Erika de Casier Makes a Y2K Sound All Her Own

Erika de Casier’s memory of watching Britney Spears’s “…Baby One More Time” music video for the first time is still crystal clear in her mind. “My brother was like, ‘Erika, come in here! You’ll love this!’ I went into the living room, and I went crazy,” the 33-year-old musician recalls gleefully from her apartment in Copenhagen. “I had never heard anything like it—the big da da duh,” she adds, singing the earth-shaking piano chords from the 1998 hit.

Late ’90s MTV is a major touchstone for de Casier, who’s gained a cult following for her Y2K-inspired R&B that folds in atmospheric drum ‘n’ bass and garage. She first found an audience with her 2019 self-released Essentials—whose sparkling sound evokes jewel CD cases—and then signed to the independent record label 4AD for 2021’s Sensational. Blog love quickly led to the big leagues, with de Casier making a remix for Dua Lipa (after an Instagram DM request from the pop star herself) and cowriting hits for the breakout K-pop girl group NewJeans last year.

With her new album Still, released in February, de Casier has emerged as a star who can straddle the line between singer-songwriter intimacy and pop avant-garde. The record sees the musician flipping Y2K conventions—like Timbaland’s skittering beats, Aaliyah’s slinky melodies, and Mariah Carey’s lovestruck sensuality—for a stylish vision of R&B that grooves, yet still feels hushed and private. De Casier is currently gearing up to play a North American tour, followed by a performance at Coachella (she also recently sang at a Courrèges event during Paris Fashion Week). But the artist is low-key as ever. “I’m not following some kind of path, where I do something, so that next year I can get [to the next thing],” she says. “I try to do my music and the rest will come.”

Although de Casier lays bare her anxious thinking and introverted tendencies throughout Still, she also steps into the spotlight, adopting an icy and futuristic visual persona inspired by Hype Williams videos. In the new music video for “Ex-Girlfriend,” her track with Shygirl, de Casier appears model-esque as she croons about being tempted by an old flame. “It felt like I was doing a movie,” de Casier says of shooting the video directed by Isa Castro-Cota and Tiff Pritchett. “There’s always a little bit of acting, being in front of a camera—or at least, trying to act natural.”

A still from the “Ex-Girlfriend” video.

Courtesy of Erika de Casier

But photo and video shoots and doing interviews with press have generated a newfound sense of confidence within de Casier. Ultimately, her music was the thing that bolstered her: she invented a self-assured alter ego named Bianka for music videos off the album Sensational, because she “felt like they called for someone who was a little bit extra.” Holding up a psychology book she’s reading called Between Us: How Cultures Create Emotion, de Casier attributes her shyness to the Scandinavian principle of ​​janteloven. “In Denmark, it’s important in our way of thinking that you have to be humble, you have to give space to others, whereas in America, you learn that you need to make your voice heard,” she says. “It made so much sense: you raise your kids to flourish in their society.”

A still from the “Ex-Girlfriend” music video featuring Shygirl.

Courtesy of Erika de Casier

Born in Portugal, de Casier moved to Denmark at eight years old; at that time, she developed a particular interest in watching music videos. They were a portal to another world. It didn’t take long for her to introduce two friends to Destiny’s Child’s music, then recruit them for a lip-synch performance in fourth grade. “I remember I really wanted to be Beyoncé,” de Casier says. She’d practice hitting all the notes in Alicia Keys’s “If I Ain’t Got You,” then pretended she was an office worker transcribing lyrics. “I would sit with my CD player, hit play, and then stop to write down the words, even if they were gibberish,” she says, holding an imaginary pair of headphones to her ear. Her pop culture obsessions even brought her to Vermont, where she studied abroad at 16 to “see if [MTV] was real,” she says. “I wanted to have the American high school experience. I wanted to see cheerleaders and jocks and the emo kids.”

As a teenager, de Casier reconnected with her Cape Verdean father, who himself had musical ties; he sang in a James Brown cover band in the ’70s. When they met, he brought her Cesária Évora and Mayra Andrade—two famous singers from the island nation—CDs. “I wasn’t even doing music back then, but I think it was important for him to share that with me,” she says. “It was just a [cultural thing].” Back in Denmark, de Casier started writing songs and teaching herself to produce. After a couple years releasing alternative R&B tracks as part of the duo Saint Cava, she found her solo breakthrough with 2017’s “What U Wanna Do?” and 2018’s “Do My Thing,” whose videos were filmed on handycam and edited by de Casier herself. “In my community, people were doing DIY stuff like that, so it wasn’t weird,” she says. “I still like doing it, because it can be the best solution. I like the aesthetics that come out.” Her retro sound also developed naturally after she picked up a Roland JV-1010 synthesizer from the ’90s.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say de Casier portended today’s obsession with Y2K. Long before ’90s nostalgia exploded on TikTok and PinkPantheress became a star, de Casier had to justify her production choices to early interviewers who constantly referred to her favorite pop musicians as “guilty pleasures” rather than serious artists. De Casier hypothesizes that the current craze is the result of collective memory and nostalgia, but she doesn’t want to be seen as just riding a wave. “When people say things like, ‘You knew how to hit that trend,’ I think that’s so unsexy,” she says. “It takes away my free will.”

“For me, I grew up with this music,” she continues. “I love this music, and I finally built up the courage to express that without any shame—like, take it or leave it. I don’t know if it was on the rise or what, I just made the music I liked.”

When considering her path ahead, de Casier admits that she admires Sade, who took a hiatus between albums to become a mom and still maintained her career. But she quickly adds that she doesn’t want to replicate anyone’s journey. “There isn’t a recipe,” she says. “I could tell you to ‘do this and then do this,’ but it wouldn’t be true to you.” Like she’s already said in her music (and like Busta Rhymes said before her), de Casier is just gonna do her thing.

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