When L.A. born singer-songwriter Niki Black wrote her new single “American Spirits” back in September of 2019, she had no idea how prophetic her words were. The track was originally supposed to be a contemplative look back at her American experience as she prepared to move to Paris to pursue a master’s in philosophy and art history. All throughout this past year, she has been releasing singles from her highly anticipated album LILITH, but she was saving “American Spirits.” After the recent events that transpired in the US, she decided to release this one-off single because, as Nina Simone once mused, “it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times.” The result? A poignant commentary on American today which answers the questions “What does it mean to have American spirit?” and “Can I still connect with my American Spirits as the daughter of an Iranian immigrant mother?” by saying “Yes, I can and I will,” but not without confronting America’s “bloody conception and its chaotic, violent reality today.”

Although originally from L.A., Black’s father grew up in Chicago, and her mother in Iran, giving her an expansive range of influences to work with, from the blues to the sounds of Iranian pop legend Googoosh. The uniqueness of her “ahs” in “American Spirits” in particular points to this mixed heritage of hers, but reverberations of it are felt throughout. Otherworldliness and ambiance emanate from the transient song, which doesn’t seem to exist within the bounds of genre or time itself. The thing that gives Black an edge, however, is her voice, ringing out sweet but striking. Her words pack a punch of their own, too. “Useless conversations all across the nation,” “violence in our lungs, black as the paths we come from,” are more significant now than ever before. If you weren’t planning to already, I recommend listening to the track with headphones, to better experience the atmosphere and audio panning that fully immerse you within the song. Stream “American Spirits” here, and stay tuned for the official music video (watch the teaser here) which will be released later this month!

Katy Mombourquette
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