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Kiana V: Dazed but not confused

By Annicka Koteh Published Oct 22, 2021 5:00 am

You can say that four years on the local music scene, including two EPs and one album, are just genes allowing a foot in the door. But that’s also the lazy way of explaining how Kiana Valenciano has had her name up on a global Spotify billboard as an ambassador for diverse young women in music.

If you needed another sign that it’s time to quit the quote on her simply being Gary V’s daughter, then the answer was lit up right in Times Square on the 21st night of September.

“When I finally saw it, it was just such a reassuring moment,” she recalled while still in New York, over a morning Zoom call. “Like, all the hard work that goes into music production and the songwriting can sometimes just take a lot from an artist.”

For Kiana, a lot of the pressure comes from within. The girl is hypercritical when it comes to her craft, always the one asking to do another take until it’s extra polished.

That reassurance did come at the perfect time, considering how Kiana had just released “Dazed” two months before. This newest EP sees Kiana at her rawest, most emotional yet. And though her previous hits (Does She Know, Hide My Love, Corners, to name a few) also explore the push and pull of relationships, these five cuts take a deeper look inward.

Kiana herself describes her past discography as a little more “prideful” — while “Dazed” sounds softer without losing the strength of perspective. 

It has something to do with how, during a bad case of writer’s block, Kiana found these gems scattered through old notebooks: songs that were scribbled back in 2019, when she was “exploring a different side” of herself and “being a little more vulnerable” on paper.

Kiana had her name up on a global Spotify billboard as an ambassador for diverse young women in music. 

It has something to do with producer Jesse Barrera, who lends his flair for lush, atmospheric beats and vocal layering to the intimacy of this R&B EP. But mostly it has a lot to do with both of them going back-and-forth in a Los Angeles studio to crack the sonic code of self-love. 

Because yes, Simple and Only You are about loving another without the drama, and Better is a groovy ode to never settling, yet it’s two other standouts that are more pointedly about empowerment. Killer lyrics like “I need to be mine / If I can’t love myself, how do I love you?” hit hard enough in How Do I? But then there’s the title track Dazed –– which, ironically, just barely made it to the final cut. 

“We were just jamming and we thought, wait, why don’t we have a song that’s a little more internal? And I just started singing Dazed. I even had to run out and get the lyrics, ‘cause I really wasn’t planning to work on that song,” Kiana shared.

“We needed to add an extreme amount of vocal harmonies, because I wanted it to feel like how it sounds in my head when I have so many thoughts running. And that's also why I wanted this song to end with just my vocals. ‘Cause at the end of the day, that negative self-talk and positive self-talk — that war that goes on in people's minds — is just them.”

So even though Dazed was a last-minute addition, Kiana knew that this song also had the best chance of resonating during this pandemic. “I thought — you know, the title, the vibe, everything about this song — it's just where my head's at right now,” she continued. “It just made sense for that to be the carrier single and to be the title track.”

This is a carrier single that she’s proud to have done her way, without the pressure to conform to any other sound. But for Kiana, a lot of the pressure comes from within. The girl is hypercritical when it comes to her craft, always the one asking to do another take until it’s extra polished. To achieve the rawness of “Dazed,” it’s taken her trusted collaborators — and even her dad — to reel her in.

“I'll send him the vocals, like ‘This is version one, this is version two, which do you prefer?’ Then he'll respond that ‘This one sounds more raw, go with that.’ Or ‘This one sounds too rehearsed, scrap it,’” she shared, laughing. I'm more drawn to the ones that sound perfect — and he likes the ones where I have a few mistakes.”

Kiana admits she’s a perfectionist. But that hasn’t kept her from baring her soul on this record, nor for her advocacies.

“Dazed” references a dark headspace from time to time, and Kiana is very much aware of what being trapped feels like. This isn’t the first time she’s been honest about mental health, because she already knows just how important the conversation is.

It won’t be smooth sailing. The creative rush aside, being in this industry is hard — so much so that it overwhelms the best of us. But while the doubts are inevitable, Kiana’s ready to stand her ground.

“You talk to a professional and you realize, it's not that there's something wrong with me and I'm a terrible and ungrateful person, it's just that actually, scientifically, clinically — there's something wrong,” Kiana explained. “And that felt like a weight off of my shoulders because then I found out, okay, there's a way that we can manage this. That's when I started being more vocal because there must be someone out there who's thinking the way I'm thinking, who has no idea how to cope.

“I wouldn’t call it pressure to speak up, but more of a responsibility. This is me reminding people that it's okay to not have it all together,” she adds. “And when I say that to you, I'm not teaching you — I'm letting you know that I'm going through it as well.”

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She may be thousands of miles away in LA, but Kiana knows that her voice — whether as artist or advocate — matters back here. She “carries her flag with her,” always introduces herself as Filipina, thinks about the platform she has and the duties that come with it.

On birthdays you’ll find her celebrating with the girls of Marillac Hills, who are young victims of sexual abuse. On others, you’ll find her opening up about mental health through song or sharing her story. Right now, she’s excited to get back into the studio with Jesse and explore more of the authentic, intimate sound she unlocked with “Dazed.”

It won’t be smooth sailing. The creative rush aside, being in this industry is hard — so much so that it overwhelms the best of us. But while the doubts are inevitable, Kiana’s ready to stand her ground.

“Being with two older brothers, I always had to find a way to make sure there was space in the room for me,” she said. True enough, there will always be space for an artist who can admit to being dazed sometimes, but never confused about her principles — and that’s the honest-to-goodness attitude keeping Kiana V’s name in lights.