Despite what hundreds of viral videos show, it’s difficult to grab attention on the internet these days if you’re a musician. Particularly in the age of Soundcloud when your song becomes part of sea of millions of artists uploading their tracks sporadically hoping that one will grab the attention of someone with more influence than themselves.
Kiiara was one of those in June of last year. She uploaded her debut track Gold to Soundcloud and slowly but surely it spread to an audience of millions. 6 months later the track has had over seven million plays. How exactly this happened is not entirely clear. Once the blogosphere caught on the song exploded with many impressed and perplexed with her auto-tuned sound which was nestled in between pop, hip-hop and electronica.
After that Zane Lowe, one of the head-honcho’s of Beats 1 radio picked up on Kiiara and she’s been on heavy-rotation on the global station ever since. triple j has now started spinning the track and while she’s released four other songs since then it looks like Gold is only just getting started.
The point here is that when a track is great and, more importantly different, it will spread - slowly but surely. She’s now been backed by most music publications as one to watch in 2016 and looks to be the year’s most unlikely popstar. There’s little that we know about Kiiara at this point apart from the fact she’s a 20 year-old hardware clerk from Illinois who writes songs to "cut out the white noise and reach oblivion," as she told The Fader.
According to her Twitter, she hates untalented famous people, doesn’t believe in marriage and if you give her your business card she’s going to throw it out. Her songs are our biggest insight into who Kiiara is. There’s a sweetness to them but they’re coated in a hip-hop-borrowed attitude. She’s cool but she’s also a recluse, doing the whole “no fucks given” popstar thing much more convincingly than Halsey or Lorde.
For now, she’s looking towards her debut EP Meet Me In The Cornfields, but like all of her releases so far we have absolutely no idea when to expect it. It’s likely though that when it arrives, the hype surrounding Kiiara will only grow. From Gold to her latest Say Anything, she’s had one of the strongest run of singles we’ve seen from a brand new artist in a long time.
Back in June she wrote on Twitter, “music music music . . . no instagram . . . no interviews . . . no pushing my personality on people . . . can i just make music?” She’s doing everything on her own terms and as long as she keeps releasing tunes as good as she has, the answer to her question is yes. Yes you can.
Below we’re going to delve into all of her tracks so far and a little further into the enigmatic mind of Kiiara.
Kiiara’s latest track Say Anymore may also be her most club-ready tune. Backed by a skittery, garage-leaning beat she’s falling in love which is a dimension of Kiiara we haven’t heard on her other cuts. “From the night club to the bedroom floor, I’ve never felt quite like this before,” she sings with her now-expected autotune style.
To show just how strong her Soundcloud following is, the song has been released for eight days and it’s already been played 180,000 times. That means the song on average has been played 22,000 times a day.
Intention dropped late last year when things really started to take off for Kiiara. She was being played heavily by Beats 1 and was at the point where she could release a fart and people would listen. Luckily, Intention is far more than just a fart. It’s hip-hop-tinged, after-dark cut with a fast-moving verse that has you hooked from the first listen.
It was produced by Casper & B. - a duo that have produced tunes for Skizzy Mars and Michael Christmas. Like Kiiara, they’re definite ones to watch in 2016.
Apart from Gold, Feels may be Kiiara’s greatest triumph. “I’ve got way too many feels, way too much emotion,” she opens the song with, singing over a minimal bed of lush synths. It’s one of the softest Kiiara moments and tears down the walls a little bit. The auto-tune is less prominent here than on other songs rather used very subtly to wobble some of the most heart-wrenching moments.
It was produced by Felix Snow who has worked on most of her material and Brenton Duvall who is not known largely yet but has a Soundcloud full of gold. Once radio has had its way with Gold, it will likely turn to Feels.
Whether or not she’s singing about it, part of Kiiara’s aesthetic seems to be that after-dark feeling of sipping liquor under shades of neon colour. Tennessee seems to embody that feeling the best with a drunk, glitchy beat that’s more industrial than any of her other songs.
She’s at peak attitude here, singing “I’m a ghost when I walk in, Holy Spirit when I walk out.” It’s like a rap song chopped and screwed into something more electronic and it truly sounds like the future.
Gold, as mentioned, is the song that started it all for Kiiara and is continuing to kick goals for her. Like Tennessee it has a certain hip-hop feel to it but it’s been chopped and screwed to lean further towards the world of electronica and pop. It doesn’t hit with a huge chorus but rather uses unique textures and immediate melodies to grab you, smartly introducing Kiiara as a girl who literally won’t take any shit.
- Words by the interns' Sam Murphy