Posts Tagged ‘disappear’

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Beyoncé – 4 (album review)

June 11, 2011

So it’s been a really, really long time since I wrote an album review. I was going to do one for Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, but then didn’t. (The album is really good and well put-together, btw.) I was going to do one for Nadia Oh’s Colours (which is a ridiculously fun, exhilarating listen perfect for the summer) and I still might. But this album tops them all. I am a Beyoncé fan, but even I didn’t expect her to come out with this. Perhaps it’s fitting because of the stage in my life where I’m at – but she’s in love, I’m in love, she wants to talk about love on a deeper and more soulful level and I can be more receptive of that now and really get to grips with the music, the vocals and the lyrics.

Sonically, the album is very cohesive (a mature, soulful and slower-paced set) – “Run The World (Girls)” aside. Part of me feels like it is tacked on the end, another part of me feels like the song is an exhilarating climax to a mainly slow-burning set. It’s a killer single which heavily samples Major Lazer’s “Pon Di Floor” and makes you want to dance, but in comparison to the rest of the material, it feels a bit… basic? It certainly feels more modern than everything else on the album, but that means it sounds less timeless… the fact that Beyoncé has already made several songs celebrating “Independent Women”, “Survivors” and “Single Ladies” makes it feel like “Girls” running the world is almost a downgrade? I love the song but it should stand alone, and I would have preferred the album to end with the ballad “I Was Here”, which is straightforward Ryan Tedder production and Diane Warren lyrics – Beyoncé’s performance saves the song with solemn vocals that add weight to the sentiment of leaving your mark on the world once you’re gone. In the hands of a lesser talent, the song would sound trite, but Beyoncé gives it life.

But there are much better tracks – namely, the rest of them. Opener “1+1” is stripped-back soul with a soaring guitar climax, and Beyoncé’s commands of “Make love to me” sound at once desperate and assertive in the best way. What’s striking is that Beyoncé has made an album that sounds like the work of a legend – she evokes Stevie Wonder (the joyous “Love On Top” with its audacious multiple key changes that have you wondering “how high is she going to go?!”), the Isley Brothers (“Rather Die Young”, with its sun-drenched soul that declares Beyoncé’s utter dependance on her lover), Prince (“1+1”), Michael Jackson (“End Of Time” with its commanding vocals over a bombastic bassline and brass section, and an irresistible melody) and Sade. But more about that later…

Beyoncé sounds like Beyoncé on but two songs: “Best Thing I Never Had” evokes her monster hit “Irreplaceable”, with the same theme of being better off without a foolish boyfriend. Symbolyc One employs a beautiful flowing piano melody in place of “Irreplaceable”‘s acoustic guitars, but Beyoncé is clearly a grown woman now. Her vocals sound almost too soulful, too nuanced for the music, and it takes a few listens for all of the pieces of the song to come together. In contrast, “Countdown” is an album highlight, which evokes the swagger of “Upgrade U” and repeats the theme of #winning with her lover by her side. The use of Boyz II Men’s “Uhh Ahh” in order to create the titular countdown is cleverly done, and Beyoncé rides the brassy, bouncy Caribbean-lite beat with effortless flair.

Other album highlights include “I Care”, which may have basic lyrics (the chorus: “I care / I know you don’t care too much / but I still care”) but are once again transformed with Beyonce’s masterful vocal, which plumbs despair and soul to make the song truly transcendent. You can feel her pain, you can feel her desperation, you can feel her frustration, and that is the talent of a true artist. When Beyoncé’s voice intertwines with a soaring guitar solo after the song’s bridge, the listener is shown just how powerful a singer she is – not just technically, but emotively too. “Party” is an early 90s R&B throwback that evokes early TLC in its chunky-yet-chilled production, and En Vogue in its multi-tracked harmonies. The best song of all is “I Miss You”, which is produced by upcoming talent Frank Ocean and evokes Sade’s best. The lyrics are simple yet evocative (and I personally relate to this as my boyfriend and I are currently working through a long-distance relationship – but if you read the blog, you already know about that, and this song is more about missing someone you’ve broken up with – I just prefer to appropriate the lyrics for my own emotions!), and Beyoncé’s vocal is restrained and yet so deep and real. When she sings “No matter who you love / it is so simple, I feel it / it’s everything”, a lump is brought to your throat and you can’t help but be transported to a place of loneliness, of longing and of love.

