Happy Sunday. May thoughts of hit songs written by Lionel Richie fill your day. And may you eat lots and lots of croissants. Like I’m about to.
If you’re an artist (writing, painting, singing, sculpting, dance, figuring out Math equations which, to me, is a true art form), perhaps, like me, your main medium is often influenced by another art form. For example, if you draw, you may love dance as a source of inspiration. As a writer, I find myself inspired by a long list of other art forms, most of them visual: the performing arts, fine arts, etc. I can look at a painting and fly off the artistic rails, so to speak, my creative drive climbing to giddy levels. (Or not. I haven’t written creatively in a while, save for this blog. And it’s why I have this blog. More on that later.) Anyway, the latter thesis statement is an introduction to a new feature here at TSP. Quite simply, I’ll be sharing things that inspire me. From paintings to photography to dance routines to music, I’d love to feature the works that have moved/inspired me in the past and in the now. You like? Cool, huh? First up: a music video.
I will say that music videos stopped being relevant to me when people started throwing dollar bills in the air and all the flashing lights took away from the wonder of the medium. I mean, come on. My first music video experience was watching a skinny guy in high-water leather pants stepping on a ground that lit up as he walked. Who or what could compare after that? (He also solved a potential gang war and walked on the moon. You know who I’m talking about.) These days, the videos I tend to watch are on YouTube and are of artists that I personally enjoy.
Several years ago, I discovered a music video called “Try” by Nelly Furtado. You guys. The video is just rich with story. I relate to story. No surprise there. When I first watched it, I was writing in my mind. It was that compelling. And when you combine Nelly’s lyrics to the visuals (that plaintive we are we are we are in love near the end of the song/video and the images that match continue to take my breath away), it’s hands down one of my favorite things to watch. And why am I drawn to it so significantly? Ultimately, the video reminds me of the primary topic I revisit time and again in my fiction, in my poetry, what I’m drawn to in life: the emotional connection between people. Whether that connection is strong or fraying, it’s the topic what I ultimately go back to.
Enjoy. In the comments, tell me whatever you like: if you enjoyed Nelly’s video, what inspires you, whether you also swooned when that skinny guy lit up every surface he touched.
Last weekend, my friend and I headed up to NYC to catch a concert by Damien Escobar, a violinist I discovered a few months ago. It was a nice chance to get out of town, even for a quick weekend. Digressing: have I discussed my love/hate relationship with the city? It’s a fantastic place for the arts, for museums, for my beloved Broadway–but my goodness, what is that infernal odor that persists in the air? It’s been there since 1986, when we first met. Anyway, our embattled relationship goes on.
We took the bus up to the city and checked in at Staybridge Suites, a nice hotel in the Hell’s Kitchen area (so many contrasts in that last sentence, no?), which wasn’t too far from the venue. Prior to this show, you guys, I wrangled with what I wanted to wear. My summer concert wear is typically comfortable and easy. But something intriguing happens when you’re headed to the big city, something that requests that you up the chic factor and slay all day. At least it happened to me. Anyone else get that feeling of wanting to look extra when you’re headed out of town and away from all you know at home? I certainly did. I went back and forth and back again with what I wanted to wear. Finally, after a few hours of searching the racks at my tried-and-true Ross a few days before the trip, I decided to stop stressing and went the simple route: a nice, comfortable shirt-dress. Here it is.
As you can see, très simple and très comfortable. I completed the look with square hoops in my ears and those bangles on my wrist. Honestly, I wanted my hair (kinky twists, protective style #1,097 since February of this year) and my lips to be the showstoppers. (This is always the case, dear reader. I live for awesome hair and awesome lips.) And so I did the side-swept thing by pinning back one side of the hair and pushing most of the twists to the other side. Then I applied my bestie Ruby Woo until the redness was the right shade of fiyah. A bit of mascara, some light eye shadow, and we were ready to go.
We had a good time overall. I could have done without waiting in line forever just to get inside the Highline Ballroom, where the concert was held, when we were told that arriving early would prevent that from happening and that we would have seats. No seats were had. We stood for three hours. (If you could waiting in line from 5-ish to the end of the show around 10-ish, we stood for 5 hours or so. Insert highly irritated This Square Peg emoji here.) Nevertheless, barring sound issues and things of that nature, it was nice to hang out with my friend and hear some good music.
