Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

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love hurts.

March 3, 2010

Peep the new video to Nivea’s newest song, “Love Hurts”.

I am a fan of Nivea’s music, because she seems to have some artistic control, she has a strong pen game, a lovely voice and most importantly (for this blog entry at least), she wears her heart on her sleeve.  She has her fun club songs, swagger and confidence songs, but she also has love songs that seem to express from the heart her emotions (check “Complicated” and “ILY”).  This new track is no different.  What strikes me about the song and particularly about the video is how fearless she is in confronting her imperfections, her indiscretions and her pain.  By getting Lil’ Wayne (her ex and babyfather) to star in the video as her love interest, she’s vividly bringing to life her regret. There’s no subtext – only text.  Personally I don’t know how wise it is to be so utterly open with your conflicted emotions and reliving your love found and lost for all to see, but it’s undeniably brave and makes for compelling reading and listening.

I remember when I started my course at uni and I told a couple of people that I had some of my music on myspace.  One of them who went and listened to it said that he was really surprised how deep the lyrics were for someone of my age.  I think part of it is to do with my upbringing, seeing my parents constantly battling, going back and forth between love and hate, raging arguments that occasionally got quite violent.  As a child, it was a lot to handle and I don’t think that it’s something that ever leaves you, although I also readily acknowledge that many people go through a lot worse.  But that was more than enough for me to handle.  I think that being taught from an early age that “love is pain” is a realistic but not particularly healthy lesson to learn, and I often wonder how I ended up as seemingly well-adjusted as I have! *insert laughter here* I think that’s why I’ve often had tortured feelings for people I can’t have, why I blatantly have control issues (being conscious of power games), daddy issues and have emotionally attached myself to older, bad-boy style men, and why I was so nervous in starting my current relationship.  It took me about a month and a half to really see and appreciate how lucky I am, how wonderful my boyfriend is and to learn just to breathe, take it easy and start to be open to him about my vulnerabilities, my flaws and all.

Who knows what will happen in the future?  But right now, I am learning that although sometimes love does hurt and has hurt me in the past, it doesn’t always have to be that way.  Love can lift you up, and should lift you up more than it tears you down.  If I were either of my parents, I would have gotten divorced.  But although as a child I prayed for that nightly at times, I am glad that they didn’t and I admire their strength of commitment even though I still wholeheartedly believe that if it were me, I wouldn’t have deemed it worth it to go through what they went through.  But my parents’ relationship is not really any of my business – it’s between them and I can only complain when their shit affects me (which I do, when appropriate).  When does the point come when you put yourself first, your sanity and your heart?  Watching the above video, I wonder if Nivea has really started putting herself first or if she’s still in the midst of an emotional battle and a broken heart?  It is compelling viewing and listening, but it also really makes me think and I wonder if heartbreak and anguish is something a singer has to go through in order to really be able to write heartfelt lyrics and lend vocal credence and soul to singing those lyrics.  I guess that that’s why I had that feedback (and received comments on my lyrics and vocals throughout my singing ‘career’ to date) from my songs on myspace.  To me, my lyrics can and will get deeper as I continue to write and record, and my voice is edgier and more soulful live than it is on record.  (Those are my shortcomings with the technology, which is a constant work in progress!)

In short, I (like Nivea, I suppose) wear my heart on my sleeve, feel pain and am glad to be finally learning to appreciate love without the hurt that has come with it in the past, both in what I’ve experienced and also what I’ve learned from those surrounding me. I wonder if however, Nivea is torturing herself further by putting herself back in the situation with having Weezy in the video.  For me, that reenactment would rip me apart inside.  However she manages to keep it together, she’s a braver person than me and I salute that commitment to artistry and to baring one’s soul.

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speechless.

