Ashnikko Is A Lot
The last song on DEMIDEVIL is called “Clitoris! The Musical.” Over jaunty cabaret piano, after a movie-trailer voice intro and a piercing giggle, Ashnikko belts out her frustration with guys who can’t get the job done in bed. “Cisgender heterosexual men/ I’m bored of your fumbling hands, it’s not hard!” goes the chorus. “This isn’t uncharted land/ From my clitoris, you are so goddamn far.” A metaphor involving arcade claw games is deployed. She explains that her sexual organs contain twice as many nerve endings as “your pee-pee.” When the 90-second lark was posted to her YouTube channel about a year ago, she sang it dressed up as a vagina, like some desperate late-career Katy Perry gag.
By now you’re probably realizing that Ashnikko, the 24-year-old North Carolina native born Ashton Nicole Casey, is an abrasively loud, polarizing presence. This much has been clear since she came cackling and gasping into her 2019 breakthrough single, the Young Baby Tate collab “STUPID.” The track was like Kreayshawn ramped up to Rico Nasty’s intensity level, Ashnikko dropping swaggeringly squirmy bars over a bass-bombed beat from British indie-pop mainstay Oscar Scheller. In the video, she walked suburban streets clasping a sledgehammer with fingernails most would deem too long for demolition work, her signature blue pigtails bobbing above a face streaked in blood. “STUPID” presented Ashnikko as a SoundCloud rap Harley Quinn, a demon-possessed doll at the intersection of pop, rock, and hip-hop. It also introduced the explicit content and exhausted contempt for men that animates the bulk of her music. “Stupid boy think that I need him,” she deadpanned on the chorus, sounding at once confident and vacant.
“STUPID” went viral on TikTok two summers ago and launched Ashnikko into the outer reaches of the pop mainstream. She’s followed that trajectory to DEMIDEVIL, a new commercial mixtape that seems capable of propelling her outrageous persona the rest of the way to ubiquity. Released through her longtime label home of Warner in the US (and Parlophone in the UK), the project finds her adopting the titular alter ego, essentially an even more brash and liberated version of her prior persona. It debuted at an inconspicuous #107 on the Billboard 200 last week, but it seems primed to ascend from there. She just needs another single to catch fire, the same way her fellow TikTok-abetted provocateur Doja Cat followed up the online hit “Moo” with a legit chart-topping smash in “Say So.”
No song speaks to DEMIDEVIL‘s commercial viability like its mightily catchy opener “Daisy,” which has already gotten some spins at rock and Top 40 stations. “Fuck a princess, I’m a king/ Bow down and kiss on my ring,” Ashnikko half-sings, half-raps as Slinger’s production ramps up like an EDM burner approaching a drop. “Being a bitch is my kink/ What the fuck else did you think?” Where an actual EDM song might explode, this one contracts to a state of icy minimalism at the chorus. Over a Middle Eastern chord progression set to a trap beat, Ashnikko adopts a pinched Gwen Stefani sing-song: “I’m crazy, but you like that, I bite back/ Daisies on your nightstand, never forget it.” This is Ashnikko at her most accessible — still ostentatious, but streamlined enough to qualify as radio-friendly.
From there, DEMIDEVIL offers both potential hits and grating missteps (and if we’re honest, many of the grating missteps are also potential hits). Consider the guest spots from Grimes and Princess Nokia, two of Ashnikko’s peers in unrepentantly extra hyper-online pop stardom. Grimes shows up on the crunching, guitar-powered “Cry,” lending familiar eerie whispers between vocal runs that let Ashnikko show off the grit in her voice. “Bitch, are you tryna make me cry?” she exclaims, like Evanescence’s Amy Lee tapping into the bug-eyed cartoonish aggression of Nicki Minaj. Where modern nu-metal/pop hybrids are concerned, it’s as good as anything Rina Sawayama has done so far. Far less rewarding is the hip-hop-leaning “Slumber Party,” on which Ashnikko cheerily taunts, “Me and your girlfriend playing dress-up in my house/ I gave your girlfriend cunnilingus in my house.” Despite a strong Nokia verse referencing a string of TRL-era hits, the song plays out like a failed comedy sketch.
A similar hit/miss ratio befalls a pair of songs that incorporate elements from Y2K-era classics. The brisk and melodious “Deal With It” makes good use of Kelis’ iconic shouted “Caught Out There” hook, Ashnikko dismissing an ex in colorful fashion: “I’m back, I’m better/ I put that teddy bear you got me in a blender/ I drew a dick on all of your sweatshirts/ I HATE YOU SO MUCH RIGHT NOW!” But things take a turn for the cringey on “L8r Boi,” which remakes Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi” into a misandrist anthem about leaving loser guys behind. Despite the promising concept, your enjoyment will hinge on your tolerance for lines like “He didn’t try to make her cum/ On top of all that, he was a little dumb.” Maybe these kinds of lyrics hit different when you aren’t a hapless cishet male like myself.