This is why 4 is Beyoncé’s best album, superceding B’day’s tiger-hungry anthems and I Am… Sasha Fierce’s finest moments. Beyoncé is an artist. She has made an album which she has so clearly poured her heart and soul into – listening to the vocals, there is something here that wasn’t there before. A soulfulness, a longing, a power that comes out through the gritty texture of her voice and the soaring riffs that transcend lyrics and production. There’s a majesty and a bravery in singing such raw songs about love, about death, and about life over productions that are mainly understated and subtle in a way that Beyoncé hasn’t really done before (“Disappear” from I Am… Sasha Fierce might have clued us in, however!). This album is made to be listened to from start to finish, and you’re missing out if you don’t give it a try.

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performance anxiety.

March 25, 2010

Last night myself and several of my coursemates, as well as Toby and his friend Miguel went to Mr. Wolf’s to watch one of our friends on the Careers Guidance course, Emma, perform some songs with her guitarist friend.  She sang Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”, Erma Franklin’s “Piece Of My Heart” and Eric Clapton’s “Change The World”, and did a fantastic job.  Emma and I spent an afternoon last term comparing our CD collections and marvelling over just how similar they were, since it often feels like nobody else in the UK listens to the same kind of music by artists such as Allure, Kelly Price, Angie Stone, D’Angelo and so on.  Obviously some people must buy their albums because otherwise nobody would stock them, but it’s rare to find somebody with whom you connect on such a musical level, especially as a singer or musician.  So I respect her music taste and her talent, and she was genuinely good (and outclassed the other performers that night 😉 ).

When she told me about the Open Mic night and her impending performance on Monday, she mentioned that I should perform something.  I thought it sounded like a nice idea but a little short notice, but nevertheless I dragged Toby to the UWE music practice rooms to hammer out a piano version of Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams”.  It sounded fine (after Toby’s hints that making it an octave lower would sound good – which I did; and that I am not Christina Aguilera and should stick to less notes – which I sort of did but I love putting some runs in my vocals, because that’s part of my style and sets me apart somewhat), but I felt that it required more practice than I’d be able to gain in two days.  So for the reason that I didn’t feel it was polished enough or “ready” to perform, as well as I had never been to the venue and didn’t want to rain on Emma’s parade since we were all going to see her, I decided not to perform.  Next time, I will, and I’m since working on a piano version of “Lift Me Up” by Christina Aguilera to compliment the Beyoncé song.  They sound ok, and with a little practice I reckon they’ll be performable and effectively show off my vocals and my piano (something I’ve always needed to work at is playing the piano and singing at the same time). 

And yet the thought of doing that is a little scary to me now.  I used to perform regularly at Open Mic nights at Oxford (gaining notoriety in the process, which was pretty complimentary), concerts at school and sixth form where I used to sing, dance, play guitar and piano – the whole kaboodle.  I even performed at a Hiroshima Remembrance concert, which was outdoors and to the public.  I’ve done a lot of this, I should be used to it.  So why am I nervous?  I guess that now I have a boyfriend, and some close adult friends, their opinion means a lot to me? I don’t want to fall short of their expectations? Is it stage fright?  Admittedly, the last time I performed on a stage of any sort was 2 years ago, but Mike and I did an impromptu version of Beyoncé’s “Disappear” at my house and I managed to perform well in that and impress him suitably.  So maybe I just need to bite the bullet and do it, once the songs are ready. 

