NIKI shares an honest depiction of homesickness in ‘Split’

Feb. 2, 2022, 7:51 p.m.

Indonesian singer-songwriter NIKI’s recent single “Split” tells a compelling story of dichotomy and diasporic experiences, expressing her feelings of being stuck in between her hometown of Jakarta and current residence in the United States.

On Twitter, the musician describes “Split” as a song about “home/identity or maybe the struggle to find either.” She explains the constant pressure to “adapt/assimilate all the time” as she lives split between Indonesia and Los Angeles. The song was originally written for her debut album “MOONCHILD,” but was later taken off to be released as a stand-alone single because of its personal nature.

As an Asian American who has lived all over the world, this song strongly resonates with me. Between my birthplace in Taiwan, my hometown in southern California and my current residence at Stanford, “Split” perfectly embodies my stress of adjusting to new living environments and struggling to grasp this abstract idea of “home.” Listening to NIKI’s song brings a sense of comfort — it serves as both a quintessential nighttime tune and a reminder that I am not alone in my experiences. 

With soft guitar instrumentation reminiscent of blues music, the song begins by describing a winter on the West Coast. Lyrics like, “I’m saturated in equal parts sun and doubt,” and, “least I got my daddy, but he’s in Jakarta / And there it’s raining, while here it’s dry as bone,” describe the stark differences between sunny California and Indonesia. Such comparisons, paired with NIKI’s gentle and whimsical vocals, illustrate her intense yearning for home while also sharing her confusion of what “home” actually means.

In the chorus, NIKI’s message fully crystallizes. “Guess I’m forever caught between two worlds” builds on top of the general atmosphere of feeling adrift due to not fully belonging to either side — a relatable immigrant sentiment. “I do my best between addresses / wish I were on either side of the foreign wall” explores this theme even further. There is a sense of aimlessness and longing in the song, investigating what it means to live in the middle of two cultures and homes. This ambience is further enhanced by the overall mix of several musical styles, including doowop, R&B and pop. The track’s slow tempo and tropical guitar influence create a dreamlike atmosphere while also nodding to NIKI’s roots in Indonesia.

After a week-long delay from its original release date, the single officially came out Nov. 17, 2021. With many fans relating to its message, response to the song was overwhelmingly positive. YouTube user @Junedi commented that “Split” “feels like someone giving me a warm hug.” On Twitter, user @clairevtran says NIKI’s song was “released at the perfect time with the holidays and my parents moving” — she “can’t wait to listen on the bus and cry staring out the window.”

Whether you’re also a newly moved-in college student missing your hometown or someone simply looking for a great song to groove to, NIKI’s “Split” is a must-listen. The storytelling and vulnerability within her song are sure to hit close to home for many.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.

Katherine Wong is a writer for the Arts & Life section. Contact the section at arts 'at' stanforddaily.com

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