The story of Niykee Heaton is an interesting one both for what it is and what it isn't. She was discovered through her YouTube channel, where she played acoustic covers of hip-hop and contemporary hits, as well as original songs.
In 2011, while she was still in high school, she started uploading videos recorded in her bedroom. These early videos show a Niykee growing into her sound. Her voice is soulful and sultry and while her guitar skills are a bit rough, there's undeniable talent there.
Around 2012, she did a pretty great cover of Chief Keef's "Love Sosa" which went viral (WARNING: video below contains explicit language). The video got over 3 million hits and her subscriber base jumped into the six-digit range.
She signed with All Def Digital in 2014 and released her debut EP, "Bad Intentions" in September of that year. Acoustic covers of hip-hop tracks are fun, but they're mostly a novelty, regardless of how good they are. Even though she was always sprinkling original music in between her covers, it was the covers that brought her national attention. Very shrewdly, "Bad Intentions" moves away from acoustic and settles her firmly into dance/R&B/hip hop territory.
With lyrics like, "Wanna drink, wanna smoke, wanna feel it in my throat," Heaton fully grows up with this record. She stops being the teenager in her bedroom trying to connect and becomes a pop diva whose barely-clothed body is as recognizable as Kim Kardashian's. But the lyrics on "Bad Intentions" are surprisingly confessional, feeling more like catharsis and less like radio-ready manufactured pop.
Even though the record was greeted with good reviews, she spoke out against the album, saying to Complex.com: "They wanted me to change the way that I looked, the way that I acted, the way I sang, the words I wrote, who I was as an artist, but also who I was as a person. And I couldn't do that. The creation of my EP under these circumstances was a strenuous and very difficult task. My label wanted to take away my creative control and identity, and exercised their plan relentlessly, until finally, I had no choice but to compromise. And in turn, I was forced to put out a project that I wasn't even proud of."
From her Instagram to her videos to her stage wardrobe, everything about Heaton is hyper-sexualized. If that's her choice then more power to her, but if this is the case of a record company forcing an artist with genuine talent to rely on their looks, then it's depressing. Some of her interviews make it sound like it's her choice and some don't, but whatever the truth is, the message should be her words and not in a pre-packaged ideal. The girl in her bedroom with the guitar is still there, whether we see her or not.
Unfortunately, this show has now been cancelled.
CANCELLED—Thursday, Oct. 27, 7pm
Midtown Ballroom, 51 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend
$22.50 adv., $25 door