Pictured above: Emily Blue/Photo: Ross Feighery
Emily Blue has been called “bold, provocative, and empowering,” by Atwood Magazine, and one of “Chicago’s most prolific music artists,” by Third Coast Review. One time I made out to her song “Blackberries,” and it was stellar. She’s a pastel pop princess alien with a tendency to tell the truth, and ten out of ten doctors agree that listening to her latest record *69 will result in clearer skin and a deeper appreciation for the complexities of love.
Blue’s latest record *69 was released August 8, 2018. It’s a soundscape of vulnerability and it cuts deep, though you might not realize it at first. Blue’s avant-pop, experimental ambiance mask intimate lyrics such as “I was a virgin until I was 17,” and “I’m telling you I could fuck you longer. You’ll never look away again.” I’m reminded of Tegan and Sara’s album Heartthrob, which is a breakup album in electro-pop sheep’s clothing. Don’t get me wrong. I love some sadgrrl music and regularly cry on the bus while listening to Daughter, but there’s something very refreshing about music that uses contrast to its advantage. *69 invites listeners to dance and honestly examine themselves.
In preparation for my interview with Blue, I treated my exploration of *69 like a first date. What would I gush to my best friend about after I spent time with these songs? What were my initial reactions? Would I grant this EP a second date? Here are my real-time reactions to each track from *69:
Microscope: Electro-pop a la Tegan and Sara’s Heartthrob. Gives us some hard vocals over her sweet and airy sound. “How can we shock the youth of America?”
- Dum Blonde: This beat tho. Outer space noise rock realness. FKA twigs vibe. This song goes hard. “You’ve got to know your power.” This is anthemic.
- Falling In Love: Foster the People meets Janelle Monae? “Hold my drink I think I’m falling in love,” is relatable content. Did she just successfully use “down to clown” in a song? Who is magical enough to steal Blue’s heart I need to know immediately.
- Waterfallz: FKA Twigs. Frank Ocean. Musicality feels like big juicy drops of water falling into your mouth. Flawlessly moves from watery verses to crunchy electronic choruses. This makes me think of the simplicity and vulnerability found in SZA’s lyrics.
- Cellophane: A song to encapsulate the feel of the entire record. I miss feeling safe. When did I stop feeling safe?
Over several cups of coffee, I watched the sunrise to the sounds of *69 in its entirety once again. With a few listens under my belt, I was able to let everything marinate this time. I started to sing along, find my favorite lyrics, dig into the meaty, glittery guts of each song. Cinematic and visceral, Blue’s EP left me hungry for more. Luckily, at this rate, Blue won’t be retiring any time soon. I had the honor of picking the Blue’s sparkly brain about life, love and the pursuit of a long-lasting career in the music industry.
Three words to describe your music, go:
Blue: Neon, spastic, passionate
Tell us about *69. What do you want listeners to walk away with after listening?
Blue: *69 is a sensual, colorful exploration of sex and love. With this record, I just wanted to empower people to become the boldest versions of themselves, whether it be through dancing or just being unapologetic in all walks of life. This record was a wonderful exercise for me in terms of self-confidence. I struggle with anxiety and for me, music is a great way to shake that off. I also want people to smile and feel joy because, to be honest, some aspects of the album are intended to make you laugh.
Do you have a favorite lyric off of *69? Mine is a tie between “Hold my drink, I think I’m falling in love,” and “You’ve got to know your power.”
Blue: Hmm that’s a toughy! My favorite humorous line is “Spice Girls, you know you’re my fave.” (Laughs) But on a more serious note, I really liked writing the lyrics to Microscope. I think they’re some of the darkest and most poetic on the record, and I really pushed myself into new territory with that one. My favorite in that track is maybe “there is a thread that connects our bodies, I am so naked, you’ll never want me,” because I think it shows how you can feel connected to someone while also dealing with insecurity.
What’s your process like? Do you tend to start with the music or the lyrics?
Blue: My process varies per song. A lot of the time I’ll write a top-line or melody and bring it to my producer Max, and we’ll sort of spitball from there. Sometimes, though, I’ll use my guitar or piano to help me build a song skeleton. It’s always fun to try new methods.
For me, lyrics come at the same time as the melody. It’s like freestyling or word-vomit. Writing is where I feel my freest to express all parts of myself, so I try not to overthink. I pull a lot of influence from the radio, whatever I’m listening to on Spotify and old favorites like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and 80’s music.
If you could collaborate with anybody right now, who would it be?
Blue: I think if I could collab with anyone right now it’d be a really badass choreographer (I don’t know anyone personally, but it’s my dream!). I grew up a dancer and miss that part of my life a lot. I incorporate dance into my shows and videos but it’d be so amazing to get an expert to show me the ropes.
Speaking of collaboration, how would you compare performing solo to performing with a full band?
Blue: Performing solo is intimate and vulnerable. I think the audience can probably see a little more into my soul with a solo set, but with the band, you get the full picture and vision. My band splits up all the parts in my music’s production and makes it come to life, which I think makes for a super high-energy live show. We have so much fun and also use elements of performance art—one time we walked my best friend Ryan on a leash across the stage, which got some awesomely weird reactions haha.
What are you currently listening to?
Blue: Tops, Yuck, Porches, SZA.
Would you say that you put on a character when you perform? Or are you 100% yourself on stage and in your videos?
Blue: It’s a mix for sure. Parts of Emily Blue are my everyday self, and parts are the pop queen within! It’s so empowering to dress in latex and wigs and take on a new persona because you realize that there really are no limits. When I go to work or the store or hang out with friends I wear little to no makeup and just kind of exist, but on stage, I get to put my sexuality and aesthetic on display. I use so much color and really enjoy the process of building my own world in a performance.
After listening to Blue’s EP, I walked away with thoughts that merge the past and the present. I thought of past lovers and the ways in which I’ve grown stronger since I loved them. I thought of past versions of myself and the ways in which I’ve grown stronger in the landscape of time. I felt a deep appreciation for both the hard and soft sides of myself–the willingness to love and be loved, on one hand, and the cynicism and fear, on the other hand.
Our power comes from the ability to let the two sides co-exist. Blue not only lets them co-exist but flourish and nurture her art. For that, I am grateful.