Faces is available at:
BEFORE I come to NÝNA and looking at…
her music; I want to have a bit of a rant. In fact, that is not fair: it is more a series of points but, before the more light-hearted ones, a note to artists. I am getting a lot of requests for interviews and reviews – which is always good – but so many artists are naively assuming they do not have to do a lot their end. What I mean by that is taking little care getting images put online. It seems like my favourite subject, I know, but the problem is not easing. Even me, who does not get interviewed or featured, is capable of putting a series of images online. If I fancied it; I could hire a local photographer and get a couple of dozen good images put online. It might be a simple concept or a more elaborate set: whatever the design; it would give reviewers and interviewers options. That way, they could take their pick of the photos and produce something visually-pleasing. For me, and the way I write, there are a lot of paragraphs – as one will see – so I do require a bare-minimum. I am finding artists with one or two photos come to me for reviews. Even my interviews require seven images so it is no good approaching me if you are not prepared. If I, as a journalist, has to conform to a certain standard – an official website and being prolific – then artists need to get up to scratch. It does not take a lot of effort (or money) to get photos online so why are so many not doing this?! This does, actually, neatly bring me to NÝNA who, pleasingly, is prepared for music and the demands journalists might place on her. Her social media is fulsome and clear; she has lots of photos and ensures she keeps her fans updated. This is the first point I want to explore but, after this, look at artists born outside London – who come to the capital – and honesty in music; female artists and issues that have been swirling; transitioning from covers and building a fanbase – ending with a little on influences and how that can contribute to a unique sound.
Let us consider my first point and how instrumental and important it is being visible and revealing. I am not saying artists need to uncover their soul and put everything out there. In fact, holding a certain amount back allows the listener to interpret and guess. The most annoying parts of my role is having to do the work for artists. Many do not put their social media links together – or feel it necessary to have a Twitter account – and there are loads that have crummy images – or do not keep them updated. I know there is a lot to think about if you’re a musician but your career will only endure if you consider every aspect and do not get complacent. I have had to turn people away because they do not have images online. It is sad but visuals are just as important as the music itself. It is no good assuming, if you have a great song, that will be enough and journalists will be happy with that. For me, I need images, otherwise there are lots of gaps and will not be able to put the article up. NÝNA is not someone who takes music lightly and ensures she keeps her sites updated. One gets some great images and lots of information; background about her music and some great details. I shall leave this point here but want to urge all artists to take more time to get photos online and take more care in regards their social media. If I have to go scrabbling for details and links – searching online for their SoundCloud and Twitter sites – it puts me in a bad mood and makes me less likely to feature them in the future. The competitive nature of modern music means those who are insufficient or lacking will find their careers relatively short-lived. Journalism today relies on a certain visual aspect so one needs to be appreciative of that. It seems like I am opening on a rant but it is a genuine concern and observation. NÝNA gets what I am saying and, seeing her social media pages, and there are so many positives one can take away from it.
NÝNA was born in Serbia but has been in the U.K. for a long time now. I am always interested in artists born overseas – that come over here to make a bid of their careers. For NÝNA, she has taken, from her birthplace, a lot of education, memories and experiences. It is understandable she would have moved from Serbia because, compared to the U.K., the music scene is quite sparse. That said, Serbia is not a nation that should be overlooked. It is the southeast of Europe’s Balkan Peninsula with northern plateaus and mountainous ski resorts. Its capital is bedecked with Communist-era architecture and is a beautiful area. One can enjoy opera and ballet at the Norodno Pozorište and is worth a visit, for sure. The country is renowned for its opera and ballet so, if you are inclined, there are ample options in Serbia. Move away from that and there are enough venues for those who prefer their music a little more mainstream. If you visit Čorba Kafe, one will, most likely, be drenched in sweat and have an ‘evocative’ evening. It is a small space but one renowned for its energetic performances and range of genres – from ‘70s music to Metal and Pop. If you are not in the mood, Belgrade’s Vox Blues Club is a more relaxed and sedate environment. It is a magnificent club that welcomes international and local acts – patrons are invited to join in the jams. Bitef Art Café is a wonderful mixture of sounds and styles. Here, one can enjoy World and Classic music – in addition to Rock and Soul. In the summer months, Bitef move their music to the Kalemegdan Fortress. Kombank Arena is a natural stopping-off venue for international acts visiting Serbia; Kolarac University Concert Hall is home to the Belgrade Philharmonic and welcomes all manner of Classic artists. There are few notable Serbian bands but the improvised Noise-Rock of Klopka Za Pionira and Činč - consisting Đorđe Ilić and Luka Stanisavljević – are two notable acts from the country.
