Nia Nicholls - Jessica
A new single from Nia Nicholls is always welcome when it drops. At this formative stage of her career she has been able to dip into a variation of styles across the American genre and "Jessica" sees her attempting her most overtly country sounding song yet. There is a nice attention to detail in this one as well, with the promotional picture for the song being in the shape of an air mail letter, with Nia neatly hidden on a park bench in the stamp on the envelope.
The letter is the key narrative device in the song with Nia pleading forgiveness from her best friend for stealing her man, although as the song unfolds there are mitigating reasons although the jury may well be out as to how well they hold up under scrutiny and there's more than a hint that not even Nia herself is totally convinced by them.
As the song unfolds it turns into an almost Shakespearean drama as she intervenes to try to get her best friend and her ex back together, only to end up landing the boy for herself and losing her best friend in the process. It is a fascinating piece of writing as it shows the writer in a confused state of mind by the situation she finds herself in. First of all there are the traces of the former friendship, an open admission that she is "in love with the man you love" and that she "Distanced myself" so as not cause further hurt and give her friend time to adjust.
There's even a plea for a second chance at friendship, with the acceptance that it might come with some heavy caveats, that she may be bad mouthed all over town. It's at this point though that things take a bit of a turn and pleas of mitigation are lodged "You and him you weren't together" and possibly the least convincing defence, "When his eyes caught mine what's a girl supposed to do?" and that she was trying "to make him fall for you".
Further evidence of a mixed up mind comes when at one moment Nia is attempting sympathising, saying the same thing has happened to her before then ill advisedly perhaps going on to say that he really is the one for her.! A final acceptance that she is not totally comfortable with the situation is that she has yet to convince her own "wicked heart". It captures that awkward feeling of being so happy, while at the same time knowing you are causing such hurt to someone you care for. Nia neatly adjusts her vocal throughout the song, there's a feeling of apologetic heartfelt angst in the opening part of the song at the situation they find themselves in, though that disappears when she recalls him looking at her and delivers the "what's a girl supposed to do?" line with a suitably wistful cheeky delivery. In the Sixties there used to be a trend for reply songs to the original and you can't help but wonder what the return song "Nia" would say in response to getting this letter. Her feelings are clear "You can't put a boy above a friend" so you'd expect the response to be pretty acerbic.
This continues a run in Nia's writing where she makes the song much more interesting by taking it in a different direction to the one you might expect. As with her previous singles, "Jessica" comes with a video, this one filmed with Nia walking in Memphis at Overton Park, which is where Elvis Presley had his first performance so she'll be hoping a little of the King magic is still in the air.