What does an artist do once they’ve hurdled seemingly every obstacle on the strange trip to being cooler than cool?
Legend has it, if you put your ear to the page of the Webster’s Dictionary that reads “experimental,” Nina Kraviz’s imperfectly perfect production faintly pulses from the corner bearing the definition. Few artists have committed to the I do as I please because I know it kicks ass approach to music to the extent Nina Kraviz has. You should know that Nina’s dream and drive is that of a Siberian girl who moved to Moscow at 19 to pursue music (and dentistry). It has been a long journey and to have made it this far whilst marching to her own drum’s beat is a testament to some form of unapologetic brilliance. That’s what makes what comes next so interesting–and important.
To be clear, I’m not referring to run of the mill cool – Nina is cool on a spiritual level…
If you’ve seen her live, you understand what I’m getting at.
She is a master of her craft. So now what?
In most cases, when an artist reaches that tier of cool and enjoys the success that comes with it, one of two situations or a fluctuation between the two will play out.
1. The artist hones in on what makes their project loved and rides the mainstream safely to shore.
2. The artist further experiments and runs the very real risk of sinking their smooth sailing ship.
In the unlikely case of Nina Kraviz, continuing to experiment and push boundaries ultimately translates to… more of the same?
What a bizarre predicament she faces.
While Nina’s club sets are always narrative-based at their core, the meaning behind them is left up to the interpretation of each individual on the dance floor. Nina’s Coachella set in 2019 was her first creative output (to my knowledge) that was fueled by a specific narrative that was experience-based, factual, and extremely personal. Unlike the electricity she can conjure up in any given club setting, this performance was a deeper and more harrowing experience.
For the first time, her performance wasn’t all about making you feel something. It was a momentary confession of how she feels and has felt all along.
“Skyscrapers,” her first release of 2021, was the first track to pack the equivalent well-roundedness and attention to detail of that Coachella performance. Up until this release, I was increasingly unsure of what Nina had in store for her fans and the culture at large. At some point, the greats must consider that one day, an army of DJs, nostalgia addicts, and cover bands will play their music with an impressive frequency and fervor in their absence. I think Nina hit that point and only now has she begun to tell the story that she would like told of her.
When I started writing “skyscrapers” I was in the middle of a love story that wasn’t going particularly smooth. This song is about love for another person, the kind of love that is strong and painful but also makes you feel alive. One night I packed my bag and went to Dubai. … Everything was so last minute and did not have any particular plan. It gave me a right amount of excitement. Instead of writing a script I would just tell the camera man where we were going, what we would be doing and he would then follow and film me. It was so spontaneous.
The transparency behind the rollout of “Skyscrapers” is a testament to this shift and also signals what hasn’t changed. While now, the story is specific to her reality, the creative process retains the spontaneity that makes her live performances and general character so infectious and special. If she holds onto this and this alone, Nina will forever be relatable to the tried and true creative.
Nina’s description of “This Time” was nowhere near as lengthy, but proved to be quite revealing: “Composing ‘This Time’ I put my main focus on the arrangement and on the vocals to create a warm yet sultry atmosphere that my favorite pop music is known for.” Perhaps for once, the rhyme to the reason is neither complicated nor cryptic. The simplicity, the paying of homage, and the eerie familiarity of the track are radical in that… Nina Kraviz is making Pop Music.
As she stands alone in the video, I like to imagine her singing to herself on the record. As she deals with the reality that if she is to continue scaling her project, it will take doing something insane… hence the repetition of “This time you’re out of your mind.” Self-aware and confident from a history of unfair critiques, and in response to those she knows she will face as she takes her project in any direction, she reminds us that as time passes, “we will find [she is] gonna be the one to care. [She is] gonna be the one who cares.” This is of course another constant in the career of Nina Kraviz–creating for herself as she creates herself.
Having read her one line description of the track, broken down the lyrics that fuel it, and watched the video accompaniment 100 times, I’ll present you with my educated guess as to what’s going on and what’s to come:
After years of success commanding her own lane while hovering around and yet remaining unaffected by the mainstream, there is a clear lack of new frontiers for her to tackle outside the scope of pop music- hence why she is recreating the atmosphere that she loves in pop music. She is the first to recognize that this is an absolutely wild thing to do but if she is to remain true to herself and create for herself, this progression is the only way forward.
“This Time” foreshadows greatness– songs that will be covered and karaoked.