Sumptuous R&B and empowering odes to Mariah Carey from the emerging singer.
There aren’t many people who could drop an ode to the great Mariah Carey and make it double as a commentary on female rivalry, but when Niia’s sumptuous vocals ask “Why are you so obsessed with me?” – the repurposed lyrics take on a whole new meaning.
The American singer-songwriter has just dropped her sophomore album II: La Bella Vita, a 13-piece collection of funk-laden, hip-swaying R&B tracks – populated with the artist’s unmistakably lush vocals.
A rare playful quality unfurls slowly and seductively like a curl of smoke in a warm room, seeping out of tracks such as “Whatever You Got”, and intoxicating “Face”, in which the string arrangement and vocals loop ticking like a time-bomb. It’s a warning. She is not to be fucked with.
We caught up with the emerging singer and talked about translating other people’s heartbreak…
When did you first realise you wanted to pursue music?
When I learned I could do music instead of getting another job! I was at my jazz conservatory studying jazz voice and was moonlighting as a jingle singer to make some extra cash. My session was in a beautiful professional studio and I remember walking in and the rest was history.
What music did you listen to growing up?
Only older music really. I listened to a lot of classical growing up. My mother was a classical pianist and taught out of our home. She only played jazz, soul, R&B, opera and artists like Sting, Annie Lennox, Marvin Gaye, Sade etc. I only knew about modern pop music like boy bands and stuff from my friends and I’d try to pretend I knew all the lyrics.
Where do you get your inspirations for your songwriting from?
The lyrics almost always come from my own personal experiences. I was told early on to write about what I know. Growing up singing jazz standards I was a portal. I had to translate other people’s heartbreak, sadness, excitement and when I started writing my own music it felt the most authentic to sing lyrics about things I was going through. I also think I pull from the classic songwriters too. I love following a story.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
Marvin Gaye, Sade, Chopin, Billie Holiday, so many others.
Who do you make music for?
It’s always for myself first. But after releasing my first album. I received so much feedback of how it resonated with others that I think subconsciously I am writing my own stories in hopes to help others.
“Obsession” is your response to the iconic Mariah Carey track – but instead explores the “jealousy between two women” – did any experience make you want to look at this?
It was based on my real life. I was in a terrible place the last few years personally and another female artist kept copying me and it started to really piss me off. I didn’t know what to do with my emotions so I looked to Mariah for help! I thought that line from her song was exactly what I was feeling! It just worked. I laugh about it now because imitation is the highest form of flattery. But at the time it consumed me. I couldn’t get over it. I think it’s hard to manage emotions, judgement, and comparison as a female artist sometimes. The industry has trained us to compete with each other and this false sisterhood has emerged sadly. I am inspired by other females like anybody else. The saying a good artist borrows, a great artist steals – I think about daily. With “Obsession” I wanted to find a way to deal with my frustration but not put too much weight in it!
Who would you love to collaborate with?
Orville Peck, Summer Walker, Sade, James Taylor.
What’s next for you?
I’m heading to Europe and into rehearsals for some shows! Also getting back into the studio to work on my next project. I’m also excited about finishing a script I’ve been working on and adopting another dog.