February 25, 2010

So I’m sat in Starbucks in Cabot Circus having finally gained access to the internet (BT Openzone has a lot to answer for… hijacking my browser and not letting me get to the Starbucks page however hard I try – I do have better things to do than sit here and refresh the page!… probably.) and I have felt determined to blog since I got here.  I’m consuming far too much coffee lately and I generally need to cut down on food – not that it’s showing; I appreciate my new metabolism every day and I pray it never leaves! – so I thought I would take the time to write something to you all and write about things that are on my mind.  Usually this isn’t a problem for me, but now I’m at my keyboard and I don’t really know what to say.  I have my book (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – I’m only 100 pages through so far but I’m enjoying it, more than I expected to in fact!) and Sade’s fantastic new album Soldier Of Love is playing on my iPod, so I’m feeling chilled.  My fingertips are typing away but is any of this of substance?  I don’t think so.  So let me try and write something of value.

Yesterday I got a bit irritated with a couple of bossy people in uni, but it wasn’t really a big deal.  However, my mood lingered and wouldn’t quite lift. I went to WHSmiths (after a tour of central Bristol shops) and bought Mike and Caroline the first season of True Blood on DVD as a thankyou gift for everything they mean to me, and all that they’ve done for me in the past six months.  And then I went to Starbucks, sat and read my book, and decided to continue on my strategy of letting people know how much I appreciate them.  I spoke to Hannah and we conversed about love, life and self-esteem, and then I met up with Toby and decided to tell my boyfriend that although sometimes I’m a bit emotionally wary or quiet, I appreciate him so much and the reason I get nervous is because nobody ever really treated me, as a boyfriend, the way that he does.  He’s a good man and I’m going to hold onto him, and although I don’t always say it, I appreciate what he’s done for me and what he means to me too.  It was nothing to do with why I was a bit grumpy before, but it made me feel better, because generally we don’t tell people close to us enough how much we appreciate them.  So I’m going to try and do that a little bit more, rather than everyone just taking their friendships and relationships for granted.  I am good at speaking confidently, so while I’m doing that I might as well say things that are worth saying!

Today I finished my essay at uni with Mike, tried and failed to find Ness in the café, and now I’m here in Starbucks again.  Although I mainly come here because I don’t really want to go home before I have to (my parents have the week off this week and although we are getting on ok at the moment, I don’t want to prolong my contact with them.  Small doses!  I like my independence, as you know), I do enjoy having time to myself in a relaxing environment, and I can just turn my iPod on and type or read without any disruptions.  I do pay for the privilege, and I should be a little more careful with what I spend at the moment, but part of my philosophy is that as long as it’s not massively negligent of the bigger picture, we should treat others and ourselves the best we can, because tomorrow you could be dead.  It’s a bit blunt, but not wrong.  What have we got to lose?  I tell and show people how much they mean to me today (or at least I’m going to resolve to do that a bit more); I reward myself today (well, sorta quite often but hey!); I try and live in the moment, while being aware of my past and my future.  If I died tomorrow, I’m sure I would have some regrets, but I can’t think of anything major that I really see as a huge mistake in my life.  There are things that I would have done differently, but now that I’m in a pretty good space in my life I don’t really care because the mistakes I’ve made and avenues I’ve taken have led me to this point, and probably contributed to my character and the person that I am in some way.  Watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians at Toby’s last night, Kim Kardashian has money, looks, family and a decent career.  But listening to her speaking, there’s a tiny something missing… some sort of spark or soul.  I’m not saying that because she’s a celebrity heiress – I find Paris Hilton terrifically fun and I will always (well, almost always) stick up for her in a conversation – but with Kim there seemed to be little appreciation or conception of battling hard for the things she wants.  As much as I would love to have things fall easily into my lap, I’ve fought and struggled more than some people realise, and now that things are going my way I appreciate it every day.  I hope that it continues and I’m going to do my best to ensure that it does (although life is such that sometimes no matter how much you do, things go against you).  If I won the lottery tomorrow, if my heart felt like a glittering diamond and everything in my life were suddenly fulfilled, that would be nice, but I hope that through the course my life I can get to a state where I’m fulfilled by the things that I have, even if I’m not 100% satisfied and always striving for more (which I almost hope to be).  Appreciating what I have is something I try to do as much as I can, but I could still do it much more.

