June 1, 2016


Who is Kiiara, and is Her ‘Gold’ Single the Real Song of the Summer?

Jimmy Fontaine
Jimmy Fontaine

Let’s face facts: Drake’s “One Dance” is going to define the sound of this summer. The dancehall track, which just spent its third nonconsecutive week at No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart, is settling in for a nice, long run of soundtracking sweaty nightclubs and middle school dances alike. It’s an extremely likable track with a pleasingly rhythmic skeleton, and it’s also peaking at the right time, commanding pop radio as summer heats up after debuting in early April. Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” and Desiigner’s “Panda” are going strong as well, but they don’t have quite the same power to make Top 40 hotlines bling.

But maybe you’re not a “One Dance” fanatic. Maybe Drizzy is not your cup of tea, and perhaps you think that Wizkid and Kyla are just accomplices in his sing-rapping charade. What’s the song of the summer for you, then? Here’s a humble suggestion: Kiiara’s “Gold.” It might not splash into the mainstream during the dog days, but make no mistake, this song is going to conquer the United States in the coming months.

So, first off, who is Kiiara, and what is this song? These are fair questions to those outside of the Kiiarahive (you’ll join us soon enough). 

Kiara Saulters is a 21-year-old pop singer-songwriter from Wilmington, a small Illinois city roughly an hour outside of Chicago. She first received online interest for her song “Bring Me Back” in 2013, and signed to Atlantic Records last fall after releasing “Gold” on June 17, 2015. Fun fact: Kiiara was working as a hardware store clerk when she dropped the best pop song in recent memory.

“I wrote it about two years ago on classical guitar, and then just set it aside,” Kiiara said to Australia’s Triple J, during her first-ever radio interview, in February (listen above). She went on to say that she and producer Felix Snow, who had previously worked with SZA, re-worked “Gold” to give it a more “electronic and futuristic” sound, and eliminated full passages from the original track. “It was really wordy, and we just hollowed it up,” Kiiara said.

Indeed, the sound of “Gold” is one of vacancy, Kiiara’s fluttering vocals filling in the spaces between echoing percussion, persistent bass and warped cries for her attention. The main draw here is the chopped-up vocal gumbo that composes the majority of the hook, and while the effect is entrancing, so are Kiiara’s defiant messages between them. “Gold up in my, gold up in my teeth / Don’t care what you say to me, I’ma bite your feelings out,” she begins, flipping Lorde’s “Royals” imagery on its head before telling a dude that she’s confident enough to be done with him and not explain why.

“The message is that you don’t have to answer to anyone,” Kiiara told Triple J. Perhaps you’re wondering, why was Kiiara’s first radio interview with a national Australian station? Well, it’s because “Gold” was already a smash hit there, debuting on the Australian iTunes Chart right before Christmas and peaking at No. 3 in early February, because the Aussies know a good pop tune when they hear it. This happened after “Gold” was released a full year ago in the U.S., and although the Illinois native received praise from places like The Fader and Jezebel when the song launched, she was an independent artist prepping her debut EP, and didn’t have the major-label muscle to push the song to U.S. radio.

She does now. “Gold” received a splashy new music video in late March, and Kiiara’s debut EP, the fantastically titled low kii savage, was concurrently issued via Atlantic Records. Kiiara was also announced as a supporting act for AlunaGeorge’s current U.S. tour, marking the singer-songwriter’s live debut; she’ll perform at Lollapalooza next month.

There’s a track record of songs like “Gold” becoming hits in the U.S. months after blowing up in other countries, and even years after first being released. Remember 2015’s song of the summer, OMI’s “Cheerleader”? That song first dropped way back in 2012, and became a hit in Europe and Australia in 2014 before heading to America the following year. A similar slow burn occurred with Nico & Vinz’s “Am I Wrong” in 2014, and Lorde’s aforementioned “Royals”—a huge hit in New Zealand—in 2013.

And there are strong indicators that “Gold” is coming soon to the U.S.: In their yearly prediction of Song of the Summer, Shazam listed “Gold” as the No. 4 song most likely to be dominating the next three months. The song is at 125 million Spotify streams, and its new video has 7 million YouTube views. If Kiiara uses her current tour as a springboard for U.S. television appearances and increased radio play, “Gold’s” hypnotic hook is going to be inescapable.

“One Dance” was No. 1 on Shazam’s Song of the Summer tally; again, it’s going to be Song of the Summer, so haters can abandon all hope now. But “Gold,” which has so far peaked at No. 96 on the Hot 100 chart, isn’t far behind. Pretend to be hip and tell your friends about “Gold” while you still can, because Desiigner isn’t going to be the only chart ruler with two i’s forever.