The top 10 Nikka Costa songs take a step back in time to the 1980s when the daughter of music producer Don Costa embarked on a recording career as young as five years old when she performed with Hawaiian star Don Ho. As a child star, Costa made a name for herself around the world as a pop singer. After graduating from high school, her musical style followed the mix of Gershwin and Motown influences she grew up with, along with the sounds she was exposed to by an impressive list of recording artists who worked with her father.
This young lady’s solid taste of celebrity status began in 1981 with “(Out Here) On My Own,” which came from the popular 1980 movie Fame. This was also the same time she and her father worked together for his final album, Don Costa Plays the Beatles. She was the vocalist while he was the guitarist. This was primarily a European release by two Italian producers, Danny B. Besquet and Tony Regis. Across the nations of Europe and Latin America, Costa was already enjoying stardom before she would further her musical career as an adult.
Nikka Costa was born on June 4, 1972, in Tokyo, Japan, while her parents were visiting the city during its annual music festival. For the most part, she was raised in Los Angeles, California. As the daughter of the famed Don Costa, music was a big part of the young lady’s life while growing up. Costa was close enough to Frank Sinatra to enlist him as his daughter’s godfather. In 1981, when Nikka Costa was nine years old, she and Sinatra sang together just outside the White House from its lawn. While growing up, having visitors such as Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., and Quincy Jones enter her family’s home wasn’t uncommon. Because of this influence, little Nikka was learning how to write and sing her own songs by the time she was three years old. These were often performed before family and friends, including the Hawaiian musical legend Don Ho.
Shortly after making her self-titled album debut in 1981, Nikka Costa toured across Europe before recording her second studio album, Fairy Tales (cuentos de hadas). Shortly after it was finished, Costa’s father passed away from a sudden heart attack on January 19, 1983, at fifty-seven years old. Nikki Costa was ten years old when she lost her father. Costa’s album would be released shortly afterward and the child star took a four-year break from recording. However, in order to fulfill contractual obligations, Here I Am… Yes, It’s Me was recorded and released in 1989 as Costa’s third studio album. After this, she chose to shift her musical direction away from pop music in favor of R&B. She also incorporated the sounds of funk and soul into her material in the quest to let the audience know she’s not just a kid anymore.
Even at such a young age, Nikka Costa wanted to make a name for herself as more than just the daughter of the internationally famous Don Costa. Instead of using his name as a means to get ahead in the music industry, she opted for a more subtle approach. The focus while growing up was to finish her education by graduating from high school first, and then see where life would take her afterward. Unlike most of the students around her at that time, Costa’s focus wasn’t on college. It was simply picking up where she left off as a recording artist but as a reinvented version of her former self. In the process, she learned how to play the guitar and the piano as she looked to broaden her musical repertoire.
All Grown Up
Right after marrying Justin Stanley, Costa moved to the music producer’s home nation of Australia. Fans may recognize Stanley for his work with popular recording artists such as Beck, Eric Clapton, Leonard Cohen, Sheryl Crow, Paul McCartney, Prince, and Snoop Dogg. In addition to working as a producer with an impressive range of music stars, Stanley served as Beck’s guitarist and percussionist in 2005 for his Guero promotional concert tour. He also worked with Beck for his tenth studio album, 2006’s The Information. The partnership between Costa and Stanley extends beyond the relationship of husband and wife. These two have written and performed songs together as Costa’s recording career continued to blossom.
While in the land otherwise known as the Down Under, she put together a funk band, Littla Mona & the Shag Daddies. However, the band broke up after performing only four shows in Sydney. Undeterred, the twenty-two-year-old Costa put together another band, Sugarbone. Together, they toured Australia in 1984 in what she called a scary yet fulfilling experience. Once the tour was complete, Costa and her Sugarbone bandmates signed a recording contract with the Australian label Mushroom Records. Costa and her group recorded and released Butterfly Rocket in 1996, an album that would earn her two nominations at the ARIA Music Awards. The first was for Breakthrough Artist in 1996, while the second was for Best Female Artist in 1997. Unfortunately, Costa didn’t secure the wins as Deni Hines won in 1996, thanks to “It’s Alright,” while Monique Brumby won in 1997, thanks to “Mary.” It would be around this time Costa and Stanley moved back to the United States.
In 2000, Costa began to turn the heads of North American music fans after an ad from Tommy Hilfiger featured one of Costa’s songs, “Like a Feather.” The ad, plus the music video Costa shot for it, played a key role in her album, Everybody Got Their Something, to make a chart appearance on the Billboard 200. The single became a popular radio hit and a favorite music video on MTV and YouTube. In 2002, Costa released can’teverdidnothin’ as her next album with Lenny Kravitz serving as a guest musician who performed bass and drums. Four years later, Costa and Stanley teamed up to perform musical scores for the shirt-lived sitcom series, Courting Alex. This was a CBS program that starred Jenna Elfman which ran eight out of the twelve episodes before it was cancelled.
