Duffy takes a look at the versatility on show in Rico Nasty’s Nightmare Vacation
One of the downsides that comes with releasing an excellent debut album is the expectation to generally move forward in a similar direction, lest the artist be accused of pandering. This was something I noticed with Lady Gaga's trajectory - she is known first and foremost for her dance-pop. Releasing a country record in 2016 can be jarring, even among her otherwise dedicated fanbase. When you see success within a specific genre, you are still somewhat genre bound - it takes real talent and versatility like Gaga to succeed across the board.
This is one of the things that excites me the most about Rico Nasty. In an era dominated by the Doja Cats and Megan Thee Stallions of the world, it can often seem easy to predict the direction an artist will go - Megan and Doja are undeniably talented, but they play to their strengths and are unlikely to completely reinvent their entire sound anytime soon. Rico, on the other hand, has the talent of her peers as well as the ability to wear many hats - her long-awaited debut album, Nightmare Vacation, is one of the strongest and most exciting debuts I've heard in a very long time.
Nightmare Vacation is composed of a solid sixteen tracks, but still only clocks in at 39 minutes. This is down to the brief runtime of every song on the album - only two songs ("Back & Forth" and "Smack a Bitch") break the three-minute mark. This is likely due to the mechanics of streaming services - when you're only getting paid when someone listens to thirty seconds of a song, it's more lucrative to make 16 short songs than 12 longer ones. That said, I don't think any of the songs on the album suffer greatly from their runtimes - it doesn't feel like Rico Nasty is selling herself short. For the most part, she does what she needs to in two and a half minutes or less.
And what she does in those two minutes speaks to her immense versatility as a musician. There's a lot of range that Rico shows off in Nightmare Vacation - many of the tracks sound completely different, yet it all feels cohesive as a single body of work. The album as a whole has a darker, feistier sound to it - it has similar nu-metal influences to SAWAYAMA, and the unexpected resurrection of nu-metal in the 2020s is something I am 100% here for. But Rico does not limit herself to nu-metal or rap - the lead single "IPHONE" is hyper pop excellence and would not feel out of place on a 100 gecs record. This may be due to 100 gecs' Dylan Brady’s production of the track, but Rico's own range cannot be denied. You could listen to "IPHONE", "Don't Like Me" and "Own It" and you would be forgiven for thinking they were by three separate artists - let alone three tracks from the same album.
Nightmare Vacation is an extremely promising and endlessly exciting debut record for Rico Nasty. It's loud, it's feisty, and it's chaotic as all hell. Nightmare Vacation is 39 minutes of sensory overload - but in the best way possible. Rico Nasty has proven that she can adapt herself to a wide variety of sounds, and I cannot wait to hear what's next. She has set an extremely high bar, not just for herself but for those who dare to release as ambitious a debut record as hers.