The other thing that fills me with a little nerves is the fact that I have had mentioned to me that a few of my colleagues on the course have visited my myspace and listened to the songs I’ve put up from the Quiet Storm album (which incidentally you can download here) on there.  Now, obviously the purpose of my myspace is to promote my music to the public and my friends – it’s for public consumption.  But to hear that people have listened to my stuff and liked it makes me feel funny – I guess partly because while I’m proud of this album, I feel that I still have a long way to go and develop, particularly in my production and vocal production (I have done a couple of songs more recently where I feel my voice sounds more impressive on record).  So I feel like I don’t want them to judge me yet. Also, I guess once again their opinion matters to me more than I expected it to, more than it should? I mean, Mike, Toby, Hannah, Karina, Nick… all my close friends’ opinions are understandably important to me and I am flattered by the support of all my friends.  And I’m flattered by the support of other friends who don’t know me so well – it is really nice – but I don’t know what to say, because somewhere within me my insecurity says “Do they really like it or are they just saying that and laughing behind my back?” I mean, I should be like “Who cares?” but my music is such an intimate, personal part of me that it’s important for me to produce, and if that essential aspect of who I am is a source of mockery or easily dismissed, I have to admit that that would probably hurt me, at least a little bit.  I totally understand that you can’t please anyone anyway, and at the end of the day my musical executive producer is myself – I’m my own harshest critic.  But I just hope that their support is sincere, because it means a lot to me.  And I guess that when I do perform “Sweet Dreams” or “Lift Me Up” or whatever else I end up doing (I am extremely liable to changing my mind in these sorts of things!), I am hoping that I can justify and live up to that support, their expectations of me.  I want to impress, I want to please people.  I guess that that way, it validates my singing and my music (my lifelong passion and ambition) and I can get a little bit closer to pleasing myself.  So I’m going to bite the bullet and go for it, but it’s harder than I thought and I didn’t expect it to be.

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dreams / something for the weekend.

January 3, 2010

Alright, so every night more or less when I go to sleep, I have one of my epic, insane dreams.  It’s almost fun going to bed and wondering what I’m going to dream about; it’s unpredictable, except for the fact that usually Mike will figure in there somewhere (and my parents often play the antagonists).  My dreams are lively and exciting, and I almost feel sorry for people who always say “I dreamed I was flying / falling / being chased…” – my inner response is “Yeah, and so did everyone else. Did you go to Brazil with your supermodel boyfriend? Did you elope with a guy from HMV during your friend’s wedding? Did you eat pastries with Charlotte from SaTC before rafting along a bayou towards Oxford and the end of the world?  No you didn’t, did you.”  But sometimes, my dreams are quite disturbing, so I guess it’s all a fair trade… still, I get some good stories!  So I’m going to blog my dreams from the last two nights now (in theory this should cut down the amount that I write so the entry is not epically long!), and then I’m gonna attempt briefly to psychoanalyse what I think some of the salient points are… feel free to throw in your two pence!

Friday night

I don’t remember how it all started, but I was somehow dating this teenager (I am not sure if I was the same age I am now, but I know that I was older and that he was a bit young…) and we ended up going to his house and hanging out before meeting his family (parents, brother, dog).  Everything was cool, and there was some sort of swimming pool / water soaker element to the visit, but nothing sexual happened.  Then I was suddenly going to college (not with my new boyfriend) and lots of people from my old school were there too.  I was attending class when all of a sudden, my old boss from when I worked at the school bookstore asked me if I could carry this heavy box of books to Oxfam on Colston Avenue (for the record, in real life there is no Oxfam on Colston Avenue, and Colston Avenue was nowhere near wherever this college was meant to be).  So I recruited this fat ginger girl called Siobhan to help me carry the box.

