The days of sexual euphemism are over. Lemons are no longer squeezed until juice runs down a singer’s leg. There is no need for the riddling mathematics of the Spice Girls’ “2 Become 1”. Everything is in the open these days. Daytime radio’s censorship has been countermanded by digital platforms, which exist in a permanent post-watershed hour. If TikTok banned explicit language, it would fall into a state of elective mutism.
Ashnikko is a TikTok alumna. The North Carolina-raised, London-based singer — more prosaically known as Ashton Casey — went viral on the music video app with her song “Stupid” in 2019. A major label deal followed, and then a UK chart hit with last year’s “Daisy”. Now comes her first mixtape, an album-length project called Demidevil. Its ethos is summed up by a line in the track “Deal with It”: “Everything I do, outrageous”.
She proves as good as her word. The sort of sexual braggadocio that was once considered the province of male rock stars and rappers occurs here in the traditionally feminised setting of pop. It is a “sex-positive” reclamation, a modern continuation of Madonna’s acts of empowerment. Ashnikko takes it forward confidently, but with inconsistent results.
Committed vocals and a witty, upfront personality invest the songs with agency. There is a strong cast of guests (Kelis, Princess Nokia, Grimes). But the quality is patchy. The best songs have a lurid, catchy energy; others, however, are mundane and repetitive, as though struggling to find an apt register for her brand of outrageousness.
‘Demidevil’ is released Parlophone