In 2008, Costa recorded and released Pebble to a Pearl as her seventh studio album and Stuck to You as her second EP. At first, these were independent releases with Costa and Stanley’s own label, Go Funk Yourself Records. Both recordings would then be distributed by a revived Stax Records. After this, Costa recorded and released her third EP, Pro*Whoa! in 2011. As of 2017, Nikka Costa has eight studio albums to her credit, four EPs, four promotional albums, a video album, and twenty-seven singles. Now, as a mother of two and still married to Justin Stanley, Nikka Costa and her family call California their home. She continues performing concert tours with as much energy as she poured into her earlier performances.
Top 10 Nikka Costa Songs
#10 – Ching Ching Ching
In 2010, Nikka Costa’s “Ching Ching Ching” served as a musical shift from the R&B-style sounds to electro-pop. This German-only release peaked as high as number sixty-nine on its official music chart. It came from her EA, Pro*Whoa!, a recording that witnessed Costa switching gears from funk and soul in favor of a sound that fused electronica and pop together. As the title suggested, “Ching Ching Ching” was all about the money and how much influence it has on people who depend on it for every little thing that comes with a pricetag.
#9 – Someone for Everyone
“Someone for Everyone” is a powerful ballad loaded with soul that showcases the singing-songwriting talent of Nikka Costa. This was a song that had Costa at her finest, with lyrics and melodies designed to tug at the heartstrings of listeners. It also excelled at triggering a range of emotions. This song was on the tracklist belonging to 2008’s Pebble to a Pearl, an album that had Costa work with DJ Mark Ronson a second time after the success of Everybody Got Their Something. “Someone for Everyone” grooved as an earthy vibe that sounded like Motown and Stax molded Costa like a pair of proud parents. This was a great song about hope, as Costa’s belief as a person and songwriter is there is that special soulmate for everyone, and it was only a matter of fate working its magic to help make it happen.
# 8 – Tug of War
“Tug of War” somewhat served as an autobiography of Nikka Costa’s musical journey. In her own way, she shared the highs of childhood stardom that also came with tremendous pressure and responsibility. Losing her father when she was only ten years old prompted the young lady to dive into some serious soul searching as the experience caused her to grow up even faster at a spiritual level. While in high school, Costa was surrounded by friends and classmates who pondered on what their college dreams would be.
For Costa, jumping back into the music industry became her most logical career choice since she was experienced with it already. What “Tug of War” covered was the battle between the heart and the mind as each tugged away at Costa as if she was the rope caught in the middle. This song was part of the tracklist belonging to Everybody Got Their Something, a 2001 release that had Costa benefit greatly after visiting New York City and learning from musical greats such as DJ Mark Ronson.
#7 – Nothing Compares to U
Nikka Costa covered the Prince classic, “Nothing Compares to U” in 2017 as one of her tribute recordings from the album, Nikka & Strings, Underneath and in Between. It was an album loaded with popular rock standards Costa covered as a fan who was heavily influenced by the original stars behind them. Costa was more than just a fan of Prince’s. The two also worked as colleagues in the music industry before he passed away in 2016.
In 1985, “Nothing Compares to U” was a song penned by Prince for his band, The Family. It was a song that lamented over the loss of a lover and was first made globally famous by Sinead O’Connor’s cover version in 1990 for her album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. Costa’s performance wasn’t necessarily over the loss of a lover but of a close friend and colleague with Prince. While hers may not be as widely recognized as O’Connor’s, it doesn’t mean it’s any less impactful.
#6 – Hope It Felt Good
From the 2001 album release of, Everybody Got Their Something, “Hope It Felt Food” was a psychedelic approach Nikka Costa took as if she and the guitar were possessed by the spirit of Lenny Kravitz. Perhaps as a prelude to her next album, can’tneverdidnothin’, this song revealed the influence of the likes of Kravitz, Prince, and other recording artists whom Costa was associated with. While many children dreamed of meeting some of the music industry’s biggest stars, Costa already had this honor as she was fortunate enough to have Don Costa as her father. However, instead of following his footsteps to the letter, she carved her own path and did things her own way, just as her godfather, Frank Sinatra, did. “Hope It Felt Good” once again demonstrated Costa as a vocal powerhouse who could belt out like a rocker with enough jazz to captivate a listener’s soul.
#5 – Everybody Got Their Something
The title track from Nikka Costa’s studio album, Everybody Got Their Something, was featured in a soundtrack belonging to the 2009 movie All About Steve. In 2000, it was released as a single but failed to appear on any of the official music charts. However, this upbeat song was part of a tracklist where Costa paid homage to various recording artists and it became a huge fan favorite. This song was also used in other films such as Blue Crush, Coach Carter, and The Ugly Truth. It was also featured on episodes aired by Arrested Development, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Drop Dead Diva, ER, Felicity, and Nip/Tuck. It was also a popular promo tune for ABC Daytime. In 2020, “Everybody Got Their Something” was also used in a television commercial by JPMorgan Chase Bank.
