LA-based artist Nikitaa is starting a revolution with their ‘Goddess Pop’ bops. Fusing their South Asian heritage with LA pop sensibilities, Nikitaa’s ‘Goddess Pop’ is music that emphasizes the fluidity of gender and emotional expression.

The artist – who is gearing up to drop their latest EP Ascension this year – describes their latest ‘Goddess Pop’ entry “Elevator” as a manifestation tool, urging us to believe in our abilities to take control of our destinies. Meanwhile, their thought-provoking single “Godless” is produced, mixed and mastered themselves, and explores the journey from dependence to self-reliance through a meticulous production process which incorporates choral and orchestral elements.

As a genderfluid, demisexual artist, Nikitaa’s presence in the music industry is already making waves through their authenticity and vulnerability. Wearing their heart on their sleeve to create epic, emotional pop bangers, Nikitaa is the pop star of our dreams.

We caught up with Nikitaa to talk all things “Elevator” and “Godless”, as well as their creative processes and blending elements of manifestation, vulnerability, and inclusivity to create a space where listeners can feel seen and empowered.

SheBOPS: What inspired you to create “Elevator,” and how does it embody the idea of harnessing inner power and transforming dreams into tangible outcomes?

Nikitaa: The whole concept behind “Elevator” is taking the efforts you put in and compounding all of it until it grows into something that allows you to live how you want to live. I wrote “Elevator” to feel like an ascent both sonically and lyrically, while also being playful and confident.

You’ve described “Elevator” as ‘a manifestation tool’ – how do you believe the energetic frequencies and vibrations within your music contribute to the process of manifestation for both yourself and your audience?

I’ve always believed there’s magic in sound – aren’t we all shaped by the art we love? The way music makes us feel can make or break our days as individuals sometimes, and the way it makes us feel collectively can change the very foundations of society. So even if we don’t look at it as frequency, energy or vibration (which I very much do, by the way) – practically speaking, what we take in sonically definitely affects our thoughts and the way we view the world.

“Elevator” is me saying “we’ve got this. Now let’s make it our reality. You’re confident, smart and you already know what you have to do. So let’s do it!”

I’ve noticed from my very first single I ever put out that what I’m singing about has a way of manifesting into my life. I call it Spell Singing. I’ve learned to be meticulous and careful with what I say and how I say it – to speak things into existence with great care and awareness. I like to believe this carries over when my art is out in the world, in the hands of listeners who love it.

“Elevator” also follows your previous single “Godless” – can you tell us about the inspiration behind the song?

The day Londin and I started writing “Godless” neither one of us really had a concept in mind. We were playing each other songs we liked, and Londin pulled up “Telekenesis” ft. SZA and Future. It’s so clearly a Kanye production, and something about the beat got me going. I was looking through samples and ended up finding the shout-y “woo… oh!” vocal sample and we started building the track around it. By the time I’d laid down the bassline, Londin looked at me and said “this sounds like going to war, it sounds angry.” When she said that, I saw this image of a person cowering against someone they loved – someone who held all the power – and the opening line just came to me! So we just started there, and built the song around the idea of walking away from someone who has a God/savior complex. It was really cool to write this way because, while I’ve been the victim in that dynamic in a relationship before, writing in this way allowed me to talk about it without delving into personal details I wasn’t ready to explore.

What made you decide to incorporate choral and orchestral elements into “Godless”?

I think both the context of the song – having it literally called “Godless” – and the fact that I’ve always loved incorporating cinematic and orchestral sounds and using my voice as a way to paint colors and textures into my music fueled that decision. There’s actually a whole choir’s worth of vocals in the back of the song – drowned in reverb so it almost sounds like a synth pad, but not quite! Stuff like that really brings me to life, and makes the song for me. I love detailing, both as a singer and a producer!

How does “Godless” fit into the larger narrative of your music journey and personal growth?

My music and my spirituality are so deeply intertwined. To me, loving someone deeply and truly is definitely a spiritual experience. So, “Godless” feels like a huge turning point – to share this vulnerable experience of giving up a person who meant the world to me, who stripped me of my agency, and choosing my own power once again… that’s a poignant journey, and it continues to build upon the message I’ve always shared in my music: “remember who you are. Accept who you are. Be proud of, advocate for and love who you are.” I’m walking the walk on this song in a bigger and deeper way than ever before.

