Lyodra: Indonesia’s reigning princess of pop

18-year-old rising star Lyodra has gathered widespread popularity and critical adulation both in her home country and overseas.

Felix Martua

Felix Martua

The Jakarta Post


Global gig: Lyodra performs at Expo 2020 Dubai in November 2021 (Courtesy of Lyodra's Instagram) (Courtesy of Lyodra's Instagram/Personal Collection)

January 18, 2022

JAKARTA – An album debut, an acting breakthrough and impressive international recognition. Rising star Lyodra is one to reckon with in Indonesia’s music industry.

It seems that Lyodra has finally cracked the code on how to launch a successful pop music career in the modern era. The past year has found the 18-year-old singer and actress gathering widespread popularity and critical adulation both in her home country and overseas – all thanks to her debut album Lyodra, her acting role in the web series 7 Hari Sebelum 17 Tahun (7 days before turning 17) and a plethora of new medals under her belt including the 2021 South Korea’s Mnet Asian Music Award (MAMA) for Best New Asian Artist: Indonesia.

She described 2021 as “a year full of grace”.

“A lot of things have happened in my career and in my life – things that are extraordinary and gratifying,” she said. “Of course, some of them have been astonishing for me, my family, my fans and the music lovers. Even though we haven’t fully recovered from this pandemic, we must soldier on and stay productive.”

Did Lyodra feel that she had grown more mature as a person? Her answer was an exuberant and resounding “yes”.

“I feel that change. Now I feel more grown-up and know more about what it is that I need to do first. To prioritize things that I have to work on and leave things that are unpleasant for me.”

Teen challenges

Born in Medan, North Sumatra, in 2003, Lyodra first caught public attention as a child singer when she took part in Di Atas Rata Rata 2 (Above Average 2): a music project pioneered by renowned Indonesian composer Erwin Gutawa and his daughter, Gita Gutawa. She won her first Anugerah Musik Indonesia (AMI) Award for Best Child Female Solo Artist in 2017 with her song “Dear Dream”, written by the Gutawas and Ria Leimena. Two years later, she participated in the talent competition show Indonesian Idol where she was crowned the winner.

Post-Idol, Lyodra signed her first major label deal with Universal Music Indonesia. Her debut single “Gemintang Hatiku” (The Gleam in My Heart), written and produced by producer trio Laleilmanino, was released in February 2020. The same year, she received her second AMI Award nomination, this time for Best Pop Female Solo Artist with the Yovie Widianto-penned ballad “Mengapa Kita #TerlanjurMencinta” (Why are We #AlreadyinLove).

While her debut might seem ideal, Lyodra remarked that the experience was not a walk in the park.

“Back in the day, there were lots of things that worried me,” she said, “I kept asking myself, ‘Can I hold on to this?’ ‘Can I get good songs?’ ‘Will my songs become hits?’ Those things are normal and ‘human’ to question, right? Because I was not the only artist under the label; there were lots of them!”

Entering 2021, Lyodra caught her fans and the public by surprise by joining the cast of the seven-episode teen web series 7 Hari Sebelum 17 Tahun. The singer took on the “challenging” role of Gina Saputri, a high school bully who grapples with deep-rooted anger issues. The series also starred Endy Arfian, Tissa Biani, Marcell Darwin, Davina Karamoy and veteran actor Ray Sahetapy. The series premiered on Feb. 14, 2021 on the Indonesian streaming platform STRO.

Looking back, she understood how her acting debut might seem madcap, especially compared with young actors who prefer to debut with a more likable role. Nevertheless, she found herself reveling in the face of such a challenge.

“That was my first [acting gig], so I was like, ‘just go for it!” she quipped. “I loved it. It was fun.”`

Critical acclaim

Lyodra released her self-titled debut album on July 16, 2021. The eight-track LP offered a multitude of genres, encompassing pop, R&B, dance-pop, adult contemporary, traditional music and power ballads. She doubled down on the hard work required to ensure her debut album proved satisfactory – for both the public and herself.

“[People] should know that it was terribly difficult to choose the songs [for the album]. I was being really selective,” she reminisced.

