By Melissa Domingo
Indonesia native, Nicole Zefanya, better known by the mononym Niki, released her highly anticipated debut album on September 10, 2020. After works like “Zephyr” and “wanna take this downtown?”, the release of “Moonchild” comes as a pleasant surprise to fans.
The singer-songwriter released a ten track concept album intended to tell the story of the titular character, Moonchild. The character doubles as a parallel story about Moonchild and Niki about their shared personal growth. The album includes a foreword and is separated into three phases that include three songs each, which ties back to the moon: one of her biggest inspirations for this album.
“Moonchild” is a very short album, concise and to the point, standing at only 34 minutes.
The foreword is chilling, and serves as a word of warning, asking its listeners to “keep [their] eyes wide open.” The iso
lated vocals, and the addition of heavy harmonies, make the message of the song even more eerie.
The first phase has standout tracks like “Switchblade,” a track with heavy glitch pop influence, that serves as a great start to the album. “Nightcrawlers,” a track that showcases Niki’s versatility and vocal command. The R&B and pop influences tie back to some of her older works like “lowkey” and “urs.” Another track to call out in this section is “Selene,” a song that has an energetic bassline and roots in jazz. The song is sensual in its message, breathy vocals sing about being brought to new heights.
The second section has a more sombre mood, with songs like “Tide” which include strong distortions, heavy bass, and breathy, yet powerful vocals, with playful lyrics about being alert of the people who surround you. “Pandemonium,” is a soft track, which completely contrasts its title — one of my personal favorites off this album. Though, these songs pale in comparison to “Lose,” a song where Niki is able to boast her vocal ability, a strong ballad backed by a piano about being incapable of letting go of a tumultuous relationship.
The last section, Phase 3, sounds like an amalgamation of the first phase and second phase, with its upbeat tones, and poignant themes. “Plot Twist” opens up the last act, a complete 180 shift from “Lose.” It’s a typical, charismatic pop song about the wonders of the unexpected. “If There’s Nothing Left …” another song with strong R&B influences, heavy bass, and contrasting strings. The album ends with “Drive On,” a song with drums and heavy bass, and Niki’s soothing vocals.
I was pleasantly surprised by this album, it’s different in comparison to her previous works, which Niki told Harper’s BAZAAR, “focused on, you know, young love and puppy love.” Her debut album covers a variety of genres, whilst also keeping a story-telling aspect that draws back to her interests: “I loved fairy tales, and I love sci-fi.”
As an avid fan of hers, this was a genuinely good album that showcased Niki’s musical prowess, she has many strengths as an artist and she’s able to present those strengths through this album.
Niki displayed her lyrical skill; she is an artist who is capable of writing lyrics that fit the narrative she’s trying to tell. As she wrote in a statement posted on her social media accounts, her debut album is, “Diverse yet cohesive, sharp yet blunt, figurative yet honest.”
“Moonchild” is the beginning stages of Niki’s growth as an artist, she’s capable of tackling many different genres of music, and refuses to stay in one category. In the same statement she wrote, “I accepted that as an artist, I owe it to myself to express freely and without borders. Boxes, genres, and labels to encourage the opposite of that. I am so grateful this was the project that I got to learn that lesson through.”
“This album is very much centered around self-discovery and just my personal journey growing as an artist and as a human being,” she told Harper’s BAZAAR.
FEATURED IMAGE (at the top of this post): A screenshot of Niki in her Switchblade music video. (PHOTO CREDIT: 88rising)
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