Nico’s Final Years: Darkly Beautiful

“I’ve been at the top. I’ve been at the bottom,” says the title character in Susanna Nicchiarelli’s biopic, Nico, 1988. “Both places are empty.” The sentiment perfectly sums up the late German singer’s nihilistic, affectless power. Coupled with her beauty—boldly drawn features and the two-dimensional planes of her face—it gave her, at least in my adoring teenage mind, the right to be called a latter-day icon before that became a thing. Her barely tuneful songs and limited musical range only added to her imperious allure. Yet the same merciless qualities that had fans worship at her dark altar made her hard to like.

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