NIIA is Niia Bertino, an American singer, songwriter, and pianist with a background in jazz, pop, hip-hop, and classical music. The granddaughter of an opera singer with several other musicians in the family, she was born and raised in Massachusetts and learned classical piano from her mother. She started singing at the age of 13 and a year later accepted an invitation to enroll in a summer program at the Berklee College of Music. After graduating from high school, Bertino moved to New York City, where she briefly studied jazz vocals at the New School.
While in New York, the singer met Wyclef Jean, leading to a featured spot on his 2007 single "Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)" alongside Lil Wayne and Akon. She was credited as simply NIIA. The song reached the Top 15 of the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and Canada and resulted in performances on Late Show with David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, among other national TV appearances. She began to upload a series of performances and covers, including one of Cher's "Bang Bang," and in 2011 she performed highlights from James Bond soundtracks in concert with a small orchestra. NIIA released the stand-alone single "Made for You," a noir-ish ballad with piano, strings, and electronic textures, in 2013. Displaying a similarly jazzy, atmospheric pop, the Generation Blue EP was released in October 2014 by the Something Local label. While preparing her full-length debut, she lent vocals to albums by electronic artists such as Lee Bannon (2015's Pattern of Excel) and the Range (2016's Potential). Led by the sultry single "Hurt You First," the jazz- and R&B-inflected I arrived on Atlantic Records in 2017. ~ Marcy Donelson