Emma Potsklan:

How Her Passion for Music Turned into a Community on TikTok (Part 2)

By Smaranda Botezatu | Magazine | June 14, 2023

Cover Illustration: Emma Potsklan lying on her stomach. (Emma Potsklan)

In the second part of her piece, magazine reporter Smaranda Botezatu talks to Emma Potsklan about the current musical landscape, learning to broaden choices and TikTok as a music-sharing platform.

In the previous part, Emma has revealed how her music journey took off, the way music has helped her shake off the fear of not being accepted by others, and what it’s like creating content on TikTok and forming a community bound by music. In the second part of the interview, Emma brings our attention to the world of awards shows and being an attentive listener.

In the realm of music, award shows elicit much debate and controversy, particularly the Grammy Awards. While there are voices that claim that the Grammys don’t matter and are rigged, Emma disagrees. “Unfortunately, the Grammys do matter. It really means a lot for an artist if they win a Grammy. If they win the Best New Artist award that will potentially catapult their career in a way that maybe it wouldn’t otherwise happen.’’

Emma Potsklan lying on her stomach. (Emma Potsklan)

There have been some famous snubs over the years at the Grammys, including at the 2016 ceremony when Taylor Swift’s “1989” won Album of the Year over Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly.” “It matters a lot because it shows what our society and what the music community is willing to value.” This example highlights the valuing of white music over Black American Music. “It says a lot about what kind of art and from whom we’re willing to accept and celebrate on a mainstream level.’’ This year’s ceremony also sparked debates when Harry Styles’ album “Harry’s House” received Album of the Year over the critically acclaimed ‘’Renaissance’’ by Beyonce. ‘’It’s called Renaissance because it’s thought out to start a whole new renaissance of music. It’s completely revived this dance electronic and almost disco era of music that we’re seeing a huge influx in now. Drake’s releasing a dance hall inspired album, Kaytranada and Amine are releasing a disco pop album later this month. The ripple effect that Beyoncé’s album is going to have on music for the next five years is completely beyond what Harry Styles put out.’’

Emma talks on her TikTok about the importance of challenging our own musical habits and embracing the diversity of voices, experiences and perspectives that music has to offer. She believes that as a listener, you should check yourself as much as possible. “Am I listening to enough women every day? Am I listening to enough music made by queer people? Am I listening to enough music made by people who don’t look like me? If you don’t broaden your music choices, it can deeply inhibit your ability to understand others on a deeper level.”

The significance of perspective cannot be understated in music criticism. A reviewer’s ability to fully comprehend the nuances and complexities of a song or an album hinges on their capacity to empathize with the artist’s experiences. “I think that if a man is reviewing music made by a woman and maybe there’s a sensitive subject of some nature, a man is never going to be able to fully grasp the complexities of what this woman is feeling and what she’s saying. The same way that a white person reviewing music produced by a Black artist won’t actually understand what they’re going through.’’ The example of Lana del Rey’s early career serves as a poignant illustration of this dynamic. “A lot of people were harsh on Lana, saying that she romanticizes being the submissive girl in a relationship. Personally, having an album that honestly expressed what it felt to be in an abusive relationship or to be abused resonated profoundly. To know that I wasn’t alone, it was kind of a saving grace for me. And now it’s pretty much recognized that Lana Del Rey is one of the most influential figures in our millennial/Gen Z culture,’’ she concludes.

Navigating the tumultuous waters of your 20s could be confusing as you grapple with the uncertainty of your future. Emma gives me a few songs that encapsulate the feeling of searching for your place in this world. “I would say ‘20 something’ by SZA. It perfectly describes not knowing where you’re going, not knowing who you’re supposed to be. ‘Nothing New’ by Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers fantastically puts into song what feeling lost and confused is. You’re in this weird limbo and asking yourself ‘Who am I? I’m going to be forgotten one day. I’m sad someone’s going to take my place. I’m not going to be young anymore.”

Emma is a perfect example of how one’s passion can bring people together to share their love for something as integral as music. Overcoming her fear of judgment brought her closer to achieving a long awaited dream: to connect with people in the music industry and to pour her love for music into content creation.

Smaranda Botezatu is a university student in Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer. 

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