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Seven Day Music Challenge, Day 4

Here is one thing you should know about me: I love Beck.

But only as an artist.

Sometime in the last couple of years, I heard the definition of the word “demisexual” and finally understood something about myself that I never had before. At last, a perfectly good reason for why everyone expected me to have a crush on my favorite celebrity.

To explain this, I’m going to have to take you back to sixth grade, but first here’s what you need to know about demis, if you haven’t heard the term before. A demisexual is a person who does not feel sexual attraction for others unless they have formed an emotional bond. While I’m not much for labels, I think this one fits me pretty well.

So, anyway, sixth grade. Right. That was when I noticed music. Up until that point, music was just something that existed on the car radio, something my parents were into. It wasn’t until I was flipping channels at my grandma’s house and came across MTV (ya know, back when they showed videos) that music interested me. I loved music videos. I’m a very visual person. I love seeing how each artist would present their music in this expanded form. During my teenage years, I watched hour upon hour of music videos, aborbing all the madness of mid-to-late 90’s alternative music.

And I got a little obsessed with this guy…you know the type. Blond hair. Blue eyes. Two turntables and a microphone? “Where It’s At” was the first Beck video I ever saw–I was too young during the “Loser” days, and anyway, its popularity seemed to have bypassed my sleepy little town. So, here is the first glimpse I ever got of my favorite musicain of all time:

12-year-old me watched that and thought, “That’s fucking weird.” Or maybe “freakin’ weird.” 12-year-old me didn’t curse. Anyway, there comes a time in every kid’s life when they either deny their own weirdness, or embrace it. Yeah, I liked The Goo Goo Dolls okay, but this, whatever this was, was my thing. And I was going to own it. I spent the next several years of my life learning everything I could about this weird little Beck guy. I read fansites (and later made my own). I played his cds on a loop. I dressed like him.

So, naturally, everyone thought I was in love with Beck. My friends at school insisted that my interest in Beck was a crush. Grown ups, too. My mom took my magazine clippings to the craft store where she worked and had them framed for me. “I remember kissing my David Cassidy posters every night before bed,” she told me with an inflection that led me to believe she expected me to do the same.

I had zero interest in kissing Beck, in poster form or otherwise. I didn’t even think he was cute. Just the notion that everyone believed I idolized him for such shallow reasons infuriated me. Nor could I understand when a friend would casually mention how much they’d like to make out with, say, Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day. For me, musicians existed for singular purposes. Ear candy, not eye candy. One simply does not make out with Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day. Clearly my friend misunderstood what fandom was really all about.

Now I look back at my celebrity non-crush and realize that it was just a part of my demisexuality. I never fell “in love” with Beck because I never knew him. Those feelings were an impossibilty for me. I loved Beck, but in my own utilitarian way.

Over the years, my obsession with Mr. Hansen peaked then waned. Once upon a time, I used to babble about him so much that my friends would beg me to stop. But eventually I took those (still unkissed) photos down from my wall. And I certainly always will be a fan, but I have to confess that I listened to Morning Phase exactly once and thought, “This is not for me.”

But Odelay? Odelay was definitely for me.

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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.


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Song Challenge \ Melanie Kristy \ Penny and Me


Penny and Me.
There was a long wait after Hanson’s second album came out before we had any music news. We didn’t fully believe there would be more music. We were young, and Hanson was in an ugly battle with their record label to even put out music. Eventually they split from their label and decided to take the independent route. They recorded an acoustic album, a spoiler of their new CD, in a church basement in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Penny and Me is one of the songs on the album. A friend of mine who has connections with in-laws told me it’s about a doll named Penny and living long distance and the Georgia mountains. To me it’s about a lot more.
You know those days when you can drive around with the windows open, drinking iced coffee and wearing sunglasses while singing along harmoniously. Maybe beach trip is in the immediate future. Maybe you’re on a road trip. You feel free. If you’re familiar with The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it’s one of those feelings where you feel infinite. You just are. And that’s all that matters.
I came up with the term “Penny Days” to describe that kind of feeling, that infinite, breathless lightness that sometimes happens when the moment is just right. It started when I wrote a novella called Penny and Me. It’s about a girl named Penny who becomes fast friends with a boy named Lucky who is a guitarist and just about to make it big. It was the first piece of fiction I wrote and completed that wasn’t fan fiction. And I loved those characters. It’s been so long since I’ve revisited them, I decided for Camp Nano this month I’d write more based on Penny’s life as an early-twenty something girl who’s disillusioned by life. I haven’t actually started writing it, and we are a week into April so you can see how well I’m doing with writing fiction. But that’s not the point. Penny was named for my friend Kate who later got “Penny Rose” tattooed onto her foot as a way of indicating her alter ego.
This song encompasses a feeling I can’t quite explain, that high on life you can’t always recreate. It’s magic in song form, and I love every second of it.
Melanie Kristy

