Music gives us the validation we often look for in other people. I was sixteen when I went to Nashville, searching for something, anything, to tell me that everything was going to work out. As a teenager, we’re automatically labeled as misunderstood or angry, sad, and that everything is supposed to be water under the bridge. Sometimes, we’re not old enough to have real problems. I went looking for my own solutions to problems people don’t like to talk about. I was with my mom in a crowded cafe when I found one of my answers.
People can find and listen to a lot of lyrics that they relate to, but finding an artist, another human being to relate to is a whole other genre. I was sixteen when I met Kalie Shorr at the Listening Room Cafe in Nashville. Despite all that Shorr has gone through within the past year, she keeps a self deprecating, witty sense of humor, and performs with the mindset that the founding of the Song Suffragettes will not even be close to her greatest achievement. At 25, Shorr released her debut album “Open Book” after ending a relationship of six years, and coping with her older sisters passing due to a heroin overdose. My mom and I found ourselves at this show last minute, and I think we do the greatest things, meet the greatest people when we’re supposed to be on our way to something better. One of the songs Shorr played that night was off of “Open Book” called “Big Houses.” One of the best on the album, it’s raw and real as country music is often described as. But hearing Shorr describe her relationship with her mom, wanting something more for the both of them, it resonated with me. After hearing the song on the album, I can’t shake the feeling when I heard it for the first time, tears threatening to spill out of the crowd’s eyes. She sang about fantasizing about living in big houses, thinking that everything would be better if they had better. Coming from a small town in New Jersey, I wanted the same things Shorr sings about. After leaving an in denial abuser and moving further south to Maryland, my mom and I made that life for us, because as Shorr says, my wonder woman is my superman too.
Every artist has one thing they’re known for other than the songs they sing. Michael Jackson had the glove, John Lennon had the glasses, and Kalie Shorr has the self deprecating humor that somehow, at the same time, makes someone feel less alone. Shorr’s song “Gatsby” shines light on all things bad in the most positive way possible. From having a weird relationship with her dad, to drinking wine out of the bottle because she didn’t feel like doing the dishes. The whole album is one that would comfort anyone, rectifying childhood issues before becoming the embodiment of them, unhealthy coping mechanisms, truly all the good, the bad, and the ugly. She hits on things we all have/deal with on a daily basis and the things or people that distract us from ourselves. We’re magnetized to things that aren’t good for us, for some it’s different substances and for others it’s the toxic relationships that could kill us faster than anything else.
Turning seventeen doesn’t change much. I still go to school, I already have my license, but everything becomes a little more stressful. Talking with Shorr on social media on a consistent basis, I truly have no doubt that her releasing her album the same week as my birthday was meant to be. I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life, starting in a suffocating small town, to me suffocating in my own mind practically rendering me helpless constantly by the time I reached high school. After seeing Shorr in Nashville, I acquired a new kind of hope. A month prior to my trip, I started taking medication for my anxiety (because therapy doesn’t always work) , worsened the relationship with my father, and questioned who was really on my side. Shorr encouraged me to do better, truly believing that I could. I can’t say that my anxiety has gone away or that my dad is even a character in my own open book, but Shorr is. Kalie Shorr has been the opener for small scale shows, but the messages she sends in her music could fill a stadium. If Shorr can be an open book, then there’s a story to be heard, and maybe just maybe, it’ll inspire someone else to share theirs.
Lyrics Worth Noting
“We would judge everyone else, like we were spotless//shiny and polished, this house is dishonest”
“Before you know it, every bottle says drink me, before you know it, you’re gonna start shrinking/ he’ll make you feel small/ and there’s so far to fall/ when you’re loving a mad man/ so hey Alice, how’s wonderland?
