John O'Regan is the kind of guy who name-checks Dennis Rodman, Salt-N-Pepa, and Ziggy Stardust in the same breath. He also considers Nintendo soundtracks and Vanilla Ice folk music. 'That's the music my generation grew up listening to,' he says. 'To me, it's all folk because it's work created by people for other people.'
These references show up in his videos and onstage, where he performs his low-fi electro-pop songs under the name Diamond Rings, sometimes in an acid-wash denim jacket and painted-on Lycra pants, other times in a basketball jersey and gold bling. His boyish face is almost always splashed with eye shadow, lip gloss, and glitter. 'There's a friction to what I do,' says the 25-year-old Toronto musician, who recently released his first solo album, Special Affections. 'I try to ensure that it rubs people the right way, but also that it's a little off and not what people expect.'
Consider his Gaga-meets-Hoosiers clip for last year's single 'Show Me Your Stuff,' in which O'Regan and his creative posse have a choreographed dance-off in a foggy high-school gymnasium. In one verse, the singer appears as a glam caricature of a football jock, in the next a feather-bearing update of Klaus Nomi, a literal peacock. The video is a cheesy platter of winks to pop culture. It's also a blast. 'That's what artists should be doing,' says O'Regan. 'We have a plethora of images and genres and styles. It's all about picking those images and being able to put them together in a way that totally blows people's minds.'
For more on Diamond Rings, visit his official website and follow him on Twitter. Special Affections is now available in stores and for download from iTunes. O'Regan will be hitting the road this winter and spring, first with Robyn and then with PS I Love You. For a full list of tour dates, click here.