Audrey Nuna’s first LA show celebrates freedom and introversion
“In my life I’m obsessed with the idea of being free. I feel the most free on stage with you guys,” Audrey Nuna said on stage before a crowd of sweaty, buzzing Angelenos.
Monday night, Audrey performed a sold out concert at the Moroccan Lounge in Los Angeles. As her first ever headline show in LA, it’s a significant milestone for the 22 year old artist from New Jersey.
“Thank you guys so much for being here with me tonight, this is a historic moment for me,” she said, a little breathless. “I’m literally going to remember this shit till the day I die.”
Audrey Nuna is a rising star with a highly original take on RnB and hip hop. Though her voice is gorgeous and capable of stunning range, it’s the lyrical content of her music that really sets her apart. She has an incredible way with words, stemming from a love of language and a clever sense of humor. At times she lets her wordplay glide with the beats, and other times she spits lyrics spellbindingly fast. The resulting soundscape is transportive.
Audrey credits a slightly monotonous childhood in the suburbs where she learned to daydream as the force behind her imaginative songs. Furthermore, growing up as a first-generation Korean meant that duality was a constant presence in her life— and continues to feed her creative process.
One look at her debut EP a liquid breakfast attests to this, as each of the 10 tracks has a distinct tone. And though unpredictable— ranging from badass to slick to sighing— a liquid breakfast is marvelously tied together by Audrey’s nonchalant vocals swirling over lush beats.
The 26-minute project explores different situations she’s experienced, transforming a moment into a mood that her listeners can get lost in— like the dreamy “Top Again” where she references clinking glasses on a terrace and being drenched in honey yuzu fragrance.
She’ll take a fairly straightforward concept like talking shit (“Damn Right”), money (“Paper”), feeling smug (‘Typical”), or being concerned for a friend (“Baby Blues”), and then blossom these concepts into inventive tracks filled with vivid images, such as “Gabbana pants sag in the mosh pit.” Just as Audrey is keen to maintain a sense of childhood wonder in her life, so too do her songs reflect a fascination in the day to day.
She brings in fun and unexpected sounds like serpentine slithers, or the onomatopoeic line “but I just pop pop like a lipsmacker;” at the end of “Blossom” she includes a sound bite of her grandmother telling a story in Korean.
Her inflections add a lot of oomph and personality (i.e. the emphatic way she says “I’m a liar” in Damn Right), as do her food references— of which she has a particular affinity. “Fresher than ricotta” in “Long Year” and “got the hot pot running I’m a little unsteady” in “Comic Sans” are just two examples of many.
The Moroccan Lounge is a cozy venue. The performance space is about the size of a large pool, with an attached bar lounge in a separate room. The small dimensions combined with the accessible ticket price made the whole experience feel intimate and underground. With brick walls and vibey decor, it’s fitting that the Moroccan is situated in the Arts District.
The opener was Abby T., who knows Audrey from NYU and became close with her in their tight-knit classes. A natural onstage with infectious energy and a drop dead voice, Abby set the tone for the show: bounce.
“I’m gonna need y’all to bounce on this next one!” she declared, and the crowd stayed bouncing the rest of the night.
Since the venue was so intimate, when Audrey came onstage she was close enough to touch. A diaphanous white doctor’s coat that she got from her dentist floated behind her as she spun and danced and sang on stage, long black hair whipping back and forth. It’s clear from watching her that she meant what she said to the crowd: she really does feel the most free when on stage.
After the show I asked her to elaborate on this, and she said: “I think it really just comes down to energy. People just give me free energy. People at my shows do shit they wouldn’t do in their classroom or job or whatever. So when they give me that I feel like I’m a vessel so I just give that shit right back to them. I feel like that’s really what it is for me.”
Perhaps it’s this love of freedom that makes her music so captivating. Inversely, while she loves performing in front of hundreds of people, she also values her time alone. It’s a concept she expanded upon after I asked her about the best time she had writing a song.
“The song I had the most fun writing was ‘Get Luv.’ I was in a cabin in Connecticut, the power went out, we had an amazing time, and it was just super fun! Going back to the roots of, you need a laptop and a mic, and that’s it.”
The inspiration for ‘Get Luv?’ “Just being lonely and single! You know? But also embracing it and having fun, I feel like there’s empowerment in being lonely too, so I love that concept and I write about it a lot.” She explained that even though she loves being up on stage, it is also a major drain on energy, and so time spent with herself and resting is very important.
She addressed a similar message to the crowd during her performance:
“I just put out a project called a liquid breakfast back in May. Thank you so much for listening. While I was making that project something I learned about myself is that I’m a total introvert. For real! Might not seem like it, but I feel like I really cherish my time recharging by myself, and I feel like that’s not something to be ashamed of. So for anyone who can f*cking relate, this next one is for you.”
And then the opening chords of “Space” played as the lights dimmed to a deep underwater blue.
The full range of her voice was on display that night, from low and raspy to clear and bright, and each song had its own ambiance: “Space” was sultry and ethereal; “Top Again” was dreamy; “Time” was just a whole vibe: the drummer performed blindfolded after having lost a bet, and he killed it. “Comic Sans” was electric, as Audrey hopped down from the stage and rapped from within the crowd.
In addition to singing the entirety of a liquid breakfast, she gave the audience an exclusive look at a new song about betrayal that will be dropping at the end of the year. That sneak peak, shared with her audience weeks before its release, was like a promise that she will keep on keeping it real, and keep on delivering uninhibited, vulnerable, expressive music for the foreseeable future. And that’s a lovely thought, because while performing is freeing for Audrey, listening to her music is freeing, as well.