It’s never easy to bare all as a new artist. Breaking that image of the picture-perfect, almost mystical popstar takes a lot of guts, but singer-songwriter Arianna Hicks, aka ARI, has it mastered. In her debut EP, “IDIOT GRL”, ARI is anything but forgettable as she channels all aspects of herself into her music — the good, the bad and even the ugly. “The overall message is be yourself,” the Toronto native tells me. “Don’t be afraid to be yourself, even if some of it isn’t the most flattering.”
The 21-year-old delves deep into her teenage insecurities and anxieties with intimate title track “IDIOT GRL”, touching upon everything from how living in a pre-dominantly white community as a person of colour shaped her view of herself physically, to self-induced pressure to excel. “I had to be the best at everything because that made me feel OK,” she admits, referencing her drive as a musician, student and athlete. “I was alone a lot, so that was my way of supplementing that.”
(RIGHT) Top by VERSACE, stylist’s own earrings, bracelet and watch by MVMT.
Top by VERSACE, stylist’s own earrings, bracelet and watch by MVMT.
he video for “IDIOT GRL”, directed by Lebni Avitia, brings the inner workings of her brain to life. We see ourselves through ARI as she speaks about her worries in her childhood bedroom, or when she fidgets nervously on a talent show stage before a judging panel. Although the song is specific to her own experience, ARI says she was delighted to hear she reached the hearts of many, but hesitates when I ask for any words she has for people who are questioning their self-worth at this moment. “I could tell you the things I wish I heard,” she starts carefully, yet firmly. “First of all, you’re justified in feeling whatever it is you are feeling but don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are, take a break and try to pull yourself out of it. You’re so much more than those awful things that people say to you or you say to yourself.”
ARI’s lyrics have attracted a loyal audience, but her musical range tempts them to stay. Dipping her toes into R&B in “Oh Well” and alt-pop in “Cold War”, the singer says she’s still figuring out what sound ARI is, but that she definitely doesn’t want to box herself into a specific genre. As of now, she’s busy making a Halloween-themed EP, due for release on 30th October, which stems from her love of the holiday.
ARI is refreshing because she gets what the youth of today want to hear — especially those who feel isolated in the present climate. And while she has big dreams for her career and wants to tour the world, she reiterates her unbreakable bond with her listeners as the most important thing moving forward: “I hope to be super connected with my fans… Get close to the people that help make what I do possible.”