MERRY JANE’s Spotify Playlist Takeover: SEMMA
The UK’s next pop icon shares her favorite tunes of the moment and discusses her new EP, “Ribbons & Bows.” In her words: “I wanna take you on a vocal rollercoaster ride."
Published on April 11, 2019

Welcome back to another edition of MERRY JANE’s Spotify Playlist Takeover series. For this installment, the up-and-coming (and soon to be iconic) pop sorcerer Semma compiled a mix of some seriously slamming tunes, both new and old.

“It's an anytime, anywhere listen kinda playlist,” explains Semma. “It’s got a very ‘90s throwback vibe, but with some futuristic elements in there.” This description mirrors the artist’s own music, which takes cues from vocal powerhouses in the vein of Whitney, Mariah, and Madonna while sounding anything but dated. 

That’s partially thanks to producer Kingdom, whose gift for creating sui generis soundscapes is rivaled by few. Together, the two have crafted Ribbons & Bows — one of the most nuanced and hair-raising records of the year so far. 

Semma will be performing tonight in LA alongside Kingdom and Fade to Mind fam Girl Unit. Get your tickets here, and keep reading for both the playlist and an interview with the rising star.

MERRY JANE: Can you tell me about the EP name Ribbons & Bows? Where does it come from and what does it mean to you?

Semma: Ribbons & Bows was the first track I wrote on the EP. I wanted something ultra feminine for the title, almost dream/fantasy-like. I keep a lot of titles under my sleeve to use in future music. I'd had this title for a long long time, and I knew I wanted to use it. 

Kingdom had started this shimmering ballad, which was quite different from what he'd played me before. It was very classic sounding and I instantly heard a ballad. It's actually very Stevie Wonder, inspired on the melodic side and even lyrically. The imagery of Ribbons and Bows is very decorative and embellished, and that's how I like to use my voice — everything a little over the top and fancy.

As the title is super girly, it was a conscious decision to make the EP cover go against the title. It's a hard, monochrome, ‘90s-inspired image. Black leather and vinyl. No pink, no frills and no bows.... but that another side of me [laughs]

When did you start singing, as well as writing music? Were there any particular albums or artists who inspired you to start creating your own stuff?

I've always sang as far back as I can remember, but definitely around the ages of five or six, is when it really took over. I would sing whole Disney soundtracks. Musicals, Grease, and then I was blown away by Sister Act 2. I did this R&B version of Annie's “Tomorrow,” and my family would ask me: 'Why do you say 'ta-hoo-morrow' instead of tomorrow?’ I was just a little kid singing soulfully. We'd have screaming competitions, but I would always scream the highest. I later realized that I was just using my whistle register.

In the background, there was more iconic stuff being played Janet Jackson, Britney, Michael, Madonna. I loved George Michael, too. Then there were the divas I discovered a few years later. Whitney, Celine Dion... but I liked Mariah Carey the most, not just for her range, but when she sang about not fitting in in her childhood, I felt that.

I guess I wrote my first song at around 11 and never stopped. I started with music so young and I have a built-in mechanism that I'll take with me forever. It's just a part of me. I'm not really interested in trends, I just like what I like. I like 'over the top' ad-libs. I like high notes. I write whatever comes from the heart and I don't really think about what's 'in.’ I wanna take you on a vocal rollercoaster ride. I feel like singing so young was such a blessing; it prepared me. I was this lonely kid who sang for hours, but never told anyone. Hours of self training made me who I am.

MERRY JANE is based in Los Angeles, California and is dedicated to elevating the discussion around cannabis culture.
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