Nothing can keep Nabila Razali down, not even when she’s talking about having her heart broken.
The 26-year-old singer is bright and jovial throughout our photoshoot and interview session, flashing her megawatt smile, making jokes and letting out bouts of laughter in between our conversations.
Her happy-go-lucky vibe remains intact when she opens up about picking up the pieces after a failed relationship.
“I was in a relationship for almost a year. It took me a while to get over him – about a year and a half,” Nabila reveals.
“As women, we get affected a lot more and find it harder to move on from a break-up. But there are friends and family members surrounding you,” she says, hopeful.
“And I always hold on to this: We each have our own path in life. Don’t let other people enter our path and mess it all up.”
Nabila says her break-up anthem, Pematah Hati, released mid last year, actually helped her get through the painful ordeal.
“Whenever I sing Pematah Hati, I draw from my own experiences so audiences can feel my pain. I don’t want to just get up on stage, sing, and leave.”
And perhaps it is this sense of authenticity Nabila brings to her performances that helped propel the song to the top of the charts.
The uptempo hit, written by Hael Husaini and Ezra Kong, spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the RIM (Recording Industry Association Of Malaysia) most streamed domestic singles chart while its music video (MV) has amassed 21 million YouTube views.
Thanks to Pematah Hati, she is one of the country’s most popular female singers today. Nabila revisits the song that started it all and shares why she’s bent on making music that lift women up.
Crafting Stories, Not Just Songs
After coming in fifth in the 2013 edition of reality talent series Akademi Fantasia, Nabila released her debut single, Cemburu, in 2016.
The song was met with considerable success but didn’t quite leave a lasting impression on listeners.
When Star2 interviewed the singer early last year, she was pursuing her masters in architecture while trying to find her footing in the music business.
Then Pematah Hati – which sees Nabila saying no to a guy who waltzes in and out of her life as he pleases – hit radio airwaves last July.
“The lyrics are sad but the genre is happy pop so it sounds happy. The message is although we’re sad, we still have a lot of life ahead of us,” Nabila explains.
Though the infectious tune alone managed to draw listeners in, it wasn’t until the release of its MV in late November that the song became a phenomenon.
Weeks ahead of Nabila’s Pematah Hati MV premiere, the singer uploaded photos and videos of her looking rather chummy with actor Aedy Ashraf on social media.
Closer to the premiere of the MV, Nabila uploaded another video of her crying in a car, seeming to suggest whatever relationship she may have had with Aedy was over.
The MV skyrocketed to two million YouTube views within just a week of its release. She revealed those photos and videos with Aedy were purely part of a gimmick to promote the song.
“The idea (for the gimmick) came from Storytellrs (the Romanian duo who directed the MV). I was afraid at first. People may think I’m lying to them just to promote the song,” she explains.
“The reason I did the gimmick was to show people what it means to be in love and what it means to break up,” she adds.
While some netizens did feel like they were taken for a ride, it also brought healing to many female listeners. “I received a lot of DMs (direct messages) from girls saying, ‘Thank you for singing this song. It helped me move on’.”
“I also get guys coming up to me and saying, ‘Because of your song, my girlfriend is upset with me’,” she says with a laugh.
Nabila says the message of female empowerment was something she thought a lot about during the making of the MV. “There’s a scene in the MV where I gather a group of women from all walks of life in a skatepark. It was my idea. It was my way of showing that women are strong and they can live without (a man),” she says.
Female Singers Band Together
Like those women banding together at the skatepark, Nabila often finds herself seeking help and advice from fellow female singers in real life.
Her small circle of confidants includes Akademi Fantasia alumnae Indah Ruhaila, Amira Othman and Aisyah Aziz. “I share with them about my work life and my personal life. I have no boundaries with them,” she says.
“For example, I would ask Aisyah about her experiences performing overseas, as she has performed in Manila before.”
Nabila says she has never witnessed any rivalry between female artistes.
“There’s no reason for any rivalry because we all have our own achievements and we can stand on our own two feet. Back then, maybe there were some rivalry because it was harder to get in the industry. But now, with so many platforms like social media, it’s easier.”
Asked if female artistes find it harder to break into the music industry, she reasons: “It’s not very difficult. But I think being a man, it’s easier to rise as an artiste because supporters are usually women. Women are fine with screaming and showing their excitement for a male artiste.
“For a female artiste, you have female supporters, but perhaps not as many compared to male artistes. And even if you have male supporters who like female artistes, they’re not the sort who will be screaming wildly. So that level of support (for male artistes) is different.”
The success of Pematah Hati has changed Nabila’s life completely. For one, a number of songwriters have offered to pen her next single. She has received many acting opportunities too, which Nabila is exploring. In fact, she is currently in Turkey filming drama series Cintaku Di Bumi Izmir.
“When you’re singing, you sing for four minutes and then you leave the stage. For acting, if you’re shooting for two months, you maintain that character as much as possible.”
Nabila is fast becoming a fashion icon too. In the MV for Pematah Hati, she sports an off-the-shoulder jacket look and a distinct way of tying her hijab (where one side is pinned down while the other is left to fall naturally), which many are following.
“Wherever I go, there’s always someone wearing an off-the-shoulder jacket and going, ‘Nabila, look at my jacket!’ ”
“Once you’re a public figure, you have to think about what you do because people will follow you,” she says.
Some may see this as just another fashion trend the singer started. But perhaps it is also a show of solidarity and camaraderie from the women who have taken Nabila’s message to heart.
And her message is this: “I’m speaking to all the heartbroken women out there, and I’m telling them, ‘Don’t be’.”