Author Archives: Jessa Marie

[sic] seven day song challenge, day seven: glass and patron

I know it’s taken me quite a while to get here…the demands of real life seem to get in the way of my creative endeavors.

(Maybe that’s my problem…prioritizing “real” life over creativity, the essential life force that gives my days dimension, texture, clarity. But I digress.)

In truth, I’ve been fortunate enough to have creative opportunities, but I’m still hungry.

Which brings me to FKA Twigs. Icon. Creative Goddess.

I love her entire body of work, but “Glass and Patron” is the song that I return to whenever I need energy.

“I wait all week for a moment’s break away from being told who I am…”

That’s the feeling. When I write. When I dance. When I sing. When I create.

The video is stunning, perfectly illustrating FKA Twigs’s many talents. A concept, fully realized from beginning to end.

Fashion. Dance. Song. Life. It’s all here. It’s everything I love in a short clip. A fitting end to this journey.

Go forth and create, create, create!

[sic]

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[sic] seven day challenge, day 6: romeo y julieta

So, since I’ve posted my last song challenge piece, I’ve been thinking more and more about Romeo and Juliet, specifically in Latin music. Two of my favorite songs by Puerto Rican artists draw upon Romeo and Juliet, proving I’m a hopeless Shakespeare nerd in any language.

First, there’s the classic “Amores Como el Nuestro” by Jerry Rivera. You may recognize the opening notes from “Hips Don’t Lie”, a song that made annoyed me to no end despite the fact that I really like Shakira because every damn time the song came on the radio I would automatically get hyped for Jerry Rivera. Every. Time. I should have known better, but I didn’t because, like Pavlov’s dogs, I had been conditioned to expect a damn good salsa song and not middle-of-the-road pop. To be fair, had I not grown up listening to “Amores Como el Nuestro”, I probably would have liked “Hips Don’t Lie”, but alas. (I’m sure Jerry Rivera gives zero fucks about my feelings, seeing as how it probably rained money in his house every time that song was played.) This song takes me back to my friend’s room as she waxed poetic about boys, and I, being younger and not exactly popular with the fellas, listened while frantically tucking away information in the back of my mind. Put this song on at a party and watch me get my entire life.

Next, a much more recent song from Ivy Queen, “Peligro de Extincion”. I love Ivy Queen. She’s unapologetic about being herself. Bold style, bold voice. Her music makes me want to get shit done. I love this song because it’s the perfect blend of her reggaeton beats with a softer flow that speaks more to her ballads. The juxtaposition of hard and soft work so well here. (Also, her hair in this video is goals. That red! Also, I want the typewriter. Just sayin’.)

 

All this Romeo and Juliet talk has brought me back to the Baz Luhrmann-directed version, a movie everyone who grew up in the ’90s has seen and either loves or loathes. Guess which side of that fence I’m on? (Also, HOLY SHIT THAT MOVIE IS 20 YEARS OLD PARDON ME WHILE I GO TAKE MY GERITOL AND YELL AT CHILDREN TO GET OFF MY LAWN.) The soundtrack to this movie just takes everything about the ’90s and wraps it up in a tidy little bow.

Presenting the most 1990’s thing you’ve ever seen (and heard) in your life:

Ah, Shakespeare and his foolish, shortsighted young lovers. Gotta love ’em.

[sic]

 

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[sic] seven day song challenge, day 5: america

So, I’m currently participating in a writing workshop that explores the Latino immigrant experience, using Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors as our guide. It’s one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve ever had, both in terms of my writing and my personal life. I love speaking Spanish in the room (even though I’m a Spanglish speaker at best), listening to others tell their stories, feeling a little bit more at home.

This isn’t the first time I’ve explored Shakespeare in the context of being Latina. My freshman year of high school, we studied Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story side by side, and through the hell that was my first–and only–year in that school, this exploration was everything. Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of Latinos on television or read about Latinos in books, which is probably why West Side Story affected me so deeply. Reading the stories and watching the movie cemented my love for both Shakespeare and musical theater. I annoyed my family by obnoxiously singing along with the movie, sometimes more than once a day. While the starry-eyed, desperate teen Jessa loved scenes like “Mambo”, “I Feel Pretty” and “One Hand, One Heart” (on which I modeled a senior wedding project because, in my other high school, we had to take a Marriage and Family class where we planned a Catholic wedding, making religious programs and all, and then had an egg “baby” that we had to care for. But I digress.), adult Jessa keeps going back to “America”. That conflict of hope and disillusionment, the deep pain and frustration at not being respected, sadness and resentment at the difficulties my parents faced as young people in the US, especially my dad, who came to the US from PR when he was eighteen, the way even anger and frustration can be turned into art. It’s masterful, and the lyrics resonate. Plus, Rita Moreno is a goddess.