It might not seem there is much to discuss about Serbia but there are some stunning venues in the country. It is a great place to visit – the architecture, heritage and mix of people – but it has a rich and diverse music scene. Those terrific spaces – intimate and packed Rock clubs to concert halls – are the envy of most nations; so many international acts have come to Serbia to perform. I can understand why NÝNA wanted to move because, here, we have a larger music economy and better opportunities. That said, she has brought quite a lot from Serbia. Her roots have not left her, so, one gets that Classic influences and balletic/operatic side. It would have been hard to avoid the culture of Serbia when she was growing up. That was, as I will explain, taken to heart at a young age – where she bonded with the piano and a more sophisticated, romantic style of music. That all goes into her current single but, one feels, a British influence has mingled with Serbia. One gets the Classic strands of the nation but I hear Pop and Soul of Britain. It is a fascinating mix and one that marks her for big things. I can appreciate why so many artists would want to come and live in the U.K. – London, especially. It is great hearing such a mixed and interesting group of musicians reside here. Were we to see only British acts reside in the capital; it would make the music homogenised and restrict so much potential. All the big music hubs of the country – Manchester and Glasgow, for instance – welcome musicians from all around the world. Here, in the capital, there are huge venues and so many smaller spots: the artist has so many options and a large and supportive community around them. Let’s hope NÝNA remains her for many more years – as she is someone who seems at home in London and excited to see what the city offers her.
I will come to look at NÝNA’s upbringing, to an extent, but, before then, wanted to talk about honesty. I, myself, am not always that honest and can find it quite difficult. One holds back certain truths and seems to mask their true feelings. For me, I have been concealing quite a lot of pain and doubts – through fear it would alienate me from people and make me more vulnerable. The same is true when it comes to romantic anxieties: harbouring feelings for a certain girl but holding it back to, in my mind, save a friendship from being sacrificed. I guess life, to a degree, is a series of tough mistakes and inevitable frustrations. In my mind, I feel I need to be a certain way as not to offend or keep a certain reputation. It means, a lot of times, I am less happy but go without things like love and affection. Maybe I am doing things the wrong way but feel there are issues when one is too honest – it does not always work out the way you wish. In music, there are problems inherent with being too open and transparent. It is, therefore, always impressive seeing a young artist come through who is willing to bare their soul. NÝNA, on Faces, is not one to hold back. She has encountered a lot and, like us all, had to make hard decisions. Maybe, as I will examine when reviewing the song, she has had to conceal her true feelings or disclose less than she’d hope. What I get from her music is honesty and compassion. It serves as an important lesson for us all: if we are too guarded and hesitant; it means chances will pass by and we might end up hurting ourselves. I guess it is hard striking a balance that means we do not keep too many secrets – at the same time, one has to open themselves up here and there. In musical terms, the greatest ‘honesty’ comes when talking about relationships. This seems to be the number one source of therapy and revelation. I hear so many love songs and, for the most part, they are not exactly censorship and redacted. All the dirty laundry hangs out; the intimate details are published and the artist is keen to have their say. Sometimes, this can come across crass and unwise. There are few who are honest when talking about their problems and true feelings. When one is jilted or heartbroken; there are fewer inhibitions and reasons to remain anonymous. If we look inside ourselves, and address doubts, depression and feelings, it can be a lot harder to do. NÝNA is an artist unafraid to talk about herself – in addition to romantic encounters. That serves as inspiration to other musicians who might feel exposed and vulnerable. One can get that balance right and, as one hears on Faces, it leads to extraordinary music.
