Nicole, NIKI

A whirlwind high school romance captured in music

Nicole, NIKI

Rebecca Perez , Staff Writers

Nicole is the newest album from Indonesian singer-songwriter NIKI (born Nicole Zefanya), and it was released on August 12, 2022. With this album, Zefanya delivers a thoughtful, heartfelt homage to her younger self, through a classic, endearing folk/indie pop sound.

Zefanya has explained in interviews that the tracks off Nicole were all taken from archived videos that were posted on the YouTube channel she started in middle school. The album is a beautiful coming-of-age story, capturing the singer’s experience with love, loss, and longing during her high school years. Each track delivers a different, raw emotion relating to her high school love story, and eventual breakup. These feelings are each expressed through the acoustic instrumentals and lyrics that Zefanya wrote during her adolescence.

The entire concept and mood of this album can be summed up in the song “High School in Jakarta.” Featuring soft pop instrumentations, Zefanya reminisces on the aftermath of meeting her high school love. She reflects on a different experience of love, having grown up in Jakarta, Indonesia, and she takes a lovely approach to storytelling on this track.

Another beautifully-written song is “Before.” Here, Zefanya talks about meeting up with her high school love several years after their breakup, and she becomes aware of how different they’ve both become. The song is brutally honest and displays the perfect touch of sadness and longing.

The two ballads on the album, “The Apartment We Won’t Share” and “Milk Teeth,” have instrumentals that complement Zefanya’s voice so well. On the former track, the acoustic melody provides a great canvas for the emotions of dry sadness and disappointment. The latter song, on the other hand, illustrates a different picture and expresses the fear of rejection, rather than only the sadness of a breakup.

The third track on the album,“Backburner”, is another honest, emotional, and relatable song. In a clear, passionate way, it exposes the feelings of unrequited love and the longing that you may have for another person. I love the instrumental touches on this track and how the song allows the vocals to do the heavy-lifting.

Autumn” details the process of falling in love with someone, but then the relationship leads to a quick heartbreak. The song features a bouncier beat, and I love the vocals on this track. With a more EDM-based rhythm, the song “Keeping Tabs” describes a longing for someone after a breakup and the hope for a reunion. This track slides right in with the other bright, pop tracks on the album.

Anaheim” and “Oceans & Engines” are both very guitar-heavy songs, with a lot of indie inspiration. Both discuss the regrets and the promises that have been broken by both parties in the relationship. “Oceans & Engines”, in particular, is the epitome of a sad song, but it’s one that really allows the listener to hear Zefanya’s true inner thoughts and feelings.

On the Drive Home” describes moving on from a relationship. It’s a song that really suits the album, and you will appreciate the subtle sadness that is shown and expanded on in the lyrics. 

Likewise, “Facebook Friends” is another song that illustrates the hard feelings you may have after a breakup, but it also offers the hope of acceptance. This is a really nice touch for the album, giving us a moment where Zefanya has clearly moved on and is simply remembering her time in the relationship.

Closing out the album is my favorite track, “Take A Chance With Me,” which shows Zefanya’s desire to have someone risk having a relationship with her. I adore the brighter melody and lyrics found here, and the hopeful undertones provide a much needed dash of joy among the sadder songs on the album.

Overall, Nicole takes you through the complex emotions of love, in the best way possible. The album features melancholy and heartbroken songs, but it also features some hopeful and accepting ones. It is raw and wonderful, and it is a true, open love letter to the artist’s high-school self. It’s definitely NIKI’s best piece of work, and I could not recommend it more.

And if you enjoy Nicole, you might also like wanna take this downtown? by NIKI, or Love? Songs by Jordy Searcy.