Aaron Carter is turning over a new leaf. Over a decade since his early 2000s pre-teen pop reign, the "I Want Candy" crooner returns February 16 with his first album in fifteen years, a radio-primed 14-song stretch that ushers in a long overdue new era for the now 30-year-old singer. Sonically, the record trades in the shout-along party bops of his youthful past for open-hearted, big-beat EDM. Lyrically, it casts aside the tabloid tumult of the last few years and leans into a side of Carter it took five records for him to find: himself.

As a kid, Carter didn't write or produce his music, the artist tells PopCrush. (He was, after all, only seven when he began performing). And while he's worked on songs intermittently since the release of his last full-length, 2002's Another Earthquake!, it wasn't until last year that he was able to fully embrace creative control. "No one would really believe in me," he explains—so he funded and released an EP on his own, 2017's LØVË.

His new album, also titled LØVË, is an extension of that project, chronicling two of Carter's past relationships. "It’s tough for me to be in a relationship, so I kind of put that out there for people to hear," he shares. "People already kind of know me before they know me. They can just go and google things and think that they’ve got me all figured out, but that’s not really a good way to piece together a puzzle."

While the collection lays bare plenty of personal material, it's also a clear intentional shift in direction, leaving behind much of the negativity that plagued Carter last year: In 2017, he was arrested for driving under the influence and marijuana possession; had a brief Twitter feud with his brother, Backstreet Boys alum Nick Carter; and sought treatment for health difficulties.

"Last year I definitely had some ups and downs, and the bad kind of superseded the good. Now I’m just letting time do its job and focusing on what’s going on today," Carter says. "I put a lot of stuff out for people to see, and I think I’m just looking forward to reserving some of that stuff for myself."

"Bad 2 Good," premiering exclusively on PopCrush, is a reflection of that newfound mindset.

"It's a good thing I came out alive when I did / And it was bad, but I don't got no regret," Carter sings atop a swaggering electro pulse that veers from buoyant to thundering. He may have penned the track while dating his now-ex, but the message remains: he's searching for the silver lining amid otherwise difficult circumstances, and he's never sounded more clear of mind.

Carter embarks on a 19-date tour beginning February 22 in Teaneck, New Jersey and wrapping March 16 in Kansasville, Wisconsin. See a full list of dates on his official website.

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