Feeling isolated, Ashnikko retreated to sites like Tumblr and Soundcloud, where she quickly found a “community of women” in artists like Princess Nokia and Doja Cat making fun, forward-thinking music. Soon, she was saying to herself, “‘I also want to do that.’” Now, with her single “Daisy” quickly gaining steam on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 Airplay chart and her new mixtape Demidevil earning her first entry on the Billboard 200, Ashnikko is exceeding her goal.
Nick Burgess, co-president at Parlophone Records, says he first took notice of Ashnikko when he received an early demo of her song “Bubblegum” in 2017. “She came [fully] formed, in a way,” he says. “She had the same personality that she has now: super outspoken, didn’t give a f--k about anything.” Parlophone signed Ashnikko to an EP deal in 2018 for Unlikable, followed by a global album deal in 2019.
By the time her next EP, Hi, It’s Me, arrived later that year, Ashnikko had generated buzz in London, which is how George Shepherd, an artist manager and publisher at Various Artists management, ended up at a Fiorucci store in London’s Soho district with a colleague watching a crowd of 250 young women with blue pigtails waiting for Ashnikko to perform. “We were just two fat white dudes at the back going, ‘Okay, this is crazy,’” recalls Shepherd. Ashnikko signed a management deal with Various Artists that July.
Matt Luxon, a managing director at Various Artists, was confident “Daisy” — about a female assassin targeting men who uphold the toxic patriarchy — would be a success. (The femme fatale's calling card is “Daisies on your nightstand,” as Ashnikko sings in the disorienting chorus.) His team heavily serviced the song to mainstream radio, specifically to the two biggest pop stations in the UK, Capital and BBC Radio 1.
They also secured a cross-platform deal with TikTok and Beats by Dr. Dre for the out-of-this-world music video directed by Charlotte Rutherford -- which at one point features Ashnikko riding a giant chili pepper in a twisted latex outfit (it has over 72 million views). “You never know completely how some songs are going to perform,” he says. “There’s a perfect storm that it takes to make it go all the way, and something about the ‘Daisy’ video just caught people’s imagination. It got a life of its own.”
But even with an expansive TikTok campaign, it still took “Daisy” months to find traction on the platform. Burgess sees that as a lesson: “You cannot tell the TikTok ecosystem what you want them to do — they have to tell you what they’re going to do with it,” he says.