“I stopped listening to the little voices inside my head/ the angel fell right off my shoulder, and the devil’s paying rent/ Maker’s is my therapist, my best friend’s a cigarette/ I’ve been taking advice from my vices”
Chloe Gilligan's "Erase August"
When people outside of Tennessee hear “Nashville,” they think of a thriving metropolis, home to the heart of country music. And while this may be true, Nashville is also far more than that, its roots digging deeper into small town USA. The city isn’t just about music row, just like New York City isn’t just about Times Square. I went to visit Nashville this summer, anxiously awaiting to emerge myself into the world that country artists sing about. But in order to be in that world, you had to know where to find the door, and I found it at the Listening Room Cafe one night during my stay. The Listening Room Cafe is owned by the same people who own the Bluebird Cafe where international superstar Taylor Swift was discovered. The Listening Room is one of the many hidden gems in Nashville that you wouldn’t stumble across on trip advisor, in fact, my ticket was bought just hours before the show. Every Monday, a group of five female singer/songwriters called the “Song Suffragettes” take the stage and take turns performing their own songs. This is where I discovered Chloe Gilligan, the artist who’s music I can’t take off shuffle.
I left the room feeling utterly inspired and buzzing with the feeling that encapsulates Nashville. The artists hung out in the lobby thanking those who came out to see the show. I had the opportunity to talk to Chloe, a Belmont University alumni from Georgia who’s been living out the Nashville dream for years. Chloe was super easy to talk to, being that you could go up to her or any of the Suffragettes and start a conversation. She was enthusiastic with a warm demeanor; you could tell Chloe enjoyed being there. We talked about the city itself and the universities I was planning on visiting while in town (Chloe has since convinced me to apply to Belmont, my current first choice school).
Chloe’s EP “Erase August,” is like finishing the last page of the book you spent the whole summer writing. It’s a reflection of what once was, the part in the movie when the main character has a million flashbacks hit them all at once. Every song on the EP is far from generic, as Chloe sings about anxiety is its realest form in “Nervous’ and “Sink.” “Nervous” is exactly like it sounds, describing the person who makes you nervous, but you still continue on in spite of what you may be feeling. “Sink” is a panic attack, making you feel like you’re actually drowning, praying someone saves you from yourself and pulls you out the water. This theme in Chloe’s music resonated with me, as I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life. Sometimes it feels impossible to overcome, and it truly does feel like you’re being suffocated by your own thoughts. It’s always comforting to know that someone else has been where you are, or is going through something similar to what you’re going through. Speaking of sinking in water, Chloe’s music has been an umbrella in a thunderstorm for me and most certainly for others as well. Other deeply personalized songs include “Blow Your Cover,” a song she wrote in the middle of a club calling out a former love interest for trying to be with her and another girl at the same time. Chloe takes back the narrative, refusing to let a guy who’s lying to himself, fool her. All throughout the EP Chloe makes her listeners feel like they lived through what she sings about with her. With specific places named and such detail that you couldn’t find on any mainstream song. The lyric from her title track “And if I could erase August, this whole thing would have never started,” ends the EP perfectly. The last page of the book being written, and wanting to throw all of it away. The memories, the feelings, all of it still there. All of it put together into one beautiful EP that couldn’t possibly be erased.
Within just a few days of the release of Taylor Swift’s seventh studio album titled “Lover,” it was well on its way to becoming certified platinum. It sold a million copies without the album having to be released. Taylor Swift is truly a household name, achieving a certain level of complexity like most households. Her name can be dragged through the mud, as it was prior to “reputation,” but will still sell out stadiums all across the world in just a matter of minutes. People love to hate Swift, but people love to love her. And why her previous album revolved around a phoenix rising from the ashes type theme (or, more fittingly, a snake), her latest album captures the idea of love. The idea, the feeling that hardly anyone is capable of describing. But, in 18 tracks, her longest album yet, the definition of love is made clear.