I shall talk about NÝNA’s rise through the ranks but, before then, I want to talk about ugliness. Not in relation to NÝNA, obviously – she is incredibly beautiful and a very striking young woman – but that, in a sense, creates its own issues. We have all seen occasions, recently, of certain artists perpetrating toxic misogyny and unashamed sexism. In the most-recent occurrence, it was a member of The Dickies – a Punk-Rock band – who have been shamed. It is not an issue that seems confined to genre and nation. A few acts, over the past few months, have been in the news for the wrong reasons. I am getting tired of seeing male artists show such demeaning attitudes to women. One sees this and wonders how ingrained and widespread this ill is. Look at the music industry – make attitudes towards female artists – and there is that undeniable sexism. If we allow our male musicians to spew such old-fashioned and discriminatory attitudes – what does that say about the music industry and the way it treats women?! I worry people like NÝNA will encounter this prejudice in the future. I am not suggesting EVERY male artist is sexist but we are seeing more and more artists not thinking before opening their mouths. What is the solution to this Stone Age practice?! We can ban culpable artists from performing and fine them. That would send a severe message to anyone who thinks it is acceptable to promote their twisted and misogynistic agendas. I am concerned how indoctrinated and unmonitored this problem is. NÝNA is a superb and original artist but I have worries when she becomes big and steps out into the wider world. Maybe she will be afforded fewer opportunities – compared to her male peers – and face the kind of provocation that was displayed at the recent Dickies gig. We definitely need to patrol and police those musicians who feel it is okay to treat women as second-class citizens. I shall come back to this in the conclusion but wanted to take to task the male artists who have shamed music. I know NÝNA is a strong artist who is surrounded by loving people but, when she performs more widely, will see have to face these upsetting and shocking scenes?! Let’s hope not but there is always that concern – considering the regularity and severity of these type of events.
Let us talk about NÝNA and her route into music. Right now, she has Faces out, and that comes complete with a fantastic video and great production values – she has linked with Shemzy who brings extreme confidence and a unique touch to the song. This is the first point I want to explore but, after this, look at artists born outside London – who come to the capital – and honesty in music; female artists and issues that have been swirling; transitioning from covers and building a fanbase – ending with a little on influences and how that can contribute to a unique sound. Before coming to this point; NÝNA built a loyal online following with her interpretations of others’ songs – including a stirring and original rendition of Hozier’s Take Me to Church and Adele’s I Miss You. These songs, much-heard and recognised, were given fresh light and new personalities. In addition, NÝNA featured in Fortitude and Vents magazines; appeared in Contact Music and got her voice/talents recognised and promoted. I guess the ‘covers route’ is a natural introduction for any artist. They want to test and experiment; see which songs suit their voice and how they will mould their own talent. It is fascinating seeing artists tackle certain songs and what they bring to it. I was, earlier this week, on Lauren Laverne’s ‘6 Music show – as caller on her ‘Biorhythms’ section – and chose, as one of my songs, a cut from Jeff Buckley’s Live at Sin-é. The reason I chose a Buckley song, Calling You (a cover of the Jeveta Steele track), was because of the delivery and difference. It is/was a mesmeric performance that reinvented the song and afforded it fresh nuance, beauty and grace. You should go to Spotify/YouTube to hear that performance – and get the Legacy Edition of the album if you can – because Buckley, more than any other artist, showed little fear when tackling songs. He began doing covers and, one can argue, were it not for performances and interpretations; he might not have become the singer we heard on Grace. NÝNA is an artist who has a similar lack of fear when covering songs. I hear her true self, emerge. She does not replicate the song note-for-note and, instead, brings her own agenda and spin to the track. Let’s hope she continues to cover songs because, I feel, it makes her a stronger singer and writer. That chance to mould and push her voice – and see how it adapts to various genres – has given her the confidence to right a song like Faces.
