Indonesian singer Lyodra releases the “emotional rollercoaster” that is her self-titled debut album

The singer and actress tells NME about the creation of ‘Lyodra’, paying tribute to her Karo heritage with Dipha Barus and more

Indonesian pop singer Lyodra has released her long-anticipated debut studio album ‘Lyodra’.

The eight-track album, which dropped last Friday (July 16), followed the release of four singles: ‘Gemintang Hatiku’, ‘Mengapa Kita (Terlanjur Mencinta)’, ‘Tentang Kamu’, and ‘Sabda Rindu’. The album’s release was also accompanied by a music video for ‘Kalau Bosan’.

For her debut album, the 18-year-old singer and actress was aided by the producers Anji Manji, Laleilmanino, Yovie Widianto, Dipha Barus, Ade Govinda and Mario G. Klau – who together helped Lyodra create a melting pot of pop, R&B, dance, and rock ballads.

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NME caught up with Lyodra to talk about recording the album, being inspired by Agnez Mo and paying tribute to her Karo heritage on the record. Read the interview below.

In this industry, it can be difficult for a young newcomer to be given the privilege to record a full-length. When did you find out that your label Universal Music Indonesia finally greenlighted your album?

“It had been a dream of mine to record an album since, like, day one. But obviously, I had to release standalone singles first, just to see how people would respond to them and their degree of enthusiasm. As it turned out, they wanted more and more. I think I finally got that greenlight around late 2020 – after I released my third single ‘Tentang Kamu’.”

Besides singing, how involved were you in the making of this album?

“Honestly: very much. From the album’s concept, lyricism, arrangement, and so on. The thing I’m grateful for is I was lucky enough to work with songwriters and producers that are very supportive and open for discussions. Throughout the recording process, we always tried to throw some ideas around and we always tried to come up with the best solution together.”

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‘Lyodra’ offers various sounds. How did you manage to achieve cohesion?

“When I was making this album, I didn’t deliberately aim to create something cohesive or somewhat ‘neat’. But the final product turned out pretty cohesive anyways, so I was really moved by that. [laughs]

“Production-wise, I was very keen to offer lots of variety. I didn’t want to make an album that was, like, break-up ballads from start to finish because I didn’t want the listeners to get bored by it. The album must have something for everyone.

“In recording this album, I was inspired by Agnez Mo – especially her music back in the mid-2000s. Also, I took a lot of cues from my big sister Ariana Grande. [laughs] I was very inspired by how Grande composes her arrangement, her beats, and how she balances out the lyrics with the music. Dua Lipa also provided some influence.”

Many considered the Yovie Widianto-penned ‘Mengapa Kita (Terlanjur Mencinta)’ your breakout song. A year after its release, this song remains popular. Why do you think that is?

“Because the song is good and the singer is awesome. [laughs] Seriously, though – it’s a really good song. The emotion is perfect from start to finish and, narrative-wise, this song is pretty painful too. People can always relate to situations where you can’t help falling in love despite your circumstances. That’s the kind of problem that is relatable, universal, and will exist forever.”

Compared to the previous songs Laleilmanino produced, ‘Sabda Rindu’ seems to be their most complex work yet. Was that the most difficult song you have ever recorded?

“I have to say: I have performed that song live three times and every single time, I felt like I didn’t pull it off. It’s a really difficult song – especially when I have to perform it on stage. The key changes, the vocal shifts, and then, the whistle in the bridge. On top of that, the lyrics are very tight and there’s an added choreography as well. It was totally overwhelming at first.

“But, as time went on, I have gotten pretty much used to it. Besides, if I suck at singing my own song, what would my mama say?” [laughs]

‘Kalau Bosan’ is your first rock-influenced ballad. Can you talk a little bit about the recording process with the song’s producer, Ade Govinda?

“When I first heard the song’s demo, I liked it. However, there were several tweaks and changes that I proposed to Govinda. Surprisingly, he was very open to it and I thought ‘My goodness, he is so nice!’. There were a lot of discussions between us until we were finally on the same page with this song.

“I describe ‘Kalau Bosan’ as very ‘addictive’. The more you listen to it, the more you want to press repeat. The lyrics are straightforward and memorable whereas the production is really catchy. Once again, we were looking for the relatability factor. Just look at the lyrics: ‘If you’re bored with me, don’t disappear / If you’re bored with me, just tell me.’ I mean, sad but true, right? That line sounds very simple, but in real life, it’s very hard to do. Besides, ‘ghosting’ is all the rage nowadays.”

Does the following track ‘Dibanding Dia’ continue the narrative of ‘Kalau Bosan’?

“Both songs were produced by Govinda and honestly, when we recorded those songs, we didn’t think that far. But, if you listen to those two songs, they’re kind of connected, aren’t they? ‘Kalau Bosan’ is about the guy ignoring the girl, and ‘Dibanding Dia’ is maybe about the girl finding out why.”

The dance track ‘Oe.. Oe..’ references Karo heritage. Can you talk a little bit about that?

“Both the song’s producer, Dipha Barus and I are of Karo descent. We thought that since this opportunity was hard to come by, why not making a dance song with Karo references in it? We decided to add some traditional instruments, some ethnic drums, and the song’s title is actually of the Karo language. ‘Oe’ means ‘yeah’ in English.”

You close the album with the sorrowful ‘Pesan Terakhir’. Why?

“I admit, this song is very sad. I’m talking about ‘misery to tiny little pieces’ kind of sad. It was written by Mario G. Klau and I was floored by it. This song is so hopeless, tear-inducing, and devastating. That’s why I decided to have it as a final track – as if all the pent-up emotions in the album were released completely through this song.

“Ultimately, this album is an emotional rollercoaster. First I build up the emotion, then I break it down, then I keep it still and calm, then I lift it back, and when the listeners reach the final track, I drop it back to the ground.”

Finally, how do you see this album, in a personal sense?

“I see this album not just as a debut, but also a reward for relentless hard work. I have worked so hard to make sure that this album offers the best of the best. Furthermore, I can’t help but think of the haters and naysayers out there. I didn’t make this album to prove the haters wrong, though. This album is kind of my way of saying, ‘I don’t care what all the haters say – this is me and this is my album!’”

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