The bad bitch is back.
Just under four years ago, Natalia Kills first burst out onto the scene with her eerily chilly debut single “Zombie,” the first track that caught our attention (and immediately sealed the deal for our endless love affair with Miss Kills). And ever since, she’s been slicing and dicing her way deeper into our hearts–from “Mirrors” to “Wonderland” to “Kill My Boyfriend.”
Now, following the release of her menacing teaser track “Controversy” late last year (uh huh…), the dark-pop princess is returning for a second round in 2013.
I sat down with Miss Kills at a coffeeshop uptown yesterday afternoon to talk all things Trouble, which she dished about while sipping a soda.
Following the release of Perfectionist in 2011, Kills feared–as is the case with most debuts–that the album only showcased one part of her personality. She was proud of the work she’d done, but felt that it offered a limited glimpse into her actual life: “I felt like Perfectionist was 100% of less than 100% of me,” she explained further.
As a result, Trouble is a much more honest, vulnerable record than fans might anticipate, delving into the background story of Kills that–for better or worse–means she’ll need to open up more about her unconventional past. But although she’s tapping deeper into less-than-perfect memories this time around, the album isn’t about attempting to fix what’s been broken, because she’s not interested in mending anything. Rather, she’s allowing herself to own it all.
When it came time to record for her new album, Kills knew she wanted Jeff Bhasker at the helm. She loved working with him because of their straightforward process together: She writes her own songs, and he helps build the music around the lyrics. She said that she knew straight away that, although Bhasker isn’t a household name like Timbaland or RedOne, he’s just as prolific, and she knew that his legacy as a pop production genius would live on in infamy “like Giorgio Moroder,” she explained. (And with his work for fun., Kanye West and Lana Del Rey under his belt, she’s probably right.)
As one might quickly deduce after hearing “Controversy” and “Problem,” things have taken a decidedly harder turn. It’s meatier, and more aggressive. If I could coin a genre for the sound, it’d be “cuntstrut” — fierce, give-a-fuck-less attitude served atop a hip-swinging, stilleto-stompin’ beat.
“We’re hell raising and we don’t need saving, ’cause there’s no salvation for a bad girl,” Kills warns above snarling, overdriven guitar and frantic yelps on “Problem,” the album’s lead single released today. Yep — definitely still a troublemaker.
As she explained before handing off a pair of earbuds to me to listen, half of Trouble is about being a troublemaker, and half is about being troubled. The songs that I heard yesterday were a shift sonically: Gone are the chilly synth-pop beats of “Love Is A Suicide” and “Mirrors.” In their place? Pounding Bhasker-produced drums, Emile Haynie yelps in the distance, sirens and overdriven guitars.
The songs I heard alternated between soldiering, anthemic midtempo tracks, including title track “Trouble” (think sort of Ryan Tedder meets fun., but with the darker cinematic quality of Lana Del Rey) and “Saturday Night,” which features a chorus that I’ve already got lodged in my brain (“It’s just another Saturday night…oh-OH-oh!“)
Rest assured, there are cuts for letting lose (“it’s not all depressing!” she joked.) The other half of the record is filled with bouyant, cocky pop tracks, describing them as “Missy Elliott or Gwen Stefani‘s ‘Hollaback Girl,'” including “Rabbit Hole,” which she’s been singing live lately.
You can hear that playfulness on “Problem” as well, during the handclap-happy bridge toward the end of the song (“And we ain’t even at the beach, even at the beach…“). It’s the time to drop it low, twerk and whip that high ponytail.
After some debate at the label (doesn’t it always come down to the last minute?), it’s been decided that “Problem” is officially getting a proper single treatment, including a music video to be shot within the next four weeks. They’re scouting for directors at this very moment, and the clip should arrive within the next few months. From there, the album will arrive at some point later this year.
Whatever comes of this sophomore record though, Kills remains confident in her craft, because she’s done what she’s accomplished for herself: “I’ve been singing this album in my shower every day since I started recording,” she told me. “Or sometimes, I put one song on repeat all day, 23 times on loop. I’ve made the music that I want to hear.”
And now, it’s our turn.
“Problem” was released on March 12. (iTunes)