Who Is Nina Sky?
by Blanca Mendez
Even though it’s been eight years, Nina Sky’s “Move Ya Body” is still a jam. With its dancehall rhythms and island vibes, it’s a classic I guarantee will be on every summer-jams mix I ever make. It’s what put my favorite Queens identical-twin duo — a.k.a. Nicole and Natalie Albino — on the map, and it remains their most recognizable song today.
That track, along with their appearance on N.O.R.E.’s “Oye Mi Canto,” was a major part of the 2004 reggaeton crossover. I remember how mind-blowing that crossover was to witness — it’s difficult enough for solo Latin artists to make that jump into the mainstream, so to see an international audience embracing an entire genre of Latin music was something else altogether. If you went to the club that year, you were definitely getting down to some Nina Sky. That and Daddy Yankee.
After years of label troubles since then, the duo’s second proper full-length is finally set for release in July. (Crossing my fingers!) And as excited as I am about Nicole and Natalie, I’m also a bit uneasy, because, at this point, I don’t really know who Nina Sky is. Even though it’s been so long since “Move Ya Body,” and even though the duo has released some great music since then (I can totally see “On Some Bullshit” played alongside someone like Katy B), to most people who remember them, they’re still the “Move Ya Body” girls. When you come out of the gate that strong, it’s hard to separate yourself from the horse that won you the race. But Nina Sky is definitely trying.
In the intro to their self-titled debut album, they defined themselves as the following: “family, sisters, twins, limitless, hip hop, reggae, rhythm and blues, rock, alternative, jazz, funk, soul, music, harmony, powerful, fragile, bold, shy, abstract, basic, sunrise, sunset, balance.” Now the duo is out to redefine themselves. Of course, they’ll always be family, but what they most definitely aren’t anymore is reggae. And their collaboration with CREEP last year was a sign that they’re determined to shake that image. In order to really do that, though, they’ll have to fully commit. Which they’re certainly capable of doing — their persistence over the last eight years in the shadow of one song should be enough to convince anyone, but there’s also their command of eerie R&B, a la The Weeknd or Clams Casino, on the track “You” that proves that they have something new to say. And their latest, “Day Dreaming,” continues that trajectory into dark R&B, post-dub territory.
In the video (above), they explore the duality of twindom, with Natalie represents the good parts (hand-holding, snuggling) and Nicole the bad (drifting apart, fighting). This two-sides-to-the-same-coin approach is bit trite, but I’ll excuse it because I fully expect them to get into some seriously magical twin territory soon. And with the vacant spinning and dreamy vocals, this is definitely not “Move Ya Body”-era Nina Sky. Still, “Day Dreaming” doesn’t come quite as hard as “You” did — the percussion is too skittery, the vocals a little too airy, and the song never quite comes together. I don’t believe them the way I do when I listen to “You.” Maybe they’re not sure about the path they’re taking — understandable given the difficulty they’ve had post-debut to establish themselves as capable of more than “Move Ya Body.” But they’re going to have to go all-in on this one. It might seem a little dramatic, but this really feels like it’s do or die. Either they go big on this upcoming album with their new sound, or they might never be able to ditch their reggaeton image. I know they have it in them to forge a new path, but they have to convince everyone else.
Blanca Méndez loves that song!