How was your weekend, my dear reader?
This song came up on my shuffle last night while plugging away at the gym, and I was immediately reminded about why it spoke to me so deeply when I first heard it. Ah, this song. Not only that haunting melody and those vocals (those vocals, though), but the lyrics. Are the truth. Are my truths. Banning further ado, here it is, followed by the lyrics, followed by my commentary.
Closer to my dreams
It’s coming over me
I’m gettin’ higher
Closer to my dreams
I’m getting higher and higher
Feel it in my sleep
Some times it feels like I’ll never go past here
Some times it feels like I’m stuck forever and ever
But, I’m going higher
Closer to my dreams
I’m goin’ higher and higher
I can almost reach
Some times you just have to let it go (Let it go, let it go)
Leaving all my fears to burn down
Push them all away so I can move on
Closer to my dreams
Feel it all over my being
Close your eyes and see what you believe
I’m happy as long as we’re apart
Then I’m moving on to my dreams
I’ll be moving higher (Moving higher)
Closer to my dreams
And higher and higher, higher
Feel it in my being (I can feel it flow around me)
I know that I could not go alone (No, no)
I’m moving higher (Higher), oh…
I’m going higher and higher and higher (Higher and
Closer to my dreams (Higher and higher, oh…oh…)
I’m moving upward and onward and beyond all I can see
(Stretching out my arms so I can reach)
Feels so close it’s like i can just reach
I can feel my dreams (Closer to my dreams)
I’m moving closer to my dreams
I’m moving (Higher and higher) higher and higher
(Higher and higher)
Moving higher, oh…
Some times it feels like you never gon’change (Never gon’change)
But you never choose to walk away
To me, the song is about a lot of things. Relationships. Choices. Fear. But singularly, I’m drawn to the aspect of the pursuit of dreams.
I’ve never been a go-getter when it comes to certain dreams and goals. By and large, I’ve long believed that what will be will be, and what will come will come. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t taste the proximity of my soon-to-be fulfilled dreams. And this song speaks to that. It reminded me that I may not charge at my dreams like a Pamplonan bull, but I’m moving toward them at my own pace, higher and higher, upward and onward, beyond all I can see. Even when “it feels like I’m stuck forever and ever”, eventually, those dreams and I will meet.
As that linked post mentions, I’ll be reflecting on a few fulfilled dreams/changes that are coming to my life in a few short months. Needless to say, we will discuss. Until then, I’ll continue to spend some music-on-repeat time with Goapele and Closer.
Tell me: any songs you’re listening to (or still listen to) that speak to you? Like really, really speak to you?
One of my favorites by one of my favorites.
Last night, a friend invited me to join her for Motown: The Musical. So well-done, first and foremost, and such a great opportunity to reminisce about how those incredible songs have been with me since I was a child. What a wonderful journey.
But above all, above all, the musical reminded me of my enduring love for the woman you see above. The Boss. The BOOSSSSSS.
Diana Ross has been with me since birth, y’all. I sang Touch Me in the Morning and Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To) to various family members until they begged me to chill out. (Didn’t work.) I told old classmates that she was my real mom. (Long story, but it had to do with my big hair and her big hair and feeling that we were bound.) I would gaze at her in silent awe during films, interviews, while looking through photos. Last year, when Mom and I went to see Lionel Richie in concert, he teased us and told us that he had invited a “special guest” for the concert, one of his closest friends, a woman and singer we all knew. Naturally, I bolted up from my seat, my heart thumping and racing, my bladder about to let loose, my lips repeatedly forming the syllables of her name, because I just knew it was her. My mother looked up at me, agape, aware that this would be the highlight of my life. Well, I said Lionel teased us, right? He was kidding. She wasn’t there.
The jury is still out on whether I forgive him for that.
Anyway, just recently, I was in the car at a red light and I was blasting Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. I was singing along with abandon, with drama, with wild gestures. Then I noticed that the woman in the lane next to me was watching my performance, wild-eyed and stunned. Amused by her reaction, I continued with my joyful, slightly crazed rendering of one of my favorite songs and kept it moving. To me, that’s life as a fan of Ms. Ross The Boss: joyful adoration.
