Explore Issue 01 of LOOP Magazine

Featuring Sam Tompkins and Victor Ray as our cover stars, as well as internal spreads from Girli, Jords, Mysie, Finn Askew, Kara Marni and Master Peace

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Introducing Emei: The Jersey Songwriter Who Flipped A Nursery Rhyme Into Something Creepy

Image courtesy of Emily Li/Instagram

She comes from a Mandarin-speaking Chinese immigrant family. Neither of her parents came from musical backgrounds as they were in the engineering sector and accounting. Nonetheless, they hired a vocal coach for Emei, gambling on their daughter’s raw talent. With the laptop her parents bought, Emei practiced her vocals by performing karaoke in her room, memorizing the lyrics of all of the top artists she heard that day.

While this was before her musical career, at that point, Emei had a running start at A&R duties, spending all of her free time searching for new artists when she wasn’t singing. She learned that she liked doing it, and wanted more of the action. Emei started to imitate vocally the artists she liked most, learning about their vocal technique and style. Doing this also allowed Emei to easily recognize which notes she could and could not comfortably hit, and where the tension might be in her voice, if any. It taught her the differences between how a tuned vocal sounds versus what raw vocals are like. (Side note: It is very rare for the vocal to sound exactly the same during a live performance as it does in pre and post-production, and some autotune is necessary for good sounding vocals on any song. Yes, even on the ones that “have none.” It has it, but the engineer has disguised it so it’s undetectable. Learning that helped me so much as a vocalist, and it could help so many others in the same shoes as me and Emei.)

Emei describes her music as bridging the gap between the best of the old and the new. Fun fact: Emei placed third in Chinese Idol at the age of 15. She has even had the experience of what it’s like to be on tour, which is huge for rising artists. While on tour, Emei performed songs targeted towards Chinese-Americans, like herself, who lived in the Tri-State area. Again, this is smart marketing, and she’s learning about the business side of music–all before having turned 18. Now 20, Emei has since released original music independently on Chinese platforms. She’s also performed on Dancing with the Stars in China. In an article published by Mahesh Agarwhal for Yale Daily News, Emei mentioned that she would perform in restaurants, providing her with experience in live performance and audience retention. She found that her audience loved music performed in her Native language, Mandarin. She also found that her specialty was singing Chinese songs to Chinese audiences. Armed with this information, Emei was ready to really sink her teeth in. She wanted once and for all to conquer the world of independent artistry.

Emei has gained a fanbase of over 146,503 monthly listeners on Spotify at the time of writing this, with “Late To The Party” being streamed over 2 million times since its initial release in 2021 through Joyride Music Group. Emei still finds education important to pursue outside of music. She’s currently a senior majoring in cognitive science at the world renowned Yale University, at the Timothy Dwight College in New Haven, Connecticut.

I discovered Emei on TikTok through her song “Better People To Leave On Read,” about a personal situation with a friendship that went sour. “Late To The Party” was the one that stood out to me, with what looked like a professionally curated music video to go along with it. It made me instantly fall in love with her image and her sound. The song starts out “Twenty one, without a grammy or degree” as though she should be ashamed, or should feel upset. The song continues, echoing the responses of her peers, herself, or possibly both. “Too bad,” it says, and “That’s sad,” showcasing a case of being around the wrong people. The music video even sets the stage at a college party. The verse then goes on, “Maybe at twenty three,” where Emei finally starts to feel like it’s possible. There’s a breakthrough that happens through this song. Emei isn’t a “late bloomer,” she’s figuring things out through trial and error. She’s making the mistakes necessary to learn and grow from in order to get to where she deserves to be, which is a respected musician who makes a living off of their art.

The mind, and the subconscious mind at that, is a powerful thing and it will believe whatever you tell it. If you tell yourself stories of how you are no good at something, or you’re somehow not good enough in some way, even as a joke, your brain cannot tell the difference. It will take this story literally, and it will manifest in destructive behavior outwardly. Emei picks at herself throughout the rest of the opening verse, asking herself what do they have that I don’t? Friends from high school are getting engaged and married, while she feels alone surrounded by friends, reflecting on her past.

Image courtesy of Emily Li/Instagram

“Late To The Party” was created with friend and roommate, Lucas Sim, who she moved to Los Angeles with after lockdown procedures began and Emei found she had to re-evaluate her plans of making it in China. She set her sights on a career in the U.S., and has been growing ever since. The song was born from reflective thoughts about her own age, and about the differences in Gen-Z and millenials, and how people are becoming influencers as a career move these days. Granted, it seems so easy but the climb in organic reach comes after years or months of hard work figuring out the information Emei already has about her audience. A cross-over album would set her apart from the rest, and allow her to enjoy a taste of her musical roots.

“Late To The Party” sees Emei going through a period of self-discovery, experiencing many changes in her life. In her ordinary life, the friends she has around her are growing older, able to make major purchases like buying a house. Around musicians, she notices she has no accolades to her name. The people she is around are winning Grammys and she’s still independent after the hard work she’s put in to grow her skills in music.

“Really I just wanna be on the stage. Why do I care about people my age?”

It’s only human nature to compare oneself to those around them, but with social media, this phenomenon is made even worse. Whether or not that was the intention behind it, you’re made to feel as though you should be living the life of those on the screen. Whether it’s people from your hometown, or well-known celebrities and other public figures; comparison is at an all time high with social media users, and that’s exactly what Emei touches on in the song. The feeling of being behind in life, or “late to the party,” as the song suggests is something that a lot of people experience all around the world. Even celebrities admit that, through the use of social media, they have felt themselves become more disconnected from themselves and found themselves comparing someone else’s life to their own. The thing is, social media is simply a highlight reel because no one posts all of their ups and downs there, at least not on Instagram. Sometimes, you’ll see that with users of TikTok but on Instagram, the platform where almost everyone you know is, comparison is inevitable.

Emei explains in a TikTok, “I have always wanted to take a nursery rhyme and put my own spin on it to make it creepy, and I did that.”  

I hate to love it! It’s something like out of a horror movie, or a psychological thriller. Could you imagine? The films that song could get placed in”…

Emei opened up, saying that while she recognizes her talent, and her prior accomplishments, something she learned early on in TV and film is that “the buzz around her could stop at any moment.” Until it does, go ahead and click that follow button on Spotify because you won’t regret it.

Follow Emei on her journey :

Facebook   |   Twitter  |   Instagram   |   TikTok  

Words by Megan Vineberg

Posted On 4 October, 2022