Nilüfer Yanya Proves Pop Isn’t a Dirty Word

It’s hard to describe an artist like Nilüfer Yanya.

The 23-year-old singer-songwriter from West London has been touted as everything from the UK’s next big pop star to the underground’s latest cult indie favourite. But neither crown quite fits Yanya, who releases her brilliant debut record, Miss Universe, next Friday. The album features a collection of catchy jazz pop songs led by her deep, nonchalant vocal reminiscent of a young Julian Casablancas. The fact that she grew up listening to bands like The Strokes and The Libertines comes as no surprise. At 23-years-old, though, she’s still growing. You can hear it in her music, and the way she so confidently hops from genre and style. Everything about Yanya seems to be a perfect reflection of the times she grew up in. I guess that’s the best way to describe an artist like Nilüfer Yanya. She just feels current. Nilüfer Yanya sounds now.

A few weeks out from Miss Universe‘s March 22 release, I asked Yanya a couple of quick questions around the record. Her hot take, below.

Is pop a dirty word? I ask because you’re often referred to as a pop star, and I feel like pop stars are stereotyped and get a bad rap for nothing.

I think there’s an understandably bad rep because there is a lot of bad pop music out there. My friend Bullion has a slogan for his label: ‘Pop not slop.’ Pop music is great, though.

A lot of your album was recorded in a studio in a remote part of Cornwall. How did you end up there and can you explain what recording there was like?

Some of it was recorded there, yeah, because my uncle who I wrote some of the songs with is a producer and has built his own studio there which is really, really nice. It’s very freeing to be working somewhere you know really well but without the constraints and distractions of working at home or elsewhere in London.

I also heard you used to jam with your uncle in that same studio growing up. Did you ever think of starting a family band?

Haha, well my younger sister Elif does some singing BV’s with me at shows…sooo, kind of!

Your former school guitar teacher features on the record, too. What is the best lesson he taught you?

Last time I saw him he said it’s possible to make something you are 100% happy with and have no doubts about, so I’m gonna work towards that.

Though a few are spoken interludes, there are 17 tracks on the album. Did you ever think ‘maybe I should save some of these for the second album,’ or are you a naturally prolific artist?

No, hopefully, I’ll have better—and maybe even more—songs for my second album.

Speaking of the interludes, can you explain the inspiration behind them?

Inspiration was everyday life and over stimulation of living in a city like London.

If you were competing in a Miss Universe pageant, what would you promise to do for the world if crowned?

That everyone will have minds returned in their original condition and a full refund.

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