Tabloids love to report the trials and tribulations of Swift’s love life. Not every relationship is meant to be a successful one, and instead of going home and trying to move on, Swift can’t. It becomes the next news headline in the morning papers as every magazine tries to dissect what went wrong with information they can’t even deem as factual. We only truly know what Swift is like though what she puts in her music. The public knew what she was like as a gangly teen with cork screw blonde hair through her debut album and “Fearless.” And as time passed, we grew up with Swift, realizing that emotions aren’t black and white and out of fairytales in “Speak Now” and “Red.” We all discovered that change was a good thing in “1989” and we survived the darkest times (as Swift would later describe as an apocalypse) of “reputation.” Taylor has always sang about love, and what it means to her, as she has spent her whole life trying to put it into words. “Lover” can be described as the clam after the storm. That moment when all the dust settles, and the sun rises once again. It’s in these moments when we finally see clearly, we see the ones who stayed, and we finally finish mourning the ones who didn’t. Though these moments can be portrayed with pastel pink colors and baby blue skies, love is still complex. There is romance in everything if you know where to look, and where there is romance, there is pain. Swift describes the anxiety of being in a relationship and staying with the person in spite of it. Loving someone so much that it hurts, and thinking that it might kill you if they leave. The anxiety of wondering if you even deserve a love like this, to being at peace with your lover on a Sunday night. Swift even explores the other aspects of love outside a relationship through being present in London, falling in love with the city like she did with Nashville so long ago. “Lover” also contains the agonizing pain of finding out a loved one is sick. Reiterating that love is pain, and in order to love, as intensely and fiercely as people do, you must be willing to hurt and get hurt. I’ve been following Swift since I was a little girl, and I know that you don’t need to be in love to hear what Taylor is saying. “Lover” is available now wherever you buy music.
Taylor Swift has been taking the music industry by storm for the past thirteen years. It seems as if Swift breaks another new record after every album release especially with her latest album “reputation” which broke handfuls of stadium attendance records across the United States. Swift won Tour of the Year at the iHeart Music Awards, and Best Tour, Best Pop/Rock Album, Best Pop/Rock Female Artist, and Artist of the Year at the American Music Awards. It was at this award show where she stated that she was most excited about the “next chapter” hinting to fans that new music was on the horizon. Fans speculated online coming up with theories about what could be next, even going to the extreme to count the number of holes in fences, the number of stairs Swift sat on, and based their theories on the color and number of hearts that she included in her Instagram captions. Swift has always been known to drop hints when new music is coming. Before the “reputation” era started, she blacked out all of her social medias. Before the “1989” era, she wrote handwritten lyrics from the unreleased album and placed them strategically in front of certain settings, and before “Red” she posted a picture of her red shoes propped up in a recording studio, being the most obvious hint she’s given. It wasn’t until early April after the acceptance speech in October of 2018 when Swift released a thirteen day countdown on her Instagram counting down to April 26th. Her instagram started to fill up with aesthetically pleasing pastels as fans waited anxiously for the day to come. Now, on April 25th during the 2019 NFL Draft she announced with Robin Roberts that a new single titled “ME!” accompanied by a music video would be dropping at midnight.
Swift has always been deeply in touch with her Pennsylvania roots. Growing up on a Christmas Tree farm to convincing her parents to move to Nashville at a young age was a period in her life she has showed she has not forgotten about. She went to visit her childhood home while she was on the “reputation Stadium Tour” with friends, and has mentioned her upbringing in various past songs like “Fifteen” and “The Outside.” It’s in these songs where she talks about not having the friends everyone else had in school, being excluded from the in-crowd until her red-headed best friend Abigail came into the picture her Freshman year of high school in Tennessee. Once Swift got older and rose to the top of the charts rather than her high school hierarchy, she made her lifelong friends, rectifying her childhood scars and refusing to become the living embodiment of them. Sharing her story is what makes Swift so inspirational to millions of people across the globe. The fans who truly got her music, who saw Swift for who she truly was and not for what she was called stayed by her side when her image was drug through the mud. A particular couple brought on the “Snake Era” as some fans would say as Swift began living by “Be a snake. Be kind until someone steps on you.” Turning what was meant to be an insult into a joke (i.e the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Cause she’s dead!). In her single “End Game” off reputation, she sings “reputation precedes me” possibly hinting that reputation was purely how other people saw her, and how this upcoming album will be purely about who she truly is, going back to her roots to where Swift is now.
