Like the random virality of TikTok, some of the best — and most successful — songwriting comes when you least expect it.
In the case of "flowers & sex," the latest single from EMELINE, her song idea emerged after she spent the morning shopping for plants. Later in-studio, the LA singer reflected on that experience and her "chaotic" love life: "I just want flowers and sex! Is that too much to ask for?" she asked her team, before recording a demo in two hours and then popping a preview up on her TikTok with no expectations.
On her ride home though, EMELINE noticed something was happening. Within hours, her post had 100k views and would eventually climb well into the millions. The people demanded a full, final version of "flowers & sex," so she quickly returned to the studio to finish recording the track. "Especially in the first few days" of going viral, EMELINE says she "got this overwhelming feeling in my heart and would just start sobbing out of joy. I'm so thankful and excited."
The blunt pop anthem, performed alongside SMLE, arrives at a time when people are craving a little self-love and a lot of sexual pleasure after a year of endless isolation. "Most of us are pretty thirsty for flowers and sex at the moment," EMELINE says, describing "flowers & sex" as a "really fun" track that people "need right now as the world starts to slowly open up again."
For her, its lyrics hold special significance — especially as a queer woman taking ownership of her sexuality in front of her 260k TikTok followers. "Not only is it casually talking about sex, but it's sending the message that it is more than okay, and in fact powerful, to figure out what it is that you want and ask for it," she says. "It's refreshing to hear this conversation about sex in a casual manner within the world of pop."
Below, PAPER dives a bit deeper into the success of "flowers & sex" and talks with EMELINE about what's next.
When did you realize your song "flowers & sex" was going viral and what was your initial reaction to its success?
I was driving home from the studio and freaked out that it had 100,000 views on just the drive home. I kept refreshing my phone; watching the numbers climb up was incredibly addictive. I picked up the phone, and called my co-writer Rez and my producers, SMLE. I was like, "You guys, my video from today is going viral, we need to get back to the studio like right now to write the second verse and record it." For the next three days, I watched myself gain over 200,000 followers [on TikTok] and watched the video climb up to 1 million views, which turned into 10 million views. I've been working on my craft so hard for so long and my music is my everything. Especially in the first few days, I got this overwhelming feeling in my heart and would just start sobbing out of joy. I'm so thankful and excited; my heart feels so full.
Why do you think that track in particular is resonating with such a large audience?
I think this song is reaching a large audience because of the message that it holds. Not only is it casually talking about sex, but it's sending the message that it is more than okay, and in fact powerful, to figure out what it is that you want and ask for it. Especially as a woman, where society has taught us to do the opposite of that sexually and beyond. It's refreshing to hear this conversation about sex in a casual manner within the world of pop. The song is also just really fun and coming out of the year that we had, I think that's what people want and need right now as the world starts to slowly open up again. Most of us are pretty thirsty for flowers and sex at the moment; at least I am.
"It is more than okay, and in fact powerful, to figure out what it is that you want and ask for it."
How do you think this single represents you as an artist?
For much of my career as a writer and an artist, I've sung about how other people have hurt me and have made me feel. This song really represents me as an artist and a person because it's my moment to own my power — I'm not singing about anyone being an asshole. I'm simply asking for what I want, which is something that I've personally struggled with and it feels like a big achievement to have found this confidence and share it with others.
Is there a real-life situation that inspired the lyrics of "flowers & sex"?
The day we wrote this song was the day before my co-writer Rez's birthday. I had gone to like four succulent shops trying to find him a plant for his birthday and everything was closed that morning. On the drive over to the studio, I saw a man selling flowers on the side of the road and pulled over and bought them. When we got to the studio I was talking about my chaotic relationship/ sex life per usual. I looked at the flowers and said, "I just want flowers and sex! Is that too much to ask for?" That was our starting point and two hours later the song was finished. We were jumping around and freaking out realizing how awesome the song we made was. This is when I made the TikTok that quickly went viral; the song wasn't even done when it started getting millions of views and I had to rush back to the studio to finish it. After we wrote the song I looked at the flowers and I was like, "Oh my God, this bouquet is literally shaped like a penis. It's a fucking sign." And I think it was.
What was the collaborative process behind creating this single?
It was a very collaborative process and this song was actually in the works for three years. Three years ago, I had a session with SMLE and MEMBA where we made the track and I had a completely different song over it. The session was so fun and I think you can totally tell when you listen to the track. We made it at SMLE's old house in the valley and we just ran around the backyard. We literally found a pickaxe and chopped a stump of a tree, which is the percussion you hear in the drop. I was singing a riff from an Alicia Keys song that we ended up chopping up for the drop. I'm a big fan of using my voice and making weird sounds as instruments, and you will hear that in all of my songs to come. Making original sounds is a great way to create a signature sound as an artist because it's something nobody has heard before. Since that day, I've been obsessed with handheld sample mics. Two weeks ago, I was going through my file of 95 songs and came across this one. I thought the song could be better, so I made us all get back into the studio and finish it. I'm so incredibly happy we did because it has completely changed my life.
What are some of your favorite TikToks made to this?
I've made so many friends on TikTok, and there has been a lot of creativity that has inspired me through covers and features on TikTok. Especially as a queer woman, it's been really nice to connect with the queer music community and see that the LGBTQ+ community has been at the forefront of my supporters. Here are a few powerful, creative and entertaining responses that I've received:
Their voice is amazing and this went viral
This is the most clever response
My mom and her friends choreographed a dance to the song
Here is me crying because Rez framed the "penis birthday flowers"
This one is some hot tea and also she's a queen
I just love seeing women look confident and that my song makes them feel that way
I can't stop laughing
We loved a Princess Diaries moment
Her vocal tone is stunning
"Especially as a queer woman, it's been really nice to connect with the queer music community and see that the LGBTQ+ community has been at the forefront of my supporters."
Has the virality of this track influenced the way you're approaching music moving forward?
It's definitely easy to compare my future creative process to how "flowers & sex" came about. But I would say that's been more of a positive thing because the support of "flowers & sex" has validated me so much in that people like me being who I genuinely am. I've been approaching the next songs with the same unapologetic confidence; it feels really great. I am thriving off this energy at the moment and have made some of my favorite songs to date within the past week alone.
After "flowers & sex," what can we expect from you next?
I am working on an insane music video at the moment, which I am also directing. I'm really excited to follow this single with a few more singles before launching a body of work. It's been a dream of mine to release an EP with a theme and a story that unfolds. I can't wait to share that this year!
Keep streaming "flowers & sex," below.