Everything about this story is right up my street.
Meet Aleyna Tilki: she’s a 20-year-old Turkish singer-songwriter.
Aleyna first rose to fame in 2014 as a semi-finalist on Season 6 of Yetenek Sizsiniz Türkiye – or Turkey’s Got Talent (!), then got very famous for covering a song called “Gesi Bağları,” and then got way more famous with an absolute banger in 2016 with Emrah Karaduman called “Cevapsiz Cinlama” (510 million views!), which went on to become the highest viewed music video for a Turkish bop in YouTube history (!) before embarking on her solo career with her No. 1 2017 debut, “Sen Olsan Bari.”
More recently, Aleyna hopped a flight to LA to take English lessons, while also inking a joint record deal with Warner Music and Dogan Music Group to take over the globe.
“I always promised my listeners that a world star will rise from Turkey. Now I get to do my best to fulfill this promise and I will work harder than ever. Signing with Warner Music is a big step on this road. This is a dream come true and I am very happy,” she announced.
She leaves us no choice but to stan, basically. And this rising queen and her label are clearly not playing around.
For her English language debut, Aleyna got her hands on quite a heavyweight-filled tune: “Retrograde,” an understated but infectious kiss-off originally written by Dua Lipa, Sarah Hudson, Clarence Coffee Jr., Diplo, King Henry and Jr Blendr. (Basically, something that didn’t make it somewhere on Dua Lipa: Complete Edition or Future Nostalgia: Moonlight Edition.)
“Don’t say shit to me / Don’t say a word to me / Don’t ask me to change / Don’t want your heart to break,” she boldly declares.
“Ain’t goin’ backwards now / Ain’t doin’ retrograde.” (There’s something vaguely Sia about the melody and repetition of that chorus.)
And while it might be a Dua ditty at heart, the song certainly feels like it’s been given a Tilki touch, culturally speaking: it features the traditional Turkish instrument, the baglama.
The accompanying music video is like an intergalactic, Y2K futuristic Reverse Ava Max-ian expedition, complete with giant teddy bear (seemingly part of the brand!), a stripper pole, leggy choreography and vaguely pissed gyrations. Honestly, she can really get into the pole position…and look very unbothered while doing so.
While the debut as a whole feels certainly like a slight bite of some of the pop girls we already know and love (the single art, too, is extraordinarily Miss Peep), that doesn’t mean it’s not a compelling way to kick off an international pop career.
What do you think? Are we official Aleynators yet? Tilki Torches? (Seriously, get into “Cevapsiz Cinlama” – and “Yalnız Çiçek” goes off, too.) I’m on board.