It took for David Bowie to die for me to really discover who he was and the impact he made on the world, and eventually, on me.
On the day he died, January 10th 2016, I knew approximately 5 Bowie songs. But it was enough that when I saw the CNN update on my phone that morning that said he had passed, I thought even then “How can David Bowie die? He was supposed to outlive all of us”. I saw the CNN update, thought “Aw, that’s sad” and went about my day as normal. When I got to school that day, I noticed a change in my friend Giulia. She was upset and all throughout 4th period Anatomy, she worked with her earbuds in and her head down. I asked her what she was listening to. “David Bowie” she said.
Giulia was the first person I saw to be visibly upset by his passing and her grief was the first I saw of his impact on the lives of real people. It’s always an odd phenomenon when celebrities die. In a way it’s nothing, people die all the time. But in a way it’s everything as we feel a small part of ourselves, the part that wouldn’t be there without them, die too.
A few weeks later, I was tasked with writing an art history essay for a scholarship. The prompt was to analyze a work of art for its social implications and I was given a list of artworks to choose from or I could select my own. Wanting to think outside the box and impress the judges, I selected my own. It took me another few days of pondering and searching, but eventually I came to the realization that David Bowie, simply as he lived and breathed, was walking, talking, living art. I created a thesis that to this day I have not perfected its argument, but I hypothesized that from the day David Robert Jones became David Bowie until the moment he took his final breath, everything in between was one great big exhibition in performance artistry.
Even his death was used to create art. His last music video, titled “Lazarus” shows Bowie with buttons covering his eyes as he lays in a bed and sings “Look up here, I’m in heaven”. The man knew his days were numbered and he chose to spend his last days doing what he always did best-create and amaze.
I always say I found him when I needed him most. When I was a junior in high school, I was shy, quiet, and afraid of people knowing I existed, let alone had an opinion. But throughout Bowie’s life, he made one thing abundantly clear- never stop changing. When Bowie tired of one persona he created for himself, he would simply change direction and re-invent himself. Before Madonna or Lady Gaga, it was Bowie who perfected the art of self reinvention. He dedicated his life to always making art that inspired him and excited him and no one else. He created for himself, and no one else. David Bowie gave me the tools and the confidence to change the quiet person I was and become the driven person I am. And I know whoever I become next will bear his influence. In studying him, I discovered myself. Over the course of the past two years I have spent studying him, reading anything I could about him, I still cannot intelligently articulate who he was, who he is , and who he will remain to be. My brain simply does not have the words.
While part of me is sad that he will never know of my gratitude, part of me is grateful that I will never feel the agony of being right in front of him and not saying everything I want to as I choke on my words in attempt to hide my awe of him and articulately express my deepest thanks in 15 seconds or less. So, if this is the only chance I have to say it- David, wherever you may be, from the bottom of my soul, thank you. I could not and would not be the person I am today or tomorrow without your contribution to this planet. The stars, indeed, look very different today.
Now seems to be the time that many start reflecting and taking stock of their lives so far as they prepare to move on to the next chapter and I just have to say that this past year has been unreal and I’m so very grateful. Just since last August, I’ve gotten to see three of my favorite bands live. I applied to and was accepted to the university of my dreams all in one day. (I’ve already changed my major at that university twice already, but we don’t have to talk about that part, it’s all under control now. I hope.) I had a roller coaster ride of a senior year, but it was probably one of, if not my happiest year of school. I had the greatest teachers, I really did. It seems the longer I’m away from them the more I miss them and even though I’ve already told some of them how much I appreciate them, I still wish I could express my gratitude better. I got to travel this year, a real dream come true for me. I sincerely doubted that it would happen, but after a crazy number of flight delays and running through Newark airport at 10:30 at night, it did. And it went by so fast, but I don’t regret any of it for a second. Now I’m determined to work my whole life just so I can get back there, hopefully to stay. This year I finally found my people in a small number of close friends, and I absolutely could not imagine not sharing every excitement and every worry with them. They kept me sane and grounded and I’m so proud to call them my friends and cheer them on as they go on their own adventures. This year I've realized the true gift I have been given in the form of my parents. The thought of leaving them isn’t like just leaving your family, but the greatest friends you’ve ever had and will ever have in your life. I truly would not be who I am without them. I just hope to make them proud in everything I do to show them even one iota of the gratitude that I have for them.
