Get to know the self-made Dutch artist who people like to call "The Next Rihanna"...incorrectly.
You’ve probably heard Afrojack’s chart-topping power single “Take Over Control” many times, if not from your personal collection, then from every gym sound system for the last two years. And, if you’re one of 25 million people, you’ve seen the video and were charmed by the toned, Dutch vocalist with the colossal red mohawk who dances, scales bus seats, and sings coquettishly over the DJ’s piercing glitch. Lumping her into the Rihanna/Rita Ora echelon is only natural. After all, Eva Simons is climbing the Mt. Olympus of pop music. She seems to up a rung with every single, actually, dropping “I Don’t Like You” with Skrillex’s dubstep pal Zedd, “This is Love” with Will.i.am and Swedish House Mafia, and finally, touring with LMFAO.
But the fact remains: Eva Simons isn’t like most pop stars. Along with Afrojack, her mother/veteran singer Ingrid Simons and UK composer Mike Hamilton, Eva had a firm hand in writing “Take Over Control.” In fact, Eva writes all her songs. Moreover, when I spoke to Eva on the phone while she was on tour in Sacramento, she seemed nothing like an industry fabrication. The 28-year-old has an air of maturity and self-assuredness, borne of a lifetime of serious training and excellent role models.
“Music is real when it goes inside you. You know when you really love someone, and you look into their eyes and you know it’s real? Even though I’m an electronic artist, I wanna keep it real,” she says. “I really want people to say ‘she’s not bullshitting around. What she says comes from her heart.’ Only then do you reach people for real, or else it’s a gimmick.”
It’s as if we’re actually dealing with a beautiful female pop star who has something to say.
Born in Amsterdam to two very musical parents, Eva grew up listening to Motown and jazz, and became a classically-trained pianist and composer. She was signed to a record label at age 13, but the Netherlands actually started paying attention when she competed on the Dutch version of the UK Idol-esque show Popstars: The Rivals, where she won a spot in the short-lived girl group, Raffish.
Eva set out on her own a year later, and throttled ahead with her catchy, vindictive single “Silly Boy” on EMI Germany in 2009. The video got millions of hits, thanks in part to a shoutout on Kanye West’s blog. Yet, people were confused by the newcomer. Is this a stand-in for Rihanna? Is it in fact Rihanna? Is Lady Gaga on this track or something? Did Afrojack produce it?
To each rumor, the answer was, eye-rollingly, no. Eva had written the song for herself, and she didn’t think her voice sounded a thing like Rihanna’s. But a few good results came out of the world’s bittersweet reaction: a new hoard of listeners. And, due to the constant Twitter rumors DMing Eva and Afrojack, the two got to know each other and formed an actual working relationship.
They would eventually pen the juggernaut that is “Take Over Control.”
“With the ‘Silly Boy’ track, I mean, people knew about it, but it wasn’t really like, ‘oh that’s Eva Simons’,” she says. “But when ‘Take Over Control’ came out, that’s when people started to get interested in me personally, which is great because it was something I really believed in.”
Simons’ career has been popping off ever since. She signed to Interscope, landed a feature spot on LMFAO’s track “Best Night,” and hit the studio with Will.i.am to record tracks like “This is Love” for his solo album. She has only good things to say about her new, ridiculously famous friends.
“[Will. i am] is mister energy. What he sends out is just so positive. You wanna go in and work. When he believes in something he gets excited. He gets really excited,” she says. “As for LMFAO, if you’ve ever seen one of their videos, that’s exactly how they are. It’s like the ‘Party Rockin’ video with them all the time [laughs]. They are really awesome.“
That the pop industry is a total boys’ club remains an undeniable fact. Presumptions, pigeonholing, comparisons, and pokes and prods at Eva’s image probably won’t stop any time soon. But there’s something reassuring about her presence among the A-list, strolling through it, assimilated, unintimidated, and more or less her own boss.
“You see discrimination around you, but I mean, I write my own songs. I’m a bit of a tomboy. Guys don’t come at me like that, and I think that’s my advantage. They see me as their sister, or someone will say ‘that’s cool!’ not, ‘hey lets go into the bedroom!’ I get more credit. And they really like what I do and the stuff that I write.”
In fact, it was Eva, not a stylist, who was the mastermind behind the wildfire mohawk that sets her apart physically from just about anybody.
“I’m just weird like that. I don’t really know other people who go big like that, except maybe in Tokyo…I like the feeling of it. It’s a mojo,” she says, with the tiniest hint of a Dutch accent. “Though sometimes when I’m dancing and don’t put in enough hairspray I wind up looking like a…what’s the animal with needles? Porcupine.”
While it’s been a whirlwind couple of years for Eva, it hasn’t been long enough for a debut album, or for the jadedness to set in. She’s still fairly bewildered by her success so far, and the excitement around her fairytale rise to fame can be contagious.
“I’m just a girl from Amsterdam,” she says. “It’s a small city. Everybody knows Amsterdam but it’s still a small city. To come from there, to work with Will. i. am…it’s like what happened?! What did I do right?!”
It’s hard not to root for her.