REVIEW: Niina Soleil’s “Happy Pills” is a Dance-y Departure on the 405
In bubbled, neon mirrors she is reflected in fragments. Her red evening gloves blend with the flashing lights behind her. She is Niina Soleil, extolling the virtues of her “Happy Pills”.
A little bit disco and a little bit jazzy, Soleil’s latest single is a marked departure from her recent work. “Make It Summer” and “Flowers on Fire”, from last year, were warm and sweet, reminiscent of mid-2000s pop soul like Corinne Bailey Rae and Amy Winehouse at her lightest (someone Soleil says she’s “always been inspired by”). “Happy Pills” is more squarely in the pop camp, though it uses that soul sound to weave in some pretty vocal flourishes and a skipping beat that reflects the feeling of taking something that sets you right. Wellbutrin or something else? That’s for you to decide!
Produced by the London-based Fred Ball, who worked on tracks like Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain” and that The Carters record (yes, that’s Jay-Z and Beyoncé), “Happy Pills” has a slick dance-floor ready sheen. “I feel more confident in myself as a writer and artist having worked with Fred,” said Soleil, calling the experience “both humbling and affirming.”
“The song just came to me when I was zooming up an on-ramp, merging onto the 405,” Soleil told me. “It came together so quickly that I didn’t really have a plan for it, it just suddenly existed in my mind, ready to be made into something groovy and dark and fun.” Fittingly, I can see myself hopping onto I-405 with the track playing, ready for a night out.
Niina has more coming down the pipeline for 2023, either an EP or an album. “We’ll see!” she said, when I asked, which is the kind of spontaneous approach to music that I’m all for. Either way, Soleil is an artist to watch out for if you have any interest in breezy, rhythmic pop music.
If you’re based in LA, you can see her live on March 4th at Genghis Cohen in West Hollywood. In the meantime, check out the “Happy Pills” music video below.