The true self-love promoting “ME!” is about embracing individuality, and living fearlessly without the influence of other people on our everyday lives. We are continuously scrolling through social media looking at other people’s lives comparing them to our own. We are striving to be better than her/him to make our instagram lives better than our reality. Swift sings “I’m the only one of me, baby, that’s the fun of me,” chanting that there’s truly only one of us, and we should embrace it instead of trying to change. We must embrace who we are fully, including our past and present. In the music video, she’s joined by Brendan Urie of Panic! At The Disco dropping even more hints about her upcoming album. The video that reached 10 million plus views in two hours (making it the first ever music video to do so), takes place in a chrysalis where a rainbow comes breaking through symbolically showing what TS7 will be about. Swift starting off with a light, feel good lead single only further emphasizes her power with what’s to come in what fans anticipate to be a lyrical pastel masterpiece. If you were ever curious about how a snake can turn into a butterfly, stay tuned for Taylor Swift’s seventh studio album.
The last the world has heard from Hozier was in 2014 with the release of his self titled debut album. This album included hits like chart topping “Take Me to Church” and “Work Song.” He has resurfaced as the name on people’s lips with his sophomore album “Wasteland, Baby!” which was released not too long ago on the first day of March. Upon first listen, Hozier achieves the overall vibe of destruction (mostly of the Earth), and love in todays day and age.
Hozier is an old soul with a bold personality. An Ireland native with a passion for rhythm and blues, he’s made his presence in the music industry known. It’s hard to imagine listening to “Wasteland, Baby!” somewhere other than atop of another planet watching the Earth slowly spiral into destruction or more conveniently, blasting it while frolicking in the woods. When we think of the albums or the songs we love, people always associate it to a moment or a memory when they first heard it. Fittingly, I was on my way to get crystals with one of my friends when she played it for me. Before hearing the album, I only linked Hozier to his first hit “Take Me To Church” that was played over and over around local radio stations and when Ed Sheeran covered it at BBC (it was also a karaoke go-to in my 7th grade Social Studies class). Now Hozier has been the name I’ve been saying the most for the past week. Mainstream music often gets the brutal reputation of being generic. Not singing personal lyrics that artists actually believe in, caring more about whether a plethora of age groups can dance to it rather than relate to it (with the exception of a few artists). Hozier has overlooked all of these imaginary standards in the music industry, and released a whole other vibe that no album in the 21st century has ever been able to achieve. The romantic aspect of the end of the world. Making it seem like it’s just another day on the calendar. Artists can sing about the end of the world, but they’ve never been able to take us there- to make us see it. See: R.E.M- It’s The End Of The World. The world we live in is breathtaking. It’a hard to actually think of where we live in a broad aspect because it’s all too overwhelming. Hozier has achieved this level of thinking with beautifully crafted metaphors relating to a birds relationship with a thorn bush to an Irish folk melody. Along with lovers as trees, flawed human beings, and the realness of dancing, listening, and understanding. He makes heartbreak seem like it’s an open mic night on the Upper East Side where hopes and dreams go, the beginning of everything. As we lose light and warmth we still have hope, and we have each other if we truly learn to embrace it. Because there’s something truly lovely about destruction: hope and love can keep the world warm long after the sun burns out. We’ll be wading in the effects of a dried up ocean, each soul linked together as we roam around complete desolation. But before we get to that point, Hozier makes us find comfort in the destruction of our own worlds.
It’s hard to argue the fact that Hozier has single handedly made the end of the world seem like a romantic diatribe. The most accurate image of this vibe is in “No Plan,” “Sunlight,” and of course, “Wasteland, Baby!” All three of these songs leads us to believe that the end of the world would be better with a friend as the sun slowly dies bringing us along with it. He sings about smelling the stench of the sea, and that the absence of green are the death of all things that are seen and unseen. We don’t have any plans for the end of the world, we know that’ll happen, we just don’t know when. Even now, we could be described as living in a wasteland. The man made destruction of the earth, our only home. We are forced to live with our actions, and we’ll die with them too. For an album such as that, we see a positive outlook on it. The beauty of it all is that Hozier has given us a killer soundtrack for the end of the world.
