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What separates a great song lyric from a forgettable one?
Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Ever since starting my Sharing The Goodness series I’ve been getting more and more into the art of songwriting and the impact it has on me. When a lyric sticks with me through more than just the melody, and sometimes exactly because of it, it causes me to look inward and analyze myself from head-to-toe. Why did this particular line bring me to tears? What makes this lyric echo in my head more than, say, this one?
Some might cite songwriting’s relevance to whatever they’re currently going through in their life, while others might prefer something more on the poetic side. You can glean a million different interpretations from a single line and below I’m going to take a look at some stand-outs I’ve been thinking about lately.
1. “Is my head in the clouds or are the clouds in my head?”
from “Smoke And Mirrors” by PATRÌCE
I’m going to start this off with the song that inspired this Sharing The Goodness spin-off in the first place. I picked out the S.G. Lewis remix in my Youtube recommendations line-up a little while back, originally finding it a touch stale…yet I came back to it again and again. There was just something about the echoing, mysterious hook that stuck with me. The best part? Thanks to the stylistically filtered vocals, I actually had no clue what they were originally saying the first few listens! When I looked up the lyrics later, I was alarmed that my favorite part was actually my favorite part.
Too often I wonder just how many of my anxieties are valid and how many are not. What’s actually an outside force trying to rob me of stability or an inside one tearing me to pieces. While there are plenty of amazing lyrics to be explored yet, it’s validating to hear a common inner question put to musical form. I don’t think I’ll ever let this one go.
What makes this one special? Let’s just say there aren’t enough television shows out there featuring deaf and interracial families simply living their life. In fact…I don’t think there are any. Consider checking this project out for Deaf Awareness Week if you’ve found yourself wondering how you can help increase deaf visibility, combat stereotypes and help creators get their work out there.
Or, hell, when you’re just plain ol’ tired of being spoonfed the same tropes time and time again.
I’m hearing and biracial. My mother is deaf and white. My younger brother is hearing, multiracial and white-passing. I have and had many deaf and hard-of-hearing family members, acquaintances and classmates throughout my life. Our normal is unlike the normal pushed in your average mainstream romantic comedy or long-lasting ‘all-American’ sitcom — at best we’re a token somewhere in the background to create atmosphere and, at worst, not there at all. This ongoing message is more than just disappointment. It’s a downright bizarre, even harmful, way of viewing the world at large. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the myth of normalcy and it sure as hell won’t be the last.
Director and deaf content creator Jade Bryan is eager to showcase the world of deaf people of color where they have previously, over and over and over again, been shunned in favor of the same basic narrative. The story revolves around middle-aged mother Essence Chamberlain-Dubois going back to school and attempting to balance her social life, family life and freelance career. Being a twenty-something caught in the crossroads of progress and regression myself, I can already find plenty to relate to. Unfortunately, I don’t have a million bucks to my name and the shiny title of ‘television agent’.
Why the hell haven’t I posted any songs in these genres yet? I love the hell out of disco. I grew up listening to Earth, Wind & Fire and The O’Jays, for fuck’s sake. …On the other hand, I can be a touch picky when it comes to house and dance. I love a catchy beat, absolutely, but a redundant bassline and hook that lasts for eight entire minutes with little to shake it up? God, no.
A song starting out with untz untz untz is often the fastest way to turn me, as well as the video, off. When I find the right one, though? I’m a happy camper. Because of that some of the examples on the list may have a bit more of a pop or alternative flavor, but fear not. You’ll get all your classic vibes in good fashion.
You might have seen Gavin Turek here and there. She’s been gaining notable traction in the pop world as a throwback to an older time, mixing disco and house with a slightly more modern bent. Here she combines her signature sound with Viceroy, giving us the confident and upbeat ‘Fade Out’.
The guitar is sumptuously groovy and contrasts well with sharp, clashing drums and a high, crooning chorus. Dance clubs and radio stations alike would gladly make this piece at home. Standard party lyrics abound, but the best part of this song is not the subject matter but the fact it makes you want to go out and do said subject matter. That being partying, chilling and not stressing overmuch about taxes or a deplorable healthcare system. Give in to that self-care and soak in these pre-summer vibes.
I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I’ve got some great stuff this week. Some are catchy, some are brilliant and some are a blend of both. What connects all these artists together outside their genre(s) is the fact they deserve way more attention than what they’re getting. Let’s share some of this goodness around!