So to that lady in the next lane: you’re welcome.
I haven’t appropriately discussed my permanent spot before the altar of Adele, have I? I briefly mentioned her in this post, but no, you are not yet aware of This Square Peg’s endless devotion to this young woman and her overwhelming ability to cull forth emotions you didn’t even know you had through the power of song.
Now you know. Onwards.
With the release of her new album, 25, I officially accept that Adele rules my life.
I accept that when I listen to the songs on her new album, such as Million Years Ago and All I Ask, I can expect to peer down and see my heart about to take a swan dive onto the ground.
I accept that listening to Adele in my car is dangerous because of all the tears, and the driver needs to see the road in front of her, doesn’t she?
I accept that there will be times–like now–when I need a break from her music because I need to live a normal, weep-free life.
I accept that some people may not get her music and that there’s no need to react violently to said people. (I won’t comment on whether violent reactions have indeed occurred.)
Go get this album, won’t you? If you have it, you know what I’m going through.
Is it the whimsical melody? Those lyrics? (If you don’t want me, baby, I’ll find another, another love) Is it the fact that this song, beloved since I discovered Alice Smith a year or so ago, now takes on a personal poignancy that I’d rather not elaborate on at this moment? Sigh. But I will elaborate in another post. Maybe tomorrow. Until then, enjoy Alice and her voice and this song.
Since I was knee high to a grasshopper (always wanted to say that), music has been a significant part of my life. I mean, my father was playing Simon and Garfunkel and Aretha Franklin records until they scratched and wore themselves out. I grew up hearing all the greats in my household, from Sam Cooke to the Rolling Stones, from the Bee Gees to Michael Jackson. Not only was music significant for me, but I strongly believe that hearing so many different art forms expressed through music blissfully exposed me and my siblings to a sea of unique and different perspectives and emotions.
With all that said, here’s my opinion: the current musical landscape, as we speak in 2015, is lamentable. Just today, I read an article where the singer Pink mentioned how let down she was by the MTV Video Music Awards. (Note that I haven’t watched that spectacle or MTV since I realized that the “M” part had become optional.) She stated that music saved and inspired her as a child, and was saddened to see that the acts and performers on the program weren’t doing anything of the sort. I agree. I can think of maybe 2 or 3 performers right now that mean a hill of beans to me musically. Adele. Sam Smith. Emeli Sande. Yeah, that’s about it. Honestly, I don’t even listen to the radio that much anymore, unless there’s an off off off chance that I’m going to hear a new artist that amazes me. Rarely happens. What happened to those moments when you heard music and wanted to scream because lyrically, sonically, and emotionally, you were soaring and being taken on an incredible journey? And hey, I certainly don’t want to diminish the people that may experience those things while listening to a girl group repeat “Give it to me, I’m worth it” about 1,000 times, but come on. Are you kidding me?
I have a memory. I’m in the kitchen. I’m holding a broom, as I’m supposed to be sweeping. But the radio is on so my attention is diverted. I stand in the center of the kitchen, my eyes closed, singing along to the song on the radio with the broom as my microphone. I don’t remember the song, but I distinctly remember how I felt standing there: joyous. That’s music to me. Pure joy. Sitting in a car and hearing lyrics that bring me to tears. Excitedly telling friends about a new, talented artist that I happened to discovered on those rare moments when they are found. Like my father, playing a song over and over again and hearing/feeling something utterly new each time. Moments like those aren’t necessarily gone, but I’m getting them from artists I’ve loved for decades. Not really anyone new. To me, current musical acts are playing up their visual content rather than focusing on songwriting and the sound. And while they’re at it, these are visuals that require a bleaching of the eyes after you’ve seen about two seconds. Throw in a bit of auto-tune, some canned lyrics, and round-the-clock plays on the radio and there you go: stars are born.
No, these are no longer the days of Like a Bridge over Troubled Water and I don’t expect them to be. I am quite content listening to artists I’ve always loved and the few current ones that I’ve come to thoroughly adore and admire.
I just miss the joy.