If you’ve spent any time scrolling through TikTok or artsy Instagram pages in the past six months, you’ve probably already heard of the confident LilyIsThatYou, a 21-year-old pop singer-songwriter dedicated to sharing her truth in her music no matter how taboo the topic. Delicate confessions of “I’m afraid of who I’ll be if this love ends up ending me” appear short moments after flirty invitations of “my bed’s too loud, I can take it on the ground,” showing the reality of a modern young woman in a way that music hasn’t always allowed women to take hold of.
What’s refreshing about Lily’s music is that it’s raunchy, sexual, and unapologetically honest without overtly trying. It’s simply a direct conversation with Lily herself, addressing the importance of owning who you are, shunning those who won’t support you, and sprinkling a little glitter wherever you stop along the way.
Her rise to stardom began after posting a snippet of a song called “FMRN,” an abbreviation for “Fuck Me Right Now,” to TikTok after creating it with her boyfriend, fellow artist Caleb Jacob. TikTok repeatedly took her video down for sexual content despite it drawing over a million views in its first 24 hours, drawing attention from outlets like Rolling Stone who wanted to help uplift Lily’s voice after she had been silenced.
“Controversy pushes music forward,” she told Rolling Stone. “I’m grateful that the video was taken down — it gave me more opportunity to talk about what the song means to me, which is that there shouldn’t be so much censorship of women who want to embrace their desire or sexual confidence.”
It’s worth noting that “FMRN” itself was partly influenced by Doja Cat’s raunchy “Need to Know,” a flirty track that went from a non-single to giving Doja a top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100. In an age where songs like “Need to Know,” Lil Nas X’s queer anthem “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s smash “WAP” all received a boost from TikTok, it seems unbelievable that TikTok would try to block a breaking artist discussing similar topics in her music. But in true Lily fashion, she’s kept going despite the backlash.
After ringing in the new year with a Warner Records deal and “Party 22,” a banger that compares love to a drug you’d find in a dingy bathroom stall while insisting that she’ll “party like it’s 2022” post-breakup, Lily just delivered her latest sex-positive anthem with “Purity.” The track denounces sexist beliefs that label women as “sluts” or “whores” for being open about their sexual desires, boosting Lily up as a sex symbol for a new generation: one that accepts intimacy as a normal part of life rather than something that gives young women value or appeal (or a lack thereof).
“Sex has always been something others used to define me,” Lily explained on Instagram. “[I was] always being called a slut or a whore, being a young girl and being told by men that who I was, what I was worth, was only what I wanted sexually. Here I am at 21, with the opportunity to tell the young woman reading this, that that is absolutely bullshit. Purity is not how many people you have slept with, sex should not make you feel weak or less than, should not leave you feeling used or manipulated. It should be empowering.”
For the young girls and growing women who follow Lily on social media, she’s a beacon of empowerment and vulnerability in an era where photos are often filtered and people are often pressured to be perfectly presentable. Her feed balances her love of makeup and her natural textured skin, her nights in the studio and her day-to-day life, a pop superstar in the making and a normal girl from Canada just doing what she loves.
Perhaps Lily herself puts it best: “There’s an empowered and confident woman singing to you on every track.” This is a woman who hasn’t been quiet about her struggles – one raw TikTok shows her opening up about being groomed in her teens, while “Purity” deals with slut-shaming she’s faced – yet still finds the glitter on the floor of her worst moments. She turns her perils into party anthems, introspective thoughts into catchy choruses, and her own life lessons into an accessible source of comfort for anyone going through similar situations.