“Coat me in sugar so I slip down sweet/Baby I’ll whisper to you while you sleep/I’m cherry, cherry / and I taste so sweet,” Seraphina Simone sings in her debut single, “Cherry.”
The track’s slow intro and piano give it an old-fashioned, sentimental feel, while the quick-paced percussion provides a fun indie pop vibe. Throughout the song, you hear samplings of old ads and even the sound of a can opening, as if Simone is trying to sell you something – but she’s using these motifs as a critique of similar sales tactics.
Inspired by Motown and ’60s girl groups The Shangri Las and The Crystals, the London-based artist’s goal was to create a sound of “fizzy pink sugar and grit.” At the end, discordant harmonies, advertisement samples, and percussion explode all at once, creating a sense of chaos that she says was meant to mimic the inside of someone’s mind as they’re bombarded with these messages.
Simone wrote the title of the song before she even knew what it was going to be about, then played word association: “Cherry” made her think of cherry cola, which she associated with “shiny American adverts and white picket fences and the American Dream,” she says. “That made me think about consumer culture and how products market themselves as identity markers. So, the track is about consumerism and identity and how addictive it is. We buy stuff to reaffirm how we see ourselves.”
Her goal was to make the sound “sickly sweet and overly friendly” — a personification of consumer culture, which she pictures as someone who’s “pretending to be our BFF while trapping us in this vicious circle of buying stuff for the endorphin hit and to feel better about ourselves.”
In addition to making people question the ways in which they may be manipulated by marketing, she hopes the single sparks reflection among listeners regarding their purchasing habits. “Fast fashion and fast consumerism are so damaging to the environment, and the production chain is so morally dubious,” she says. “It’s the selfish, short-term-thinking, impatient part of us that means we buy things off Amazon because they’re cheaper and they arrive quickly. We know it’s a terrible company, but we do it anyway.”
She also hopes it reminds people that they’re good enough as they are, despite both covert and overt messages in ads and throughout capitalist culture that we need to constantly improve ourselves.
The daughter of singer-songwriter Sananda Maitreya (FKA Terence Trent D’Arby), Simone initially wanted to avoid music so that she could be her own person and wouldn’t have to risk failure. But after feeling unfulfilled at the job she took instead, she went back to school and studied music, as well as literature, which inspired her just as much — particularly the Romantic poets. “I’d totally be a Romantics groupie if I was alive back then,” she muses.
She has several more single releases planned for this year and more in the works, but she chose to release “Cherry” first because it epitomizes the combination of “saccharine and sinister” that characterizes her aesthetic. It’s a promising introduction to her work, showcasing creativity and depth with the potential to shape a unique sound as her musical career evolves.
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