valentina channels the ups and downs of anxiety in her new video
The LA-based pop musician premieres 'Alive,' exclusively on i-D.
Photo by Ethan Gulley.
Valentina Cytrynowicz’s story begins in a way that’s not totally unfamiliar. In fact, it’s similar to that of many musicians her age. Valentina uploaded a track called “Easy For U” to Soundcloud in 2017, which caught the attention of media and music industry heavyweights alike, and suddenly the then-18-year-old had signed her first manager.
The daughter of a Brazillian pianist who moved to the United States to study jazz and composition, Valentina was raised on bossa nova and the powerful crooning of Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan. She spent her time outside of school taking piano and guitar lessons, and jamming in the living room with her dad. “As soon as people started talking about college, I was like there’s no freaking way I can go to college. I need to do music full-time,” Valentina says.
Unlike some of her more fortuitous contemporaries, Valentina didn’t experience a smooth professional ascent after her first viral hit. “I was so young when I got my first manager that I didn’t even know how to talk to them or how to go forward with this older, wiser person,” she tells i-D. “I didn’t know what my sound was either, so we butted heads a lot — that continued to happen with other teams for the next three years.”
Now 21, Valentina is an entirely independent musician by choice. She released her debut EP, Unmanageable, in May of 2019, the entirety of which she wrote, recorded, and produced in her Los Angeles bedroom. It’s six tracks of passionately charged pop motivated by heartbreak, dismissal, and being told you’re not good enough. As Valentina puts it, they’re “fuck you” songs that serve as a means of catharsis. “Awhile back, I walked into a meeting and someone told me that I’d been labeled unmanageable. I said, you know what, if anyone’s going to call me that it’s going to be me, so I decided to run with it and name my EP that.”
Today, she’s premiering the music video for one of the tracks, “Alive,” exclusively on i-D. “The song is about anxiety,” she says. “About the ups and downs of the gut clenching feeling that comes about at the most important times during your life. The release I get when I am free from anxiety makes me feel alive.”
Directed, filmed, and edited by her sister Marcella Cytrynowicz, the video is raw, grainy, and somewhat spastically flips between clips of Valentina singing to a bulldog and dancing atop a parking garage. “I wanted the video to represent the feeling of anxiety with the editing,” she explains. “The fast cuts and color changes happen increasingly frequently, and I think the random backgrounds and dog also help represent that crazy feeling we often get.”
When asked where her anxiety stems from, she admits that her rather turbulent entry into the music industry played a large role. “I have been pushed in so many directions and told that I should be a perfect pop princess or that I should be even more left field and ‘cooler,’” Valentina says. “Everyone that I worked with had a certain idea of who I should be, so that’s why I ultimately had to separate myself from everyone.”
In 2018, the musician attended Amor Fati Music Academy, a one-week scholarship program founded by Grammy-nominated artist, Mike Posner, which she credits for giving her new-found confidence. “[Posner] taught me how to produce, so that’s when I really found my sound and I was able to stand my ground in rooms and conversations with people,” she explains. The day after returning, she recorded her first self-produced track, “Break My Heart,” and released it on Soundcloud — the result was total artistic liberation.
“I’d had hundreds of sessions with other people telling me what lyrics I should write and what feelings I should emote and what kind of person I should be in a song, so it was just so nice to say whatever I wanted. I think it made me more brave.”