Though the Argentine artist Nicki Nicole has a found a niche fusing silky R&B with hints of trap and reggaeton, her new album Parte De Mí opens in an unexpected way: with a gossamer piano ballad, dripping with longing and loneliness. The song is guided by her delicate, almost bruised vocals—which have drawn several Billie Eilish comparisons—and it quietly embodies the project’s goal of capturing the 21-year-old in full dimension, each side of her laid bare. The strategy here is to offer plenty of eclecticism, which undeniably shows off Nicki’s range but ends up sacrificing some cohesion in the process.
Parte De Mí marks Nicki’s second album and her debut on Sony Music Latin, which scooped her up in 2020. She started making music when she was just 19 and found massive success after uploading her tracks to YouTube, building off her association with trap in Argentina. The scene there has blown up in recent years and become a wellspring for labels looking for talent, despite the fact that it’s rife with uncomfortable patterns of appropriation from white rappers. Nicki has worked closely with the country’s top trap acts, including the go-to producer Bizarrap (he’s featured twice on the album), but it’s been hard to characterize the singer/rapper as a trap artist exactly. She’s used fluidity to her advantage throughout her career, employing it for things like a collaboration with the Uruguayan rockers No Te Va Gustar and a surprise freestyle at a recent Tiny Desk.
She bounces between different sounds and different collaborators with ease: On “Toa La Vida,” she joins forces with the Puerto Rican rapper Mora, who’s aching tone carries an emotional weight that’s made songs, such as “Volando,” massive hits. She switches things up completely for “Sabe,” an undeniably catchy track with Rauw Alejandro that takes full advantage of how effortlessly the two of them can handle up-tempo beats. But although versatility would seem to be Nicki’s biggest asset, dipping in and out of genres sometimes makes for Parte De Mí’s less interesting moments. Coincidentally, trap-oriented sounds, like on “Tengo To,” get a little lost in the mix; a reggae-inspired track with Dread Mar-I and Bizarrap also falls flat.
She achieves the most when she finds compelling ways into her delivery and unique style of phrasing. “Si Vos Me Lo Pedis”and “Perdido” are chances for her to belt out her choruses a little more, something she does with confidence. “Pensamos” with the Chilean singer Mon Laferte, replicates some of the understated prettiness of the opener, but Nicki adds dimension by speeding up her flow without ever launching into full rap verses. It’s an inspired moment on the album, and more importantly, a sign of her finding her voice.