Rikki Valentina returns with new music this week. Her somber new single “What Happens When You Die?” is here just in time for fall. We caught up with Rikki to get an inside look at this haunting song and how she’s using it to explore grief and death.
This isn’t the first time the Los Angeles singer used music to tackle heavy topics. Her 2021 EP Daddy’s Girl honored her late father while tucking away the music and experiences of the “old” Rikki. “What Happens When You Die?” continues exploring the complex emotions that come with loss. After her father passed away, Rikki experienced the losses of more people close to her over time. “What Happens When You Die?” became an outlet for these “surreal and frightening” moments in her life. “I found comfort in writing this song because I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling to others,” Rikki shared. “When I had written this song, I felt that I had to not only share my experience with grief but also all the stages of grief, too.”
Of those stages of grief, Rikki shared, “Questioning was my go-to when it came to denial. I remember for the first two weeks after my dad had passed away. I didn’t believe he was gone, I just kept thinking this was all just one big misunderstanding and he was going to walk through our front door any second.” Rikki said that she finds grief to be “such a weird thing,” and she wishes people talked about more. She finds it “strangely comforting” talking with people who have also experienced grief like hers.
While it’s been a year since Daddy’s Girl was released, Rikki doesn’t mind the space. “I never liked the idea, as an artist, of just putting out multiple songs that sounded like one another. I don’t see any fun in that. I like to treat each song as if they are a film to tell my story.” Following in line with Rikki’s passion for authentic instrumentation, “What Happens When You Die?” was created in the studio with real instruments and is a unique act of creation. Turning an “extremely sad song” into “this uplifting experience,” Rikki shared that she also sees the influence of My Chemical Romance and The Used on the single, artists she was listening to a lot at the time.
Rikki shared that her favorite part of the song is the chorus. She sings,
Ask too many questions
because I’m testing life.
Give me a reason,
send me a sign.
I’m sick of talking alone to the sky.
I wanna know what happens when you die?
Growing up Catholic, Rikki learned about death growing up in that religion. In the song, she explores her questions and hangups about what she grew up on. “People would always tell me that my dad is still here and was watching me, but I felt so far from that,” she said. “It made me feel like there was something wrong with me since I wasn’t having this experience everyone was trying to comfort me with.”
“What Happens When You Die?” is streaming now on all major music platforms, and Rikki shared that a music video for the song will release on October 12, 2022. “I’m so excited to share that with the world! I was the director, producer, stylist, and colorist for the video as well which was such a fun experience to take on!”