Should Have Been Bigger: Natalia Kills’ “Wonderland”
Natalia Kills was poised to be the next big thing in 2010. After attracting the attention of will.i.am, she landed a record deal and began churning out captivating dark pop concoctions. Dropping a handful of buzz tracks and drawing near-instant comparisons to Lady Gaga, the rising star struck solid gold with “Mirrors.” Co-produced by Akon, the anthem received strong reviews and would serve as the lead single to her debut album, Perfectionist. When 2011 rolled around, she bested herself with the release of her second single, “Wonderland.” Released the day her LP dropped internationally, she perfectly highlighted her immense potential with the glimmering hit.
A brooding love song, it draws multiple comparisons to the leading ladies of various fairytales. “I’m not Snow White, but I’m lost inside this forest. I’m not Red Riding Hood, but I think the wolves have got me,” she cryptically announces over a moody production. “Don’t want the stilettos. I’m not, not Cinderella. I don’t need a knight, so baby take off all your armor,” she continues. Moving into the chorus, she admits that, although she doesn’t believe in the manufactured concept of happily ever after, she is willing to believe in her relationship. “I don’t believe in fairytales, but I believe in you and me.”
“I really wanted to reject the ideologies of perfection and fairytales that we’re conditioned to aspire to from a young age,” she said of the track in an interview. She also opened up about why she found such tales to be dangerous. “If you believe in the ‘happy ending’ and count roses while you wait for a prince to save you its only going to leading to extreme disappointment and pain when you get your heart broken and realize life is not always like that.”
The accompanying visual perfectly encapsulated the rising star’s dark pop roots and the track’s fantastical inspirations. In it, Natalia is an unwilling guest at a nightmarish dinner party. Dragged in by a group of police officers dressed in riot gear, she stands out as a bright spot of color in a red cape. Upon arriving at the event, hosted in a lavish mansion, she is served a gruesome meal alongside a group of masked women. True to her word, there is no happy ending for the belabored siren. Instead, she meets an untimely end at the hands of an executioner. Complete with a grainy warning that the content has been censored and earnest acting, it seemed destined to be a big hit.
However, the single never took off. Despite garnering rave reviews, the public largely slept on the bop. Natalia dropped a handful of equally promising material (including the aptly titled “Kill My Boyfriend”) from the LP before relaunching with Trouble in 2013. Switching out some of the pure pop that drew unsavory comparisons to her contemporaries, it also spawned a handful of under-appreciated singles. Her craft continued to improve with each new song, but the public was not ready to accept Kills into the ranks just yet.
And we will never know what could have become of the superstar persona. In 2015, she landed a gig alongside her husband Willy Moon on New Zealand’s X Factor. It would prove to be a short-lived paycheck. The pair was let go after they tore into a contestant on air, which seemed like the end of Natalia’s career. However, like any true pop princess, she has proven to be a resilient star. Shortly thereafter, she went through a soft rebrand and remerged under the moniker Teddy Sinclair. The following year, she and Moon linked up to release music together. Titling their band Cruel Youth, they treated fans to an EP’s worth of material.
Since her rebrand, the embattled pop star has also flexed her creative abilities while writing for a handful the industry’s biggest names. She appeared in the credits of Madonna’s Rebel Heart after assisting with the creation of “Holy Water.” A writing credit on Rihanna’s Anti proved to be even more fruitful and yielded a Grammy nomination.
It remains to be seen what is next from the artist formerly known as Natalia Kills. As recently as this week she was teasing fans on Instagram about the possibility of new material, but nothing is confirmed yet. While we wait for a taste of whatever is next, “Wonderland” remains to remind us of what she is capable of at her prime. Revisit the brooding love song and its eerie video below!