So I guess I found something to talk about.  It wasn’t anything momentous, it wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but I reread what I’ve just typed over the past 20 minutes and I stand by it.  Too often we are speechless, or afraid to speak for fear of the value judgments others place on what we say.  And sometimes what goes unsaid is the most valuable thing of all.  So to this end, I want to thank you all once again for reading, for following this little blog of mine, and I hope that you all stay wonderful and wish you all the best.  Until next time kids x

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empowerment.

February 18, 2010

Yesterday, I decided to get back on the horse and take my first steps towards accomplishing one of my goals for 2010, which is to pass my driving test and get a car.  I’m 24 years old, I’ll need a car for jobs once I finish my current university course, and I also just want to take this step towards freedom.  I feel a little guilty relying on friends who drive, and I want to repay the favour; I’m tired of getting the bus, I’m tired of having to leave Toby’s at 10:30pm just so that I can get home.  I want to do what I want when I want.  So I took my driving theory test for the first time in 6 years, and I passed it.  So onto the practical! I have a CD-ROM to help with this (though I have yet to view it, and unless the CD puts me in a car, I’m unsure as to how helpful it’ll actually be), and I’m going to book an intensive course for a week in the Easter holidays, hopefully with a practical test attached at the end which I can pass and then get my licence.

When I was 18, I took this practical driving test 3 times, and kept failing. The first time, I nearly passed (and perhaps should have), but the second and third time my nerves got the better of me and I couldn’t function effectively.  I know that driving is an industry and examiners are unnecessarily rigid, because they can get money out of people retaking tests.  But I just need to get my shit together and give them an excuse not to fail me.  I’m hoping that being a bit older with more life experience will give me the strength I need to get through the test, but I have to acknowledge the fact that I’m still nervous about it!  But I’m going to try a different strategy (blitzing it in a week rather than taking a lesson each week might hopefully give me less time to get nervous) and my determination to pass – it’s a necessity! – might just see me through.  We’ll have to wait and see.

The theme of this blog entry is in the title – empowerment.  So far, 2010 is shaping up pretty well – two of my three goals seem to be progressing towards successful completion and it’s only mid-February.  I have a wonderful new boyfriend and I am slowly learning to be in a relationship with him.  I am halfway towards my driving licence, with the next steps clear in my mind (and my wallet, *sigh*), and Mike’s neighbour Andrea has a car (Peugeot 306 – nothing fancy but it’ll get me from A to B) which he is going to sell for £800 that I am considering purchasing (not only does he have to go through Mike who can be fearsome if necessary, but I’ve met Andrea myself so he’s unlikely to rip me off – I know where he lives!).  I have got a fantastic best friend at university with whom I am extremely likely to keep in contact after the course ends, and I have shed nearly all the weight I’m looking to shed.  I have got two tattoos that I love, that are exactly right for me, and I am making plans for the third (watch this space! It’s going to require some considerable designing though so I won’t be blogging it next week or anything 😛 ).  In other words, life is good right now. I’ve tried to keep my blog even, to reflect the positives and negatives, the joys and heartbreak in my life in equal measure, in a way that means you can see and feel what is personal to me but also in a way that’s not so personalised that nobody else can relate.  I’ve also blogged about music, fashion, perfume and other things that are personal interests of mine, but which are also interesting to the general population.

This blog itself, along with all of the aforementioned things in the above paragraph, are steps towards my own empowerment.  It’s funny how much can change in six months.  I have a lot of growing to do, but I look at myself and I have come quite far in quite a short amount of time.  I feel like an adult, like I’m not an ugly person but someone deserving and strong.  I can’t be strong 100% of the time, and that’s ok, but I’m stronger now than I used to be and I can see it, I can feel it.  And this journey is only beginning, I have more steps to take (car, job, financial stability, my own place) before I am anywhere near satisfied (hah!) but I acknowledge my progress towards independence and I feel good about it.  I can do this.  We have to empower ourselves each day to get a little bit further towards where we want to be, and I refuse to ever be powerless. This is what I realise now, and I am empowered.

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the one.