Lyodra became a resounding success; the tracks combined have drawn in at least 92 million plays on Spotify alone. The album’s most popular track so far is the power ballad “Pesan Terakhir” (The Last Message), which has accumulated more than 47 million plays on the digital streaming platform. Its music video, directed by Wahyu Taufani Prialangga and starring Indonesian actor Verrell Bramasta, has been streamed on YouTube at least 35 million times, making it one of the most-watched music videos by an Indonesian artist in 2021.

She knew “Pesan Terakhir” was exceptional the first time she heard the song’s demo.

“I fell in love with the song after listening to only the first six seconds of it. I was like, ‘I have to grab this song!’ Because it is so gorgeous! The composition is very neat from start to finish. No need to modify the notations. That was it. Just leave it like it was,” gushed Lyodra.

Did she have an inkling that “Pesan Terakhir” was going to be a huge success?

“Yes, I did,” she answered, laughing. “But I didn’t expect it to be this huge!

” Another track of the album “Dibanding Dia” (Compared with Her) seems to be gaining traction as well—the song’s popularity has grown by approximately one million plays on Spotify over the past month. The adult contemporary number finds the young singer exploring infidelity and romantic guilt.

Lyodra was intrigued by the “darkness” that lingers underneath “Dibanding Dia”. “This song sticks out. Its narrative is actually about unfaithfulness and being passed over for somebody else and certain circumstances that push lovers to drift apart from each other. That is the story behind the lyrics, but it is presented with this dark melody.” Lyodra’s homebound popularity soon caught international attention as well. In October, she was nominated for Best Southeast Asian Act at the 2021 MTV Europe Music Awards, becoming the youngest Indonesian artist to ever receive the award. The following month, she graced the cover of the Spotify EQUAL Campaign representing Indonesia and was invited as a performer for Indonesia’s National Day at Expo 2020 Dubai.

She closed 2021 with several awards, including Most Favorite Indonesian Singer at LINE Today Choice 2021 and Album of the Year at the 2021 Indonesian Music Awards.

Going stronger

Ade Govinda, the cowriter and producer of “Dibanding Dia”, found that Lyodra’s ultimate strength lies in her intelligence.

“Lyodra is one of the smartest artists I have ever worked with. She understands how to put her skills to use. There are lots of singers in this country who are gifted with a skillful voice, but when it comes to performing an original song, they tend to be all over the place. Lyodra, on the other hand, is one of the artists who can use her skills wisely. Plus she has a good attitude, especially considering her young age.”

Working with Lyodra on her Karo-influenced dance track “Oe..Oe..Oe..”, DJ and producer Dipha Barus praised her overall vocal prowess. “Lyodra is a talented singer with strong character, excellent pitch and vocal range, and mighty tone,” he remarked, adding that he hoped the song that they wrote together could be akin to a “comfortable home” for the singer.

After a trailblazing year, Lyodra was coy when asked about her plans for 2022. Nevertheless, the new year seems to be even more promising. “All of my accomplishments last year are serving as my motivation. I get to know more about what works for me and what my identity is, so wish me luck for this year and the years ahead. Just wait for my surprises,” she teased playfully.

As Lyodra is about to reach the two-year mark of her music career, she puts in her two cents on what kind of mentality is required to be able to make it in the music industry. “Here we’re not just dealing with our fans—we’re also dealing with haters and some unpleasant stuff. And we have to be ready for it because otherwise, that would be dangerous,” she advised.

Lyodra also highlighted the importance of “speaking up”.

“Usually young people feel disinclined to speak up, but not everyone knows what is inside our hearts. Instead of huffing and puffing after everything is done, it would be better to voice what we have to say from the get-go.”

Asked which Indonesian artist was her favorite last year, Lyodra answered immediately.

“I would like to applaud my friend Mahalini,” she answered immediately, pointing to the young singer who won New Artist of the Year in the Indonesian Music Awards 2021 for her song “Melawan Restu”. “She is very consistent and her music has mesmerized the public and I feel very proud of her.”

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