“I’ve really leveled up now,” Ashnikko sings at one point on DEMIDEVIL. “I get jets on my back, everything I do outrageous.” That about sums it up. She’s clearly on to something here, but the impulses that inspire some of her most compelling outbursts are the same ones that push her to off-putting extremes. In her defense, those over-the-top moments are central to her ethos. She wouldn’t be believable as this maniacal character if she wasn’t pushing the boundaries of comfort and good taste, and a certain class of listener will surely relish the same gratuitous exploits that cause me to recoil. That livewire quality has me genuinely curious to find out what Ashnikko will do next. Let’s just hope it doesn’t involve dressing up as a sex organ.
Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” remains atop the Hot 100 for a second consecutive week, slightly declining from last week’s robust sales and record streaming figures while ramping up at radio. Climbing to a new #2 peak is Ariana Grande’s “34 + 35” thanks to a new remix featuring Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion. Already Grande’s 18th top 10 hit, it becomes the second for Doja and third for Megan. After “Mood” at #3 and “Blinding Lights” at #4 comes Grande’s “Positions” at #5, giving her two songs in the top 5. The rest of the top 10 comprises Dua Lipa and DaBaby’s “Levitating,” Chris Brown and Young Thug’s “Go Crazy,” Justin Bieber and Chance The Rapper’s “Holy,” AJR’s “Bang!” and SZA’s “Good Days.”
Over on the Billboard 200, Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album also holds on to #1 for a second straight week. Despite selling only 22,000 copies in its second frame, the album posted a very strong 159,000 equivalent album units, powered mostly by 133,000 streaming equivalent units (177.11 million on-demand track streams). Per Billboard, it’s the first country album to spend two weeks at #1 since Chris Stapleton’s Traveller in 2015. It’s also the first country album to tally more than 150,000 units since Billboard began factoring in streaming in late 2014. After Pop Smoke at #2 comes a #3 debut for Why Don’t We’s The Good Times And The Bad on 46,000 units and 38,000 in sales. It’s the boy band’s best career chart performance. The rest of the top 10: Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Lil Durk, Eminem, the Weeknd, Juice WRLD, and Luke Combs.
Billie Eilish & Rosalía – “Lo Vas A Olvidar”
Love Billie, love Rosalía, but this track pushes both of their bleakest impulses too far. Let’s move on to their next album cycles, yeah?
Silk City – “New Love” (Feat. Ellie Goulding)
Mark Ronson and Diplo’s disco-house duo has been quiet since the killer Dua Lipa collab “Electricity.” This is a decent return, but it doesn’t have the same spark. The hook is kinda clunky, and although I appreciate the attempt to mix things up, so are the chord changes in the chorus.
Sabrina Carpenter – “Skin”
Carpenter is part of the love triangle addressed on Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License,” and “Skin” is her presumed response: “You can’t get under my skin if I don’t let you in.” As a pop song it’s pretty solid — as dark and sleek and catchy as you’d hope for from a 21-year-old Disney alum. But it succeeds largely on the strength of tabloid intrigue. “Don’t drive yourself insane/ It won’t always be this way” is a particularly savage faux-comforting gesture.
Jason Derulo – “Lifestyle” (Feat. Adam Levine)
The most interesting thing about this convergence of two of the planet’s most middling pop stars is Levine working under his own name rather than crediting Maroon 5. Musically “Lifestyle” is butt.
Prettymuch – “Stars”
Is this boy band chillwave?
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Megan Thee Stallion shot down rumors that charges against Tory Lanez were dropped: “Bitch you shot me AND MY STORY NOT CHANGING AND BITCH YOU GOING TO JAIL.” [Twitter]
- Certified Lover Boy won’t be out this month as promised because Drake is recovering from a knee injury. “I was planning to release my album this month but between surgery and rehab my energy has been dedicated to recovery,” he wrote on Instagram. [Complex]
- In other Drake news, he became the first artist to surpass 50 billion combined streams on Spotify. [Variety]
- Halsey cancelled the Manic World Tour. “Safety is the priority,” she wrote. “I wish things were different.” [Twitter]
- Halsey bought Liam Payne’s house in Calabasas for $10.1M. [TMZ]
- Eric Church announced a three-part album called Heart & Soul. [Twitter]
- In other Eric Church news, he and Jazmine Sullivan will sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl. [Twitter]
- Also at the Super Bowl, H.E.R. will sing “America The Beautiful.” [Twitter]
- In more related performance news, Miley Cyrus will perform at the TikTok Tailgate Super Bowl Pre-Show for vaccinated health care workers. [USA Today]
- Julia Michaels did “Lie Like This” on Seth Meyers. [YouTube]