“Godless” takes us on a journey from vulnerability to empowerment. How do you navigate the balance between those two moods in your songwriting?

To me those moods are so deeply connected. To be vulnerable – to share your bleeding heart with the world the way artists do, the way I chose to on this song – that’s powerful. There are times in which embodying your power means keeping things to yourself and under wraps, and other times where it means owning up to the things that are difficult and painful to share. This definitely felt like the latter.

You also produced, mixed and mastered the track, which is amazing. Could you share a bit about your processes – how do you know when a song is finished?

Thank you so much! I’m personally very proud to be this heavily involved in the creation and finishing of my songs. I know mixing and mastering can often sound technical and cerebral to people, but to me it’s also so emotional and sensory – a mix or master can sound technically “perfect” but does it do the songwriting justice? For a song like “Godless,” I wanted the vocal to be the main focus of the song, so I focused on that, while keeping most of the instrumental experience sub perceptual and sensory – something you feel in your body, rather than pickup overtly while listening. The vocal delivery – the power and raw emotion – was most important. I put myself in the shoes of the listener – how do I feel when listening to the mix? Does my vision translate? I use that as my compass while I tweak things.

You are also recognized as a prominent songwriter for other artists outside your own work. What’s your favorite aspect of being a songwriter?

Dedicating myself to the vision and message of the artist and the song – whether it’s myself or someone else – is my favorite part! It’s like a sandbox – anything is possible, everything is moldable and can be transformed into art. Being a part of that sandbox – holding someone else’s feelings and perspective in a way that feels safe and exciting for them – is one of the biggest gifts you can receive as a songwriter!

You have defined your music as ‘Goddess Pop.’ What does that mean to you and how does it reflect in your music?

I’ve been familiar with the primordial Goddess and all their faces my whole life. I was always taught that the energy of the Goddess is everything – darkness and light, happiness living with anger, grief living with love, joy living with resentment. That’s how I see my art, and how I see my listeners and my music. This genre “Goddess Pop” is a place for you to be the complex, beautiful and nuanced being you are! Me being genderfluid plays into all of this too. For example – “Godless” is vulnerable, angry and triumphant all at once. To me, that’s what Goddess Pop is. A place to be complex and big and expansive.

In what ways do you incorporate Indian and Middle Eastern instrumentation into your music?

Besides the fact that a lot of my vocal choices are inspired by classical Indian scales, I like sneaking in Indian/South Asian and Middle Eastern strings, woodwinds and percussive elements into my production. It’s so fun – replacing a snare with a tabla, or sampling a pakhawaj but then reversing it so it’s got this cool texture. Using a santoor or sitar, or even bansuri instead of a string section. Those are the sounds of home, and having them live inside a Pop or R&B track – especially my own – is so important to me. I grew up hearing South Asian music sampled by so many American artists with no credit, no royalties – so I feel passionately about having my heritage be a part of my work in an authentic way.

How has your Indian heritage influenced your musical style and sound?

I love Pop and R&B, but what I feel most passionately about is the way certain sounds and instruments make me feel. Indian music is lyrically so poetic, the instrumentation so nuanced and carefully curated. We even have some scales that are based on seasons, or the time of day; and instruments are sometimes classified by whether they feel “cooling” or “warm.” Everything is evocative. Everything is an immersive sensory experience. That’s how my mind and my heart function when I make music – how does this feel, is it warm or sparkly or dark or bright? Does it make me think of rain or sunshine? The lyrics are often in English, but do they stir the kinds of images I see when I hear music in Urdu, Punjabi or Hindi? I factor all that in when I’m writing and creating. All of that can seem intangible – you can’t see it… but all of that lives inside of me. I carry my heritage with me during every second of the process.

What do you think Indian pop can do to become globally ‘mainstream’ in the way K-Pop, Afrobeats and Latin music has?

