Local Music

Miami Singer Kendra Erika Reaches the Top of Billboard's Dance Charts

Miami Singer Kendra Erika Reaches the Top of Billboard's Dance Charts
Rafael Paiva
Boca Raton-based Kendra Erika is a rising pop singer who recently topped the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart with "Self Control," an ultramodern cover of the 1984 dance classic. She's had three songs in the top ten in the past couple of years, but she admits that having a number-one single is an uncommon thrill.

"It's such an honor," she tells New Times between vocal sessions. "I'm constantly putting out new music that feels right for me. It feels really good."

Over the past few years, Erika has established herself as a Jessica Rabbit-esque pop diva straddling the worlds of retro jazz standards and modern dance music, first appearing on Billboard's dance charts with 2016 single "Oasis." Though she's embracing modern sounds, she isn't abandoning that throwback, Amy Winehouse-inspired style. "It's deep-rooted in me to have that sort of sultry side," she says. "I would be doing such a disservice to myself artistically to shut the door on that... I feel like I do a pretty good job of maintaining my original sound in the new stuff I do."

Erika was introduced to "Self Control" by a former producer in Nashville, but she first heard the original version performed by the Italian singer Raf, then the cover performed by American singer Laura Branigan (both versions become popular in the summer of 1984). The song's lyrics about being seduced by nightlife spoke to Erika: Oh, the night is my world/City light-painted girl/In the day nothing matters/It's the nighttime that flatters.
"I thought the song had such curated visuals and aesthetics that bring you into this whole new world with the creatures of the night," she says. "Being that I always like to be cinematic with my lyrics, I really just connected with the song... The beauty of the song is that it embraces not just one person in particular, but the world, the night, the space you're in — that's what makes it a really great song, lyrically."

As a creature of the night herself, Erika has strong opinions about losing oneself in the euphoria of the dance floor — which, for her, means turning off her smartphone for a few hours. All too often, she sees club-goers absorbed in swiping and scrolling when they should be absolutely losing their shit. "Just living in the moment, breathing everything in and acknowledging those energies around you — that's beneficial for having a good time and instilling those good vibes," she says.

Erika had been performing "Self Control" for about five years before laying it down in the studio with pop producer Damon Sharpe, who's worked with stars like Ariana Grande, Kylie Minogue, and Jennifer Lopez. Sharpe lent the track a futuristic, deep-house vibe.

It happens to be the 35th anniversary of both Rad and Branigan's versions, a coincidence Erika takes to mean she's on the right path. Having a number-one single certainly doesn't hurt, either.

"It's so surreal," she says. 
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Howard Hardee is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, he has a BA in journalism and writes stories about music, outdoor adventures, politics, and the environment for alt-weeklies across the country. He is an aficionado of fine noises and has a theremin in his living room.