I’ve yet to read an article about Natalia Kills that doesn’t throw out the “Brit dark pop artist” thing. But after following her career and spending quite a bit of time/many a debauched evening-to-morning together, I recommend not pigeonholing Ms. Kills. Yeah, her new album, ‘Trouble,’ could very well be a Girl, Interrupted soundtrack if Natalia hadn’t been 13 when it came out. And yes, she sings about being “a fucking teenage tragedy” on the broken girl anthem, ‘Saturday Night,’ and a “goddamn problem” on the stripper-friendly banger, ‘Problem.’ But the aforementioned songs, the first two singles from the new LP, are pop universe game-changing kinds of amazing.
While the current sea of pop starlets clad in zany get-ups are causing Stan battles on Twitter (“Did Rihanna just throw shade in that subtweet?”), Kills is co-directing and co-writing treatments for her music videos, writing songs in her apartment for other singers, turning the heads of fashion freaks, most recently whilst kicking it front-row at New York Fashion Week, often rocking sunnies and a plum lipstick pout. She’s also a pop star who, gasp, doesn’t give a fuck. In other words, the pop princess throne is warm and ready for Kills. We chatted with the provocateur about how she’s managed to turn her Cinderella story gone wrong into a happy ending. Scratch that. Happy beginnings… Make room, here comes Kills, and, yeah, she bites.
To anyone with working ears, ‘Trouble’ comes across as a very honest record. It’s not everyday you hear ballads involving chardonnay and oxy from a pop singer. But have you ever been pressured to be something that you’re not in an effort to compete with the current leading ladies of pop?
With my new album ‘Trouble,’ it was really easy for me to avoid anything like that with anyone. Because instead of the album being a sexy pop album or me trying to be the best that I can be to compete against every other female pop star in the market, it’s the opposite. I decided to expose every worst moment, every fuck up I’ve made, every terrible thing that has ever happened to me. And because it’s my memories and my story, I’m not worried about somebody else whose song is coming out before mine sounding similar or being compared to anyone else because I don’t know any other female pop star who ran away from a cult or tried to burn the house down with her and her boyfriend in it, who was almost committed, who was arrested, medicated, got a restraining order. It’s more of a documentary or autobiography — it’s feel bad, feel good music. I guess I’m sort of the poster child that everyone shouldn’t aspire to be.
Was your 2011 debut, ‘Perfectionist,’ a different story?
I think on my first album I was definitely over encouraged to work and try out many producers. It was fun and it was good and I love that album, but I was really glad to only work with Jeff Bhasker this time around. I don’t wanna dilute my thoughts with lots of people co-writing with me and I don’t want people to dilute my sound by having too many cooks in the musical pot.
Earlier in your career, you performed with backup dancers and lots of smoke and mirrors. But lately, your gigs are giving me more Robyn “Dancing On My Own” vibes mixed with a little Gwen Stefani. The no fucks given ‘tude.
I have an all girl band — I think it’s really important to have musicians especially for this album. There’s really big ringing guitars and booming drum beats on this album and it’s emotional — sometimes having it played by track and doing dance routines really distracts. I can’t be singing “Mama you’re beautiful tonight, movie star hair and that black eye” with six backup dancers behind me and a headset — the whole thing wouldn’t make sense. But I dance more on stage than before. I used to kind of join in on choreography with certain words or beats, and now I’ll dance the whole show by myself. It’s more free.
So, who are some of your favorite fellow female pop singers?
I love Lana Del Rey and Adele, and my favorite is Marina & The Diamonds — I think Marina is incredible. Someone I’ve been excited to collaborate with recently and who is amazing is Angel Haze. I wrote a song on her album, which comes out next year. It’s funny because she’s almost like the rap version of me. Talking about these horrible and completely regrettable mistakes we’ve made in the past, but then really bitchy and braggy, completely unapologetic and completely confrontational. It’s like, “Yeah, I’m fucked up and yeah I fucked it up and yeah I’m a goddamn problem, but no I’m not sorry.” It’s been so easy for us to collaborate and we have such a bond together.
You were all over New York Fashion Week. Favorite show?
Prabal Gurung. All of the girls reminded me of Stepford wives. It was clinical but it was feminine, it was brutal but it was romantic. The models stood behind a plastic box and it reminded me of this dreamy unrealistic, sort of aspirational feeling you have as a kid, when you open a Barbie doll box for the first time that your mom got you for Christmas and it’s the most incredible feeling ever when you take her out. That’s how it was at the show — the models stepping out from behind the plastic and their hair was completely waxed and sprayed with perfection. I wore one of Prabal’s dresses on the cover of my album, ‘Trouble,’ and he’s been a great supporter of my career and I love him.
So, for those who aren’t familiar with Natalia Kills, what one song on ‘Trouble’ would you recommend them listening to ASAP?
Everyone should listen to “Daddy’s Girl.” I have a riches to rags story — my dad went to jail and we lost everything. Everyone has this horrible opinion of what a criminal is or what a bad person is, and they don’t realize that when it’s someone that you deeply love and who’s doing everything and the only thing they can to provide for you, they still deserve protecting and loyalty and love and patience. Sometimes good people do bad things but for really good reasons.
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