Category Archives: music

Against All Odds

I was a fan of Phil Collins as a teenager in a way that was so easy and seamless for any teen in the 90s, that I didn’t really notice it, if that makes any sense. For me he was one of many successful artists who broke through with solo albums at the time.  I was floored by his emotional hit singles, bounced off the walls to his up tempo dance hits, but I never really sought to know more about him as a person. In the 90s, I didn’t dig below the surface of the musical artists I loved. I just loved and lived in their song without ever really knowing what they were about or what was behind them. Phil Collins was also one of those white artists who was heavily inspired by Motown and in so doing, worked his way into the hearts of Black audiences along with Brits like Rick Astley and George Michael.

Lately, all of our favorite artists have become more mortal in the public eye than ever and in the age of celebrity, social media makes the wall of privacy grow thinner and thinner, controversy and scandal popping up more frequently as we discover that our idols are as vulnerable as any human being.

I’m always careful about wanting to know too much about my sentimental faves because I’m afraid the truth will ruin the romance, the idealism of what makes them popular and beloved to millions. Music is such a deeply personal art. It’s hard sometimes to discover all the flaws, imperfection, ugliness and abuse that often lay just behind it. But as I get older, I realize to love anything and anyone is to love it warts and all.

And there are always warts. Just as there is always beauty.

Not dead yet Screenshot

I think I must have almost missed my train stop three different times (once I did) while reading Phil Collins autobiography during my work commute. I finished it this morning on the way to work and got emotional, the way I do when I finish up any book I like.

To summarize, Phil Collins is a cocky, ambitious, musical genius workaholic, someone who experienced a success that was just as big and far reaching as it seemed in the 90s. His music was fucking everywhere and even if you were a fan it did reach levels of annoyance. His personal life was a hot mess and later on his health was just as much of a wreck after years of touring for hundreds and hundreds of days at a time. If nothing else came across in this book (and a lot came across) it’s how we never truly understand how physically demanding it is for successfully performers to have their shit together night after night. Pain killers, cortisone shots and various other drugs become inevitable to keep their bodies, their vocal chords going and soon it all takes a toll. I understand now why Michael Jackson and Prince finally succumbed to these occupational hazards. They want nothing more than to please their audiences to the degree that they push their bodies beyond a point that is healthy for anyone. They sacrifice their personal relationships, their families for their music and for their fans.

 

Funnily (well not that funny) Collins’ autobiography is titled “Not Dead Yet” which I have to say really encompasses so much that I love about him, although he truly and repeatedly made some shitty mistakes over the span of his career. He is the guy that laughs at his pain and pushes on and gets you to laugh at it is well, which is not to day he isn’t also crying. But it’s true, he’s not dead yet, though just barely not dead. It took him until his late 50s to finally break down and nearly kill himself and then after his body truly began to fall apart he came to a full stop and was finally able to slow down and be a father to his kids by three different women.

…sigh

I thought maybe after reading his autobiography, I might not feel the same about his music. But I do. I think all the pain, the love, the complicated emotions he failed to communicate to the right people at the right time are there in that perfect way that only exists in melody, in soul, in rhythm and in feeling. That’s one of the things I love most about good music. It alchemizes pain and joy into something we all can share and process and connect through. It’s actually not perfection at all. It is a uniquely channeled and inspired vulnerability which is what makes it so heart wrenching and timeless.

 

Advertisements

Time Stopping Thursdays: My Favorite video of the month

35 Bday

I viewed this amazing video posted on Facebook by Angela Laketa Tanksley for the first time several weeks ago but so far, no matter how many times I view it, it always gives me life. I mean it’s not just that she was bold and brave enough to take on creating a remake of one the best Beyonce videos ever, “Grown Woman” but also that she did it to commemorate her 35th birthday. And even more than that, she didn’t try to be Beyonce. She emulated some of the best things about the energy of Beyonce and Destiny’s child videos, like friendship, Black women together, beauty, motherhood, marriage, strength, sexiness, fun and laughter and she used the resources that applied to her life, like the baby carriages (oh God I loved the women dancing next to their baby carriages!!!!!!! I loved it!!) and her husband opening his door to see his wife and her friends raising a ruckus in the hallway inspired by Beyonce’s “7/11” video. The look on his face and the shake of his head was pure husbandness. LOLOL!!! He was like, I don’t want any part of this. Back to my X-Box. Omigod, I just loved it. It made me feel like I could actually make a video like this one day!

Duoble Baby
“Betcha I run this!”

Angela did do some literal depictions of her favorite parts of Beyonce’s “Grown Woman” in ways that I loved. She had her husband on the couch and was rubbing his knee, showing her pride in marriage and then had her kids on her bed all around her while she laughed and smiled as her son kissed her and then there’s a bit where her and friends are dressed in sexy black outfits doing the dance routine that Beyonce does with two back up dancers near the end of “Grown Woman.” Angela shot her choreographed piece in a neighborhood that looked like a suburb somewhere outside in natural light. They killed it.