January 28, 2010

The most honest and one of the most difficult things that I have come to realise about the whole Mike situation (read back if you don’t know, although this entry will no doubt catch you up more or less anyway) is that he is The One.  Not that I actually believe in the concept of “the One”: I find it extremely improbable that out of the billions of everyone on earth, there is only one single person with whom you are meant to be happy.  I don’t believe in God, so I don’t believe in that sort of destiny or pre-determined fate.  I don’t find it logical in the sense of considering issues like gender, sexuality, race, religion, culture, even people of different languages?  I mean, what if my one meant-to-be person happened to be a female homophobic person from a tribe with their own language, living in the middle of the African desert?  I’d be more than a bit screwed, and it’s an unlikely match to start with.  So I don’t believe that there is one soulmate.

So let me clarify: when I say that Mike is “the One”, I mean that in my 24 years of living, he is the most important and closest thing to a soulmate with whom I could imagine spending my life with, that I’ve ever met.  Of course, he’s straight, he’s 11 years older than me, he’s married, he’s a father – so again, it’s not going to happen.  Last week we were discussing our feelings, the situation and so forth, and he said “I truly wish I could reciprocate your feelings.”  That meant a lot to me, and what else could I say but be honest and reply “I wish you could too”? I know that if things were different and he could be with me somehow, we would do it and that would be it, end of story, happily ever after thankyou very much.  But things aren’t different, and I ended the conversation with “In another life, maybe.” and left it at that, and proceeded to talk about other, less serious things (and I later got very drunk, vomited over a bridge near a swan and then stayed at T’s place).  Nevertheless, that discussion will be one of the many things that I never forget about Mike – there are so many even after just 5 months of knowing each other.  And before you say it, I don’t know if I believe in reincarnation either, but my mind is a little more open to that than the “one sole soulmate in the world” concept.

After starting the week with some insecurities over my friendship with the third member of our little love triangle (which were proven unfounded – I overthink things, misinterpret little subtle gestures and take them far too personally), I’ve made a real effort to be the best friend I can be to both Mike and V, and to focus on my burgeoning friendship with T.  Things look good, and although I’m not really comfortable at letting someone get close to me in a more-than-friends way, I’m starting to feel a little more at ease with it.  I’d still like to slow down the pace somewhat, but I enjoy spending time with him and I feel so flattered that he appears to think so much of me.  I’d be a fool to just throw that away, and I’m glad (most of the time) that I haven’t.  He’s a really good guy, so why not see if it leads somewhere?  My feelings for Mike are there and I acknowledge that, but there’s no need for T to know about them because that would just cause needless questions and possible hurt.  I am glad to say that I consider Mike one of my closest, best friends, and everything I’ve been through and we’ve been through has ultimately contributed to that rather than broken it down, which I think is testament to the both of us.

I spent the day with Mike today as we walked his son up and down Bristol docks on the train tracks (he educated me about trains, I taught him about raspberries), got Mike’s first tattoo (it looks fantastic, and watching him get inked up was a tiny bit sexy but mainly really interesting – as well as enthusing to play off his jubilation when he saw it in the mirror and was so happy – just like my reaction!), booked my second tattoo – the revolver – for next week (arrrrgh here we go AGAIN! No doubt I’ll post up the picture just like with the first one 😉 ), spent time with his family, had chilli and smoked lots, and watched Snow White with his son.  I was so privileged that they wanted to spend time with me – not just Mike, but his whole family – and that really means a lot to me.  He is one of my very best friends, and I hope to death that that is something that never changes, because losing him would be a catastrophe.  I feel close to his son, his wife is absolutely lovely, and although sometimes I feel that it might be weird considering the way that I feel about Mike, I adore watching his family interact (especially considering my own family’s ups and downs in terms of emotional push and pull) and feeling as if I am part of them.  Knowing his wife so well, rather than infuriating me in terms of “damn, you got my man first!” (I occasionally feel that, but really very rarely), seems to normalise me and I don’t think of Mike romantically so much when I’m in his family’s presence – it’s just not appropriate and doesn’t enter my head.  He’ll always be a sexy man, he’ll always have a sexual magnetism for me, but in that kind of situation the pull is less.  And considering my possible relationship with T, my close friendship with Mike which I don’t want to jeopardise, and the many ways in which my romantic feelings are inappropriate, whatever minimises my attraction to him is welcome.