By: Meghan Burgos
I always knew I was a star, and now, the rest of the world seems to agree with me." -Freddie Mercury
On July 13th in the year of 1985, Queen played Live Aid at Wembley Stadium. None of the 1.5 billion people who watched worldwide had any idea that this would be the last of Freddie Mercury. After the last announcer uttered the name Queen, it would be uttered by the millions of fans long after the music fades.
Freddie Mercury is more than a household name. So much so in fact, he was barely tolerated in his own household under the disapproving glares of his father. The power Freddie had and still has rings in the atmosphere every time Bohemian Rhapsody is played or someone is caught defying all odds like Freddie did not so long ago. It is those kind of things, being a somebody to a nobody and daring to carry a red umbrella on a sunny day that gets movies made based off of them, and millions of people passing the lyrics that whispered sweetly in their ears to the ears of their children. It is November 4th, 2018, almost 50 years since the band formed in 1970 and just about 26 years since Freddie Mercury walked the earth. “Bohemian Rhapsody” a praise to Queen, has been out for a mere couple days, and has already been viewed by the fans who fell in love with them in the very beginning.
Anyone who watches the film who wasn’t a fan of Queen by the time it starts, will be by the time it ends. Already within the first five minutes, audiences get a glimpse of Freddie's personality showing his cats all in a row and his various paintings as he struts out the door like he knew he was the biggest rockstar of the century. Seeing what the band turns out to be by showing the millions that attended Live Aid, we then go back to the very beginning. The beginning where long haired Freddie was his own queen, and not anybody else's. The future for Freddie was blurred to everyone but him. It goes without saying that Freddie had a vision of what he would become, and did anything to get there. Freddie was a go-getter, he refused to sit around at home waiting for something good to come knocking on his door. He followed the same band around until they became his bandmates, and soon enough, Queen was born. The name itself meant whatever Freddie wanted it to mean. As he says in the film, it was outrageous (for the time, now everyone drops the word on anything even the tiniest bit miraculous) and there was no one more outrageous than him. When it came to Queens sound, no one back then and no one today would ever come close to being on the same playing field as the band. They simply played all positions and experimented with each one. Anyone with a guitar who can sing what they were put on this earth to say seems to “make it” in one way or another, but Queen didn't just make it, they defined it. Genre mixing and using everyday items on basic instruments to make musical masterpieces will always be known as Queen for years to come, and music, as they knew it, would never be the same again.
Despite being the biggest talked about name, Freddie didn’t know his. Throughout the film he struggled with his sexuality and the people around him. He found himself caught between what he was expected to be and what he actually was in society. Everyone knew there was no individual like Freddie Mercury, but who was he? It's easier to say what he wasn’t rather than what he was, and Freddie Mercury did not fall in line. Of course like most rockstars, he let the spotlight blind him until he isolated himself with the wrong people. Going blind into things was common for the band, but the problem with not seeing is that it could lead you in the wrong direction, and for Freddie, it did. The film describes him leaving in unlikely ways, and reconnecting later on. The one thing about Freddie that is common throughout the whole film is that he always knew deep down who he really was, and he never let it go. For a while, being lost was part of Freddie's look. He was a misfit who didn’t belong singing to other misfits who felt that they didn’t belong either. He embraced how he was through style and through music. But with human nature comes pain, and it was often difficult to navigate through loneliness. Between finding the love of his life Mary, and his soulmate Jim, he lingered with faceless men looking for a feeling. He shows us that anyone could be the most famous personality in the world and still feel like they’re under it. The darkness always finds a way to seep back into someones life, and even when Freddie was diagnosed with AIDS he chose to make the most of it. After all, he didn’t have any aspirations to become 70. He thought dullness was a disease, but continued to be far from dull. In the films entirety, Freddie Mercury was truly lost and found.
After the bands break and getting back together just an odd week short of the biggest performance of their careers, they proved what they could really do. As if all the albums and tours leading up to this moment was just a small added summarization of what they accomplished. Live Aid wrapped all of it up, and topped it with a bow after “We Are The Champions” ended the set. Queen has always had the energy and potential to be the greatest band in the world. Any pretty face can get up on stage and sing their hearts out. But it takes a band like Queen to make them more than what anyone has ever imagined. It was never just a band and their fans. It was a family.