#4 – Push & Pull
“Push & Pull” came from Nikka Costa’s album Everybody Got Their Something. An acoustic version of it was part of the soundtrack for the 2001 Johnny Depp movie Blow. This came about after Costa spent some time in New York and submerged herself in its nightclub scene. Along with the production assistance of a certain DJ named Mark Ronson, Costa and her husband, Justin Stanley, pooled their talents together and came up with Everybody Got Their Something, as well as “Push & Pull.”
It was a deliberate dive into the fusion of funk, rock, and soul as a merger of popular genres that paid off for Costa as a recording artist. When Prince performed a cover version of this song for his DVD-recorded concert Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas, he did so with the help of Costa as he was among many notable stars whom she knew as a kid. While Costa chose her own path as a recording artist when she became an adult, she still had a talent pool of stars like Prince within reach as they all previously worked with her father, Don Costa, before a heart attack claimed his life in 1983.
#3 – Get Off My Sunshine
Nikka Costa’s first studio album as an adult recording artist produced the hit single, “Get Off My Sunshine,” which earned the popular singer-songwriter her second ARIA Music Award nomination. Butterfly Rocket was released in 1996 and became a popular favorite as Costa earned favorable reviews from critics and fans. Although this was her first album release as an adult, it was Costa’s fourth overall. Between the opening riff that would have made Prince proud and a Tina Turner-like lyrical performance by Costa, this song served as a fantastic “back off” message against an antagonist who appeared to violate the singer-songwriter’s personal space. While this didn’t appear on any official music charts as a big hit, there was a reason why Costa was so widely received as a performer while she was in Australia. As soon as the rest of the world finally got to hear “Get Off My Sunshine,” it further enhanced Costa’s career as a recording artist.
#2 – Like a Feather
In 2000, “Like a Feather” was a jazz meets funk song performed by Nikka Costa that was used for a Tommy Hilfiger advertising campaign for television. This was accompanied by a music video that would help win over the attention of the United States music industry. This came from her album Everybody Got Their Something, which was released in 2001. It became a minor hit at number fifty-three on the UK Singles Chart. It also charted at number eighty-eight in the Netherlands and at ninety-three in Australia.
The popularity of “Like a Feather” and Costa’s fifth studio album led the young star to serve as the opening act for Britney Spears throughout various North American cities in 2002. While “Like a Feather” may not have found a spot on any of the official US Billboard charts, it was infectious enough to become a fan favorite. Fans of George Harrison may recognize a hint of “I Dig Love” as this was a musical sample Costa used for her song.
Prior to the music video, fans who listened to the Hilfiger ad featuring “Like a Feather” assumed Nikka Costa was African-American as it was a song she performed as an eclectic R&B singer. The song itself was about learning to let go of everyday frustrations and let all of its burdens fly away. It served as an ideal introduction to “Everybody Got Their Something,” a song that was used by DJ Mark Johnson. He was one of the producers behind the Hilfiger ads and was working with Costa as one of her producers for her album at the same time. When Costa was first approached about using “Like a Feather” as part of an advertising campaign, she was hesitant about it because she didn’t want to be known as a jingle girl.
#1 – (Out Here) On My Own (featuring Don Costa)
At eight years old, Nikka Costa was part of Don Costa’s orchestra when the father and daughter team performed “(Out Here) On My Own” in a concert in Milan, Italy. This paved to the 1981 recording and release of her debut album, Nikka Costa. Her cover version of Irene Cara’s classic went on to become certified platinum in Brazil and France. Globally, Costa’s recorded performance sold over three million copies worldwide as the listeners couldn’t help but fall in love with the young lady’s phenomenal singing voice. This served as a sign of things to come from an incredibly talented woman who would continue to spread her wings in the music industry.
Irene Cara’s “Out Here on My Own” was originally a ballad written by the brother-sister songwriting duo of Lesley and Michael Gore. It was for the musical movie Fame, a 1980 production that featured a handful of students from New York City’s High School of Performing Arts. The movie soundtrack featured Cara’s incredible vocals and an instrumental version of the song. This, along with “Fame,” became a popular anthem among artistic members of a younger audience as each sought to make their own mark in the spotlight.
Costa earned that fame as her live performance in Milan with her father triggered an overwhelmingly favorable response that would put this young girl in the recording studio. Costa’s “On My Own” was a number-one hit in France, Italy, and Spain. It also peaked as high as seven in Switzerland and thirteen in Belgium. Despite the numerous covers that have been performed by some of the greatest recording stars in the music industry, none have measured up to the outstanding performance of a little girl who still outperformed them all in Milan. Now as a full-grown woman, Nikka Costa continues to shine as one of the music industry’s cherished vocalists.
Top 10 Nikka Costa Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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