So I hope that T and me work well, I hope that Mike and me are best friends for many years to come (as well as tattoo buddies!), I hope that I can always feel comfortable with his family and that they can always feel comfortable with me.  Within one month of 2010, I’ve got one tattoo, one on the way, a possible new boyfriend, and I’m working on passing my driving test – all with strengthening my bond with Mike.  I sense a lot of positive accomplishments to come, and that makes me really happy. 🙂

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secrecy.

January 14, 2010

For the moment, I’ve taken off the link to this blog from my twitter, and I’m going to be deleting the twitterfeeds as well.  I don’t anticipate doing this for long and they’ll be back up in a few days or so, for a couple of reasons which I will explain, but firstly I’ll explain why I’ve done it.  I’ve started seeing a wonderful guy called T, and he’s so nice.  He cooked me dinner last night, we talk on msn all the time, and we have great coffee sessions.  I’ve also stayed over at his place a couple of times and everything seems good so far.  I appreciate that all the time that I’ve been whining about being single and various foibles with guys, unrequited attractions etc., I’ve wanted someone solid, stable, interesting and nice, and now I appear to be finding that.  So why am I so fucking scared?

I know that part of it is that I don’t want to end up hurting T the way that I hurt Lukas in the past.  Although Lukas was way too clingy, and turned out to be a bit of a nutcase, he didn’t deserve to be hurt the way he was – even though it was an honest accident, being dumped by text is not the way that I operate (I think it’s a pretty shitty thing to do) and I will always regret that that was how things went down.  T, although we’ve only known each other for a few weeks, appears to be better in every way.  So the thought of accidentally hurting T and really upsetting him (I’m confident he likes me a lot) really scares me.  I’ve always been the kind of person who feels nervous but manages to override his fear, but I won’t lie and I’ll say that being single is so much easier – you’re not responsible for anyone else’s feelings and you don’t have to worry about what makes them happy or what makes them sad.  If I, in some way, hurt T through no fault of his own, I think it would make me feel really awful. So that’s part of my fear.

Thus getting to the reason why I’ve temporarily hidden the link to this blog.  If you’ve read some of my entries over the past 4 months, you’ll know that I’ve developed pretty serious feelings for someone.  Someone whom I can never have, but who has redefined what it is to be a man, and has shown me what I want to aim for as a man myself.  He’s one of my best friends, he’s really important to me, and I’m a total masochist for allowing my feelings to grow to this point.  But I know (whether I like it or not) that I can never have him as anything more than a best friend (!!!) and that is enough to treasure.  I don’t die inside very often, and when I am dying, I just grin and bear it until I come out the other side.  I’m very lucky to have such a friend who’s been more of a role model for me than my father ever was, than any male figure has ever been.  If you’ve been reading, you know all of this and more, and I don’t need to recap.  But because I’ve been so honest and open about this on here, I don’t want to risk any of T’s feelings being hurt if he reads it – surely he couldn’t help but wonder?  Nothing inappropriate’s ever happened, but the fact that the desire is there, and it’s stronger than I care to admit most of the time, makes me feel like it would be something that could hurt his feelings, or at least question my sincerity towards him.  And I do like him.  Things have gone quite fast, and I think I want to slow down a little bit and just enjoy the moment and be easy with having someone there for me – because I’m scared of rushing myself, I’m scared of rushing our emotions and burning out too quickly, I’m scared of accidentally hurting him but I also want to give myself time to get a grip on my heart.  That makes sense, right?  I don’t want to mess anything up so early on, but I also don’t want to push things too fast without really knowing what we’re getting into.  I deserve a good, stable relationship with a good, stable man, and I’m not going to run away from T – that would be totally counter-productive and I’d be back at square one.  But I’m going to take my time – I have to do this for the sanity of my head and the security of my heart.