I’ve been searching for these words ever since June 13th, the day I left Butler Senior High School for the last time as a student; now it’s August 20th, the night before I move in to Point Park University for the first time as a college student and the words are just now coming and they are flowing. In all of the excitement and hustle that is moving away from home for the first time on my own (!!!) I think it’s important to have a little check in and appreciate where I’ve been before I set out for the new places I will go.
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, so I wouldn’t say John Mayer is one for me. But he hasn’t always made it easy to be a fan of his. Many have completely written him off, and I can’t say I blame them. But if you’ve ever thought about giving him a second chance, now is a great time. His new album, The Search for Everything, is what I personally believe to be his best and as he’s nearing 40, Mayer is finally growing into that mature artist that I can be proud to say I’m a fan of.
Of course anytime anyone brings up John Mayer, his infamous 2010 Playboy interview is the ugly elephant in the room and we can’t just sweep those horrible comments under the rug. But while I absolutely believe in holding people accountable to their words and actions, I do feel enough time has passed and Mayer has shown that he’s grown out of that mindset of abusing the media for attention. He realizes now that what he said was bad, and he apologized back in 2010 for his use of the n-word, saying, “It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it, because I realize that there's no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged,”*. And absolutely that could just be damage control and not actually learning what he did wrong, but in an interview he did with MSNBC in 2015*, he admits to being a “recovered ego addict”. He pulled himself off of Twitter for a time because he “abused the right to express himself”. It seems to me that he had, what I call, The Bieber Effect. Both Mayer and Bieber were given so much adoration, fame and money at such a young age that it effects their ability to determine what is okay and what’s not. Granted, Mayer was 21 when his first album came out, but that doesn’t mean he was a completely 100% emotionally mature individual when he became the guitar playing heartthrob that he was in his early career. I think he just didn’t know how to handle all of that attention properly, and unfortunately, he found out just how much he couldn’t handle it in a very public manner. I would recommend watching the interview and hearing him explain himself, but personally I think he sounded sincere. He seemed to have genuinely learned from his mistakes and still pokes fun of himself, which he did when he hosted the Late Late Show for three nights in 2015 and that to me doesn’t seem like something an ego maniac or narcissist would be able to do. Luckily, he did realize that he needed to step back from the media and he moved to Montana to figure out who he wanted to be as an artist, not just a walking soundbyte. Out of that relocation came Born and Raised and Paradise Valley, two very different albums from the John Mayer sound that I think many had become used to, but those albums would be important stepping stones on the road to the John Mayer sound we have now, the sound that is The Search for Everything.
Admittedly about his relationship and breakup with Katy Perry, Mayer’s newest album is all about heartbreak and we see a more vulnerable side of him than in those past two albums. Many reviews have christened this album a return to form, similar to Continuum or Room for Squares, but I thought it was a completely fresh sound for him and one that I like very much. Songs like, “Still Feel Like Your Man”, “Helpless”, “Moving On and Getting Over”, and “Rosie” all have a 70s electric vibe that I really enjoyed. “Never on the Day You Leave” is a great example of lyrical vulnerability that is expected from a singer-songwriter, but excellent nonetheless. But not all of the songs are about heartache, tracks like “In the Blood” and “Changing” show a more personal vulnerability, in which he writes about growing older and his ongoing personal growth as he continues to overcome and regain the public’s good graces after his public blunders of 7 years ago. “Love on the Weekend” is a major standout for me, just because it’s a sweet love song that harkens images of road trips and lazy Sundays. “Emoji of a Wave” is another one that stands out, the music is calming and peaceful and the lyrics remind us that any hardship is just a wave and we can get through it. Out of the 13 songs, I really enjoyed 9 of them. “Roll It on Home” sounds like a deleted track from Paradise Valley, but is growing on me and could be one that makes this album a 10/13. Nothing in particular strikes me about “You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me” or “Theme from The Search For Everything”, although others (including Mayer) are very fond of the former.
Overall, the album has a really good sound. It’s been out for a little over a week and I’ve listened to it everyday. I’ve heard that he has more songs that were supposed to be on this album that was to come out in waves, but the label pressured him to release these 13 tracks now so hopefully there is more to come in the next year. If there is another of this home run album coming, then I am certainly very excited.
