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- Nik Baby Girl
- Nikki Flores
- Los Angeles CA
- United States
When Nikki Flores wrote "It's OK," the closing song on her debut album, This Girl, she was, in her words, "going through a point in my life where I was confused and didn't really know who I was."
She was also 12.
Now 18, Nikki knows exactly who she is and it's not who you think.
While it's tempting to instantly lump the gorgeous young singer/songwriter in with the pop princesses and tween queens, one listen to her deeply personal, widely rounded album solidifies her as a true artist. It's one thing to call Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys influences -- and Nikki does -- it's another to possess their greatest assets. Huge voice. Undeniable soul. Heck, she even shares Mariah's famed manager, Benny Medina.
What makes Nikki Flores unique is she uses her talents to speak not to the greatest common denominator, but directly to her like-minded, under-estimated audience.
"I can relate to the general population of teenage girls and I really have an opinion when it comes to a lot of things and I want to voice that," Flores says. "I'm not going to sit back and be the girl that goes into the studio and has people say, 'Oh, sing this and then we'll be done with you.' I'm not that kind of a person. I'm way too opinionated and hard-headed." In other words, Nikki's the rare childhood prodigy who was able to discover her identity before someone came along and pre-packaged her.
The daughter of musician parents who met while competing in a battle of the bands in Southern California, Flores was raised on a steady diet of the Eagles and U2. When she was eight, she sang a LeAnn Rimes song at country western club and instantly fell in love with the stage.
A flood of talent shows and fundraisers followed, all the while Nikki perfected her voice at karaoke nights, emulating Carey and Brian McKnight. By 12, she had taught herself piano and was writing songs like "It's OK." Two years later, she signed a record deal with Epic Records.
The same, however, can't be said of Nikki's career since. She spent two years recording her debut and then scrapped the album completely.
"I wasn't happy with the direction because I wasn't writing it and it felt forced to me," Nikki says. "So we just started over. And I'm so glad we did because I'm so much more confident with it now. I don't feel like they're trying to put a miniskirt on me and make me dance."
With total creative control, Nikki turned directly to her diary, writing songs that candidly chronicle a lovelorn romantic at the height of her teenage years. Topical, certainly. One-dimensional, far from it.
"I've been listening to so much John Mayer and I really try to come up with concepts and write metaphorically like he does," Flores says. "I met him at a Grammy party and we had this conversation about songwriting and I was like, 'Oh my God, you are totally stealing my heart right now.'"
Nikki's first single, "Painkiller," produced by Timbaland protege Nate "Danja" Hills (Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado), illustrates love as an anesthetic. "It's about being so lovesick for somebody you're just 'Aaahhh,'" she shrieks. "It's like, 'I need the best Rx prescription.' It has a lot of little cool words to play with."
"Beautiful Boy," another up-tempo from Hills, tells the story of a girl's boyfriend being jealous of her gay best friend. "The guy is like, 'Hey, why are you spending all your time with him? And why is he dressing better than I am? What's up?'" Nikki explains, flashing a devilish grin.
Other producers on the album include J. R. Rotem (Rihanna's "SOS"), who helmed the "woman power anthem" "Don't Know What You Have," and Big Tank (Christina Aguilera), who provided the beat for "Where Did I Go Wrong."
"I wrote that about this guy who broke up with me out of the blue for no reason," Nikki says of the latter. "I was like, 'What's going on? Where did I go wrong?' Because that's the first thing, as a girl, you think when you get broken up with."
Nikki, without realizing it, calls nearly every song on the album her "favorite," but the one she singles out as a future single is the intimate ballad "Selfish," which she wrote a few years ago while on a promotional tour.
"I was in a relationship and I came to the realization that I was being completely selfish because I didn't have the time to devote to them that they deserved," Flores says. "That one's definitely for me. It's my Grammy song, just me at a piano, playing and singing my heart out."
Like most of the revered singers who have graced that stage, Flores is also expanding beyond music. She recently shot the MTV Films feature "Sweet Sixteen" and is also launching a broadband series on ThisGirl.com, named after the opening interlude on her album.
"I just want to get in a room with girls and talk about real issues, like the war, sex and drugs and the pressures of high school," she says. "I just feel like girls need a way to vent."
Clearly, Nikki Flores has already found hers.