Rikki Valentina is entering her next era of music, and she’s doing it all by herself. After releasing her nostalgic EP Daddy’s Girl and a few singles last year, Rikki has been taking time to reinvent her process and her sound.

Rikki talks to us in her car just days after returning from her honeymoon. Along with an amped-up new single, Rikki has a new attitude, a new sound, and a new cat. “I definitely am changing up my theme a bit.” Her baby doll aesthetic featured dresses, bows, and pastels that complimented and contrasted songs that ranged from playful to melancholy. She still wants to be herself, but she says she’s in her “edgy revenge stage” right now, processing changes in her life with different lyrics and a dark pop sound.

She’s trying on dark pop because her experiences with grief and growing up have changed her perspective on the world. She says her style ultimately hasn’t changed, but she’s interested in exploring some darker layers in her art—and simultaneously reviving parts of a goth middle school Rikki.

Our first look at this change is Rikki’s single “Opinions.” “I actually wrote ‘Opinions’ over a year ago, and it was based on a lot of hate comments I would see on other people’s posts actually. Anytime I go on TikTok or Instagram, people always just had something negative or nasty to say.” Rikki says comments like these are at an all-time high. Then she started to get them herself. She shared that writing and releasing “Opinions” has been a way to vent her feelings about this trend and let go of some of that negativity. It’s not about hating the haters or trying to solve the internet, but to show people how absurd it is to be putting energy into these kinds of comments.

Part of Rikki’s journey has been taking on everything from writing to production after being snubbed by a producer and losing a lot of her early work. “I had a lot more authentic instruments in my last EP, and I feel like I’m experimenting more with samples and sounds…just playing around with noises and layering vocals which is always fun.” She still values the warmth and depth that comes with including real instruments on her tracks, but she is finding value in creating tracks with her skills as a multi-instrumentalist as well as the things she can create mixing on the computer. “I’m trying to be more experimental, but…I’m never going just say ‘no I’m not doing this anymore.’… Because I do think a lot of music does need real instruments.”

In a couple of weeks, Rikki will reveal the music video for “Opinions.” “The video is kind of Promising Young Woman meets Sucker Punch,” she shared about the inspiration and story for the video. “It’s like a vigilante young girl who defends people who have been preyed upon on the internet.” Rikki’s character exacts revenge on a teenage boy who harasses girls in his high school and even dances! “Yes! There’s a dance. I’m going to put it on TikTok.”

Choreographed by Rikki’s friend Anna Sophia Moad, the “Opinions” dance translates Rikki’s new sound and lyrics into contemporary dance. Rikki told us that she grew up dancing, but isn’t a confident dancer. “This is the first song that I had that I felt like I could move to it,” she said, sharing that she walked to it on the treadmill when she was working on lyrics revisions. “I felt empowered, and I just liked the idea of adding dance to it!” She’s excited that dance was included in the video, but she’s even more enthusiastic about seeing fans recreate the dance themselves. (You can see dancers from Se23 Lancaster doing the “Opinions” dance below!)

“Opinions” is just a start. A song she has planned for a future release focuses on “women’s rage.” She sees a rise in these conversations as well, what anger should and shouldn’t look like. What’s interesting is that while Rikki is experimenting with her music, it’s still Rikki at her core. Throughout her music, we can see her exploring her experiences and trying to connect with people. As she moves toward dark pop, she is taking these concepts and making them bigger—not just her hate comments but everyone’s, not just her anger, but feminine anger in general. “I think every song that I have will be for somebody out there. I would like to try to relate with as many people as possible.”

“I’m not big enough and known enough yet that I still have the freedom to kind of figure out exactly what works for me, but I’m still being myself while doing it, and that’s what’s important.”

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Veronica Good has been with Showstopper Magazine since 2016. When she isn't keeping you updated on the latest trends, she is at home with her many pets or probably playing The Sims 4. Veronica has a BA in English and an MA in writing from Coastal Carolina University. She is also a writer of fiction and poetry, and her work can be found in Archarios, Tempo, and Scapegoat.