It's been a few of months since alt-pop queen MARINA first released her impactful single, "Man's World." Now, with the help of musicians Empress Of and Pabllo Vittar, MARINA's track has a remixed sound and amplified message.
Following MUNA's clubby take on "Man's World," Empress Of's update begins with a Spanish ad lib that doubles down on the original empowering lyrics while honoring her Honduran roots. Then there's Pabllo, who sings MARINA's second verse about a "sheik who killed thousands of gay men," bringing in his own lived experience as a drag queen in homophobic Brazil.
Reflecting on this version and how it could inspire change, MARINA says it all begins with dismantling our ideas of gender. "This idea that we're all made up of both feminine and masculine energy still isn't something that's really thought about or accepted," she says. "Hence men have been conditioned or brought up to believe that they don't possess any feminine parts of themselves and that to be feminine is bad, but I think it's such a shame because I believe that's what we're all comprised of."
Below, PAPER caught up with MARINA, Empress Of and Pabllo Vittar to talk about their new remix, living in a "Man's World" and what it will take to see some serious change.
How are you all doing, right now?
Empress Of: I think I'm okay. But it's gotten to the point where it's so intense, being away from your career for so long and shifting your reality to be this age. I miss playing shows the most. At the root of it all, I miss people, I miss loud sounds and I miss music. But other than that, I think I'm okay.
MARINA: Out of all the professions you can have, being an artist, at least, gives you quite a lot of agency, and so we're fortunate in that way. A lot of us have worked from home anyway — I've always written from home. I've been able to set up a studio here so I've been able to continue to actually do my job, but I do miss touring. But I think it depends on what kind of person you are because I'm quite introverted, so I like a lot of alone time.
Pabllo Vittar: I'm okay. Taking care of myself and my family, working the way I can right now and hoping for better times soon. Can't wait to hit the road again.
How did you all first hear each other's music?
Pabllo: I've been a huge Marina fan for a long time now! Froot is one of my favorite albums ever and I saw her show in 2016 at Lollapalooza Brazil. So when I got the invitation to be a part of the remix I freaked out. A couple of years ago I was watching her show and now I am working with her.
Empress Of: Marina, I don't know when you heard my music cause you're like, a pop star. In the best sense of the word.
MARINA: Oh, I'm not a pop star [laughs]. Thank you.
Empress Of: She's an introverted pop star. I've heard of your music and I've heard your music for quite some time. I get asked to do quite a bit of remixes. I didn't even ask what the budget was or the timeline or any of those questions that you ask. I was just like, "I'll do it." Especially when I heard the song I was like, "This is so sick," and I was thinking of how to make this have that energy for the dance floor. I've known about you for some time and it was really exciting to have this opportunity.
MARINA: You've totally smashed the remix. By the way, I'm not a big remix person, so for me to be obsessed with the remix is unusual.
Empress Of: I'm not a big remix person either and I have dreams where I'm like, "It'd be amazing to get this person to do it," and then they're like, "Yeah, we can do it two years from now," or something. It is nice when you can more collaborate with someone. Especially the way we did it with Pabllo, it was so cool.
MARINA: It feels like its own thing. It doesn't quite feel like a remix, it's a different imagining.The first time I heard you was through Kito.
Empress Of: You know Kito?
MARINA: Not very well, but I was looking for female producers a while ago and we were going to do something together. It didn't end up happening, but I found out about you through her.
Empress Of: Kito is so talented as a producer and an artist, and I respect her highly. You should work with her. Someone should make it happen. I feel like you guys should just DM each other and maybe meet up or something.
Why did you decide to remix "Man's World" in the first place?
MARINA: MUNA, Empress Of and Pabllo are quite specific artists, and they're artists who my fans listen to. It's not like an obscure dance producer. It just makes sense for this record because, my albums differ quite a lot from record to record, and sometimes I write them completely on my own, and other times I collaborate heavily and I do more pop-leaning records, but this next one is not that. It's a weird record. So having artists who are experimental and get that side or have that side in their own music means that it made sense to ask them if they wanted to remix, as well.
Empress Of: I do think the artists that she chose are interesting, and not totally dance-leaning with the music that they make. It makes a lot of sense for the artists that she chose.
Pabllo: I love and trust MARINA's work. So when my manager told me that she wanted me for the remix, I said "yes" immediately. After she sent me the music, my team and I started to work on our part of it. Besides that, I am a man, but I am also tired living in a man's world, you know?
What was the process like creating this remix?
Empress Of: It's pretty much the same as any other process. You get stems for a song, which is always really fun because you get to hear every isolated thing, and you decide what parts of the original track you want to keep in to have the essence of the song, or do you just keep the vocal and make everything else different. I loved listening to the stems of the song because there are so many textural layers that the listener doesn't hear and they're just like a bed of sound. There are so many guitars on this song that are like a wall of sound, reverb layers, which is really beautiful.
Pabllo: Unfortunately, we couldn't meet and go to the studio together. We did everything online, which is not that unusual, but not ideal. I hope we can work together again after this pandemic. I love being in the studio with great artists like them and creating together.
The meaning behind "Man's World" is already so important. What do you think the remixed version adds?
Pabllo: That there is also a lot of men, like myself, tired of living in a man's world. We still live in a world made by and for straight white men and, you know what, we are sick of it.
