Rikki Valentina's voice is the aural equivalent of watching dark chocolate drizzle delicately over a beguiling pile of richly pink raspberry macarons through the misty windows of a pastel-painted French bakery you found by accident, during the dead of winter, in an otherwise vacant Parisian alleyway. Her songs are so ruminative they feel akin to a delicious secret, ethereal, as though they could vanish like the fog of your breath when it's almost too cold to speak. But her work is far from lugubrious or despairing. Her rosy melodies and finespun lyrics drift above her sometimes dark subject matter-- propelled by these important topics but never sunk by them.
I had the privilege of being one of the first to hear Rikki's latest track, "Dollar $igns," a sparkly-packaged meditation on the materialistic nature of social media that subtly invites listeners to reevaluate their priorities outside of the boundaries of their smartphone. It serves to remind the Rich Kids of Instagram that "Nobody cares 'bout your dollar signs," giving the rest of us a much-needed opportunity to commiserate. I was floored by the song's punchy nihilism and its ability to be both cynical and bright. The message is simple ant elegant: in the grand scheme of things, the way we live our lives is inconsequential, so we should do what we want, yet we continually fall victim to comparison and the need for validation. It's the anthem of a generation that's disenchanted with the world, but not disengaged enough to give up on the future. Rikki extrapolates on contradictory feelings in a way that makes you realize perhaps they're not all that contradictory after all.
Who are your inspirations and what lessons have they taught you?
I’d have to say my biggest inspiration was, and to this day is still my dad. He recently passed in December due to a tragic motorcycle accident. My dad was a musician who helped me grow and discover that the music world will always be an important part of my life. He taught me to be loyal and kind to others, that hard work will get you far in life, and to never give up because reaching one's dreams is never impossible.
My pop culture inspirations are Audrey Hepburn, who has taught me the importance of a lady's true grace and beauty. Lily Allen for how she taught me to stay real with my lyrics, and Lana del Rey for proving the classics never die and there are no rules in pop music.
Can you explain what the message behind your new song, Dollar $igns is?
As a girl growing up in Calabasas you could imagine the energy I was surrounded by.
One day it occurred to me that everyone was posting photos of themselves in their designer attire, luxurious cars, frequenting exclusive clubs, basically showing off “Dollar $igns”. I sat down and started writing. I knew that most of these people were more than their things, made up of “Dollar $igns”. There was a time I was drawn into that lifestyle, then I realized some things are just priceless. Why do we all try to gain approval from one another with the same schemes in mind? Rather than shunning social media I decided to open myself up creatively and have grown from this experience. I realized that the littlest things in life could be my biggest inspiration. It really doesn't matter how people live their lives as long as they are content with themselves and that's the message behind “Dollar $igns”.
How would you describe your style (both in terms of music and in terms of fashion)?
I’d describe my style as “Retro Cute” that goes for both music and fashion.
I definitely feel that the late artists, dating back as far as the 50’s, are a big part of my inspiration. My music varies from upbeat to melancholy but contains multiple layers, including intense topics relatable with the lifestyles of today.
Your new song, Dollar $igns, is centered around social media and depression. Do you have any tips on how to manage the negative impact social media can have on mental health?
To put the blame on social media is very controversial. Social media gives us many options, everyone has a choice. Depending on where people are in their life, social media posts can be perceived as a negative or as a positive. The big picture I'm trying to portray is compassion in the rawest form. It’s the individuals decision on how they are affected by it. I believe that people should take pride and own what they have.
What's the most positive interaction you've had on social media?
I’ve had so many positive experiences on social media to narrow them down would be difficult. But being able to hear how my fans relate to my music, not just locally but globally, is definitely one of the greatest interactions I've had through social media.
What's been the most transformative experience of your life?
I wrote “Dollar $igns” a year ago and at that time I remembered feeling very unsuccessful in my career. As I mentioned before my dad was a musician and my mentor. Then my father passed and I felt my whole world had fallen apart. I went into a state of depression and for a while I lost interest in everything including my music. I knew music made my dad happy and I realized he'd want me to be happy as well. I started to open myself up and write more songs which put me in touch with my emotions. That was the most transformative experience of my life.
What would you change about the current social media landscape?
I don’t think changing the social media landscape is the answer. I believe it’s the way it's individually perceived. people will take the negative or positive route. So changing it wouldn’t really matter. But i'd like to have a profile song again, lol. I'd like to incorporate music in some aspect on social media because music is paramount.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t depend on others to get you to where you want to be in life, go out and get it.
You have to always ask questions and advocate for yourself.