I guess that’s the crux of the matter.  I don’t really know how to just be in a relationship with someone.  I definitely overthink things (as Mike has said and as I’m well aware), and I can’t stop my mind and heart running away with me.  How do you do that?  How do you turn your brain off, dial your emotions down?  The longest relationship I’ve had has barely touched two months, and even then I felt somewhat claustrophobic, like I somehow couldn’t let a person get too close to me for fear of getting hurt, for fear of too much responsibility over their emotions and heart, and for fear of showing them all of me only for them to be disgusted, find a host of imperfections, or plain run away.  I don’t know why I feel this as it’s totally irrational, and all my close friends know me for who I am and seem to be perfectly happy with it.  There’s nothing wrong with me.  And yet I’m not confident in believing myself when I say that there’s nothing wrong with me.

And if there’s nothing wrong with me, why am I hiding this blog from him?  Over the last 6 months (has it been that long?!??!) of writing, I’ve really enjoyed it, I’ve made a handful of new friends whom I’ve really appreciated, and I have relished the ability to be so honest and frank.  Unwittingly, by adding T to my twitter (but how could I refuse? And why should I refuse?) I’ve compromised my ability to be candid, to be frank with him, and with all of you.  Shouldn’t he be able to like me for who I am?  My heart is who I am, writing this blog has become a part of who I am, and as well as the main concern of not being able to be totally honest with him, it’s gonna affect my hits 😛 (although ironically, since I took this off twitter on Monday, my views have gone up?!?!? where’s the logic?) But I’m not going to delete my posts about Mike, I’m not willing to censor myself and write differently, so I’m not going to change the way I express myself on this blog because I know that some readers appreciate my candour and can relate.  Plus it’s cathartic for me.  But I really, really don’t want to raise questions in T’s mind about my affection for Mike nor about my sincerity towards him.  I want to see where this relationship leads, I deserve a nice boyfriend (and so does he!) and I want to enjoy spending time with him (albeit relaxing a little bit now after our quite intense, fast beginnings).  I just hope that eventually, he will understand that Mike will always be in my heart, but nothing can ever happen and if things go right in the future, I could hold him in my heart too.  And that’s the best way I can express myself and it still doesn’t quite express my feelings how I want to – but hopefully you understand what I mean, because it’s the best I can do.  Thankyou for reading, and I hope you understand.

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confidant.

December 22, 2009

So today I spent time with Mike and my essay in the library at university, and it was nice.  The library was eerily quiet, I made up some stuff about my vocational development to date, and we had conversations.  Things are more or less back to normal now, with the easy camaraderie, jokes and giving me a lift home (which ended up in him finally meeting – waving to her from the car, anyway – my mother).  I’m seeing him tomorrow night to watch The Last Broadcast with his wife and sister-in-law, and I feel so blessed to have a friend who makes effort to include me and feels that he can do these things.

We spoke about the love triangle, or about aspects of it.  He said that he is past his obsession now, because nothing can ever happen, we’ve had some space (although it’s only been 5 days) and because she seems to be ruled by her husband.  Mike and I agree that we would never want to be in a relationship where we feel we have to answer to the other person, that we are sometimes subservient and that the other person is the boss.  It’s all a bit strange, because our friend doesn’t seem particularly subservient and is quite a sparky person, and yet she seems to actively toe the line when it comes to her husband’s paranoia (albeit maybe correct) about her new male friends at university.  She has been forbidden from coming to my house party at the beginning of January, because “she’s not a student” (although technically, she is), and yesterday when I was in Cabot Circus with Davina and Deena, I found out she was popping down so I would have liked to say hello, but as she was with her husband it wasn’t going to happen.  I’m glad that Mike says he is doing better – I’m not sure I believe him completely as it seems a bit premature to me, but it’s nice to hear him sound positive about it.

I wish I could say the same about me.  It’s been 5 years since I really fell in love hard for someone like this, and I feel like I’ve come so far since then, I’m a completely different person… and yet, I’m obviously not. Okay, I’m handling things again, and I’m not doing any worse than I was before either – our friendship is more or less back to normal, I’m more happy than I am sad (well, I get more wistful and wanting than really sad) because I made such a good friend, but sometimes I wish that I had a confidant like he does (which is me).  A lot of my friends I know don’t quite understand how I could want someone who is married, nor how the three of us ended up in this tangle of feelings – they just see it as entirely inappropriate, and while they aren’t necessarily wrong, it’s too simplistic a view. Mike, V and I – we’re all people with hearts and feelings and responsibilities to our own families, and just because they may be married doesn’t change the fact that they are still humans full of emotions.  Out of my friends who do understand this, I don’t get the opportunity to see them very often (maybe once every couple of weeks for an hour or so).  It’s difficult.