Links mentioned for reference:
* Mayer’s 2010 apology: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/john-mayer-apologizes-for-using-n-word-in-raw-interview-20100211
* ”Recovered Ego Addict” Interview with MSNBC:
The reason I started this blog in the first place was to talk about things that I like. And I’ve been really excited about a lot of different things recently and I wanted to share them with you.
First up is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I know, late to the party (again) on this one. (Why do I always discover things long after everyone else?) I saw their Carpool Karaoke with James Corden and I had always kind of heard of them, but they just never intrigued me. Until I saw this video. I'm watching it and thinking, “Who are these grown men wrestling on someone’s lawn?”. So I googled them, like a good researcher. It turns out I actually like more of their music than I originally thought and I just liked their personalities. Now I have found myself down the long rabbit hole that I go down with any new band I find and I can’t say I’m mad about it. It’s suffice to say, I’ve been listening to them a lot.
Of course, I think all of the members of the band are cool and interesting, but one in particular caught my eye: Josh Klinghoffer. Josh is the newest member of the band, replacing John Frusciante. I really related to him when he said he was a California native who always wears 3 layers and he was in fact wearing a sweater and long pants in LA in June. A man after my own heart. But before touring with the Chili Peppers, Josh had his fair share of other musical pursuits, including a band called Dot Hacker. They are still together and still perform from time to time. And they are my next favorite.
Dot Hacker is unlike a lot of bands I’ve heard, probably because of Josh’s high, almost feminine singing voice. I actually wasn’t sure I liked it at first, but sure enough it grew on me. They currently have 3 albums, to which I’ve listened to 1 of and not even the whole through. I know that’s bad but I got stuck on a song called Eye Opener and I’ve just been playing it on repeat. I just really like it. So much so that it is on my Currently… music playlist (which you should check out).
Moving away from music, I’ve been very fortunate to have been doing more portrait photography shoots recently that I am very excited about. I’ve been getting really great results that my models are happy with and that I’m happy with too. That’s not always easy to do as I am still learning all the ins and outs of photography, but I do have to say that a great lens makes all the difference. And let me tell you, I have found a great lens. For my friend Giulia’s senior picture shoot, I used a Canon 50mm with an f/1.8 which, with such a low aperture, makes for great portraits. I was very happy with the results the lens gave me and the fact that it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg, which some lens absolutely can do. I did find some struggles in the manual focusing, but hopefully with time and practice, I can sort that out. It’s interesting to look back on my past portraits and see the difference that this lens, and plain old time and practice, can make.
In health related products, I want to talk about this great tea soap I found while on vacation. It's from Virginia's First Tea Farm and it smells wonderful and makes my skin feel great! It is used with real tea leaves, which can be found on the bottom of the sample I was given before I bought the full size. And what’s even better is the tea is grown locally in Virginia and was being sold at a local farmer’s market. It was a great experience feeling like a local, browsing the booths, supporting a local small business, and finding a product I love. I would definitely recommend these all natural products that are really nice.
In craft-y news, I recently ordered prints of some pictures off my phone for a little DIY project and I found a great independent business out of San Francisco called Social Print Studio. Not only were there lots of different size options and for really great prices, but they’re also just a really cute company. Like it says on their website, they’re just a group of friends and pets printing photos. How cute is that? And they sent me a little newspaper about their business with my order and it was filled with warmth and humor and just fun and it made me want to go work with these people. All from an app business. And my photos were very well made, had a nice matte finish to them, and were super affordable. Needless to say, I will be ordering from them again and would 10/10 definitely recommend them to anyone who needs pictures printed.
Speaking of DIY, I also had a week of feeling crafty where I decided to take an old frame that was beat up and scratched and I repainted it to create a cute little collage of me and my friends.
When it turned out that my photos were actually bigger than I had anticipated, I had to once again be crafty to figure out a way to display the other photos. Here are the results.
That’s all for right now! Thanks for coming on this little journey with me talking about stuff I like. I will be linking to things I talked about in this blog below for anyone who is interested.
