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EXCLUSIVE! Kinley Cunningham is officially a solo artist—and you won't believe what inspired her first single "Heart Beats"

If you've ever seen Kinley Cunningham on your phone screen, you know it's nearly impossible to look away from the super talented, ultra-positive, extra (in the best way) performer.

And it's that big, bold energy (and her amaze dance/acting/vocal abilities) that got Kinley ~srsly~ noticed and beloved on social media, then the 2021 JoJo Siwa reality series Siwas Dance Pop Revolution then as a founding member of the girl group XOMG POP!—and now, less than a year after leaving XOMG, as a breakout artist ready to be a star on her own.

"I'm so excited to be my own artist and show people who I am," Kinley, now 13, shares with Girls' Life. And, on Feb. 2, it's all happening with the release of her first single "Heart Beats," written by Alisan Porter and Ely Weisfeld and produced by Porter and Chris Rosa. Get the exclusive scoop on the song (and where Kinley's career is headed next) here... 

Girls' Life: We can't stop singing along to "Heart Beats"—it's so empowering. What's the story behind the song?

Kinley: It's about being yourself. If you're in a relationship that doesn't allow you to be yourself—a best friendship, a work relationship, a friend group, whatever it is—reminding you that your heart beats on its on. You don't need anyone but yourself. 

Girls' Life: And how would you describe your sound on the track?

Kinley: Pop, sometimes contemporary. You can have a dance party with it, you can also do lyrical [dance] to it. It's really cool. I had so much fun doing this with my music producer Alisan Porter. I can't wait for people to listen. 

Girls' Life: Any artists inspiring your music rn?

Kinley: Of course, Taylor Swift. I'm a big Swiftie. And Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, Mckenna Grace. And Lady Gaga has that sassy, fierce vibe and I love that. I absolutely love musicals, too—Mean Girls, Beetlejuice—they're so fun to sing.

Girls' Life: You've gone through a lot of personal growth since leaving XOMG POP! last year.

Kinley: Now that I'm a teenager, I feel like my music has matured. My sound is different and I'm excited for people to see how much it's changed. In the music video you'll be able to see how my style has changed, too—I'm kind of preppy, a bit Y2K in there. 

Girls' Life: And your dance has grown a lot, too.

Kinley: Definitely, I've branched out to new styles, and even in my same styles I've matured. Instead of doing, like, crazy faces, I've dialed it down. But not too much. I'm always full out.

Girls' Life: Has there ever been a point where you questioned your "full out" self?

Kinley: On social media, there are a lot of hate comments, like, "oh, why are you doing those crazy faces?! That looks ugly. That looks bad." I've gotten really sad from those and thought, like, oh, should I not do that?!

No! I am myself. I need to do what I want to do and be the person that I want to be. The hate comments don't mean anything—my parents don't even let me read them anymore. I love being me—if someone doesn't like it, then that's on them. But as I've matured, I like to find a balance of toning it down then going full out. 

Girls' Life: Has acting pushed you to discover that balance?

Kinley: Acting has definitely helped. I've learned I don't always have to be big and bubbly. I can bring it down or do a more dramatic scene.

Girls' Life: What's your go-to confidence booster?

Kinley: My best friends. They're always there. They're just like, "we love your personality, don't change who you are." They are so supportive and that means a lot to me. Having friends who love you, who have your back, it's really amazing.

Girls' Life: How do you know you've found a best friend like that?

Kinley: When I meet someone new, I feel like we bond with our energy. Like, maybe she doesn't really get me, or I don't really know what she's talking about, it's not a fit. But a best friend matches your energy. They support you through everything.

Girls' Life: Finally, biggest hopes and dreams for the future?

Kinley: Making an album would be so cool, so much fun. I'm so excited for more music and more music videos—that's a big part for me, it's the chance to really express what the song's about. My biggest dream would be a tour. 

But for now, I am just so excited for "Heart Beats." I hope that it inspires people to go after their dreams...because I'm going after mine! 

Stream "Heart Beats" HERE now!

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Image: Jen Rosenstein.

by Katherine Hammer | 2/2/2024