NÝNA has an itinerant and fascinating background. She began life in Serbia and grew up, one images, on a diet of Western music and local sounds. In terms of Serbian music, during the late-1990s I guess, there would have been few local treasures. Sure, there were bands and artists playing in Serbia but they were not quite as attractive as the artists she would have heard on the radio. NÝNA discovered the likes of Alanis Morrisette and Madonna; bits of Nirvana and, lately, Lana Del Rey and London Grammar. Those ‘older’ influences have grit, legacy and passion; the newer artists emotion, cinema and beauty. Together, it creates a heady and scintillating aroma. It all goes into her own music and gets me thinking about influence and how important it is. My list of influences is impressive and diverse so, if I ever embarked on a music career, I would incorporate them into my sounds. NÝNA lionises strong female artists but has a great affection for all types of music. As a youngster; NÝNA started writing modern Classic music. She found the piano at five and wrote from twelve – I could make a bad time joke at this point – but transitioned to Pop a bit later. One can tie this to her move from Serbia to England. One imagines the Pop music heard in Serbia would have been predominantly British and American. It is unsurprising she was more connected to older, mainstream music than the artists coming through in Serbia. I can hear Classic elements to her music but, now, NÝNA is more influenced by acts like Sia and London Grammar – elements of Lorde and Lana Del Rey combine. Maybe this is a commercial move – more popular and accessible – but one makes a connection between NÝNA’s childhood and the modern mainstream. I like all the artists she is inspired by so, it is no surprise, I bonded with Faces. I feel too many modern artists do not have that broad a range of inspiration. They take from modern music but do not cast their mind back that far. This can create something quite limited and simplistic. For NÝNA, even though she is very young, her influences go back to the 1980s and '90s. Bring that together with of-the-moment musicians and one gets a rich and fulsome blend. Of course, her originality shines through but it is nice hearing elements of other artists in her work.
Right from the off; one gets shots and slams of artists like Lorde, Sia and Lana Del Rey. That is not to label NÝNA’s music but show the urgency, modernity and quality of it. That essential ethos – “Nothing’s gonna break my world” – is put up-front and chanted proudly. In the video, one sees a fast-flowing series of images – some disturbing and hard; others, more defiant and compelling. Despite the challenges and cruelty of life; there is not going to be a barrier big enough to stop the heroine. She, backed by electronics and big drums, lets her voice ring and reign loudly. Faces could refer to the façade and masks one must adopt: maybe, it is about the two sides to a person and the deceit we are all open to. I am not sure but, one think I do know, is how effecting and strong the opening moments are. NÝNA takes command of the song and ensures her words are drilled into the brain. The heroine, elucidating on the title, is engulfed by millions of faces and at the mercy of life’s capriciousness and fragility. There is judgement and expectation; a pressure and anxiety on the street. In the video – one I shall return to when commentating – she sits at a piano as imagines appear on a screen. It is the embodiment of a calm and passionate soul surrounded by the wider world – one that is not as sympathetic and dignified as her. There are people who are happy to offer hostility and brutality. The faces are being seen – of ordinary people and those caught in the rush of life – and feeling the weight and fatigue of modern life. Our heroine is aware of this and share their pain. It is hard dethatching from the realities of life and finding time to reflect and embrace the self. NÝNA is struggling to make sense of the conflicting emotions and mass of sad faces around her. Maybe that is the reality of the city: it is so fast-moving and packed it is rare finding reformation and happiness. One experiences it here and there but, in reality, many people are busy and are not necessarily unhappy. Perhaps projecting a smiling image is not natural or easy to do.
Regardless; there are people who are struggling to find the good and discover a sense of self-worth. Mindfulness is hard to achieve in a city and busy environment. NÝNA is the same as all of us but is determined to embrace the good inside her and appreciate all she has to offer. One gets a real rush of emotion and physicality in the composition. The piano notes and punctuated and precise but have a romance and flourish to them. Beats and electronics mingle to summon a concrete sense of the city and the modern world. One hears and feels the cracks form in the pavement; the strains and age in the faces – all those upturned smiles and tearful eyes. There is little chance of NÝNA taking control and solving these issues around her – she can “walk away”, as it is said. That might seem submissive but she is not uncoupling herself from humans the world around her. Instead, she is not letting bad things get in and taking life’s realities too much to heart. It is easy letting that stuff absorb in the skin and affecting your mood. Instead, the heroine is pragmatic and sympathetic – that need to give herself a break and discover goodness is paramount. If anything, I would like to hear the vocal higher up the mix. I know how strong NÝNA’s voice is. Sometimes, when the composition is accentuated; the vocal seems to take second-place. This might be a production decision to promote the beat and electronics – ensuring they summon new images and emotions – but NÝNA regains spotlight when the mood is taken down. Softer, compassionate and contemplative: her voice whispers, searches and calms. She has, by this point, managed to throw off many of the ghosts and shackles of modern life. Faces is brilliantly balanced and unexpected. One predicts a certain structure: that never really arrives. Instead, there is a nimbleness and sense of flourish and Classical suite – the song goes through stages and grows.
