At just 17 years old, Annika Rose embodies a clarity of vision that’s rare even among the most established artists. Strong-willed, self-driven and bubbling with charisma yet disarmingly sensitive, the L.A.-based singer/songwriter has devoted most of her adolescence to music, spending countless nights alone at the piano and carefully unearthing her most authentic voice. In that process, she landed on a lyrical identity that boldly deviates from the usual pop milieu, revealing a seldom-spoken truth about the emotional chaos in coming of age.
Referring to her songs as “journal entries put to melody,” Annika has deliberately stuck to the solitary songwriting practice she first adopted in her early teens. “When I’m writing it has to be past midnight, and everyone has to be asleep,” she says. “I turn off all the lights and turn on my lava lamp, light some incense and just sit there until I’m literally asleep at the piano.” As a result of that purposeful outpouring, Annika’s body of work bears a raw authenticity that’s so elusive in manufactured pop. “‘The only thing I have to be vulnerable with is my piano, and luckily it doesn’t talk back to me. This is my only way of fully expressing who I am and what I feel, and I’m not afraid of it anymore.”
On her forthcoming debut EP, Annika opens up about all the upheaval she’s endured in recent years, including the breakdown and life-changing reassembly of her friends and family. With each song centered on the intricate melodies she composes largely by instinct, the EP possesses a candor that comes from capturing her feelings at their most unfiltered. “I tend to write when my emotions are at their peak,” she says. “The songs come from moments when I’m caught up in something and feeling overly dramatic, and everything is super-amplified.”
The lead single from her debut, “In The End” exemplifies all the elements that make Annika’s songwriting so magnetic: her effortlessly commanding vocal performance, sharply detailed storytelling, and heart-on-sleeve honesty about self-doubt and insecurity. “That song is me asking if I’ll ever be fully satisfied with who I am and what I do as an artist, if I keep sabotaging all the other good things in my life,” she explains. “So many times I’ll make something I’m really proud of, but then I’ll get home at the end of the day and feel like, ‘Okay—where are all my friends?’” And while “In The End” unfolds as an immaculately arranged piece of piano-driven pop, each moment preserves the unguarded intimacy found in a nascent version of the track—a hypnotic bedroom recording Annika shared online in early 2019, quickly amassing nearly 20K views on YouTube and nearly 1 million views on Instagram.
Born into a musical family—her mom’s a songwriter, her dad plays guitar and piano—Annika first started honing her songcraft as a little kid growing up in Southern California. “I remember being really young and going over to my friend’s house, taking this giant notepad and having songwriting competitions in her bedroom,” she says. Raised on an eclectic mix of singer/songwriters and artists like Stevie Nicks and Alanis Morissette to Fiona Apple, Frank Ocean, and Rosalia. Annika joined an all-girl band at age 13 as part of Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment. During her time with the band, Annika took up piano and joined in endless co-writing sessions, but felt put off by the calculated nature of those collaborations. “The producers would plaster pictures of Harry Styles on the wall and say things like, ‘Just sing to him! Emote!’” she says. “I was so young and had no real life experience to write from, and the idea of writing a song that didn’t tell my own story never felt right to me.”
After more than two years of working on material for their debut, Annika’s band ended up dropped by the label, the first in a series of events that upended her entire life both personally and professionally. With her band dropped by the label, Annika shortly after went on to enter another brief but tumultuous deal. At home, her group of best friends had fallen apart, her parents split up, her father started working in another country, and her mother got remarried. Compounded by the confusion of falling in love for the first time, Annika soon turned to songwriting as a coping mechanism. “My whole life changed so quickly and I just felt like I was floating,” she says. “It triggered an overwhelming desire to write, which became a cathartic thing for me to do every night before bed—just a way to get out my feelings about everything I was going through.”
Although Annika initially struggled with fully developing her songs, she experienced a major breakthrough upon teaming up with up and coming LA based Swedish producer Nicki Adamsson, whom she’d first met through a session with her former band. “I started bringing in the songs I’d been writing at home at night, and Nicki helped to nurture them,” she says. “It gave me a whole new outlet, and right away I felt like I knew what I wanted to do as an artist.”
Annika set to work on her debut project in early 2018. Just as her voice constantly shifts in timbre—fragile and feathery one moment, soaring and soulful the next—Annika’s debut encompasses everything from the folky romanticism of “Fly to You” to the stark guitar reverie of “Priorities” to the synth-drenched intensity of “War” (a particularly affecting track that perfectly captures the complexity of mother-daughter relationships). Meanwhile, “I’m Better” emerges as a quietly captivating piano ballad detailing her journey over the past few years, a concept inspired by a beloved aunt. “We were on FaceTime and I was upset about something that had happened with the boy, and my aunt told me to try to write a song just for me and nobody else,’” Annika recalls. “After we hung up I sat down and just sang whatever came out of my mouth, and the whole song came together so fast.”
Showing her singular self-possession as an artist, Annika took the helm in writing the treatments for all of the upcoming videos for her debut EP. Now at work on her first full-length effort, she’s also channeled her restless creativity into developing a live show that’s intimate yet immersive. “I don’t want a show that puts me on a pedestal just because I’m the person who’s up on stage,” she says. “I want it to feel like something that we’re all sharing together—like everyone is holding my hand. And at the same time I want it to be so much fun, and I want everyone to be headbanging.”