Feature photo by Alissa Wyle @Holysmokephotography
Emilia Ali arrived at her first Lollapalooza for a performance on the American Eagle stage leaving “overwhelmingly grateful.” The youthful and exuberant singer/songwriter from Boston soaked up every moment during her inaugural Lollapalooza run and lived to tell me about it in the press lounge afterward. Her optimism and excitement is infectious.
“Someone asked me to sign a guitar, and I was like, “Really? Me?” She exudes positive energy and humility, a perfect blend for someone poised to make a real jump right into the spotlight.
Her song Dreamland might contain some of the most directly sexual shit that’s been said on some pop music in a minute. I ask Emilia if she’s aware of the music industry’s progression toward getting to a place where you’re free to say the shit you wanna say on a record. Her response is straightforward and genuine with just enough naïveté to turn the tide:
“Music is just when you’re feeling good, and if you’re feeling good about something, you better sing about it.”
It is impressive and quite refreshing to hear her speak with such conviction and airy, easy-going positivity. The larger societal conversation that needs to be had in regards to sexual liberation and equal gender rights comes into play now, something Emilia does not shy away from speaking on:
“Women especially deserve to feel that they can say whatever the fuck they want and not be taken advantage of for it. You see it all the time. Just because we have these feelings doesn’t mean anything. It’s how we’re feeling and we are allowed to sing about it, we’re allowed to chill.”
Speaking of chill, her song Thick Thighs which contains imagery of “diamonds clouded by sativa,” juxtaposing the idea of physical beauty and chemical makeup in regards to human worth and is wise beyond Emilia’s years.
“(Thick Thighs is) about feeling that you’re being valued only for your body. It’s important for women in general to remember their worth. Even though you are sexy and beautiful and all these things, you are so much more. If someone’s valuing you for only your body, that’s not all you are. You can’t just rely on people and the love they give you. You gotta love yourself.”
This song could fuck around and do just that, vibing on its message of self-love amongst dreamy vocal manipulations and silky reverberations, it is a standout track on an EP showcasing Ali’s obvious potential for alt-pop superstardom.
“I just want everybody to be happy. I wanna spread hugs and love, and I want people to feel good about themselves.”
We briefly chat more about the conversations that take place around campus (at Berklee College of Music where Ali is set to graduate next year), during co-writes and sessions, as I wonder how these ideologies Ali possesses can translate to the real world and transcend the music industry to apply to the world at-large. “When you love music, you’re already vulnerable to the larger conversation.”
Awareness of the bigger picture and an appreciative connection to what’s right in front of her, Emilia Ali is making an impact.
“There have been some kids that have told me that my songs have helped them through dark times or suicidal thoughts, and I just break down every time I hear it because there is no greater privilege than to know you’re helping someone like that. It’s the greatest gift.”