hot 100, and has been streamed more than a billion times, and counting. Its success story helps illustrate the ways that such platforms as YouTube, SoundCloud, and TikTok can break a song.
Powfu recalls that “death bed” got started when it was uploaded on YouTube. “It was getting a lot of views [currently at 178M] and then TikTok found it and took it the rest of the way,” he says. More than a million Tik Toks have been made with the song, and that phenomenon was followed by mass streaming on Spotify, and other outlets. A recent remix of “death bed” by U.S. pop-punk heavyweights Blink-182 has continued its momentum.
The poignant lyrics of “death bed” have resonated deeply. “The thing to me that stood out about it was the story, talking about death,” says Powfu. “I’ve never heard a song with that kind of story. People like the melody and the rap, too, so I guess it all came together.”
Powfu initially came across the song’s beat, by Otterpop, on SoundCloud, and then used a sample from English artist Beabadoobee (taken from her song “Coffee”), though the song’s lyrical subject matter is his creation. “That was, and many of my songs are, written from [standing in] the shoes of another person,” he says. “My life is pretty boring compared to many people, so I like reading, and watching movies, about other people’s lives. “
The impact of “death bed” helped Powfu land a deal with Columbia Records, and his recent EP Poems Of The Past is the first fruit of that union. As with earlier Powfu indie releases, it showcases an eclectic style featuring hip-hop, punk, and pop elements. “I have different styles of songs, so that each of my fans will have a different favourite track, depending on the style they like,” he says. “I call my sound ‘lo-fi hip-hop punk.’”
Powfu’s do-it-yourself material is, literally, “bedroom pop.” “I have a desk in the corner of my bedroom and the computer set up there,” he says. “I’ve tried the big studios out, but recording in my room just feels more comfortable to me.”
He describes his songwriting approach this way: “First I’ll find a beat I like the sound of, then I’ll freestyle flows or melodies on top of it. If I come up with a melody that I think sounds cool, then I’ll try to write lyrics for it.”
It’s heartening to know that success can be just that simple.