It was like fun sleep over/dance party at a hair salon mixed with grown sexiness defined by some of the best things about being a grown Black woman, and just showing how versatile, how dynamic, how sexy, how fun, how beautiful it is. I think I’m gonna go watch it again right now!

Planet Bjork: The Bjork MoMA Retrospective

“For listeners to feel compelled to pick it up, they must be able to recognize themselves in it, but also feel that they’re encountering something much greater than themselves.That’s where Björk’s voice factors in. It’s a beautiful and powerful instrument, a valve for emotions bigger than our own, with a rasp that sounds like it’s coming from someplace between adolescence and adulthood. Basking in it can feel as nourishing, life-affirming and dangerous as an afternoon spent in the sun.”

-Chris Richards Washington Post

“You have a minute and fifty seconds.” Said the security guard at the entrance.

We are then lead into what appears to be a large sound proof room with all black interior and a large screen, one each on opposite ends of the room. I sit down on the carpet with about thirty or so other people and watch the music video for Bjork’s “Black Lake” for the first time.

I am consumed.

The base from the song makes the entire room tremble. Bjork is in a cave singing and convulsing and walking and emoting and releasing her full throated heartbroken testimonial . And I feel as If I am in a cave as well.

Her face is beginning to show age and I love that it doesn’t matter at all to her. She’s still the same inside. Still letting out all her pain, her passion, her heart in long guttural, primal yells, still depicting nature as the natural extension her own body and exposing her vulnerability, showing us her insides, the power of submission. As always, Bjork utilizes art, nature,technology, movement and sound to describe (not always interpret) her insides in ways I have never experienced before.

When it was over we all clapped. We were then ushered into another dark but larger room where long, flat, vibrant pink cushions were laid against the walls on each side. I found a spot on the floor way up front where I sat in rapt attention for over and hour while Bjork videos I had never seen before played and played and played.

I forgot I was hungry. I forgot I was tired. I forgot there were people all around me. No one made a sound for hours. I put my phone down. When “Big Sensuality” came on I started to sing in a tone low enough not be heard over the music except occasionally. I laughed and smiled and tapped my feet to the beat. When “Army of Me” and “Human Behavior” came on, I wanted to shout.

I was in Bjork world, not a world which is easy to describe except to say that no one else but BJork could make walking through a deserted landscape wearing a dress made entirely of bells seem like it’s the thing to do.

I want a dress made entirely of bells.

When you’ve followed and loved an artist for as long as I have Bjork, seeing a retrospective, even one as cramped and poorly executed as this one, it feels like you have a connection to absolutely everything on display, but it was really the music videos that absorbed my attention for hours. Every Bjork music video is an art piece. She is one of the few artists I’ve known whose musical work has always extended beyond the boundaries of sound and spilled out into the art world. Still, if music was all she had to offer it would still be more than enough to establish Bjork as an artistic genius of sound.

Her incredible new album “Vulnicura” (I don’t even know if this is a real word or something made up in Bjorks’ mind), inspired by the heartache of her recent break up from artist Matthey Barney is, like all her albums tend to be, an experience, an emotional journey. I listen to the sound in the beginning of “Family” and it calls to mind the landing of something extraterrestrial, something falling from the sky and hitting the ground softly. Despite it’s being the introduction to a song about the dismantling of a family, It’s a very comforting sound, for me signaling change and sudden unexpected shifts. Add to that her cathedral like, orchestral compositions, fusing classical with electronic, sonic and pop, what is produced is a sense of inhabiting a fully realized multidimensional world that attempts to express not merely regret but healing, declaration, transcendence and even joy as well as raw and sacred spaces within her where the nuances of these emotions reside.

Sunday Morning in Bed with Two Geminis

kanyepaul

“I know you’re happy, cause I can see it

So tell the voice inside your head to believe it.”

Yesterday, one of my friends posted the story about Kanye fans not knowing who Kanye West is. I didn’t bother to read it but I thought my friends’ own written byline, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” Was hilarious.

This morning I discovered by chance that the story was the result of a song the two recently collaborated on together. I went to my itunes app just to see what was new and saw a photo of Kanye and McCartney representing a new single, “Only One.” I had a happy flip out, listened to a sample and then bought it.

I knew nothing about the song but I knew it was sung from the spirit of his mother the minute he began to sing. She is his heart. Tears came to my eyes as I listened and felt every word coming from a divine place. Later on, reading that his daughter was sitting on his lap when the words came to him was just the most incredible way to start off a rainy Sunday in a new apartment I could think of. Especially after talking with my own mother, an incredible woman I love, for hours last night.

