18 months ago, I sat down at a very early hour on a Skype call from my freezing apartment, and spoke to a musician in her pleasantly-warm apartment on the other side of the world. At that time, Kerli Kõiv was in the middle of an artistic reinvention, having found herself thoroughly dissatisfied with the music business, and with the direction in which she was headed. After several years working as an artist and songwriter in Los Angeles, it also seemed as though Kerli's homeland of Estonia was appealing to her on some level.
The mysterious woman from Elva had been off the radar since 2012, having since signed with a new label, Ultra Music, on which she released Raindrops, a pop-dance collaboration with Snbrn. That was pretty much it for what the public got to see in 2015, save the windows on her soul that came through her sometimes extraordinarily frank Facebook fan-page.
The lush Feral Hearts and the Emilie Simon-like Blossom dropped at the start of 2016, and seemed to indicate a partial return to the dark performance-art of Kerli's first album Love is Dead. It's been a long time in the making, but it looks like we can get ready for another run of new material from the original trailblazer for Estonian pop, and someone who sits with Iiris and Ingrid Lukas right at the top of the tree in terms of constant artistic reinvention and innovation.
Diamond Hard is not only Kerli's directorial debut in the sinister video, set in Loksa, northern Estonia, but is also written and self-produced by the artist, who spent weeks in the forest, away from the distractions of everyday city life. It's got a minimalist beat, and a lo-fi ambiance that certainly hasn't hurt Rihanna on her recent album Anti. The lyrics sound ostensibly empowered and tough, but are contrasted by mellow strings and a foreboding grey cloud of a bass beat.
There's something intriguing about the lyrical content, when you compare it to other songs, particularly three Sia-penned tunes, Titanium (for David Guetta), Diamonds (for Rihanna) and Chandelier (Sia's solo song). All three songs were written by the Australian to evoke a kind of glamour through the shimmering imagery, but all three hid a kind of fear (of hurt, of falling, of losing something precious).
Authorial intent doesn't matter, it's meant to be all about the listener's experience - but it seems the contrast was completely deliberate. In Kerli's case, we know too much about her through her public discussions with her fans to see Diamond Hard as anything but a song with both a surface meaning and something quite different and more nuanced below. You may agree or disagree - whatever you think, I'd love to hear from you.
Diamond Hard was released yesterday.