We have to choose to make the genre truly ours. There’s a lot of recreation happening with South Asian Pop and R&B right now – leaning heavily on other cultural branches of the overarching genres, rather than being inspired by them and creating something unique in a way that shows respect to the origins of these genres. But I’m seeing several artists that people are discovering and raving about that are doing it in a way that feels authentic. Chitra, Paravi, Priya Ragu and Pallavi AKA Fijiana (who is Indo-Fijian) are such great examples and they’re all women and femmes – I spot a pattern!

How do you balance staying true to your artistic vision while also appealing to a wide audience?

I try not to think too hard about appealing to an audience in such a direct way. I think people find common ground in art that can make them feel, that gives sound and words to an experience they’ve had – or want to have – or have fantasized about. I’m also a lover of art, of music – mine and others’. I have memories I want to revisit, or make, or dream up in my head. So that’s where I make my art from, and I think that’s why it appeals to people. Even the grandest and most legendary of artists – all my influences – did the same thing. What matters is speaking to listeners in a way that feels personal – whether it’s a ballad or a dance anthem.

How do you see the fluidity of gender and emotional expression represented in your music?

I’ve always been cognizant of how my deeply feeling heart shows up in my music. My feelings are big, and so are my metaphors haha. That bigness is so present in my lyrics, my vocal delivery, how rich I like my sonic landscape to be. Even before I came out as genderfluid, I was always concerned with writing songs that wouldn’t limit their relatability to just women. I wanted all kinds of people to listen in and be able to sing along and hear themselves as the protagonist of the story in as many of my songs as possible.

What challenges have you faced as a genderfluid demisexual artist, and how have you overcome them? How do these aspects of your identity influence your music?

I still get misgendered pretty often, but I usually don’t take it personally. 9 times out of 10, it’s an honest mistake, or it’s someone who’s still deprogramming their mind when it comes to the gender binary. I’ve been lucky enough that most people have course-corrected very quickly and with genuine desire to see me for who I truly am. My gender fluidity is present in how I write my lyrics – I rarely ever limit myself lyrically to one gender.

As for my demisexuality – that’s harder. I think when most people think of someone who is on the asexual spectrum, they think of a person who isn’t very sexual. But I’m very comfortable with my sexuality and how it shows up in my music – like “Throne,” “Daddy Era,” “Heaven” etc. It can be soft, or it can be domineering, or something else entirely. I love it all. Sometimes, folks have a hard time reconciling that with my being demisexual. Again, this doesn’t bother me, because it’s not my job to help anyone reconcile all of that.

Why do you believe representation and inclusivity are essential in the music industry, especially for marginalized communities like genderfluid and demisexual individuals?

Well I’d first and foremost point to the people in the comment section of my TikToks about my music. Those people see themselves in my art in a way I wish I could have seen myself in someone. Some of my artistic inspirations have shown me glimpses of art that was gender-bendy or rooted in an expression of sexuality akin to being demi, but none of them actually are genderfluid or demi… I think it’s important for us to see ourselves in art, in culture, in the world. When we do, it adds to our agency – our ability to take up space. It strengthens our belief that who we are is just as valid and just as worthy of existing and thriving as anyone else. Some of my demisexual listeners are so excited to finally have an artist whose music they can share with a partner, and even their friends. A way to say “hey, this is how I feel when I think about you, this is how I see myself in relation to you” or “this is how I feel or see myself” period. I think that’s so special and it makes me emotional. We all deserve to feel seen, and I’m glad I can be a part of that for my listeners through my music.

What changes do you hope to see in the music industry in terms of representation and inclusivity in the coming years?

I hope that representation is not just a conversation anymore – but the standard, the baseline. I hope there’s enough representation across all intersections that it feels normal and real, like breathing.

What’s one misconception about the music industry that you’d like to debunk?

The concept of “overnight success” is such a lie! Everything takes effort, planning, luck, and good timing. Another misconception is about some sort of expiration date on a person’s career – specifically women and queer folks – that has to do with age. We have too many artists proving this wrong in real-time for people to still put faith in that myth.

Finally, what else can we look forward to from you in 2024 and beyond?

I have so many singles planned out for 2024 – paving the way for an EP! I haven’t put out a whole body of work in 3 years, and I’m really excited for this one! It’s called Ascension, and “Godless” is definitely on it. I’m also hoping to perform live a lot more this year, as well as next year.

“Elevator” and “Godless” by NIKITAA are out now.

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