LOS ANGELES, CA—If, in 2014, you wrote Kiesza off as a one-hit wonder once the heat from her platinum-selling hit “Hideaway” cooled, then you’re not unlike me. I knew her as that girl who styled her bright red hair into an unchanging (and, thus, trademark) mohawked bouffant. That girl who had already developed a signature pose: One arm cradling her bowed head, the other extended outwards, and her right knee bent inwards all Elvis-like. That girl whose deep-house hit recalled the days of Cece Peniston and Robin S. and Lisa Stansfield in ways that, depending on who you were talking to, reeked of homage or of mimicry. So I investigated.
As part of Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA, the Calgary-born Kiesza, 26, took the stage at Exchange LA on Tuesday night (November 10) to the sound of rumbling cymbals. She opened with “The Love,” employing synchronized and dramatically-slowed hip rolls with her dancers, a finger point à la Tony Manero, a footsy grapevine and, of course, her signature pose. (She hit it twice more on the clinky “No Enemiesz.”)
Then she gestured towards the crowd with all the swagger of a boy-bander and crawled the stage with her knees on “Vietnam," a song that, with all its 808s and hi-hats, sounds like her own “Planet Rock.” She began the triphop-tinged “Losin’ My Mind” a cappella before actively attempting to stay still at her illuminated mic stand for “Get Over Myself”—but there was still a lot of self-caressing.
When Kiesza wasn’t busy being a dancing machine or an arguably seasoned club queen, she was showcasing her ballad-ready vocals on the diva-sized, dramatic “Sound of a Woman” or a seductively airy tone on slow jam “So Deep,” a song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Jessie Ware album. But it wasn’t long before she was on the floor rolling under and over her mic stand, doing the Jerk, and pop-and-locking on the scat-assisted “Giant in My Heart,” or rapidly clicking her heels like Michael on “Teach Me,” or tutting like Rhythm Nation-era Janet on “Hideaway.”
Kiesza appears, dare I say, genuine in her “over-” appreciation of ‘90s sounds. But this only becomes more evident once you watch her perform. Because just as her album Sound of a Woman was unapologetically riddled with nods to aged electro, hip-hop, disco, and power-ballads—she even covered the quintessential classic that is Haddaway’s “What is Love" unironically—when they're coupled with her choreography-heavy shows (and their wide variety of inspiration), it’s a blend so absurdly and charmingly unique, you can’t help but believe she’s doing all this because she’s an eclectic soul having a hell of a good time, not because she's trying to be reductive or a Disclosure dickrider.