Towards the final stages; NÝNA brings the chorus into the light and repeats its defiant and strong message. She sings about the pollution, injustice and poverty we all see. Images continue to project and open the eyes. There is, as we all know, so much horror and injustice in the world. The news is full of this but does not really break the skin. The true extent of the world’s problems will never be known: Faces, in a way, suggests we should not obsess over the scale and not let it drag us down. Again, this might seem like walking away but it is the only thing one can do. We cannot solve the problems ourselves but that does not mean we do not care. If one lets all those bad images and stark scenes linger in the imagination – that will have a destructive impact on our lives. Everyone should be conscious of what is happening around them but find balance. NÝNA is connected to the world but determined not to neglect herself. Faces is the sound of a young woman seeing so much upset around her. Rather than let it haunt her bones; she is discovering the potential and goodness inside her. Not many songwriters look at these areas and promote an air of positivity. Many, when talking of love, lose perspective and struggle to realise there are bigger issues happening elsewhere in the world. NÝNA understands this point and, with it, the need to find a way to cope with the realities of life. One is struck by the range and emotions inherent in NÝNA’s voice. She goes from powerful and impassioned – shades of Alanis Morissette, one assumes – to tender and emotive – colours of London Grammar, Lana Del Rey and Madonna come through. Faces is a huge and impressive song from a young talent who has a lot more to say. I know many singles will come but they will have a lot of work to do to equal Faces. It is a song that seems apt for the times we live in. Many of us will struggle to find positive light in the darkness around us – Faces is a song that will linger in the mind long after you have heard it.
I shall leave things here but, before trotting on, wanted to have a look forward for NÝNA and what is approaching. I know there are more releases coming and, as we can see from her social media, people are reacting to her music. It is hard generating publicity and appreciation: it is not always the case music does all the talking. Faces is about dealing with the badness of the world and finding love for yourself. That can be hard in these modern times. We are subject to so much negativity and vitriol; it can be hard embracing the love and goodness that is around us. It is encouraging finding a song like Faces and something that promotes a self-love and worth. That might seem all New Age and hippy but it is actually a very positive and relatable message. How many of us go through life and dedicate time and effort to appreciating ourselves? It can be very draining and tiring going through the day – never much chance to uplift and channel any positivity. NÝNA’s latest track will give inspiration and motivation to many of us. The video for the song is striking and has had a lot of care and effort put into it. It is clear NÝNA is taking music very seriously and ready for the challenges ahead of her. I shall return to my earlier points but wanted to look at NÝNA’s diary. She was recently interviewed at Hard Rock Café and hosts Mada Presents… in London on 23rd August. Lianne Kaye and guests will be performing and it is one of many dates coming up for NÝNA. Everyone from Electronic North and The Drunken Coconut – THERE’s a band name if ever I heard one – have lent their thoughts to Faces. A lot of love is coming in and it seems. I am very pleased for NÝNA and know she will be making some big moves this year.
