If for whatever reason, you decide to get to Mo Pop when doors open at 1:00 p.m., know this: The mosh potential is next to nothing. You’ll see all the food trucks, indie clout and even a strange old man in a cowboy hat jangling his limbs in mid-air — but not very many people. I took this opportunity to find a space near the very front of the River Stage. “Who’s performing next?” some teen behind me asked. I nearly answer the question like it’s some pop quiz trivia for history class. “Siena Liggins,” another responded.
It was then that Liggins graced the stage with her signature charm, swagger and white smiley emoticon overalls. “Y’all look so good,” she exclaimed as more and more people formed a crowd. They gushed in screams of adoration as she kicked off her performance with her latest release “Law of Attraction.” She moved with ease across the stage, shifting effortlessly to whatever energy radiated by her songs, from the peppy and upbeat “Flowerbomb” to the more somber “Me Again.” “Ugh, she’s so cool!” someone behind me said. I turned back to see who, only to find an entire sea of people towering over me, singing along with their hands up — what could I do besides join?
This is just a brief snippet of the visuals I had in mind when I sat down to interview Siena Liggins following her performance. “This was such a testament to the work that my team and I have put out over the last year.” Liggins said, regarding her performance. “Just seeing everyone sing along … it was such a great feeling.”
Clocking in on the first anniversary of her debut single “Flowerbomb,” Mo Pop presented itself as another day of firsts for Liggins, mere miles away from her reading studio Assemble Sound in Detroit. Mo Pop only further cemented July 27 as an important day for Liggins. “The amount of work that you have to put in in a year and the amount of love that can grow in a year is just so special to me. I’m so obsessed with today, July 27 has always been such a special-ass day to me.”
At first blush, it wouldn’t seem like performing is new to Liggins. She radiated coolness with every movement on stage, charming new and old fans alike. She knew exactly how to rev up an audience, from making “Y’all look so good!” her signature phrase between songs to knowing just when to tell fans to put their hands up. And it was always genuine, never contrived or eager to please. She passed a few Polaroids around to the crowd during her performance to take pictures as they danced and mingled to her music. When she told the audience to “get close” and “make friends,” everyone knew she meant it and did precisely that.
“I still write for me, but now I just think there’s a drive that’s growing,” she observed, reflecting on her post-“Flowerbomb” songwriting success. “I wanna give them what they want.”
“Flowerbomb” is a peppy, pop summer anthem for queer girls. Reminiscent of the pop/R&B fusion of the early aughts, it explores Liggins’s infatuation with an unattainable love interest. The song gained a lot of traction for Liggins, leading Billboard to name her one of “11 LGBTQ Artists to Listen to for Pride Month 2019.”
“I definitely feel like it’s important to make music for people like me,” she said, speaking on what it feels like to be a queer artist in the pop scene. “It feels queer, yeah,” she added in between both our laughter. “I mean it’s just a part of who I am. It’s the same as my skin color and texture of my hair. It’s just a piece of my life that’s inevitable and it comes across in everything I do.”
Liggins embodies this same easygoing, realness and humor across her platform. From a Twitter bio that reads “hide your girlfriend” to her repeating the very line before serenading a girl in the crowd, Liggins presents herself as an artist to be reckoned with, her great sense of humor and confidence always apparent. “I don’t know, people’s girlfriends are just attractive to me,” she said in response to the start of the catch-phrase.
She later reflected on the serenation between laughs, saying “Well, that’s what happens. I call a girl out because I wanna sing to her, and her girlfriend stands closer to be like ‘Don’t sing to my girlfriend,’ and I’m like ‘Better not come to my show with your girlfriend if you wanna keep her. Don’t come to my show with her. Hide her.’” It was in that moment I knew that personality was part and parcel to the dynamic, engaging performance she gave that day.
For a rising artist, Mo Pop proved the perfect space for Liggins to extend her pop stardom. “I want people to dance and to be happy when they listen to my music,” she told me. “To have a feeling of light, and joy and colorfulness. So I just hope that that spreads.” What better way to sum up the exact impact of her performance that day?