[sic]

 

 

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[sic] seven day song challenge, day four: guns n’ roses n’ bees, oh my!

Axl Rose: egomaniac, kickass vocalist, object of my pre-teen affection. Guns n’ Roses were the be-all-and-end-all in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and Axl and Slash were second only to Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart as far as vocalist/guitarist duos went in my mind. I remember seeing the video for “Don’t Cry” for the first time and marveling at Axl’s perfect face, his shaking hands, his writhing body. Also, the clothes. ’90s fashion perfection. I had seen other G n’ R videos before, but watching this grand interpretation of Axl’s life being played out by the man himself–fucked-up Axl, withdrawal Axl, cool-as-fuck blazer-clad Axl, underground Hulk Axl–felt different. I loved the poetry and the storytelling, even if it was some narcissist’s big, vulgar ego stroke. (Which…I think we can give give the “Biggest Ego Stroke” award to “November Rain”.) And Slash–can we talk about that guitar god? The hair! The top hat! The snarl! I was totally in love with that sliver of face and wild mass of curls. And the way he played guitar was beyond music. It was an awakening.

I loved the rooftop band performance scenes in that video, where Axl wails under the accusatory glare of helicopter lights, sharing the spotlight with another singer. This man also had long hair and wore a plaid shirt, and he was so gorgeous that whenever he appeared I kind of forgot about Axl altogether. Axl was in the whole video, but you had to work to appreciate this other dude. Years later, I would discover thanks to VH1’s Behind the Music that the backup singer in that video that outshined Axl was none other than Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon.

When I found that out, it all clicked. Of course. The man who wrote “No Rain”, the saddest song with the happiest melody. The man dancing in a field, his long, wavy hair draped over his shoulders; the man singing to delicate yellow flowers. The man who introduced this lonely, sad, weird kid to the Bee Girl. For the first time ever, I saw someone on television who looked like me and wasn’t just there to be a sidekick or a punchline. She was her own person, and it was her weirdness, her tap dancing, her longing, that made the story. And she finds her bee people! A whole fucking field of bee people! Hope, the thing in my chest that bloomed like a sunflower, big and bright and bold.

I had been planning on writing about these two videos together since we started this challenge, and it’s been my goal to write about it all day. Lo and behold, Facebook memories reminded me that exactly five years ago today, this is what I had to say about “No Rain”, which I shared on my page: “This may be my favorite song of all time. Seriously. The video only makes it better. I identified with that Bee Girl so intensely. Still do. Must be where my love of tutus comes from.”

It’s a song I return to whenever I’m feeling alone and weird and sad, and I find it perfectly odd that five years ago it was the song on my mind. Our brains are funny things, aren’t they?

Tell your stories. Be exactly who you are. You’ll find your people eventually.

[sic]

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[sic] seven day song challenge, day three: kylie minogue, love at first sight

I woke up this morning craving Ribena and McVitie’s Digestive Biscuits. Two things I fell in love with when I studied abroad in London. Whenever I think of these things, I automatically picture my dorm room. It was a private room, so for once, I didn’t have to share my space with anyone. No one barging through to get to their rooms (one of the many fun perks of living in a railroad-style apartment!), knocking on the door, asking me to clean, telling me to do dishes or run to the store. Just my room, with a comfortable bed, a bookshelf with my schoolbooks and my shampoo and my hair dryer and my fancy soaps and makeup, a desk for me to sit and do my homework, a little wooden table where I kept a basket of oranges and a sleeve of McVitie’s that no one was going to take and eat without permission. A little stand with my neon blue wig that I wore to the Tower of London. Mine mine mine! Even when I managed to get my own room in my apartment back home in Brooklyn, it was never fully mine. But now–mine.