Mike can tell me about his infatuation (or as of today, conquering of) and explain his feelings to me. He knows that he can trust me, that I won’t judge him and that I will be his friend no matter what.  I know that I can tell Mike about my feelings for him, and that he won’t run away and he will try to understand. But it’s different – apart from the fact that it still twinges that Mike would never want me in that way, I feel like I am humbling or almost humiliating myself to explain the way that I feel and the feelings that I have to him.  It’s brave of us to cope with this, and sometimes I think we overestimate our own strength, but ultimately he’s not confessing his feelings to the person he’s feeling them for (although the three of us are all clear about who likes who – again, it’s messy).  I’m his best friend and his shoulder, and I feel privileged.  I think we’ll always be close, but it’s slightly different for me.  I wish there was someone (and by that I mean a physical someone here, I appreciate all of you guys taking the time to read this and your comments and encouragement on twitter etc.!) to whom I could pour this all out and not feel judged or told that I should move on or get over it, because they are married and have children.  I already know this, and I think I am more or less strong enough not to act on my feelings – that’s the saving grace of being able to talk to Mike about my feelings for him and he is able to listen and support me as a best friend.  But sometimes, just to have someone a little less in the thick of it than the direct object of my crush would be nice!  A confidant.

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Alicia Keys – The Element Of Freedom (album review).

December 6, 2009

Alicia Keys’ new album The Element Of Freedom comes after her biggest success so far, As I Am, in a career which hasn’t had any troughs or lows to date.  Every album she’s released, from Songs In A Minor to the present has explored depth and soul, has combined traditional elements of R&B with current, up to date production and lyrical exploration of love, loss and self-esteem in a genuinely mature fashion that is beyond Keys’ years.  She’s consistently walked the fine line between critical and commercial success, effectively having her cake and eating it since 2002.  Alicia Keys plays the piano like a professional, but is not an entertainer who hides behind her instrument – she takes risks, sings and dances on stage, and has always commanded respect with an element of political and social awareness to boot.  So what does her new album bring to the table?

Like Rihanna’s Rated R, The Element Of Freedom is impossible to divorce from the singer’s personal life context. Keys has suffered some backlash for her love affair with separated-but-not-divorced super-producer Swizz Beatz.  Fans have turned away from Keys’ maturity and moral standpoints expressed in her material to date, saying that she was phony, that she was no better than the singers who dressed and acted like hos, and the lackluster success (i.e. it didn’t shoot straight to #1 as people presumed it would) of first single “Doesn’t Mean Anything” is perhaps because of this.  Despite a simple yet effective video which sticks to the album concept of being free of material things and going beyond all boundaries, the song was solid but seemed like a softer retread of her previous hit “No One”.  Nevertheless, especially since I’m certainly not in a position to judge Keys’ being in love with a man who is attached, the music is far from bad, and second single “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart” as well as her collaborations with Jay-Z, “Empire State Of Mind (Parts 1 & 2)” seem to be coming closer to replicating her usual success.

Here’s to hoping that The Element Of Freedom continues Keys’ string of successes.  Alicia said of the album that “”The way that the songs progress are gonna take you on a natural high. I just want you to feel a sense of freedom, I want you to feel out-of-the-box, feel inspired, You’re definitely going to be taken on a trip, I know you’re going to be shocked, you’re going to hear things that you probably didn’t think that I would sound like. It’s a journey.”  Some of this I agree with, some of it I don’t hear myself.  “Doesn’t Mean Anything” and “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart” both build to exhilarating climaxes, not because the music is especially bombastic (it’s anything but, though “Broken Heart” has a compelling drum loop that comes closer to bringing Kanye West’s 808 fascination into the 21st century than he himself seems to be able to manage).  Standout tracks “That’s How Strong My Love Is”, “Love Is My Disease”, “Distance And Time” and closer “Empire State Of Mind (Part II)” all employ soaring melodies that propel the listener to think and to ride their own emotions; Keys’ production and piano backing compliment each song without ever taking centre stage (as happened on occasion in her first two albums).  Its undeniable that Alicia Keys knows how to write a song, knows how to sing a song and knows how to express a song even with a voice that sometimes is limited – she wrings the emotion out of every syllable be it with a whisper (“Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart”) or a throaty, heartfelt plea (“Love Is My Disease”).

