S10 put on an exceptional performance of music and strength for Groningen’s Noorderzon Festival
By Sandra Mako Sanchez
Stien den Hollander, better known as Dutch rapper and singer S10, enraptured her crowd with a charged set. She called on her audience to sing, and stand up and dance (even if for just the length of a song, regarding covid regulations). Her long black dress, sequined in pink, purple, gold; and silver, with magical creatures, swished over her boots as she danced and cried out. At one point, she stepped off the stage to intimately approach her audience, and walk amongst the rows.
The songs came mostly from her critically acclaimed, most recent album, Vlinders (‘Butterflies’). Fittingly, this album marks Stien’s transformation as an artist. The sound is softer, more danceable; the lyrics are less dark.
In response to questions over her shift in tone in her recent albums, Stien responded that her lyrics were “inspired by what I’ve been through, but I’m not literally shouting how bad it went. I don’t want my music to stir up negative feelings”. The artist admitted to Trouw that listening to dark music had contributed to her own mental deterioration.
Shortly before creating her first album, Antipsychotica, Stien, only 16 at its release, had been committed to solitary confinement at a mental clinic following a suicide attempt. She had struggled with hearing voices and extreme anxiety and depression throughout her life. The clinic was no stranger. Her struggles were documented explicitly in her lyrics.
Now, the artist focuses on more relatable themes, like navigating relationships. When she talks about fighting your demons, there is an element of optimism.
“Hopefully I can show my listeners that almost nothing means the end of the world. That – it is almost too cliché to say – after rain always comes sunshine. And that you are ultimately on your own to get on top of it.”
With her powerful voice and limitless confidence, Stien passed a message of strength in vulnerability. The crowd was inspired by the brilliance with which she overcomes obstacles to engage with the world.
“You can look at me; I will not become smaller,” Stien cried in the outro of Maria.