Pop singers tend to prefer sunny weather to stormy skies. It’s the rare artist who has the courage to dive deep in song. But Shiadanni is no ordinary artist, and her music is anything but average. The Montreal alternative pop singer and songwriter has already demonstrated that she can bring the party: her prior singles were dancefloor burners, late-night anthems, fearless amalgamations of European club music and Latin soul. But with her latest, she’s taking us somewhere we’ve never been before — her mind
“Penny Pills” is the first track Shiadanni is also producing, and a glimpse inside the artist’s psyche. The singer is giving it to us straight: all the turbulence, passion, pain, longing, and lost hopes of young adulthood, and the lure of short-term solutions to long-term intractable problems. In so doing, Shiadanni is being frank about issues that millions are familiar with, but which aren’t often represented in popular culture. She’s giving voice to hard things, and through the transformative power of music, she’s making them beautiful.
Though the topic is serious, there’s nothing even slightly ponderous about “Penny Pills.” The song is, like all of Shiadanni’s singles, thrilling from its opening to its conclusion. But the nature of the spell she’s casting is a little different from the magic her fans are accustomed to getting from her. Because of the deeply personal nature of the verses, Shiadanni practically whispers them; this is a desperate confession, and a portrait of her tortured inner state, and her ASMR-worthy vocals beckon the listener deeper into the mist. By contrast, the choruses are clear, high, and wordless — cries directly from the artist’s heart. Add in breakbeats, glittering synthesizers, gossamer-smooth backing vocals, and a hovering air of mystery, and you’ve got one of the most ambitious and alluring singles of the year.
The gorgeous clip for “Penny Pills” — which the artist directed herself — is another portrait of an artist in turmoil. When the camera first catches Shiadanni, she’s cornered: back to the wall, defiant, unbroken, but exceedingly vulnerable. Soon, she’s quite literally floating in space: unmoored, adrift, long hair flowing, eyes distant, awash in thoughts. Shiadanni is far too glamorous to ever look disheveled, but you can tell that she’s been through some real difficulties, and rather than take the easy way out, she’s had the courage to face her demons. In one arresting shot, she squats in a shower of pharmaceuticals. But (and this is crucially important!) we never see her take one.