So the album is solid – but is it really that different?  As I Am saw Keys taking risks and incorporating traditional pop and even rock elements into her smoky R&B soul with stellar results (as well as a couple of lackluster songs), and that sound continues here, but in places incorporating 80s drums and synths – this sound is definitely in vogue (I still struggle to understand why), but at least Alicia Keys sounds less like she is pandering to fashion than most artists – again, this is tribute to her genuine musicianship.  I find it hard to say that I am “shocked” by anything on this album – ok, for the first time her intro is a spoken-word explanation of the album title and concept rather than a pianist showcase.  Her collaboration with Beyoncé, “Put It In A Love Song”, is fun and the closest Keys has ever come to club-ready, and Beyoncé’s voice and swagger doesn’t dominate the song as I might have feared – the two artists compliment each other perfectly and adeptly ride the compelling bassline. But here is where the surprises end – opening track “Love Is Blind” performs the same function as previous opening tracks “Go Ahead”, “Karma” and “Girlfriend”, in that they are uptempo, loop-driven productions that display the singer’s confidence before she delves into her vulnerability later in the album.  “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” sounds almost too similar to The Diary Of Alicia Keys‘ “Slow Down”, and while “This Bed” provides an interesting diversion on Freedom, its The-Dream-esque synths and piano are really echoing Prince (which is 80% of what The-Dream does anyway) – and Alicia Keys already covered Prince at the start of her career (“How Come U Don’t Call Me”).  The album ends on a legitimate high with “How It Feels To Fly” and “Empire State Of Mind” exploring her ideals of freedom, exhilaration and expressing her love for New York – but she’s even played those cards before, at the end of As I Am (“Sure Looks Good To Me”) and The Diary (“Streets Of New York”).

As stated earlier, the most interesting aspect of the album, lyrically speaking, is matching the songs to Alicia Keys’ newly revealed love for Swizz Beatz, never mind his marriage.  Her feelings about it resonate through the titles – “Love Is Blind”, “That’s How Strong My Love Is”, “Love Is My Disease” and particularly “Unthinkable”.  Lyrics such as “Some people might call me crazy for falling in love with you” (“That’s How Strong My Love Is”) and “I’m wondering maybe could I make you my baby / If we do the unthinkable, would it make us go crazy? / If you ask me, I’m ready” (“Unthinkable”) speak for themselves.  Obviously, as members of the public there’s only so much we know about the situation, and only a certain percentage of that is remotely true – but the artists put their souls on a record and we can’t help but speculate, at the same time as we feel the songs and apply them to our own lives and emotions.

So The Element Of Freedom is, generally, more of the same from Alicia Keys.  It’s not nearly as risky as Keys herself might proclaim, and it’s not the best album of 2009, but it does provide some moments of genuine exhilaration, and there are plenty of strong tracks to make the weaker ones (“Like The Sea”, “Wait Til You See My Smile”) nothing to gripe about.  What’s more, Keys has found some freedom in being brave enough to write about her love and experiences in a new way – and if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past three months, it’s that love is stronger than anything and I can feel most of what she’s singing about.  Her piano playing compliments the songs without ever becoming a gimmick.  And anyway, after all, if Alicia Keys is providing more of the same, she’s still doing a damn sight better than your average R&B chick.  The lyrics are still simple but deep, the music is still soulful yet current, the songs are still well-written and hooky.  I believe Keys has a better album in her yet (The Diary Of Alicia Keys is still my personal favourite), but I thoroughly commend her for not dipping in quality throughout the past 7 years.