Photo Credit Nina Tellier
When New York native MuMu created this track, she never dreamed it would be used for animated television. “I’ve been obsessed with Big Mouth since the very first episode. When the music supervisor reached out asking if they could license my song, my nipples got so hard.”
On the surface, the song is an amusing, naughty little nugget. But what lies within is a hard-hitting stance against censorship of the female body and a promise that women will never stop fighting for their rights – further proof of MuMu’s profound ability to combine pleasure and politicking.
“This song was written half-jokingly and half-angrily. ‘Free the Nip’ came out as an improvised line while I was in the vocal booth. At first, I thought it was from a place of humor, but as I kept writing I realized there was some real justified anger underneath it. Growing up in a world where TV shows, billboards, and every googly eye on the street is telling me that my body is primarily sexual… it’s exhausting.”
Q: What’s your story as an artist?A: I grew up in Manhattan with a bunch of loud older sisters and a mother who is lovably shameless. It was the kind of family where radical independence was encouraged like a strength, while utilized as a means for survival. That, paired with a few incredibly impactful NYC public school teachers, made me into the artist I am today.
I got my first professional theatre gig at age seventeen, starting my career as an actor. After a few years of acting on Broadway and onscreen, I couldn’t help but question if I was making the right contribution. I had been writing songs since the age of nine, never sharing them with anyone. These songs represented my messy inner world – my secrets, my demons, my trauma. They were fragile and therefore needed to be protected.
However, a dear friend gave me some solid advice that changed my perspective. She said that once a song is written, it no longer belongs to just me and it’s my responsibility to share it with those who could benefit from hearing it. So in 2018, I did the scary thing and started recording and releasing music with my friend and collaborator Jamie Lawrence. “Free the Nip” was the first song we released. A year and a pandemic later, we’ve got about twenty songs out there and I have zero regrets.
Q: What inspired this release?A: This song was inspired by my struggle with differentiating between my own desires for privacy and the censorship society imposes on me. I didn’t even know if I liked showing my body because my mind was filled with all the social messaging telling me when and how to show my skin. It has to be sexy, submissive, and performative. Women’s bodies are over-sexualized and censored in a way that perpetuates rape culture. Our bodies are the forbidden fruit. My song “Free the Nip” and the accompanying music video, are my efforts for some sort of exposure therapy. We (women) choose when to sexualize our bodies. And we choose when to censor our bodies. We all have nipples – get over it.
Q: Do you get inspired by other art forms?A: Big time. I actually limit the amount of music I listen to because it can quickly become overstimulating. I love to collage, crochet, and dance (terribly.) I also love to see my friends in shows whether that be a play or the ballet. I’m inspired by humans, especially by other inspired humans. Oh, and cows. Goddess’s most impressive creation.
Q: Any funny anecdotes from the time you were recording or writing this?
A: I hated my boobs at the time we recorded this song. I thought they were too saggy… or as someone in the comments section of the music video coined them, “pancake boobs.” When Théo Jourdain said he wanted to make a music video with me for this song, I panicked. I was like “Yeah I want nips to be free but not MY nips.” But making the music video and performing this song live hundreds of times has helped me fall deeply and passionately in love with my body. If anyone out there hates their tits, try rollerblading topless through Times Square with a camera pointed at you. It’s a game changer.
Q: What’s your favorite place or environment to write?A: This may be controversial but I love writing while rollerblading down the Hudson River bike path. Safety third.
Q: What’s a record that shaped your creativity?
A: Missy Elliot’s Under Construction. I have admired that woman my entire life. She is unapologetic, sexual in a way that most women are scared to be, and a genius lyricist/performer. And she was all of those things before they were cool. Thank you so much for having me, Mundane Mag!