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July 01, 2024

Northeast Philly musician wins WXPN's 24-hour song challenge

Khalil Amaru prevailed with the original tune 'Dear June.' He will receive studio time and a slot at the XPoNential Music Festival in September.

Music Contests
WXPN contest winner Provided image/WXPN

Khalil Amaru wrote 'Dear June,' the winning entry to WXPN's 24-hour song challenge, in response to the contest's prompt 'summertime.'

Khalil Amaru beat out 309 competitors to win WXPN's first 24-hour song challenge, the radio station announced Monday.

Amaru prevailed with "Dear June," a soulful ode to a lost love. The Northeast Philly musician's submission earned him a $1,000 honorarium, along with 10 hours of time at MilkBoy recording studio, a one-year WXPN program partner membership and a slot at the XPoNential Music Festival to perform his winning track.

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WXPN host Mike Vasilikos broke the news to a shocked Amaru in a video call posted to the station's YouTube channel.

"This means so much to me because 'Dear June' came literally through tooth and nail," Amaru said. "I was not trying to submit, I was like 'Maybe they’ll do it next year.' I was so tired! But something inside me was like you gotta do this, you started releasing music this year, this is your time. This feels so good."

Amaru, who grew up in Ypsilanti, Michigan, but moved to Philadelphia in 2020 for graduate school, told WXPN that he has been performing all his life. He only began releasing music under the stage name Khalil Amaru, however, in the last year. He said "Dear June" was inspired by a "summer fling" that he "thought would blossom into something beautiful but never did." The title references the month that he and this mystery paramour met.

Amaru was one of four finalists announced on June 24. The other three runners-up will each received $500 and a one-year WXPN membership. They are Mackenzie Johnson, Yuneer Gainz and Best Bear, which is led by indie rocker Blue Barnett.

The 24-hour song contest gave independent musicians a single day to write, record and submit a performance of an original song based on a prompt. The prompt, "summertime," was released at noon on June 1, and entries were due by noon the following day. A panel of judges including Vasilikos and singer-songwriter Donn Thompson Morelli, Questlove's sister, chose Amaru as the winner. Listen to "Dear June" below:

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