For someone who puts so much effort into her ‘art’ (sounding familiar already, this bit, isn’t it?), Natalia Kills gets quite a lot of stick from quite a lot of the microscopic portion of the public that know of her. Why is this though? It’s not like it’s the ruinous result of overexposure e.g. Rihanna, and on that topic – what exactly is it that’s prevented the record-buying public warming up to Miss. Natalia Keery-Fisher? Once known as Verbalicious in 2005, she quickly dropped the more urban look and sound in favour of a fence-sitting combination of promiscuous femme fatale meets seductive lady-droid once she’d decided she was going to give pop music a good bash. Now, “pop” is an easy word to spell and an even easier word to say, but it’s not an easy thing to master, let alone infiltrate the elusive “pop culture”. Just how do you go about convincing people to warm to you and your music when you deliberately set yourself away from them, opting to be an object of admiration and fantasy, rather than something capable of actual emotion?
For those not in the know, here is Natalia Kills talking about Natalia ‘Kills’ and Perez Hilton “the journalist”. She is from Bradford, West Yorkshire in the UK. This is important to remember when listening to Natalia Kills speak. Skip to 1:17 for the best part.
Exciting stuff, but beyond the gold smiley-face glasses, the ridiculous hair and the casually uninterested-in-you-but-please-listen-to-me body language, why again had she failed to take off?
She first appeared in on the music industry radar as Natalia Kills in 2010, and drew immediate comparisons to Lady GaGa who was an unstoppable force at the time. Many people believed that Madonna copied GaGa and all manner of forum-related bitchiness broke out about the fallacy of Natalia Kills and her endeavours to invest deep artistic value into things she’d nicked from GaGa. You can imagine the virtual bloodshed. All the while Lady GaGa was setting fire to her Russian pimps and name-checking herself in her own songs, Natalia Kills upped the hypocrisy to an 11, kindly asking fans and onlookers not to draw comparisons between her and the biggest popstar in the world – or anyone else, for that matter – all the while producing music like ‘Mirrors’. The first single from her début album ‘Perfectionist’, she describes it as a song that “explores this obsessive, adulterant vanity, this desire for control, and how much fun you can have with it”. If you’re thinking now that this is why radio and TV neglected her music, click below. It’s not that bad. In fact, on a scale from 1 to bondage basement BDSM, ‘Mirrors’ is more like a used but empty condom left on the floor of a messy student apartment, under a pile of dirty clothes and study material for a horticulture course.
At first you might think – but this is exactly the kind of music that was selling in 2010? Produced by Akon, raved about by Perez Hilton, signed to will.I.am’s own recording label, why was ‘Mirrors’ not a hit given the grotesquely high-profile promotion? Why indeed. Pretentious video and overbearing auto-tune aside, there’s not a bad hook there in ‘Mirrors’, hiding away under months of computer-assisted twiddling and impenetrable middle-distance darkness gazing. But don’t expect to find much to salvage from ‘Zombie’, ‘Kill My Boyfriend’ or ‘Love is a Suicide’. ‘Free’ is a would-be solid pop nugget. It comes so very close to mediocrity only to fall flat on it’s face that I now think it’s the epitome of Natalia. It’s got everything a pop song should have, except for one thing it shouldn’t have – will.I.am. Without him, we might have had a glimpse of a by-numbers pop hit (which is what everyone wants, right?). With him, it sounds just like every other (and there are many) cameo he’s shat out all over the industry in the last five years.
Her music is often described as “aggressive”, and a “dark electro-goth” re-imagining of 80’s inspired sounds, but there’s also nods to her more urban past in some of it. However, said music also leaves little to the imagination, making the perfect recipe for someone who offers very little and bluntly refuses any alternative to those not entirely satisfied with an album full of haughtily self-affirming and barely-abstract metaphors alluring to some godly inertia of unquestioning self-confidence. In this self-imposed arrogance of her own “perfection”, she alienated her audience before she even hit the radio.
That isn’t to say she’s not popular in her own little crowd – people who command attention and respect from mindless drones like Natalia does rarely aren’t. She does have some fans dedicated to her fatuous portrayal of sexual demi-god status and tormented, cold aloofness, but re-evaluating these, her only trademark features, it’s hard to understand why. It seems that, given the success of Lady GaGa, Interscope wanted to make the most of the new fandango pop weirdo niche and plucked the most willing of participants from a production line of back-burner artists, flogged her to will.I.am, and agreed to fund the distribution of her music if she could shroud basic melodies in enough affectation posing as “fierceness” and “aggression” to pass it off as something remotely original. So, similar to what GaGa does only, Natalia fails to produce the same winking inauthenticity GaGa had at the time (the latter has, of course, dissolved her fanbase to only the most staunchly loyal fans in recent months).
My main issue with Natalia Kills is she’s the textbook case of style over substance. Like many things in life – theme park rides, books, Avatar… There’s a lot of energy dissipated on the context and the story and a neglect for the real thing we came for: in this case the music. It’s uninspired, unoriginal and obvious. She reminds me of a perverse Pixie Lott. When said ingénue of bubblegum pop music turned to electropop for her second album, she was rendered a bland, shapeless silhouette against a backdrop and blinding pop personalities. The same happens to Natalia only, she puts herself in the pitch-black and doesn’t appear to even understand her own stuff. It sounds like someone speaking for her while she sits behind some silly glasses and tries to remember what to say and when.
With Natalia it’s all about fantasy – the same as many an artist (GaGa, Del Rey) – but there’s an awful lot of darkness in her “twisted” (read: bubbling up to nearly-controversial) fantasy, which makes it a far easier option to simply turn on the lights and tell her as she looks at you, blinking, from inside a blood-smeared, smashed glass box to go home and stop trying so hard. There’s no point of creating a pop fantasy no-one wants to be part of.