Singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya has come a long way since she started uploading tracks to Soundcloud five years ago. The Londoner has been writing music in her head since she was six, and writing on the guitar since 12, and now at 23 she continues to work with a self-assured autonomy, refusing to let hype or pressure tip her balance. This inner confidence forms the backbone of her debut album: a work tightly-cluttered with ambition and a knack for elevated hooks, a showcase for multi-disciplinary song writing.
An enduring, overriding anxiety about modern life also runs through the record, projecting a dystopian, technological paranoia, but – weirdly – ‘Miss Universe’ is not sinister. In fact, a large chunk of its creative genius is rooted Yanya’s authentic, very human, DIY ethics and attitude, in her vivacious presence and mesmeric exuberance.
Part of this exuberance is an infectious, chirpy passion for pop music. But it’s not pop of the formulaic, fabricated, conveyor belt type; no, it is innovative and striking pop euphoria. The vibrant, pulsing opener ‘In Your Head’ plays with elements of alt-rock and grunge, while eerie, automated messages from WWayHealth – an imagined health management company – cleverly thread core themes through a musically diverse project.
Yanya brings unexpected sonic vibes on ‘Melt’, with its cacophony of brass instruments – inspired by a festival experience – and her Sade-like vocals and jazzy electro-pop atmospherics of ‘Baby Blue’ work intrinsic wonders. On a different end of the emotional spectrum, the soothing facets of ‘Safety Net’ explores the importance of just being, and accepting, oneself, while with concluding track ‘Heavyweight Champion of the Year’ Yanya addresses reaching inner limits, her own ‘metaphorical bar’.
The singer-songwriter has created an astoundingly original piece of work; every track sends shivers down the spine, but hitting different vertebrae - sometimes the impact is measured and controlled, others it’s shocking and bold. Using her otherworldly, but very human, backdrop Yanya tackles the modern collective experience from an individual perspective - ‘Miss Universe’ is an intimate record full of personal fears and emotions, but these are of wider, universal relevance. They should resonate with us all.
Words: Susan Hansen
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