We were about to leave college when a teacher accosted us and demanded that we attend his lesson.  Siobhan and I tried to explain that we had to carry this box to Oxfam but he wasn’t having any of it and marched us to his lesson, which appeared to take place in the college cafe / dining hall, and consisted of us watching a video on a projector screen set up in the middle.  For the life of me I can’t remember what the video was about, but ultimately I forgot about Siobhan and the box, and I ended up chatting to a couple of girls with whom I was sat watching the video.  Once the video finished, everyone was chatting and joking and being generally sixth-form-esque.  One of my massive crushes from school, Richard Hooper (who, according to Facebook, is still a hottie but needs to do some urgent manscaping), was there and looked ridiculously hot in a vest / shirtless, but much more muscled and tattooed than in real life.  I was gazing at him, when another guy from our year (on whom I didn’t have a crush, although there was a nasty rumour at one point) wandered by to talk to Rich, and he was buff but kinda fat (this is going to sound really horrid but according to Facebook, that is how he now looks in real life!).  Odder than that however was the fact that he had actual bird wings sprouting from his shoulders (and not impressive sweeping wings, but wings like that of an owl or falcon) which looked a bit weedy and a bit weird.  That’s all that I remember, I don’t remember what happened to the box, my teenage boyfriend or if I ever got close to Rich, but it was interesting if bizarrely anti-climactic!

Saturday night

Ok, so I think that I am coming in midway through the dream here, but somehow I ended up (along with various friends from university on my course, and Rihanna!) at Mike’s house.  Except it wasn’t Mike’s actual house, but some house that resembled my nan’s house slightly, except it was halfway through being built.  A couple of the upstairs rooms had massive gaps in the ceiling, and there was a staircase that ended halfway before hitting the floor.  So we were all at Mike’s house, except Mike and V had gone off somewhere because Mike had to drive her somewhere.  I remember getting really antsy and moody, and despite my friends and Rihanna’s efforts to calm me down and make me enjoy their fun, I was storming off around Mike’s house, which at times involved me jumping down off the end of the unfinished staircase, and watching some of the builders (of which there were oddly few) working on the upstairs attic.

At one point, I found a ticket to see a random music act (whom I don’t think exists in real life) and they were playing in Mike’s attic.  I watched them, but nobody came to join me or even seemed to register that there was music going on.  Eventually, the group (indie/pop girl group playing guitars) finished their set and I wandered off, dismayed that Mike and V had not yet returned, and I couldn’t stop my mind from spazzing out.  I rejoined my friends downstairs, except suddenly I realised that we were all going to exchange presents, and more people were coming and I hadn’t brought their Christmas presents with me.  My parents and grandmother were flying back from Australia and were due to have just landed, so I called them to ask if they could swing by our house and bring the other extra Christmas presents, but I got no answer on the phone so my mood didn’t lift.  Night fell, and I remember playing some kind of graphically-improved Mortal Kombat (the original game) to distract myself and funnel my annoyance into a harmless violent pursuit, but even that didn’t help.

Suddenly my friends started to bustle and move towards the door.  I remember I had been hiding upstairs in this alcove, laying on the floor staring at the ceiling when suddenly this girl (one of the builders, although she now was dressed in normal clothes) walked past and I startled her.  She told me to cheer up and go downstairs, as everyone was back.  Mike and V were downstairs but I walked past them, now more concerned with whether my parents had brought my presents.  They were outside with my nan, waiting for me, and their hands were empty.  I remember being upset, explaining I had tried to call them, explaining how embarrassed I was (and fearing that now I had no chance of competing with V for Mike’s affections, despite the fact I already felt that I had lost the battle) and how they had failed me.  In short, I was acting like a spoiled brat and alienating everyone, but I couldn’t stop myself – my mother yawned (obviously flying back from Australia had been somewhat tiring) and I remember saying that “Well now I’m going to stay here ALL NIGHT and you’re going to have to WAIT FOR ME, see how you like THAT.”  My nan and dad just stood there semi-shocked, semi-appalled, and my mother held out a drink to me – she was apparently drunk.  I took the glass and tossed the cloudy white-yellow liquid (limoncello? although normally it’s not that creamy) into the plants in my tantrum.  My friends had turned to see Mike and chat and drink, ignoring / oblivious to my mood, my anger at my family and my failure to bring all the gifts, and I tried to join in the crowd and put on a happy / brave face, but I felt like I had disappointed everyone, I realised that I had acted like a fool, and I felt that Mike had no reason ever to pay me any attention again.  Mike and V smiled at me, but I couldn’t return their smile as I felt inferior, unwanted by them, and I think then I must have woken up.

