Chicago artist Kiiara introduces ‘spacey R&B’ on debut EP

Midwestern pop singer Kiiara was at the top of Billboard’s Next Big Sound rankings in April, following the release of her debut EP, Low Kii Savage. The Atlantic Records release is currently up to No. 60 on the Billboard 200 after bowing at No. 13 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart. An official bio describes the “slightly left-of-center” artist as a “breathy vocalist whose output falls somewhere between that of Jhene Aiko and Lorde.” The 21-year-old Illinois native previously recorded under her real name, Kiara Saulters, and in 2013 independently issued the “homey” acoustic pop song, ‘Bring Me Back.’

Kiiara signed to Atlantic Records and began working with the Cataracs' Niles Hollowell-Dhar and David Singer-Vine, who co-produced her debut EP, Low Kii Savage, along with Brenton Duvall and Felix Snow. The EP’s alternating sound of “downcast electronic pop and bass-heavy, trap-style rap production” is considered a “radical change in direction” for the young artist, who was raised in Wilmington, Ill., about an hour south of Chicago.

She was working as a sales clerk in a hardware store when Kiiara recorded her “spacey R&B” debut EP. An iTunes review notes Kiiara has been scoring “hot-and-heavy blog posts” since her first single ‘Gold’ emerged in June 2015. The hype is justified, according to the review, which labels ‘Gold’ as “spare and frenetic, its crisp beat serene while Kiiara’s chopped-up vocals create a jagged melody.”

‘Gold’ has since taken off as an international hit. It reached the Top 5 in Australia, where it went double-platinum. It also achieved platinum status in New Zealand and was a gold-seller in Denmark. ‘Gold’ charted in more than a dozen other countries and is currently No. 21 on the U.S. Mediabase Top 40 airplay chart and No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100

Kiiara says she wrote ‘Gold’ “about two years ago” and then set it aside. She explains to Australia’s Triple J that she and producer Felix Snow later reworked the song to give it a more “electronic and futuristic sound” that eliminated full passages from the original track. “It was really wordy,” admits Kiiara, “and we just hollowed it up.” She explains the message behind ‘Gold’ is that “you don’t have to answer to anyone.”

The Fader and Jezebel sang the song’s praises following its initial release, and U.S. listeners jumped on it soon after the ‘Gold’ music video appeared in late March. Other tracks on Low Kii Savage include a “pirouetting slice of dream-pop” titled ‘Feels,’ the “fevered” club tune, ‘Tennessee,’ and the after-hours electronica of ‘Hang up tha Phone,’ which iTunes hails for hitting “the emotional bull's eye.” The BBC recently premiered ‘Say Anymore,’ the follow-up single from Kiiara’s Low Kii Savage.

AXS.com predicts that with her “intriguingly delicate yet edgy music sensibilities, angelic vocals, fiercely addictive hooks, and mind-bogglingly inventive production,” Kiiara could emerge as one of the year’s biggest new stars. The young artist is wrapping up her debut tour as the supporting act for AlunaGeorge. She’s also set to perform at Lollapalooza back home in Chicago (July 28-29).

Watch Kiiara in the official music video for ‘Gold’ from her debut EP Low Kii Savage.




As A Matter of Fact…

* Kiiara was born Kiara Saulters on May 24, 1995, in LaGrange, Ill., and was raised in Wilmington, Ill., where she played high school volleyball team. She recorded her breakout EP, Low Kii Savage, while working in a hardware store.

* Saulters independently released an acoustic pop single in 2013 titled, ‘Bring Me Back.’ She was signed to Atlantic Records and began using her stage name, Kiiara, releasing her debut single, ‘Gold,’ in June 2015.

* ‘Gold’ first peaked at No. 5 in Australia, where it was certified platinum. The single is currently No. 22 on the Mediabase Top 40 airplay chart and No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100. ‘Gold’ was also used as the background music for a series of smartwatch commercials.

* An official bio describes Kiiara’s music as “downcast electronic pop with bass-heavy, trap-style rap production. Low Kii Savage was released on March 2016, and was accompanied by the ‘Gold’ music video. More than 5 million views of the video were racked up by mid-May.

* Kiiara was at the top of Billboard’s Next Big Sound rankings in April, following the release of her debut EP, Low Kii Savage. The Atlantic Records release is up to No. 60 on the Billboard 200 after bowing at No. 13 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart.

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