Sometimes (often, always, every single time) a song has me conjuring up a mental music video. There’s something about it, something that digs right into my brain and starts tugging at all the little creative strings like fingers on a harp. If you’re an artist of any stripe you can likely relate to this (and if you can’t, well, it’s a hobby I highly recommend).
Darci‘s flow is fantastic. It’s almost stream-of-consciousness, with his vocals ricocheting back and forth as much as the instrumentation does. It’s addictive and a little surreal, filled with mood even as the lyrics are nothing I’d write home about. They go about exploring the standard gossip that comes with a party lifestyle. Been there, done that. The echoing backbeat, though, transforms the mundane subject matter into something almost mysterious.
People say this, people say that. What does the singer actually do? Probably something far more interesting than whatever lies gossips spin up to keep themselves entertained. This song makes me wish I knew how to play piano, because an instrumental would sound incredible. For now, I’ll press repeat.
Feeling tired lately? So are these songs. I rounded up some stuff that’s perfect for leaning back and filtering through whatever has you stressed, the audio equivalent of a back massage or epsom salt soak. Let’s skip the pleasantries (they’re too tiring, anyway) and get straight to the good stuff.
It may not be autumn anymore, but it doesn’t mean we can’t relish in music that makes our soul crave chilly evenings and turning leaves. Foner‘s ‘September’ is a lovely little piece that should be a staple at most cafes, because it’s a song I want to curl up with a mug of tea every single time I press play.
Almost groovy in its sound, ‘September’ hearkens to its signature season and oozes nostalgia out of every pore — considering it samples and mixes up 1981’s single ‘(It Was) September’ by Superior Elevation, it’s small wonder it feels a little timeless. A little shorter and more focused, the guitar is still lovely and flows throughout the entire piece with a strong bassline, the lead singer rounding out an already full package with great vocals. The subject matter is only touched on briefly, adding an air of mystery that soon dissolves into a wonderful horn outro. I’ve been a fan of this song for a few years and I don’t see this love fading anytime soon. Give ‘September’ a try, or even check out the original, when you’re feeling nostalgia’s itch and need something to scratch it out.
I’m behind. I’m so, so, so behind. Forgive me, goddess of rock, for I have sinned.
I am astronomical levels of overdue for getting some good rock songs on Sharing The Goodness. This is the genre that all but defined my childhood (besides non-stop disco and bad europop) and I’ve got a proverbial pick-up truck to unload over the next few posts. Let’s get this show on the road!
A new reoccurring favorite on Sharing The Goodness, Valerie June continues to impress with her iconic pipes and musical flair. ‘Shakedown’ is a song I’d love to hear at an outdoor porch party and, come to think of it, I really should throw one of those once I actually get a porch. It’s lively, charming and just a little on the short side — perfect for constant repeats while enjoying an evening drink. At least, I think.
A bit of bluegrass, a bit of classic rock, there’s a little bit for everyone to love here. The lyrics are simple, more for shuffling your feet than contemplating your navel, and I’m totally fine with that. …Have I also mentioned I love her fashion sense? Because I really do. Valerie June somehow strikes this tender balance between old-fashioned and modern with one of the most incredible hairstyles around. Short and sweet, you need to get this woman on your playlists pronto. It’s the least you can do!
If you could change your fate…would you? That’s the question posed by Merida in Brave, a movie that probably didn’t want the fate of being considered the runt of the recent Disney line-up of CGI animated princess films.
Disney princesses are practically their own genre. They’re role models for kids of varying ages. Their films combine a mixture of adventure, romance and just enough drama without getting too heavy. They’re often musicals, though not always. The formula is pretty tightly woven into Disney’s commercial fabric, so it’s really the smaller changes that separate them from one another. Merida is interesting because she’s neither the least popular (sorry, Pocahontas) nor the most iconic (hello, Ariel). She exists in this weird limbo between ‘oh, yeah, the one with the huge curly hair’ and ‘…who?’. Merida is a princess I find myself liking and not because I view her as some shining beacon of independence in a female character.