RHCP’s Carpool Karaoke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfudXO_vzWk
Dot Hacker on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2PnETbh55Irnv3VAFBALfd
My Currently… playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/emmaelizabethx7/playlist/3vHXD9mC3y2h1ufJuv2dZQ
Canon 50mm f/1.8: http://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/ef-50mm-f-18-stm
Tea soap: virginiasfirstteafarm.com (I would recommend the Black Tea Soap and the Rosemary, if you’re intrigued but overwhelmed by the options on the website)
Social Print Studio: https://www.socialprintstudio.com
(And if you use this code, you’ll get $5 off your order: 8ZNVWLYFI1 )
I don’t really have much to say about these. I’d rather you take a listen for yourself instead of reading something I say about it because honestly, I don’t know what I’m talking about musically, okay? I just like these a lot and think maybe you will too. Some are new. Some are not. Some are new to me, but everyone else has been listening to them for a while. Oh well.
Here’s what I’ve been listening to currently:
Spirits by The Strumbellas
Eye Opener by Dot Hacker
Gold by Kiiara
Guillotine by Jon Bellion
Unsteady by X Ambassadors
Close by Nick Jonas feat. Tove Lo
Skin by Kyla La Grange
1965 by Zella Day
Colors by Halsey
I’ve been thinking about this idea for a long time and I’ve decided to just do it. So, starting off my first Music List with my Top 5 Favorite Artists! At least my favorites of my short seventeen years, that is. I’m sure and am fully expecting that it will change over time. I will leave links and such for you to take a listen to what I enjoy filling my ears with and you can think what you want about it. Pretty cool how subjective art works.
Now without further ado…..
1. David Bowie
Golden Years- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRD0ghlFSgk
This is probably not a surprise to anyone. I feel I make my love for Bowie very clear. I admit I knew some stuff, but didn’t discover the majority of his work until after he died. But oh my god I’m so glad I did. A huge musical talent but also a huge artistic talent, I just find him creatively inspiring and he makes me want to do more and be more every time I listen to him.
Also I included two songs because I just couldn’t decide.
Losing My Religion- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=if-UzXIQ5vw
Shiny Happy People- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCQ0vDAbF7s
I’m also including two here and it’s for this reason: one is actually good and is almost universally agreed upon as a great song. The other one the band themselves hate and was almost the theme song for F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I’ll let you decide which is which.
3. Ed Sheeran
Give Me Love- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ9hB107AHs
Between his eps and full albums, it pains me so much to only pick one song to show you. I did it, but I also recommend spending time with his music. The way he crafts words and emotions into songs is unlike anything in current music. I’d venture to say he’s one of, if not the best, modern songwriter. He doesn’t just write songs that will sell, but songs that actually mean something and have some heart in them.
4. the 1975
Love Me- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ5bZuUlftI
I feel like the 1975 get some negative talk because people think they’re the “basic girl’s band” but maybe everyone likes them because they’re actually really good. And they are really good. What I love about them is their sound is like a reboot 80s new wave alternative, which I grew up listening to. So when someone says “oh, they sound like (this 80s band), they’re not original”. Well, they probably sound like that person because that’s what they grew up listening to.
Anyway, this is another band that I would recommend listening to all of their stuff because I personally really like all of it. The song above, “Love Me” , sounds like “Fame” by Bowie at the beginning and it’s satirical, which they’re really about. That and juxtaposition. Really about that juxtaposition.
5. Wolf Gang
King And All Of His Men- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCyAIaBDBEo
Last but certainly, definitely not least, the band that holds a special place in my heart. About 2 years ago, I saw them open up for Bastille at Stage AE in June and then by September that year, they made their way back and I got to meet and interview them for the blog that I had at the time. One of the most nerve racking experiences of my life but they were so kind and warm and they made it also one of the best experiences of my life, for which I am still so grateful.
They have since broken up to pursue other projects, but I still hope and wish that they had gotten bigger success and maybe broke into the mainstream. Oh well, but I still think everyone should check out their first album, as it is my personal favorite of the two they released. It’s called Suego Faults and it’s an album that every single track is so good and worth a listen.
All of these artists make me very happy and I hope you’ve maybe found some new songs to make you smile too.
When did we lose our ability to communicate? Or rather a better question, did we ever have it? As people, we find it hard to communicate with one another. Even the Founding Fathers struggled. The Founding Fathers especially struggled.
Are we improving upon what they did? Or are we actually reverting? We hold them up as some of the greatest minds our fair country has ever seen, but shouldn't they be the most ignorant? After all these years of improved ideologies and technologies, shouldn't we be smarter by now? Smart enough to know that communication is the key to reform.