Analysis

I seem to be looking to latch onto anyone to date / distract me from my infatuation with Mike, but it never seems to do any good.  The relationships disappear, or the real hot guys are never interested in (or even notice) me.  When I get around Mike, he always seems to drop me for someone else and I always feel guilty or take the blame.  I can’t control my moods and I end up alienating everyone – even though Mike and I are supposed to be the couple, I’m never quite good enough to hold onto him and he always goes away or finds someone else.

I often dream about people from school, or being back in a school environment – I guess that’s because it’s such a formative experience, but going back there would scare me and also return me to my feelings of inferiority and confusion that I experienced during my adolescence.  My moodiness and loneliness in my dreams I guess reflects on my fear of losing my maturity, or my insecurities being exposed and everyone turning against me.

Context-wise, my nan is currently in Australia (although my parents are not) and I’ve been missing her terribly, feeling that I have nowhere to turn when living with my parents gets too much.  On NYE, I was flirting with someone younger than me, although he wasn’t a teenager it reminded me of last year when I did date a teenager and it didn’t really work – somehow, NYE felt similarly inappropriate and that I was lowering myself. The fact that “Rich” was super buff and tattooed also relates to NYE, as there were some hotties at the club who looked exactly that way (they were in fact a bit overdone, but still not bad).  I also found out that Mike and V went to the cinema last night (with their spouses) which probably explains their presence in the dream – although me and Mike already met up once this holiday and I’m staying at his on Monday night (and seeing him a lot next week for uni), I can’t shake off my feelings of inferiority.  Which I really, really need to get over!  But in dreams, I guess that we see ourselves without being able to control how we act.  Throw in your two pence!

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escape.

October 19, 2009

I am tired of being treated like a leper.  I am tired of not being asked how I am or how my day went.  I am tired of being made to feel like I am not permitted to speak or make any noise in your presence, except in order to answer your questions or support your arguments.  I am tired of being told to be quiet and stop singing during the day, only to have to listen to the sounds of you fighting in the night.  I am tired of of being made to feel uncomfortable in the midst of your baggage.  I am tired of being accused of never listening to you, when you bombard me with so much speech that I finally have to tune out your voice in order to save my sanity.  I am tired of being made to feel that I should be neither seen nor heard, and only trotted out on an occasion when you need to feel proud of yourselves that you raised a son like me.  I am tired of being asked to move from one room to another because “I don’t belong there”, when in reality I don’t belong anywhere at all according to you, and you only want to displace me that little bit extra to make me feel more insecure.  I am tired of being misunderstood or misdiagnosed, which just proves how little you know me, love me and care about who I truly am rather than the version of who you think I am.  I am tired of being punished for having my own opinion.  I am tired of being made the scapegoat when I dare to disagree with your views which you present as gospel or unshakeable fact.  I am tired of biting my tongue.  I am tired of feeling miserable and worthless.  I am tired of wondering why I am never good enough for you, when I am more than good enough for absolutely everyone else.  I am tired of being made to feel like I am the problem.  I am tired of being on the verge of tears only to never cry.

One day, I will never warn you, but I am going to find somewhere else to live and to be.  I’m already working on it.  Then I will pack my shit, change my number, and vanish. Y0u will never see me or hear from me again.  I deserve to be free, and I finally will be. And I will not miss you.