Rika de Casier is not at ease. She is seated with her legs crossed on the floor of a construction site, with cables hanging overhead, an unopened box to her right, and an overturned sofa to her left. As we video call at the end of 2023, she apologizes for the disarray and adjusts her laptop on the bare wooden floorboards of her recently acquired home in Copenhagen. She explains that she moved in a year ago but has been constantly traveling, so she is currently renovating the space. “I’ve been living out of a suitcase,” she says with a sigh.
De Casier spent the majority of the previous year either traveling for her Dua Lipa-endorsed collection of R&B tracks inspired by the 90s and 00s, writing songs for other artists, or working on her highly-anticipated third album, Still, which features collaborations with Blood Orange and Shygirl. However, now that the album is complete, she finds herself in a state of limbo not just physically, but mentally as well. “I’ve been feeling a bit scattered lately,” she admits. “Before I release anything, I always have doubts and second thoughts. When you first create music, you have this sense of excitement and freshness, but over time you become more critical of everything. So I’m currently in that stage.”
The on-screen character who constantly worries contrasts with the confident and boastful attitude of De Casier as an artist. On the front cover of Still, the 33-year-old is depicted as a leather-clad superstar in a hall of mirrors, being pursued by paparazzi. In her music, she exudes the alluring self-assurance of Aaliyah and other R&B, hip-hop, and UK garage icons she admired while growing up and watching MTV. Her album titles, like 2019’s debut Essentials and 2021’s critically acclaimed follow-up Sensational, are reminiscent of the flashy titles of greatest hits albums. In fact, De Casier’s debut caught the attention of Dua Lipa, who reached out to remix her hit single Physical. Even the title of Still was inspired by the famously confident J-Lo and Dr. Dre. “It’s amusing because I haven’t been around for a long time to say ‘I’m still here,'” De Casier explains, “but it’s my way of keeping things light. I had considered other titles like Platinum, but I thought that might be too much.”
De Casier created an alter ego named Bianka, who first appeared in the music video for her single “Polite,” as a means of embracing her projected boldness. Although she still struggles with expressing herself and accepting compliments, she feels that she is making progress. She is uncertain if she will continue to use Bianka as her alter ego, as she no longer feels the need to hide behind a different persona. She confidently declares that she is a multifaceted person.
One of the sides is known as the most in-demand songwriter in the pop industry. Last year, she collaborated on four out of six songs on the second EP from the immensely popular K-pop girl group NewJeans. The EP, titled “Get Up,” was released in July and sold over 1.65 million copies worldwide in just one week, surpassing the Barbie soundtrack to reach No. 1 in the US. The request to work together came unexpectedly. “To be honest, I didn’t know who they were,” De Casier laughs. “When I received the email, I was like, ‘NewJeans? Who are they?’ So I looked them up and thought they had a unique sound. They asked me if I listened to K-pop, and I had to admit that I hadn’t. But they were excited about it and said, ‘Perfect!’ They’re always open to trying new things.” Instead of just using De Casier’s talent for creating catchy hooks, the songs on the EP, such as “Super Shy” (with over 390 million plays on Spotify), stay true to her signature style of soft R&B vocals and liquid drum’n’bass beats, with a touch of delicate introspection in a club setting. “People were messaging me, asking if it was me singing,” she says. “And I would reply, ‘Nope.’ It’s flattering that they enjoyed the sound and kept it true to my style.”
De Casier attributes her modesty to her upbringing in Denmark, the country she relocated to at the age of eight with her mother and younger brother. She considers janteloven, the Scandinavian value of avoiding attention, to be a part of her identity. “It feels unnatural for me to speak about myself,” she admits. When she first arrived in the small town of Ribe, she struggled to communicate in Danish. She and her brother faced discrimination as the only mixed-race students in their school. However, De Casier found comfort in watching MTV, both for its universal music and representation of people with similar skin tone.
As she aged, she began to experiment with creating music on her computer and would borrow CDs from the local library, featuring artists such as Destiny’s Child and Erykah Badu. Her soft, reflective vocal style was developed out of necessity, as she often sang at night and didn’t want to disturb her roommates. However, music was not intended to be her main career path. She considered attending art school or pursuing a career in medicine or psychology. Even now, after releasing three albums, she still struggles with feeling like an imposter as a musician. She questions if she can truly call herself a musician.
In her music, De Casier is able to let go of any doubts and tap into her inner self as the sole songwriter and producer. On the standout track “Polite” from her album Sensational, she calls out a date for their rude behavior. The album’s loose concept follows a relationship from its passionate beginnings to its messy end, with the seductive “Ooh” serving as an anchor as De Casier describes fantasies and delivers flirtatious lines. “My Day Off” is a nod to both her busy schedule and newfound ability to say no. De Casier explains that the song was inspired by a day where she didn’t want to respond to any emails or messages, instead choosing to focus on mundane tasks like catching up on laundry. She adds that the song is a bit of a bratty declaration, saying “I just need a day off.”
There will be limited days off in 2024, as there are plans for more touring and songwriting for other artists. Meanwhile, De Casier is also working on songs for her fourth album. However, she is currently preoccupied with the renovations in her home and the lack of progress from the builders. She expresses frustration about living in a construction zone and points out that she did not personally knock down a wall in her living room. It seems there are some tasks that she is unable to complete on her own.
It is still scheduled to be released on February 21.