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Since the age of 16, Aleyna Tilki has been no stranger to the spotlight. Rising to fame in her home country of Turkey, Aleyna has built a name for herself as a bold, unapologetic and fashionable young artist.

The outspoken and progressive pop star has used her platform to lead a cultural revolution among her Gen-Z peers by disrupting conservative values and driving home her beliefs. At her very core, Aleyna champions personal empowerment and freedom of expression.

Having worked with artists such as Dua Lipa and Diplo on tracks like her breakout hit “Retrograde,” Aleyna is ready for global stardom. She is currently in the process of releasing her debut international album with Warner Music Group, hoping to become the first Turkish artist to break into the worldwide mainstream. 

Pop Crave spoke with Aleyna Tilki about her upbringing, fashion sense, new singles, “Take It or Leave It” and “Diamonds,” as well as her upcoming debut album.

Congratulations on becoming the first Turkish artist to ever be signed by Warner Music Group! How does it feel to be representing your country on such an international level?

Thank you! Our land must be highlighted globally, because it’s so precious and generous. Our music must be heard all over the world. Me being the ambassador for this assignment makes me proud. It’s really exciting for me to be the first one and to also inspire all the extremely talented musicians from Turkey.

What do you think differentiates Turkish pop music from other kinds of pop music?

Even though our songs are mostly energetic and joyful, we have pain and sorrow inside of them. We like to enjoy the agony in our own way. Also, we have our own rebellious style in our songs. We have deeper meaning in most of our songs, much deeper than it seems. This may sound like a contradiction, but it’s true. It’s a combination of Arabesque and Pop music with many subgenres. I really like the blend of Turkish Pop.

Your song “Take It or Leave It” is a pop-punk masterpiece! The music video perfectly showcases the song’s message of not conforming to society’s standards. What does the song mean to you?

I wanted to break the taboos of perfectionism and show my true essence with all my reality in it. I wanted to reflect my happiness and sadness with all my truth and darkness in me, crying out loud. I believe in the motto, “Where there is dark, there is light,” and I have written that in this song. This song showed me that people will accept me for who I am. The global audience embraced me with my true personality. This might also show that everyone can be unapologetically themselves.

“Take It or Leave It” will be featured on your debut English album. What are three words you would use to describe what the upcoming album will sound like?

This song is the “spoiler” of the album. The album is in the rock-pop genre, but I also have hyper-pop songs in it. But “Take It or Leave It” truly reflects the mood and general sound of the album. Also, this song’s lyrics are consistent with the album’s general vibe, which is a rebel, spiritual, deep, independent, strong soul who does not rely on anyone.

You grew up in Konya, one of Turkey’s most conservative cities, as a progressive Gen-Z artist. How do you hope your platform inspires others who are growing up in similar areas?

I was born in Konya like Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, one of the great philosophers/poets of all time. He said “come as you are,” which means you are accepted as who you are. From your race to your gender, it doesn’t matter, you are great how you have been created. Yes, Konya is a conservative city and Turkey is somewhat conservative due to the majority being Muslim, but we don’t have strict rules in Middle Eastern countries. Turkish people have a good mindset for consciousness. I want to show everyone that they can be free. I want to be a pioneer of this. 

You came into the limelight at 16, where many were already trying to censor you for your boldness and defiance against conservatism. Was it hard for you to receive so much attention at such a young age?

Because I was attracting attention, people commented about my womanhood harshly even when I was very young. I wasn’t even self-concious about my sexual identity but was fetishized as a sexual object at a very young age. This behaviour was hurtful to me, mentally. But as I have a keen interest in psychology, I have been doing the work to heal myself. 

You are already well-known for your signature fashion looks. What inspires your style of clothing and how do you use fashion to make statements?

I was invited to a glamorous event in Turkey. I showed up wearing jeans and a basic t-shirt, or maybe pajamas. I believe fashion is not the things you wear; it’s how you show your attitude and aura to people. I was always a shabby child who wore whatever I wanted. This style is much like the 2000s style of people who don’t care for anybody’s thoughts for “looks.” I find myself in this effortless chic era.

Your new song, “Diamonds,” is a collaboration with Jubël. What was it like working with them?

I met them in London on a day with the most magical weather. That was the first time I have listened to “Diamonds” in the studio. The song’s lyrics represent that period of my life. The lyrics, “‘Cause he will never treat me right,” reflected my feelings for my boyfriend at that time. I thought this is a message from the universe to me and decided to accept this message. Also, Jubël’s energy was really great, and I’m so enthusiastic about the people and culture of North Europe, so both the song and Jubël were a great match for me.

Who are some other artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?

I would love to collaborate with Selda Bağcan from Turkey. Also, Billy Idol and Ozzy Osbourne are my true icons. 

What is the meaning behind both the song and music video for “Diamonds”?

People who listen to this song will know they don’t have to settle for anything in life and especially in love. This is a song about seeking for your match in your relationship, so people must ask themselves if they deserve someone else or another kind. Because I think your life partner should always support you and inspire you in every step of your life. The video was shot with my direction. It’s a diamond heist/love story that takes place in the beautiful Galata Tower surroundings in İstanbul. It’s a combination of our culture, my vision and Jubël’s music. So I feel great about this magnificent video.

What are some of your favorite lyrics from “Diamonds”?

Definitely the part that says: “You deserve another kind.” Because it’s a really great match for my mood nowadays.

Aleyna Tilki’s new song, “Diamonds,” is out now.