Live shows, Nudity and Feminism: In Conversation with Lola Young

Still from the video for 'Woman' by Lola Young

“Everyone felt so free and brave and vulnerable, but also really sexy. It brought so many women together and we were all cheering each other.”

This is how Lola Young described filming the video to Woman, her latest single, while chatting to me on Zoom. I asked her what the atmosphere was like on set and how it felt to be fully naked, surrounded by other naked women: “It was super empowering.”

Watching the video is equally empowering. Women of different shapes, sizes and colours are lit in cherry-red hues as they dance unapologetically. It’s the perfect vision for Lola’s deep, velvety tones and feminist message. The women might be naked, but they’re not dancing for the male gaze. “We need to stop sexualising, fetishizing and romanticising women’s bodies” she said to me, exasperated at the notion.

Aged just 19, Lola represents the new generation of music artists who are shaking up the industry. Her message is refreshingly simple: men and women should be treated with equal respect. She conveys this through heartfelt lyrics, often to soulful piano and slow synths. When I spoke to her about the future of music, her answers were thoughtful and insightful, offering a glimpse into her world.

You’re clearly a natural performer and thrive during live shows. Do you think socially distanced gigs can work?

No, it’s just not possible. People will want to dance, move and sweat. That’s an important aspect of live shows.

How about virtual concerts?

I did a few live Zoom sessions, but it just wasn’t for me. Each to their own, but I found them quite awkward. I’ll return to performing live when I can. In the meantime, I’ve taken time to think about what I really want as a musician.

Your music transcends many styles and genres. Do you find it frustrating when people try to pigeonhole you?

Yeah, it’s quite annoying actually. I’m told quite a bit that I make RnB or neo-soul. But I make music of many different kinds. It’s all changing – the way we listen to and digest music is changing.

What are your thoughts on streaming and how it’s changing the music industry?

Streaming has been around for most of my career, so I can’t really judge. It definitely has pros and cons. It’s very fast, portable, and easy. People from all around the world have access. But then again, no one really cares. It’s all about attention span at the moment. With Spotify and Apple Music, you don’t feel like you’re buying songs, so music doesn’t feel like it’s worth anything. When I used to buy 99p singles on my iPod as a kid, I really cared about those songs, because I paid money and bought them.