A stint on Love Island may not be in the plans of every up-and-coming musician, but it seems to have paid off for north London singer Antigoni. The 26-year-old released her latest single You Can Have Him earlier this month, and the inspiration actually came from the hit reality show.
‘They approached me, and I was having this Zoom chat with the producers,’ Antigoni says. ‘One of them said to me, 'What would you do if you were coupled up with a guy and then someone came in and went after your man?'
'And I was like "Well, if you can take him you can have him". Something my dad’s always said is that even if you love someone and you want to be with them, they have to want to be there – you can’t force it. If you try and cling to somebody, it’s never going to work.'
It’s a show that’s never been too far from controversy, but Antigoni only has positive things to say about Love Island and the platform it provided her. 'I never thought reality TV would be something I’d do, but when they approached me I thought, "I’m single – I’ve got nothing to lose. Why not?"
'Love Island's just opened up doors and made me a little more visible, really. Which is all I can ask for.'
'And since I’ve been on the show, a producer called Waypoint heard one of my old songs, Never Gonna Love, and made a TikTok about a drum ‘n’ bass remix he did. It started blowing up, and then we put it on SoundCloud and it’s been number one for the last two weeks. So, [Love Island’s] just opened up doors and made me a little more visible which is all I can ask for.'
Before going on Love Island, Antigoni says she did consider the possibility that her music might not be taken seriously as a result of being on the show. The idea of authenticity in music is something that often rears its head, particularly in a post-X Factor world, and the domination of reality TV has received pushback for years – remember the (successful) campaign to get Rage Against the Machine’s Killing of the Name to number one at Christmas in 2009?
'I signed a publishing deal at 14; I’ve been in this game; I’ve been signed to Island Records; I’ve been crafting. This has just helped me get my name out there a little bit more.'
But she soon pushed aside any fears surrounding her legitimacy as artist. She tells me, 'At the end of the day, no one really cares when you’re up – if you’re doing well and your music is good, and you can perform.
'Cardi B came from reality TV; Wes Nelson came from Love Island. Cardi’s won Grammys, Wes has just made a track with French Montana – the music has to speak for itself. If you hand me a microphone, I can sing. I did know that there’d be some people who maybe have judgements. But I thought you know what, I’ll take that and I’ll prove that I’m actually good at what I do.'
A number of Love Island alumni have released music. Nelson is probably the biggest success story, while others have also done well. Sam Bird, who featured in season four, hit four million Spotify streams with his 2020 single Run To You. And yes, it’s easy to forget that Cardi B appeared on Love & Hip Hop: New York before becoming one of the biggest rappers in the world. But then there are the various reality TV contestants who release music only to quickly fade from public consciousness, looked back on in retrospect as novelty acts. It’s a fine line.
It helps that music has been Antigoni’s focus for so long, and that she’s got prior experience in the industry. She gives the impression of being someone who knows what she’s doing, and most importantly she has a genuine talent – it’s not something that she suddenly decided to try on a whim.
'I knew a lot of people in the industry before and they knew that I was already doing music – that I was already in this world,' she explains. 'I signed a publishing deal at 14; I’ve been in this game; I’ve been signed to Island Records; I’ve been crafting. This has just helped me get my name out there a little bit more.'
And the reception You Can Have Him has received says it all. 'It’s been so great,' Antigoni says. 'I’m so grateful for the way people have responded – it’s the first time I’ve had such a big response. It’s the first time we landed New Music Friday, which is obviously just amazing – me and my team are so happy about it.'
'For me, having a song that starts with a bouzouki intro be on New Music Friday UK is such a big achievement because I really want to share my Greek Cypriot heritage and culture through my music,' she says, 'So I’m really excited about that.'
Antigoni’s Greek Cypriot background has had a major influence on her music, which blends pop and hip-hop with bouzouki, a string instrument like a lute that’s popular in Greek music. While she’s a big fan of everyone from J. Cole to Dua Lipa to John Mayer, displaying her heritage in her own material is something that’s important to the 26-year-old who grew up listening to and singing Greek music.'It’s such a big part of who I am,' she explains, 'But I never really knew that I’d introduce it to my music like this. I always thought at some point down the line in my career I’d do something Greek and go down that road. Maybe three years ago, when I started incorporating it into my sound, I thought, "This is the music I’m meant to be making". It feels really authentically ‘me’.
'I want to take it as far and wide as I can – I really want to have the opportunity to get my music heard as much as possible.'
'Cyprus is in the Middle East – a lot of people don’t realise that', she continues. 'So, a lot of the sounds are quite similar to [those from] Arab cultures and that area of the world, and I want to be able to champion that sound in the way that Afrobeats has been championed and Latin music has been championed – I want to try and make it next up.'
It’s true that Greek influences haven’t had much representation in the English-language charts yet. We’ve seen a pop-punk revival, the return of disco, and plenty of reggaeton, Latin pop and Afrobeats over the last couple of years, and in such a saturated market, a unique selling point is important.
Whatever the USP, Antigoni intends on going global. 'I want to take it as far and wide as I can – I really want to have the opportunity to get my music heard as much as possible,' she says, 'I want to tour the world!'
In the short-term, there’s a headline show coming up as well as a body of work featuring both recent and currently unreleased tracks – and a video for You Can Have Him. Or, as Antigoni puts it, 'Just a bunch of music, all guns blazing!'