The summer is approaching – the hot weather is already with her – so it is a prime time to get gigs and festival appearances. I am not sure how may gigs she has later this year but, right now, NÝNA is looking ahead to some cool dates. Faces is out and a tantalising insight onto a raw and unique talent. I will end things by returning to a couple of points I raised earlier: artists who come from the U.K. (to other nations) and sexism in music; honesty in music and influences – I know that is more than two but I meant ‘a couple’ in conversational terms. Serbia, as I said, might not jump out as a musical hotbed of wonder but it is not to be sniffed at. There are great venues – not only reserved for Classical music – that suites the diversity of music one hears in the country. There are European nations that have fairly fallow music scenes: that is not the case with Serbia. It has a rich history of Classic music and some wonderful Opera. Whilst a lot of its modern Rock and Pop is inherited from Britain and America; there are some great local acts that remain in Serbia. I feel many come to the U.K. to find opportunity and bigger crowds. There are limits to the Serbian music industry and it is not really set-up to accommodate ambitious artists. I see a lot of artists emigrate because the country they live in is a little confined. Even acts from Sweden – one of the most productive and astonishing nations for music – come to Britain and the U.S. It is testament to a nation like ours so many are happily settling here. We have some of the best venues in the world and greatest young artists. NÝNA would have been exposed to British music as a child and fascinated by the lure and history of our land. Not that hers was that immigrant-sailing-to-the-new-world scenario but there would have been an attraction to Britain. That desire to embrace her music ambitions is impressive. She is, as it stands, one of the more interesting artists is London – one whom is gaining a huge public support and critical affection.
Sexism and misogyny are, rather troublingly, aspects of society that are bleeding into music. We need to cauterise the spate of male artists who spit such arrogant and degrading remarks at women. It is not only troglodytes like The Dickies’ frontman who should be banished from music: there is sexism woven into the grain and fabric of the music industry. I can understand how there would have been sexist attitudes decades ago – people were a bit more ignorant and naïve back then – and it was, unfortunately, seen as part of society. We know better now so should not indulge or accept sexist attitudes. We all know female artists are not put on the same pedestal as the men: this is something that need changing very soon. If we want to accentuate the finest aspects of the music industry – the talent, vitality and love we all know it possesses – the dark and seedy underbelly needs to be savaged. It is an issue created by the white man – one they need to eradicate and overcome. I know most male musicians are very respectful and open-minded but it is the minority creating a problem. NÝNA is a fantastic artist who not only creates stunning music – her videos are eye-catching and impressive. She is active on social media and proven she is level to the demands of the mainstream. That transition is imminent you’d think but, when she gets there, is she going to be exposed to the same sexism and indiscretions levelled at her female peers? It is a very present and possible danger and one I am uncomfortable contemplating. Will she be judged upon her looks or overlooked because of her gender? It is quite telling little is being done (by men) to address and stamp out sexist practices. Every artist should be valued and judged on talent and promise – not their gender and colour of their skin. NÝNA is strong and determined but, like everyone, has a vulnerability that does not need to be tested needlessly. She proves how stupid and infuriating the sexist issue is. Her music is among the best you’ll hear this year so, why then, should she have to work harder to get her voice heard?!
Faces was written and produced with her close friend, Shemzy – whom she met at music college a while back. The artistic partnership has blossomed and led to the nosegay delights of Faces’ bouquet. The Baroque-Pop aspects, one imagines, are part of her Serbian heritage and Pop idolisation (as a child). The dense drums and lustrous strings create a happy-sad dynamic that has resonates with many people. There is so much going on and beautiful vocals. The honesty and revelations from NÝNA are the most striking elements of the song. Empowerment and self-love are the mantras and mandates that guide the song to the heavens. One wonders how much of NÝNA’s idols go into her music. Certainty, I can hear the boldness, confidence and allure of Madonna; the emotive and emphatic tones of Morissette and the gracefulness of London Grammar. It all formulates and bubbles in a wonderful brew – one that hits all the senses and gets one thinking. I shall wrap up this review but want people to follow NÝNA and all she does. One of those acts who deserves big acclaim and lots of opportunities. I know there are gigs coming up but there is a lot of love coming her way. People are connecting with her music and a wonderful human. That is it but it has been a pleasure discovering Faces: the start of a productive and wonderful career for NÝNA. She has a stocked and ready arsenal; a bucket-load of talent and the passion to succeed. Those ingredients are reserved to a certain few so it seems inevitable NÝNA is…
GOING all the way to the top.