So much about this collaboration is huge. The generosity of a music giant to fall back and support this Black Genius while he channels the spirit if his beloved mother while his beloved baby daughter sits on his lap. It’s just…beyond. The amount of trust that requires is just so deeply moving to me, so fragile and strong at the same time. Okay, I’m getting emotional again. Like I’m just overwhelmed with feelings I cannot put into words here which means that I might have to get a bit abstract and write a poem about it over on eternalista.

This is what I love about music! Its ability to mend, to build, to bring together, to heal and to channel the divine is just…hope giving. It’s magical, spiritual, miraculous and political all at once!

Geminis like to have their fingers in a lot of pots at the same time. As a typical Gemini sun, Gemini rising, I know this first hand. Sometimes it wears us thin and fizzles out, and sometimes it produces something unforgettable. But I’m starting to learn that what’s important is focusing on the process living a creative life, if you so choose and not the outcome. Dedication to the process ensures the outcome will always be what it should. Success has a multitude of faces.

Kanye and his mother are still together, still collaborating all the time. He’s always felt this. I feel it as well. Kanye’s fearless sharing through art is always an inspiration.

Day off Interlude

Day off Interlude

I have no particular point to make here. I just wanted to share what I did today on my day off from the morning to this very moment perhaps so that you can learn a bit about me.

I watched two episodes of “Project Runway” on my phone while in bed on the Lifetime Channel app. I live for people making things and I when I saw the commercial for “Threads” the Jr. version of PR I lost it. Shows about kids cooking and making clothes or anything. I live for it.

I wished everyone in my Facebook network a “Happy Indigenous People’s Day” and responded to a status update I made last night that “Goldilocks was mad rude.”

My mom has been visiting with me for the last couple of weeks so I got up, sat and talked with her for over an hour while crocheting a hat and watching “Wendy Williams” and “The View.” Among the topics of our discussion were, Heidi Klum, Kimora Lee Simmons, marriage, gay marriage, and several things that came up related to guest on both shows. I’m not into Wendy but I paid attention when Betsy Johnson was on because I adore her. I love how spry and youthful she is at 72! I also love that she has her daughter walk the final walk at her shows and that now she brings her granddaughter with her as well. I just love that whole image.

Next I paid attention on the View because Russell Brand was on and I really dig him. He always brings a certain element of anything can happeness around him and it always keeps interviewers on their toes. I like that. And I love comedy and I like his politics most of the time.

After that mom went out to do her thing and I got myself reluctantly together to go to Chelsea and get my eyebrows threaded, a ritual that I enjoy because when I do it it’s usually all I do. It’s a laid back day.

It was so cloudy out I almost convinced myself I wanted to stay in but I am so thankful I didn’t. It was very nice out. On my iphone, I played WTF, one of my two favorite podcasts at the moment and lost myself in it as I rode the train. I listened to Marc’s ranting and venting and sadness and totally wished I could be there and tell him it would be all right. It’s usually a cross between that and wishing I could tell him GET OVER IT! Then I listened to his interview with the second Black Comedian he’s interviewed since last week with Ms. Pat. Today was Larry Wilmore. I found I could totally relate to his humor influences as a young person (as a girl, I also loved Groucho Marx and Monty Python) and that, like him, I am also a “contrarian.” That’s not a good or bad thing. Just an accurate assessment. In not all but many ways, I aim to always to be going the opposite direction from everyone else.

After my brows were done wonderfully because my favorite lady, the only one I ever want to see, did them, I decided to stroll down to 14th Street. When I’m listening to podcasts, walking alone is great. And although Chelsea is covered in dog shit, I somehow always like to walk down there. I like taking photographs of building and things I find in the side streets.

At 14th Street I hoped on the uptown express to head home. The podcast ended somewhere around 116th Street. I had my eyes closed because I’ve had a period headache (I can say period to you right?) all day. I ended up smiling because Marc played the show out unexpectedly on his acoustic guitar. It was really nice. Music is really important to me and I really liked the spur of the moment improvisational feel of what he played because it sounded like it came right from his insides. I like how he shares.

When that was over I played Hugh Masakela’s album “The Lasting Impressions of Oooga Booga” where I had left off listening in the apartment earlier that afternoon before I left. There’s this track that always plays on one of my hundred Pandora Stations called “Mas Que Nada,” Masakela’s cover of the Jorge Ben song and it lays me out every time. I mean I think it’s magical. After hearing it like three times over the weekend, I finally broke down bought the entire album on iTunes last night.

I’ve known about Hugh Masakela all my life and have certainly heard “Mas Que Nada” many times before because my parents played him in the house while I was growing up. But this happens to me all the time. It’s like one day something that was all in the background of my upbringing just comes to the forefront and a strong definition takes shape and I feel it in my core. It speaks to me. This song speaks to me. The entire album is fucking brilliant but I just want to get on my knees and give thanks for “Mas Que Nada” even if it is a cover.

When I got home I heated up some Roti my mom made last night and continued listening to Masakela on my stereo and then I started writing this.

I’m really glad to have had this day off.