Image counts for Instagram music sensation Niykee Heaton

Just as Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes used social media to fuel their quests for stardom, so has Nikyee Heaton. But while Bieber used YouTube and Mendes used Vine, YouTube veteran Heaton, 21, has gained the most traction from her Instagram account.

Her series of come-hither poses have helped this Illinois-bred singer-songwriter become a thirst trap - parlance for someone whose public image is designed to attract attention.

There is no small irony to Heaton’s claims in interviews that she despises social media, since she owes her buzz-act status almost entirely to her ability to generate online heat in suggestive photos. Those photos suggest she is more comfortable baring her body and playing up her undeniable sex appeal than she is in baring her soul in her songs. How well, or not, she is able to deliver those songs on a concert stage will be demonstrated when she performs Saturday at Observatory North Park.

Taking her musical cues from Lana Del Ray, Nikki Minaj, Corrine Bailey Rae and - Heaton claims - Tom Waits and Bob Dylan, she writes, performs and produces her own songs. Some of them have promise, although her lyrics too often strive to be clever. And her odes to sexual empowerment are counterbalanced by the very thin line between empowerment and self-exploitation for financial gain..

Heaton’s challenge now is to develop her music, not her sex bomb image. Whether she’s willing to do so remains to be seen.

Niykee Heaton: 8 p.m. Saturday. Observatory North Park, 2891 University Avenue, North Park. $20 (general admission); $89 (VIP meet-and-greet package). (619) 239-8826 or

Twitter @georgevarga

Source: Discover SD