In fact, this is one of the most baffling interpretations I see made about her on the regular and one I want to take a deeper look at. Let’s start off with the checklist. She’s ‘tough’ (usually a shorthand for being physically active and/or able to throw a punch), is ‘independent’ (another shorthand for doing whatever one wants) and is basically a girl who’s got a brain and always speaks her mind. Basically, a stockpile of traits we’ve seen before. What makes Merida stand out is how she seems to be a critical eye on all of the above while remaining a flawed and dynamic character in her own right. In layman’s terms, a rich white kid whose rich white kid mannerisms aren’t cute or funny — they suck!
You see, Merida’s ‘tough and independent’ personality is what gets the kingdom in trouble and her mom turned into Baloo.
Fell behind on these, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of songs. In fact, I’ve found far more than I even know what to do with. I’m learning more and more about all the varied categories, sub-categories and what-the-fuck categories as I go. Terms for specific genres I didn’t even know existed are popping up left and right, making it easier than ever to find songs that make my eyes glaze over with delight. That’s not just me, right? That can’t just be me.
Damn if it doesn’t feel great when you find a new group and discover they don’t just have a few decent singles, but their entire repertoire is addicting as candy. With only a few years to their name and an incredibly varied sound that gets more eclectic with each hit they put out, I can see Glass Animals only getting more successful from here. (They’ve actually got another fantastic single that I’ll have to put on another list for its entirely different genre)
‘Gooey”s title fits the song’s style perfectly — it’s like if melted butter was put to sound, almost bizarrely smooth and utterly sultry with each whispering note. A dreamy harp and the signature hissing croons of the lead singer create a brilliant atmosphere right off the bat, eventually pulling you into a rhythm that sways like a lullaby. I looped this song without mercy the first time I heard it, with each listen progressively better than the last to the point I had to share it with everyone I knew as soon as possible. It’s one of those.
I mean, when it comes down to it you just can’t go wrong with lyrics that include the lines ‘peanut-butter vibes’ and ‘icky, gooey womb’.
I’ve got some real good stuff this week. Songs that get me jazzed up (heh) are ones that blur the lines between genres, bringing in the best of each and something entirely new all at the same time. Some of the hip-hop picks here are going to have some distinctively jazzy influences, but there’s bound to be something here for fans of both genres and all the little overlaps. Let’s just get to it!
It’s a damn good feeling when you click on a song and know it’s gonna be good from the first few seconds. Kid Cudi and Willow Smith’s talents have crashed into one another like two planets, creating a result that’s as bombastic as it is unique.
Drawn in with classic harps and crooning only to suddenly swing into a pounding beat, the song all but grabs the listener by the proverbial hand and leads them on a journey — hip-hop, classical and indie are just a few of the influences on full blast here and make for something that’s as interesting as it is plainly catchy. Their vocals are fantastic — I’ve become a huge fan of Willow Smith over the past few years and Kid Cudi’s voice has taken a turn for the gravelly, providing a stellar contrast for an overall stunning piece.
It’s a full-package song through and through. I was drawn in by the lush instrumentation, swayed by the fascinating lyrics and left tingling by the sheer personality of all the incredible talent on board. There’s just so much to talk about to the point I risk overhyping. Just check ‘Rose Golden’ out — you won’t regret it.
Oh, since I was young, been grooving to my own drum
Media, however, is pretty disinterested in acknowledging this beyond the occasional mean-spirited quip. Stereotypes in popular culture aren’t kind to adults who live with their family — there are plenty of films and shows with one-off characters used as walking punchlines due to living with their parents or even having them in the regular vicinity. Heck, one of the most common insults flung around the Internet is the ‘loser who lives in their parents’ basement’. The lofty and idealized ‘accomplished twenty-something with a degree’ and American nuclear family (established as white, Christian, middle-class, able, heterosexual and cisgender with the occasional ethnic variance) are the standards and fuck you if you dare deviate from it!
When I hear ‘conventional’, I don’t really think of a four-bedroom house with an immaculate lawn and white-picket fence in secluded suburbia. My mind more runs along the lines of the twenty-something juggling a studio apartment and two part-time jobs with no health insurance wondering if they’ll get jumped for a hate crime on the way back home. What can I say, I’m biased!
The onslaught of tone-deaf shows like Big Bang Theory and Girls and countless romantic comedies reinforce day-in and day-out the myth that to not be financially independent is to be burdensome or a raging loser. What makes Tales From The Borderlands stand out amid the pack of ‘tee hee you live with your mom’ commentaries and ‘why are Millennials so lazy and dependent’ thinkpieces is the more nuanced approach to ‘unconventional’ families and living situations.