I see it like this: every person on the planet is in an ongoing relationship with every other person on the planet. A relationship that, at it's very least, all you have to do is coexist. What's the number one thing in a long lasting relationship? Communication. What's the second thing? Compromise. Why can't we give these things to each other?
I would love to have just a big therapy session for the whole of planet earth. A place to talk about how each other makes us feel. Is this idealistic and naive? Yes. It's also physically impossible, but good communication isn't. Have good conversation amongst friends. Even amongst enemies. Communicate with your representatives. Call them, email them, annoy them. That's their job, to hear you and your concerns. Politicians seem to forget that they are public servants. Remind them.
I myself cannot vote this year. I am on one hand saddened, that I cannot perform my American right, but also glad, that I don't have to make the impossible decision that you all do. But please, if you can vote, do. Because if Brexit will teach us anything, it's that democracy does work and your vote does count.
I could come on here and talk about my feelings concerning the Brock Turner case or about the murdering of an innocent musician at her own concert or about the mass slaughtering of 50 innocent people all because they dared to be who they are but honestly, I'm tired. No, I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted from being angry at people who are entirely unwilling to change. I'm exhausted from having to explain how Islam is not the problem, but those who take it too far are. I’m tired of understanding that 4 felonies should mean much more than 6 months in jail, but someone in a position of lawful power to do something about that doesn’t. But mostly, I'm exhausted from turning on the news every couple of days and seeing a new tragedy strike. I’m extremely tired having to deal with the idiots for days after, trying to act like they have any idea about what's going on in this crazy world because as much as they talk, they don’t have a clue. And none of us do. Sometimes there are just crazy people with no compassion and innocent people are forced to pay for that lack of humanity in others. And it’s not right. In fact it’s cruel and horrifically painful at times to think that there’s nothing we can do because you can’t fix someone who’s convinced they’re not broken. Except there is something we can do. We can love. Love is our only defense against the tragedies of this world. So instead of ranting on Twitter about the media misconstruing an aspect of a shooter’s possible motive, tweet about the victims instead. Tweet how you will speak for them when they no longer can. Tweet about how you will stand with those fighting in their honor and memory. Tweet about how you are unafraid of what any “terrorists” will do because our indifference towards them is truly their biggest fear. Our heated Twitter debates causing a rift in our solidarity as a nation against hatred, is exactly what they want. Don’t give them that. They don’t deserve it. But those who have fallen and those who fight for the right things now deserve your love and your support. Give your love and your attention to those who deserve it and not to those who think killing others is the way to get it. I said I was exhausted about talking about tragedy, and I am, but I never tire of talking about love.
As a quote spoken by one of the smartest men of our time, Lin-Manuel Miranda: “Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love”. Well spoken, Lin. Go spread it.
[ Photo taken by Jacob Langston for The Orlando Sentinel ]
It’s only April and already this year we have lost 2 musical giants who worked so hard to show us that being ourselves is all that we need. Both Bowie and Prince were household names to me growing up and I did have a few songs from both of them on my phone, but sadly it wasn’t until after their deaths that I realized the impact that they both had on art, culture, and society. I have a nostalgic heart so these deaths came as a shock to me, but didn’t hold much effect until I read the tributes and the articles in the days after and found that true geniuses had been lost, not just rock stars. I look around and see the musical “artists” of my generation and they just don’t have the same artistry and willingness to break boundaries for no more reason than to just do it. I understand that music played on the radio isn’t supposed to have art and substance because it’s “pop”ular music, but why can’t popular music have substance? I risk sounding like an old woman out of touch with the times, but I greatly fear that future generations will have lost the lessons that great artists like Prince and Bowie taught us, simply because they were born too late. Of course with the internet, they will have access to older artists at a time like no other in human history, but will they use it? I feel that if I try to hold on to these things for my children, they’ll disregard it because as a parent, how could anything I like be cool? I hope children in the future will be different. I hope the era of the internet will serve them well and give them access to great culture, that they can choose their own lessons to take with them through life and then pass to their children. Some cynics may say that children will never change, but I don’t think we’ve given them a chance. It’s never a happy occasion when someone dies, especially a beloved public figure, but one good thing that does come out of it: a whole new generation learns of their greatness.