A room where I hung out with friends I made from my study abroad group, a room where I recovered after a massive hangover. A room where I read The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing and Shakespeare’s Pericles and Top Girls by Caryl Churchill and “Not Waving But Drowning” by Stevie Smith. A room where I cried myself to sleep after a bitter argument. A room filled with my emotions, my stuff, my life. A room that smelled like Lush’s Karma perfume. A room just blocks away from King’s Cross where I would take trains, giddy with freedom. Jessa, Explorer Extraordinaire!

One day, after taking a shower, I went back to my dorm room and cranked up the radio. “Love at First Sight” by Kylie Minogue had just started. The beat, so buoyant and joyful, Kylie’s sweet, girlish warble gliding along these sonic champagne bubbles. I unwrapped my hair from the towel and let it uncoil, wet tips brushing my bare shoulders. And I sang along, dancing with my big fluffy yellow bath towel clinging to me like a mini dress.

“And everything went from wrong to right/and the stars came out and filled up the sky/the music you were playing really blew my mind/it was love at first sight.”

No one was going to barge in. No one was going to laugh at me and my fat body. No one was going to tell me to hurry up. I took my time and danced. For the first time, I knew what it felt like to be authentically myself.

Love at first sight, indeed.

Fall in love.

[sic]

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[sic] seven day music challenge, day two: on the floor

I’ll keep this one short. Webster Hall. Early 20’s. Leave the coats at home, we’ll freeze in our tank tops, jeans and chunky-heeled boots. Don’t forget the lip gloss. Eyeliner. Hair blown out to perfection. Mad body glitter. Coated in stardust. Bodies slithering, shaking, grinding. A guy in an silk olive button-down shirt, open to his navel. We called him Flock of Seagulls–his ’80s hair was a sight to behold. It became a game every time we went: spot Flock of Seagulls. He never disappointed. Always showed. Same shirt, same hair.

Put the purses in the middle of the circle and shimmy shimmy shake. ’90s club bangers, a freestyle jam or two, and then, just when fatigue threatens to set in, this song. And we’re moving again, shouting, jumping, writhing. Hair frizzy from the collective body heat. Eyeliner smeared, bleary-eyed, glossy bubblegum mouths, “Hey Mr. DJ, put a record on, I wanna dance with my baby….”

Singing it as we stumble to the diner or Gray’s Papaya, singing it on the train, singing it as we crawl into bed, traces of lip gloss at the corners of our mouths, staining our sheets with kohl and stardust. “Music, music, music, music….”

[sic]

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[sic] seven day music challenge, day one: laura marling, breathe

Let’s get something out of the way. I’m probably going to be talking about more than one song a day. Perhaps full albums, perhaps songs that are somehow related. What can I say? I’m a rebel.

The first song that popped into my mind for sharing with everyone is “Breathe” by Laura Marling, but this song is a part of a gorgeous suite that opens the album Once I Was An Eagle, which I listened to every single day when my anxiety was at its peak. It’s an album I can–and often did–listen to straight through, the songs in the order Marling intended. This album would be my companion during early morning walks, when it was just me and the stars and a black, black sky. I would pick up a cup of tea and enjoy the cool air, the darkness.

Once I Was an Eagle was the album I listened to when I was in bed, too tired to move. And when I felt my anxiety creeping like a fire up my body, seizing my limbs, making my stomach heave, whether out in public or at home, it was “Breathe” I could go to. It’s the rhythm, the way I could count the syllables and time my breaths to them, but that’s only part of this song’s magic. There’s a quiet devastation to the lyrics that helped me process my own pain and anxiety in a way louder songs could not. It would calm the sea of bile in my belly. I would be able to inhale for a line, tapping the syllables out on my fingers, and then exhale, tap-tap-tapping.

Every time I listen to that album, I am transported to early morning, quiet cups of tea, pinpricks of lights in the sky. I’m reminded of isolation. Anxiety exhausted me, and I was incredibly embarrassed and sad and broken, but with this album, I found a measure of peace. I helped me turn isolation into reflection, helped me reenter the world. It’s really just that good. That beautiful. That honest. Both opulent and spare, quiet and powerful, devastating and exalting. It lifted me out of bed, out of despair.

Marling created a short film scored by the suite, four songs that flow together seamlessly. I highly recommend watching the entire film. Both the music and the visuals are gorgeous. If you do want to skip straight to “Breathe”, just go to around 12:20 or so. All I know is, without this album, I don’t know how I would have begun to heal or even deal with the intensity of my anxiety.

Just breathe.

[sic]

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