Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Songs that Touch Me

I've been meaning to make a post about song lyrics for a while now, but I've never got around to doing it.

A lot of the pop songs out on the radio these days are, frankly, pretty terribly written or engineered or performed. But there are bits and pieces of poetry in some pop artists' pieces, and I find that these songs invariantly end up being the ones that move me the most...

One such artist is Jann Arden. Not all of her songs are good, but there are some gems in there. "If You Loved Me" is one of these gems. Unfortunately, I can't find a YouTube video of it, but here are some lyrics from the bridge, which is my favourite part. The music is really needed to complete the effect though.
I would clench my hands
and hold my breath
and promise to be true

I would never speak
I’d hardly eat
I would not cost a cent

I would watch you sleep
and count your sheep
and lie beside the bed

I would never think
I’d pour your drink
I’d laugh at every joke you tell
I love this part of the song. It captures perfectly all the yearning, selfless feelings that sometimes accompanies love - wanting to take care of someone ("I would watch you sleep and count your sheep"), wanting to please him or her ("I'd pour your drink"). Yet at the some time, there is something ridiculous and obsessive about the narrator's lines. Submission may accompany selflessness. We see it here in her claims ("I'd hardly eat, I would not cost a cent." or "I'd would never think"), and we worry that she will lose herself. She doesn't sound like she has much self-esteem. But that's not surprising. Love may require, in turn, selflessness and submissiveness. And one can lose oneself in love.

Another one such artist is Dido. Now, Dido has been criticized for being a songwriter who writes "vanilla", slow, boring music that appeals only to older women. I think these are valid arguments regarding her first two albums, but not her third album. Her third album, Safe Trip Home, is filled with so much poetry that I feel compelled to return to it again and again. Also of note is the fact that she used only organic sounds for this album. Nothing is electronic and the arrangements are sparse but they are also subtle. A bit tribal, even. Listen to this song, about her father's death...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sinking too Far

I just finished The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and I must say that it is a lovely and poignant book.

Upon reading Alice Walker's wikipedia page, though, I discovered that she had a daughter, Rebecca, with whom she'd become estranged with. The reason they'd become estranged with each other was, according to her daughter, was because Alice had put all her energy into helping Africa, and going to feminist meetings - so she ended up neglecting her daughter. Upon learning that her daughter had made her feelings about her uprising public, Alice resigned from the role of being a mother.

From The Times:
Walker had also joined the early feminist movement — Gloria Steinem is Rebecca’s godmother — and it was her politics, more than anything, that shaped mother-daughter relations. The so-called “first wave” feminists believed that housework was another form of slavery and that women did not have an innate need to nurture but had been conditioned into their subordinate role as wives and mothers through centuries of patriarchy.

“My mother is very ideologically based, and her ideology is much more important in many ways than her personal relationships,” says Rebecca.

When Rebecca became pregnant at 14, Walker wasn’t shocked: she calmly picked up the phone and arranged an abortion. “Her feminist thing was about empowering me to have an active sexuality and to be in control of my body, and that trumped any sense of boundaries,” Rebecca says.

Certainly, Walker believed that what she was doing was right. Leaving her teenaged daughter to “do her own thing” was a way of fostering Rebecca’s independence and avoiding inadvertently passing down patriarchal values.

[...] Towards the end of senior school, an ecstatic Rebecca showed Walker her offer letter from Yale. Instead of celebrating her daughter’s success in landing a place at one of the world’s top universities, Walker asked her coolly why she wanted to go to a bastion of male privilege.
Today, her daughter is a third-wave feminist. She has a son and writes often about the joy of motherhood.

When I discovered this, I felt afraid. Am I an ideologically based person as well? As a student of the sciences, I have often pondered whether science's emphasis on rationality was beneficial. I have sometimes thought that this emphasis on rationality restricts creativity and the development of new ideas. As well, I'm starting to believe in some opinions that could be considered radical. For example, I believe that right now, our society is still very sexually repressed, and I would like to break the taboo on speaking about it it. Also, I believe that right now, our education system is deeply flawed...

I have maintained that it is important to question what is currently assumed in society. But will the things I think and say form barriers between my friends/family and myself? Now I am afraid that, by actively pursuing my ideal world, I will drive them away. My mom, for one, doesn't really understand my obsession with talking about sex.

I am glad I am reading more these days, because I've had new thoughts - thoughts and opinions that I never had before. But I've noticed that I use books as a form of escape. I read when I feel lonely, and want to avoid dwelling on negative emotions and thoughts. The thing is: the lines between reality and fantasy are not always clear. I often apply an author or character's opinions to my own everyday life. How would I know to stop? How would I know when I've sunk too far, into fantasy?

Finally, this article also scares me because I do not know whether or not I have what it takes to be a parent. I am afraid that my "hippie" ways of thinking will somehow ruin my children's lives, if I do have any. I am proud of my sexuality, but sometimes I am somehow afraid that being gay makes me inadequate to be a parent.