London-based, New Jersey-born songwriter Muna Ileiwat creates tender indie pop tunes that are a blend of soft vocals, shimmering electronics and steady beats. Her debut EP, Twenty-Seven, released today (19th Aug) via Fear of Missing Out Records, explores the fluctuating nature of relationships in all their forms, and the resilience and freedom that comes with creating art for arts sake.
We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Muna to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that have inspired her song-writing techniques. Check out her choices below and scroll down to watch her video for ‘Pity Party’ at the end of this post.
1. Ms. Lauryn Hill – ‘I Find It Hard to Say (Rebel)’
This song made me want to learn guitar and start writing my own music. When I started guitar lessons I learned classical music. At the end of each lesson, my teacher and I would spend a bit of time learning a “pop” song. This was the first song I chose. I heard Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged album a lot when I was young (my dad owned it on CD). I’m not really into live albums except this one I love. I’ve come back to this song throughout my life. It’s not a conventional structure and the lyrics are stunning. The song’s nearly 7 minutes long, but every time I listen to it, it feels like half the time, probably because it’s so moving. Lauryn Hill’s performance is so raw. Once I was old enough, I discovered the song was about the murder of Amadou Diallo.
2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Maps’
An indie gem. I have such a soft spot for Karen O, she’s so badass! Yeah Yeah Yeahs were one my first introductions to indie music (this song in particular). There’s something so understated and vulnerable about the chorus line – “wait, they don’t love you like I love you”. It’s hard to convince me that a guitar solo is ever cool, but Nick Zinner’s solo in this is very cool. I got so wrapped up in the story behind this song. Music is so much about storytelling. You get a unique perspective into the deepest parts of people’s inner emotional states, the things people want to talk about, but just don’t know how. In the music video, Karen O is apparently crying real tears because her boyfriend was hours late to the shoot, right before her tour. There’s speculation that the song title is an acronym for ‘My Angus Please Stay’ and even though Karen O has never confirmed it, this kinda makes me love the song more. It really hurts. You feel her disappointment when the person you love can’t show up for you in the ways you need.
3. Selena – ‘Como La Flor’
I spent my early childhood in the US and Selena was always on the radio. I can’t begin to explain how much I love her and what she represents. Her outfits – incredible. Her voice – flawless. Her stage presence – mesmerising. Her music crossed cultural boundaries. That’s so powerful. Her iconic performance of this song at the Astrodome can bring me to tears. I’ve watched that performance a billion times. She was so talented. Her music is a nostalgic part of my childhood.
4. Solange – ‘Losing You’
The synths, chord progression, harmonies, production, the video – I love this song! It’s so fun! It’s melancholy cloaked in catchy hooks. I love the simplicity of the lyrics. Nothing is hidden under metaphors. I find songwriting like this bold. You can’t disguise your vulnerability under fancy wordplay. It’s direct. I’m a big Dev Hynes fan so the fact that he co-wrote this explains why it’s so goddamn good. I’ve always appreciated Solange’s holistic approach and commitment to her art. The video manifests a sense of community. It reminds me of Curaçao and that island life.
5. Robyn – ‘With Every Heartbeat’
I’ve always admired Robyn’s songwriting. She’s so inspiring and her music is so cathartic. This song has everything you need – a sweeping orchestra and driving beat. The lyrics are a perfect blend of hopefulness and devastation, particularly in the chorus. Robyn is so good at finding that balance, and nothing hits like a pop song about the realisation that you have to leave someone behind even though it hurts. I dream, and will continue to dream of writing a Robyn equivalent one day.
Thanks to Muna for sharing her favourites with us! Watch her video for ‘Pity Party’ below.
Pre-order Muna Ileiwat’s debut EP, Twenty-Seven, from Rough Trade here
Photo Credit: Guy Gotto