Editors’ Notes In 2015, when Kiara Saulters was 19 years old and working in a hardware store in the Chicago suburbs, she uploaded an unmistakably catchy, glitchy pop song to SoundCloud. Within weeks, she’d signed her first contract, and by the end of the year, “Gold” had been featured in an Apple commercial. It was as close to a fairy tale as the music business gets. Then, things took a turn. Saulters’ transition from the Midwest to Los Angeles was more difficult than she’d anticipated. She felt unprepared in media interviews and outnumbered in studio sessions, where producers pressured her to make songs that were carbon copies of “Gold.” “You're expected to know what you're doing, but you have no idea,” she tells Apple Music. “I think I rubbed a lot of people the wrong way because I felt immediately on the defense.”

The punches kept coming. In 2016, she became addicted to painkillers after a surgery on her tonsils—a dependency that she thinks, in retrospect, was a way to cope with the pressure of fame. Her wake-up call came the following year when Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park and a friend of Saulters, took his own life. Then, right as she’d cleaned up her act and finished her first tour, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. “I almost quit,” she says. “It was too much.”

Even though it arrives five years after her initial debut, lil kiiwi is Saulters’ first official full-length. “I wanted to finally introduce myself,” she says, “to bring people into my world and what I’ve been going through the past few years.” The songs—smart, incisive reflections on early-twenties recklessness—showcase the breadth of Kiiara’s sound, from anthemic EDM-lite anthems to hushed synth-pop lullabies. Here, the reinvigorated pop star talks us through her five favorite tracks.

So Sick (feat. blackbear)
“I call this a playful, petty love song. Like ‘You’ve got me feeling so sick, ugh.’ It’s something Bear and I would’ve said to each other a few years back, because we dated for a short period of time. By the time I recorded it, we hadn’t been in touch for years—in fact I think he’d blocked me—but I still knew he would sound perfect on it. And thanks to some help from our managers, he was down. He killed it. He hit me up and was like, ‘Sorry if I was harsh on my verse...’ but I thought it was perfect. We’re cool.”

Don’t Get Confused
“I’m so over dating right now, so this is a girl anthem. Because men always expect something. There’s always ulterior motives. Like, I didn’t ask you to buy me a drink, I didn’t ask you to take me to dinner, when did this become a transaction? This song is me setting the record straight: I can wear whatever I want and I’m doing it for me, not you. I love it because it has a lot of attitude and is more talky. It shows a different side to me. Basically, don’t mess with me!”

Never Let You
“I went through a lot while writing this album, and this song traces it all. Wondering why it took me four years to finish it, thinking about quitting and going home—I just felt drained. Then one day I went into the studio and let it all out, freestyling with a few producers who I really trusted. It felt like therapy. The song wonders about what my life would have been like if I didn’t write ‘Gold,’ which is something I think about a lot. What if I had followed a more normal path like my brother, who has a house and a dog and a good relationship? Stability just looks so relaxing. But I know the grass is always greener. Eventually I figured, maybe I can write about this and help other people who feel this way, too.”

Accidental
“This is about me being the fucking worst. I met this great guy in 2016 and he invited me to dinner. He asked me where I
wanted to go, checked in to see how I was feeling, handled my mood swings, showed me nothing but love and patience...and I was just the fucking worst. Looking back, I think I was just young and overwhelmed by everything else going on in my life, and maybe a little scared because I really liked him and wasn’t ready. If I could go back and do it all differently, I would. I sent him the demo so he knows it’s about him. He said he loved it. Maybe there’s a chance for us, I don’t know. I’m down! I told my managers that I was going to name the song after him and they were like, ‘Absolutely not.’”

Bad One
“When you’re young, you always want the rebel. As we’ve discussed, a good guy can be right in front of you and you’re like, ‘Nope!’ Later, you wonder what the hell you were thinking; in hindsight it’s so obvious that the bad guys were wrong for you. But it’s the truth of how I felt at the time. lil kiiwi is about a very specific period in my life when I was experimenting, making mistakes, and figuring out who I was. In some ways, releasing it feels like closure, like I said what I needed to say. I always wanted to be an artist, but I never wanted to let people in. Here, you’re finally in.”

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