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7 day song challenge, day #1: See You On a Dark Night

TW: sexual assault

As a kid I was lucky enough to grow up in a suburb where I always felt safe walking at night. My friends and I used to go on night adventures all the time as teens, haunting school playgrounds and netball courts and the random patches of forest that grew in between houses. We would cast spells, gossip, sometimes drink. Walking home, usually around 2 or 3 in the morning, I would have to split off from the group and head down this long stretch of poorly lit road, and then through the twisting backstreets of suburbia to my parents’ house. And I enjoyed those walks; there were always bats about, and I had space and time to think before the sun came up and day-to-day life began again.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

A year before I moved to Brunswick, which is where I live in now, a woman was killed. She was abducted while walking home from a night out with friends, from a pub I’d spent many nights at during university. She’d only been a couple of twisting backstreets away from where she lived. Backstreets I’d covered many times in between friends’ houses and tram stops, often walking for much longer than I needed to because I was poor, and couldn’t afford money for a taxi, but also because I wanted to. One of the newspapers marked out her route on a map and when I saw it my insides froze up; I’d walked that way before.

I don’t know if I was actually any safer in my old suburb that I am in my new one. Perhaps that tough, glittering, teenage-girl-feeling of untouchability kept me safe somehow, shimmering like a mirage, there but not really. Now, when I’m faced with the possibility of having to walk home alone at night, I don’t look forward to the space and time, to the bats or the lights. I don’t feel free.
I feel trapped.
I weigh up the options.
I could get a taxi (that’s $12 minimum), or an uber (a little less).
I could call and hope that my partner’s awake so that he can come meet me at the tram stop.
I could walk with my keys in between my fingers, and my phone to my ear, making imaginary conversations with myself, hoping it doesn’t ring.
I could, I could, I could…

The night doesn’t belong to me anymore. And I hate that.

I loved this song first for the way it sounds alone. It’s catchy. The vocals are haunting, but playful. I love the way Grimes samples in this track, the sounds she chooses, not quite fitting together, but in a way that makes you listen harder. I’m always surprised at finding new sounds creeping through every time I hear this song. It reminds me of a patch of forest at night.

But when I heard what the song was really about, it became my anthem. What she does with this song is nothing short of genius. She is taking something incredibly painful (her own sexual assault) and turning it around to face the perpetrator. By weaving that pain into something upbeat, something poppy and fun, something that she has since built a career in music on, she is taking all the power away from her attacker.  And I love that

And so on nights when I have to walk with my keys between my fingers, I chant these words in my head. It doesn’t make me feel untouchable, or even safe. But it makes me feel like I am gathering some of that power back.

See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night.

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Genevieve’s Song #1

It was the spring of the first time I had ever broken up with someone. I was still processing what the hell had happened over the past two years. I had stopped writing, stopped painting, stopped singing. I had a closet full of clothes I hated. I was raw and not yet angry but starting to learn to be angry. I don’t think I fully realized until later how important that was to healing.

I channeled all my excess energy through running, and I ran with a friend of a friend. We started talking, and soon he was telling me he had feelings for me. His kisses tasted like fresh-baked bread. He cooked me rosemary chicken. We lay side by side in a field and watched the sky overhead grow gray and thick with thunder. We were both going through some serious shit, and I think we each secretly knew we wouldn’t be together very long, but we were there to hold sacred space for one another.

He burned me a CD, and the very first song was Alkaline Trio’s “Over and Out.” It wasn’t my usual cup of tea, but something about it resonated. I listened to the CD, this song, on repeat at full blast in my basement that May, my arms streaked with watercolors, the outside world blooming fiercely. I painted a series of a girl rising from a half-shell in the sea. I painted her making a sailboat out of the shell and fishing for food, and, finally, finally finding land. In the very last painting she is on a beach, looking out at the horizon.

Every time I listen to this song I think of running, the smell of mud on the trail. I think of lightning and the musk of lilacs, light rain. And I think of the girl surviving on her half-shell in the middle of a vast ocean, and the boy who wasn’t afraid to hold her hand.

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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….”


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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.


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