Rania Khoury photographed by Cassandra Willis.

Pop Music

Meet Rania Khoury, the Palestinian Artist Breaking Pop Stereotypes

The Dallas singer songwriter releases her first music video, "When You Say My Name," on Friday.

When Rania Khoury finished filming her first-ever music video for her new single, “When You Say My Name,” she wondered how people would react to the sultry alter ego she portrays on screen. She says she doesn’t think of herself as super sexy; super goofy is more like it. Sauntering around drinking wine and serenading herself in the mirror while a camera followed was, well, different. So, before the upcoming May 29 release date, she took it straight to her biggest fans and most discerning critics: her conservative parents. 

“I was nervous for them to see it. Finally, I was over there a couple of weeks ago and I was like, guys, I want to show you this music video,” says Khoury. Her parents immigrated to North Texas from Palestine and started their family in Arlington, where Rania grew up in a strict Christian household. They’ve always been supportive of her musical talents, but she wasn’t sure how they’d react to seeing her sexy side. 

“I was expecting them to just be like, ‘Oh yeah, that was cool. That was nice.’ But my mom was like ‘Whoa, Rania you look so beautiful in this!’ and my dad was like, ‘This is racy but it’s tasteful.’”

While it wasn’t the reaction Khoury was expecting, their words reflect exactly what the artist was going for with her forthcoming EP. The new album, which features “When You Say My Name” as the lead single, will be a change of pace and a change of tune for the musician, who usually flies solo. 

“The difference is with this EP, this three-song EP coming out in June [Tired/Wired], that was actually a full collaboration with [local musician and producer] Shohn,” says Khoury. “I already started these songs on piano or guitar. But what was different was, he joined me at the start of it. So, it’s like I came up with the melody and I came up with the idea of the lyrics and the song, but he was really there along the way, hand-in-hand, collaborating with me on the development of the song, and then obviously, the production of the song.” 

The process of developing her own music with another person took Rania out of her comfort zone and added some depth to the songs, from their production to their conception. 

“Actually, when I first started writing it, it didn’t really have a theme behind it. So, it came down to, like I said, that collaboration and we had a session where he was asking me questions about it. He was like, ‘What are you trying to convey with the song, what is the story?’” says Khoury. “In my mind, the story is someone, like, longing for someone, or someone kind of fantasizing, and daydreaming, and longing for someone else. And so, I actually rewrote the lyrics and the story to fit that concept. The overall theme of the three songs is human struggle. Every song on this EP has to do with some sort of struggle that we’ve all experienced at some point.”

“When You Say My Name” focuses more on the inner struggle with oneself, Rania says, “like the angel and the devil on your shoulders.” 

Listening to the soul-pop single, though, you won’t hear someone struggling. You’ll hear an empowered woman who’s coming into her voice and her sexuality while staying true to herself. 

The music video for “When You Say My Name” goes live on Friday, May 29 on Rania’s YouTube channel and you can stream the song now. Catch Rania performing live on Thursday, May 28 at 7 p.m. on Legacy West’s Instagram.

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