Talia Goddess’s newest single “EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER” is an instant knock-out. In the single’s accompanying video, premiering today on PAPER, Talia steps into the ring, punching up her lyrical chops with a New York-inspired flow to ring the bell for the next round of her music career.
Talia (pronounced T’Aaliyah) was born and raised in Brooklyn as a first-generation New Yorker daughter of a Guyanese father and British mother, who instilled a love of music within her because of their backgrounds as a DJ and a singer, respectively. Music raised her and as soon as she entered Brooklyn’s scene, she raised the bar. Turning her childhood keyboard into a beat-making soundbank, she’s always been one to innovate. With an intimate understanding of the inner workings of the music world, Talia’s music is informed by the city's cultural legacy and channeled through the unique voice of a self-proclaimed “prodigy.” At just 20 years old, she has had her first Afropunk performance, a ColorsxStudios recording and a widely embraced EP under her belt.
While some would say she’s just beginning, “EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER” proves Talia is moving on from round one. Her first EP, Poster Girl, introduced an expressive, emotive sound blending influences from alt-pop to R&B, or as Talia puts it, “lover girl heartbreak.” But her inspirations run the bit from Remy Ma to Sade to Justin Beiber. In singles “RAGA” and “EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER,” Talia taps into her Caribbean roots and Brooklyn heritage, breaking out from the R&B/neo-Soul box Poster Girl placed her in to step to her own rhythm. We’ll be stepping along too.
Watch and stream the premiere of “EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER” below.
Tell me about “EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER.” What was your approach to the song?
I started off with a beat and wanted to make a hardcore rap song that felt very New York, very gangster. Then I was like, “Yo can I rap? I have to rap.” It was one of those songs where I just needed to remind myself that I could rap. So I really wanted to go in with an intention and a flow. This is me spitting. This is me talking my shit. This is one of the few songs that I was like staying up all night writing. Usually, the inspiration runs out or I go sleep on it but for this, I just needed to finish it now.
I think I was going through a period where people were playing with me. Sonically, my vibe had just been very happy, very chill, but I wanted to give it that grit that edge. I wanted to show them that I could play back. And, you know, New York is the birthplace of hip hop, so I wanted to pay tribute to that origin. But I kept it short and sweet. I just said what I had to say. In and out.
It feels like a bit of a departure from “Poster Girl.” Was that intentional or did it just happen?
No, it was definitely intentional. Even with my last single “RAGGA,” that was a dancehall track. I kind of wanted to shake up the music world, because I felt like people were all talking about me like “that’s Neo-Soul” or “that’s R&B.” It’s just a matter of giving people a taste of what I’m capable of, and it’s always refreshing to showcase something new. People think you’re one thing, and you get to show them there is more than you see.
How do you want your new music, “EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER” in particular, to make people feel?
I don’t drink coffee, but I imagine it feels like the first sip of espresso. Because whenever I listen to the song or I’m performing it, I need to blast it. I just want the song to feel like action, whatever that looks like to the individual. Really putting that fire under people. I made this in the heat of the moment, and I had to finish it while I felt it, and I want people to feel that impulse.
I’m pretty emotional usually, so I had to sit down and finish this while I could because it wouldn’t feel the same coming back to it later. Even with “RAGGA” or my last EP, which was very much "lover girl heartbreak," I was struggling with my self-esteem. I saw myself based on how that person treated me or felt about me. I was coming from an honest place, I’m always honest about how music is just storytelling. Music is very much about my roots, my origin, and things that inspire me sonically.
Do you feel like you’ve gained back some of that self-esteem?
I realized that love is definitely a muse for me sometimes. I put myself through stress just for shits and giggles because I know, when it’s all said and done, I’ll have a lot to write about. But I’m getting better at finding my own value. I don’t want to say I’m that girl just because I drop music. The more I’m accomplishing, the more I see value in when raw and honest art gets made to be as authentic as possible. I’m not trying to downplay it or brush it to the side, but I’m using music to process it and make the music and the art the expression or the release of it. Then I can be like, “Okay, I got it out. I said what I needed to say. Here’s the mp3. I can move on.”
People listening to it is kind of secondary. I think that’s the cool part, that people appreciate it.
You have already had a lot of significant milestones for being so young. How do you feel like you’re setting up for your career?
Ever since I was younger, I always gravitated toward older people and I was mature for my age. I hate to say that, and sometimes it’s a bit isolating not to relate to my peers and not to be on the same wavelength. But now, thinking about high school, I already see that as part of my “career,” rushing home to change to go DJ a party, sneaking past bouncers because I’m underage. A lot of my friends are older than me which I liked because there is a mentorship aspect. I’m learning from someone, from their life experience, and seeing how they operate in the world. Ultimately, I just want to be the best that I can be, the best version of myself. I don’t think that’s bound to age or time. I’m just going at my own pace.
Are there any specific life experiences that inform “EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER”?
I just think about the young me being promised the world by whatever manager I had at the time and doing shows and being so overlooked because I was young. And now I’m here and people are popping in and out, but you can’t just come around now that you see. I’ve been that girl. I wasn’t there yet. But the potential was there and now that it’s recognized by the real world, people believe it. I went from doing anti-bullying shows to Afropunk. Like, that’s where I was coming from. It feels pretty surreal, and I’m super grateful, but there was a lot of doubt. There was a lot of just wanting to feel like a normal kid as well, wanting to relate to my peers. So now, to be in this environment that I’ve been working so hard for is so rewarding, but it’s also recognizing there are going to be a lot of sharks coming in.
So, it’s not about one life experience, but really all that’s been building up to this.
Tell me about Afropunk. How was that performance?
It was a really cool experience. It was my first time going and a lot of my favorite artists have played Afropunk. So it definitely felt like verification of stepping in the right direction. I really loved my performance. I was actually just watching a video. I put it on YouTube. My band sounded so good and everything's so nice. The styling was dope. It was a really proud moment for everybody involved because it was just so surreal to make this music in your room while you're depressed and heartbroken, and then a year later you're performing on festival stages and people are fucking with it. It was also really grounding and affirming to see the other artists as well and to be in a space that is for creative Black people.
Did you perform this single?
I did! That was my last song. It had a rock edge to it because they were hitting the drums when I was performing it and just really giving that energy and that power for me to deliver the vocals. It was a super powerful performance. High energy. Good energy.
When I’m performing, my mind goes blank. I just try to be as present as possible. So I think I just try to embody and maximize what the song’s energy is. And it really expands with the band and becomes a whole flow, a whole vibe. It never sounds the same every time I perform it, which is really cool. There’s just fluidity and just doing what feels right.
I did notice that “EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER” is playing in the “RAGGA” music video too. What do you feel like the conversation is between those two songs?
I think those two songs in particular tie directly to my experience as a first-generation native New Yorker. You have hip-hop blasting in the car and pull up to the party which is under the train at a super lowkey location and I’m cool with the owner. Like this actually is real life. Then the party is all dancehall and it directly ties to my experience as a Caribbean New Yorker who’s going to these underground, backyard parties. And it’s not hypersexual that you’re grinding. It’s just music, it's culture. These two tracks directly correlate to my experience growing up in New York. I’m happy you caught that tie-in.
Photography courtesy of Yulissa Benitez