MARINA: Having Pabllo on it changes the direction of the message. When I wrote it, it was always meant to be all-encompassing. This isn't about the base level opinion, which is, "This is a song about women hating men." We've grown past that kind of perspective. I wrote it thinking about all human beings. Straight men are not even benefiting from living in a world where 98% of the power is held by men. Pabllo is a figurehead for the LGBTQ community and has been a huge voice in Brazil where we know the situation is quite brutal, as far as my understanding. Hearing Pabllo sing the lyrics, it's that extra weight. I'm super proud to have you both on it and it definitely reemphasizes the original message.
Empress Of: The lyrics to the song are really beautiful. Working on the song initially was fun because I got to, in a way, turn up the emphasis of the chorus by just putting a four-on-the-floor kick and driving that energy. But just having Pabllo on it... I'm Honduran-American and we got a Brazilian singer, I wanted to throw in some Spanish ad libs.
Empress Of: So I have this vocal sample of at the beginning of the end of the song where this person is saying, "The woman thinks, she's strong." I wanted to drive home the emphasis of the feeling of the song by adding this ad lib. The woman is just as capable of doing anything that a man can do, that's what the ad lib was saying at the beginning of the song. I really felt it, so I wanted to amp up that feeling of living in a man's world.
MARINA: Yeah, I love those bits. They add so much character. Those are my favorite bits of the remix.
How does this work compare to previous releases?
Pabllo: I really need to show this to my audience too. I love a lot of different rhythms and I want to sing them all [laughs]. I think I've never done something like this song and I loved doing that. I want to add more variety to my repertoire. It is also super important to me, personally.
MARINA: Nothing else on my album is like "Man's World," so it's not like it's signaling the direction, necessarily. It does with the production a bit because it is much more textured and there's way more live instruments on there. I'm not conscious of it or purposeful, I just at the time of writing write whatever I'm absorbing socially or on a personal level.
Empress Of: Would you say the subject matter of this song is similar or different to other stuff on the record? Is it socially conscious of what's going on in the world or are you writing about very personal stuff that's more subjective?
MARINA: I think it is a sociopolitical record, for sure. I feel like it can't not be in this time. It's not about the pandemic so much. I mean, they're all inspired by events that we've all witnessed, but I started writing it last summer. "Man's World" was written in summer 2019. So some of the songs on this record are weirdly relevant, but they weren't written in that time because obviously these social issues have existed for ages. It's just the pandemic is making everything feel very accentuated. But there are some personal songs. I'm not a huge love songwriter, I am more interested in social stuff
Empress Of: As for me, making remixes is really fun because I can pretend to be someone else, but make production the way I would want to make it. And also on my records, being a songwriter, it's not always straightforward dance songs, so it's really fun to do something that leans into that. It's always an opportunity to crank up things that maybe won't make sense on my own records.
How have you encountered this "Man's World" idea in your life?
Pabllo: We live today "by the rules" of straight white men and that's just weird. Luckily, I grew up in a house full of strong women that accepted and supported me for who I am, and that made me grow up stronger and aware that we don't need to live by someone else's rules.
Empress Of: I'm just existing as a Honduran-American woman, making music in today's age. Being a producer, that's my existence. I've always felt like that. I'm not purposefully an activist or anything like that, I just am existing as myself and a lot of the things I want to do are adverse to the society I live in.
MARINA: It's hard to think back to when you're younger and you have less knowledge and awareness of these issues. As for myself, I was insanely driven and I never even thought about the fact that being a woman meant I would be treated differently. So at that time it didn't affect my experiences as a young artist, but now when I think back, of course there are things that I can see were sexist treatment. Luckily, I've had a pretty good experience. But this is the time we're living in and as artists we are able to communicate that through our music. Also, if you don't want to communicate that, that's okay. People who want to be a voice for it will be and sometimes it is necessary to share your experiences about it, but it's not something that's ever stopped me from doing what I want to do or creating what I want to create. It's more just frustrating on a business level.
How can we change things, knowing it's a "Man's World"?
Empress Of: There needs to be more people let into the door. I think people in places of power tend to hire other people similar to them. There needs to be more women in places of power, and more people of color in boardrooms and heads of companies, heads of record labels, heads in the government. If representation is in places where people make very powerful decisions, then we'll start to see more inclusivity outward.
MARINA: I second all of that, actually. I think that's how top-level change happens. In terms of how we relate to ourselves, though, and in terms of how we all see gender, that for me has a lot to do with the idea that, to be physically female, is to be feminine or to be physically male is to be masculine. I think this idea that we're all made up of both feminine and masculine energy still isn't something that's really thought about or accepted. Hence men have been conditioned or brought up to believe that they don't possess any feminine parts of themselves and that to be feminine is bad, but I think it's such a shame because I believe that's what we're all comprised of. So I would hope that kind of understanding would perhaps progress our conversations about gender.
Pabllo: We need to teach our children that they can be themselves, not imposing "boy or girl manners," not telling them how to act, how to talk, just let them be themselves. As RuPaul always says, "We are born naked and the rest is drag," but we have to let everyone choose their own "drag" in life. It's easy and simple, we just need to respect other people's beings and choices, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else in any way.
Stream "Man's World" by MARINA, Pabllo Vittar and Empress Of.
Original Article: https://www.papermag.com/marina-pabllo-vittar-empress-of-2650331772.html?rebelltitem=44#rebelltitem44
Art provided by Paper Magazine.