This week: Ballet Shoes by Nakaya (NAKAYA, 2019)
Why we’re into it: An alternative mix of R&B, electronica, and a hint of folk, Ballet Shoes explores in heartbreaking ways the experience of coming to terms with the past.
“Sometimes, when you make something you truly believe in, it feels like magic,” Nakaya told V Magazine back in 2016. “To me, it sometimes feels like more like a gift I’ve been given rather than something I grew myself.” This gift is quite apparent in Ballet Shoes, the latest two-song release from the Los Angeles-born, New York-based artist. In the same way that her 2018 release Something More was the careful analysis of a crucial decision in her life, Ballet Shoes is the exploration of the consequences: a kind of inner turmoil that can consume you after the decision has been made.
The title song, “Ballet Shoes,” is a soft-rock ballad that slowly builds into a forceful R&B/alternative sound. Beginning with the strum of a soulful electric guitar, the track develops into something quite different when she asks, “Hey there, what happened to how we once loved?” Then she reaches the lyrical heart of the song: “So now you exist in the past with my old ballet shoes.” The past is the past, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t hurt—an incomplete but profound moment of self-reflection.
She absolutely shines in “Goodbye,” my favorite of the two. “And I couldn’t say goodbye/At least I’m here to try.” Trying: It’s an effort that’s repeatedly overlooked, often deemed not worthy if we fail, and quickly forgotten when we succeed. Maybe the only thing we’re ready to do is just try. Nakaya leans into that sentiment with “Goodbye,” accepting that the people we lose are often those who teach us most about ourselves and, for better or worse, shape us into whoever we may be. “Time and time again/I swore it was the end/But here we are/And I can’t pretend.”
As Nakaya said, “When you make something you truly believe in, it feels like magic.” These tracks are the audible proof of that magic. Her lyrical prowess provides an intimate look into some of the most universal truths of love, loss, and the bittersweet nostalgia that accompanies looking back on those relationships. If Ballet Shoes is any indication, Nakaya’s future will be especially magical.