“We’re four misfits who don’t belong together. We’re playing for other misfits. And the outcasts right in the back of the room, we’re pretty sure don’t belong either. We belong to them.”
A Star is Born featuring Oscar award nominee Bradley Cooper and Grammy winning artist Lady Gaga has been out for quite some time now. Somewhere in New Jersey tonight, it would be shown three more times after this is written, and all day tomorrow. Crowds flood the theaters in anticipation of whether the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, the 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason, or the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson will draw parallels to tonights feature. The one question that still remains is does Bradley Coopers 2018 version of A Star is Born suffice?
To understand the full complexity that this movie has, it simply cannot be seen just once. A Star is Born is the kind of movie that will play over and over again in your mind long after it plays on the big screen. It acts as the reality check no one knew they needed, and it matters. The depth of these characters goes beyond Hollywood and cannot adequately be compared to any other movie like it. It is one thing to give a character a heart, but it is another to give it a soul. Jackson Maine is a struggling alcoholic who feels the music and his emotions all too deeply, all too often. From beginning to end, the alcoholism presents itself as a weight on Jacksons shoulder that he doesn’t feel the urge to shake. The line between just having a life as a half-deaf, passionate rock star and having an actual problem with alcohol is blurred, as it was for most rock stars. As he started his journey to recovery, he often found bottles along the way, and left no stone- or bottle, unturned. At the start of the movie, you are immediately submerged in the classic rock theme. Jackson on stage with crowds as big and as passionate as Woodstock and the strum of an electrifying electric guitar that places you front and center in his world. The classic rock and rocker slowly seem to fade in one way or another when it is met with the modern pop era. The soundtrack that accompanies the movie does it just as much justice. With included dialogue, the songs flow as the story does. An opening to the rift of a guitar to the peak of a rock-pop love, to a ballad to finish off the film. The look of a rock star who ends up an alcoholic will look fiction to only the members of a few audiences, but could very much be real others. Not based on a true story, but there could very well be a Jackson Maine out there. Ally is a waitress struggling to get by and be on time to where she’s going when her and Jackson cross paths. A girl who sees celebrities no bigger or better than another human in the world, sees Jackson for who he truly is. She is immediately against the dehumanization of famous personas as she ends up singing in a grocery store parking lot with peas around her hand after an unfortunate turn of events at a dive bar. Ally holds her ground throughout the whole film and never truly lets her real self out of sight even with a million other distractions pulling her in another direction.
Jackson, cemented into the idea that authenticity can get you more places than not, and Ally, wired into the thought of what others think, fall in love in the likeliest of unlikely ways. At a drag bar (a praise to Gaga’s fanbase) in the beginning of the film, love at first sight is proven to be true. The duo had an overwhelming love for music and each other that they were almost not meant to be together. This movie is a test of strength and love, and just how much you are willing to fight for those worth fighting for. It is often questioned, is love enough to keep a relationship together? Of course, our modern human nature, we love things more than people, and use people more than things. It is the tale of a perfect storm and two lovers who find calmness in all the thunder and lightning booming around them. It is simply only a matter of time before the walls come crashing down, and the water comes rushing in. There is no shallow end to this movie. Jackson and Ally both have the overflowing baggage, and both of them feel the need to unpack each others. The movie unpacks just that, and leaves it repacked and folded by the end.
The part that we needed the most is the glimmer of hope for humanity this movie shines. The fact that music can heal. It can heal our hearts, our brokenness, and the most beautiful thing is that we can lose ourselves in the music, but we can find ourselves in it too. The world is just how you see those twelve notes. As Jackson Maine explains in the film, everyone is talented, but it is what you say and how you say it that matters. From the ashes of a broken home, or every other American family, a Star is Born.
“If you don’t dig deep into your f***ing soul, you won’t have legs.” -Jackson Maine