Emma Dilemma is an artist from Christchurch, New Zealand.
The self-described ‘patron saint of self sabotage’ combines her penchant for viewing life through an absurdist lens with her love for melody and storytelling to create serious music that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Having spent the past few years performing in bands, Emma spent months on and off throughout 2019 and 2020 working with Melbourne-based production duo, Le Sauvage (Harley Webster [Phrase], and Alex Markwell [The Delta Riggs]) in their Collingwood studio The Milk Bar, putting together genre-bending tunes inspired by her love for music from the 90s & 2000s, and the confidence she finally found in herself after a youth filled with anxiety, fear, and low self esteem.
Emma dropped her debut single “We Should Give a Shit” in January 2021, An irreverent track about partying and next-day regret.
“Is it a track to show your grandma? Probably not. Is it a track to get shit-faced to in a car park? Absolutely.” - Happy Mag, Feb 2021
Influenced by artists such as Sleigh Bells, The Beastie Boys and Beck, Emma explains that ‘We Should Give a Shit’ is “a battle cry for partying with my friends. I know that I’m going to regret it the next day, but I will never say no to an all-nighter with good people. We always say we’ll reign it in next time… but we never do. It’s just how we are…”
Off the back of this debut, Emma toured New Zealand across 6 dates throughout February where during each show, she asked the audiences to help her film the music video for We Should, an almost completely ‘fan made’ video after an overwhelming number of audience video submissions.
Emma teamed up with award-winning indigenous director, Amber Beaton, to film 3 collaborative music videos back-to-back in 3 days, the first of which was released in March for Emma’s second track, New Attraction.
Doing almost a sonic 180° from We Should, New Attraction is a story told to a disco beat about being newly single and ready to party and embrace your single-dom; but the universe has other plans and has sent an absolute love-at-first-sight-level hottie to the same club and you have no choice but to give in to temptation and fall in love again - even if just for one night.
“I wanted to reflect that story literally in the music video, but with a twist”, says Emma of the clip.
“Taking influence from a variety of genres, Emma’s music is as unique as her. With roots in pop-punk, Emma has continued to grow and mould her sound and wants each release to be different from the last.” - Something Different, March 2021
Emma released the third track, I Want It, in April; complete with a self-produced, directed and edited music video reflecting on the subject of the song: consumerism.
“Every day we are shown thousands of images in our news feeds of hot models trying to sell us things; food, alcohol, tropical destinations, body sculpting products and diet pills. And we are all susceptible to falling for the message: More is MORE!”
“Even I get sucked into these things - I noticed my house filling up with shit trinkets that I don’t need, or just straight out didn’t work like they claimed to. I realised how much of an idiot I was for spending my money on this shit that I simply wanted. When the guitar riff was conceived, all these things just started pouring out of me that I’d been advertised in that past week. The song is my desperate plea to feel like I’m normal, sane, and okay for wanting these things. But ultimately it’s a message to myself: NO YOU FUCKING DON’T.”
On the concept of the video, Emma says, “I wanted to show the reality of shit accumulating around you to the point of suffocation, and I wanted to play with stop-motion to the beat of the song. So I found 127 things in my home, built a set, and got to work taking away one item at a time and taking a photo after each thing was taken away. I then edited it in reverse so it starts with me looking sad in my empty home, and as more and more things appear, I become more and more maniacally happy drowning in my wares.”
Following up in May; Emma released her fourth track, Cooperate, a fictional story told in first person placing Emma in the role of everyone’s worst nightmare: an obsessive stalker. Placed over the top of a Weezer-meets-The-Verve musical bed, Emma goes through the motions of following an attractive person she saw on the street to their house, to find out that they are a perfect romantic match. There is just one catch: she needs her subject to Cooperate.
“This was one of those songs that just fell out in 10 minutes - which is a bit of worry that these words were floating around in my subconscious? I hope people can connect with the humour in this track!” she laughs.
As a video Cooperate was another self produced, directed and edited video for a one-shot story which starts out as an innocent performance of the song but as the song and video progress, you realise she is at the window of her subjects’ house, peering in and spying on them whilst getting more and more determined in her delivery of the track.
Emma also hosts a weekly livestream show with her partner, Moses, from their living room showcasing live music, taking audience requests for cover songs, reflecting on life and connecting with her audience on a direct and personal level.
With a busy first few months of her career, Emma Dilemma plans to release 8 more songs, each with accompanying videos, showcasing her inner world and her sense of irreverent unease at the world we find ourselves facing in 2021.
The next key track ‘Bounce’ set for release is a cheeky ode to sex and love. Emma sings through the ups and downs of long-term relationships. Fuelled by passion, trust and loyalty, ‘Bounce’ sends the message that despite the harder and darker parts of a relationship, there is no other person she would rather spend her life with than the person she wrote this song for.
“My partner actually popped into Le Sauvage’s studio at the end of the recording session and ended up singing some of the backing vocals on the track which strengthened my connection to the song and why I had written it. You can also hear me telling them off at the start of the song (‘why has he got a cigarette?’) as I saw them leaving the studio to go have a smoke with one of my producers even though we had decided to quit smoking a couple weeks prior! It was all just perfect, given the lyrics of the song having me talk about our fights as well as our make ups, so I asked to keep that in the recording.”
On the video Emma explains ;
I wanted to be bold and challenge myself for the video of this song; how can I show sex without making a porno? How can I do that without oversexualising myself or being too serious? The name and playful nature of the song immediately brought jumping on trampolines to mind, and the rest kinda fell together with me being at a point in my life where as a woman I’m challenging myself to love the skin I’m in, and see my body the way my partner sees my body. I had a lot of fun making this video with Amber Beaton and I hope everyone gets a good laugh from watching it.