Tune in: Moonchild



I knew from the start that NIKI’s first studio album, “Moonchild,” was going to be a risk: the first single she released from the album in April, “Switchblade,” threw me entirely off-guard by how much it diverted from NIKI’s usual refined contemporary R&B. 

With deep, layered synths and metallic, clinking drums accompanying NIKI’s ethereal vocals, this first single felt uncharted and almost extraterrestrial. The music video accompanying it was no different; sporting a full head of white hair, NIKI explores a shimmering Avatar-esque alien planet under a full moon. While many fans were conflicted over the drastic change in style, I thoroughly enjoyed the rhythmic nuances and unique amalgamation of styles. I decided that if the new album would be full of the same experimental approach, I was completely on board.  

What we got instead was something very different: while many of the tracks indeed branched out from NIKI’s usual style, the majority didn’t meld with the contemporary R&B elements from NIKI’s past work quite the same way “Switchblade” did and thus, failed to become memorable or likable. The songs that do, such as “Selene” and “Pandemonium,” are the standouts on the album while others, while “Wide Open (Foreword)” or “Tide” are too bland, aggressive or harsh for my liking. 

“Selene,” which was also the second single released earlier than the album, remains my favorite track from “Moonchild.” The funky, retro bassline combined with glittery production and catchy melodies explores a new side of NIKI that I wish the album had shown off more. 

“Pandemonium,” surprised me with its mellow lo-fi inspired charm and echoey feel, creating a gentler vibe that I know will make the song perfect for late night playlists. 

The only other notable track is “Lose,” a classic heartbreak song on acoustic piano. NIKI has always captivated me with her acoustic covers of previous songs and I’m glad she was able to lean into that strength here. 

It’s clear to me the amount of artistry and creative effort that went into creating “Moonchild.” Every aspect of the promotion, visuals and sound design seems to be pointing at a narrative that NIKI wants her listeners to experience immersively. 

However, the inconsistency in song quality and tone made it too laborious to find. While overall the four tracks that I enjoyed—out of ten on the album—rank among NIKI’s best songs, the remaining six nearly leave me wishing NIKI had spent that creative energy on a more sustainable balance between her old production style and newer elements to produce fewer, more grounded tracks.