Posts Tagged ‘priorities’

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2526: track by track

November 26, 2012

As stated in my previous post, my latest album 2526 is a loose diary of the last 2 years of my life, and focuses on love, and a range of facets of that emotion. I’m now going to take you through each track and tell you a little bit more about them all.

1. My Way / Sincerity

As one might surmise, these were originally two separate songs. “My Way” was a response to the burdens of parental love and pressure from those around you who know you best and suffocate you in their desire for you to achieve the best – at the same time as you love them for wanting the best for you, you can’t help but know that ultimately you’ll end up disappointing them. Try as I might, I could write a bridge for this song, and it was unfinished for ages. “Sincerity” came from wanting to write a song called “Sincerity”, and wanting to use the classic, hard-hitting beat from the remix to “It’s All About The Benjamins”; there seemed to be a real contrast between hard and soft.  But I couldn’t write a bridge for this song either, and it went unfinished for ages as well. One day, it dawned on me to just put the two together – the subject matter of the songs went well together, and while the overall tone of the songs is one of defiance and determination, there is also love and vulnerability. And most importantly, no bitterness.

2. Distance

This is one of my two favourite songs on the album. I was heavily into the song “I Miss You” by Beyoncé (from her masterpiece 4), and the night that I received the instrumental from Citizens of the World, I had been looking forward to Toby coming down to Bristol for the weekend (this was before I had moved to London) – we hadn’t seen each other for a while and I really missed him. Except that same night, he had called me to say that he probably wouldn’t be able to make it (in the end, he did). I was feeling melancholy and yet selfish as well, and the lyrics and melody to this song subsequently came in about 15 minutes. The lyrics so vividly capture the emotions I was feeling, and the vocal delivery is something that is supposed to be downbeat and yet sincere and heartfelt. The production is perfect. I am so grateful to have recorded this song.

3. Delete U

This song was written not long after Quiet Storm was done, and the piano intro is supposed to be reminiscent of Prince / The-Dream. I remember breaking up with one of my previous dalliances and just removing all trace of him from my life. It was intriguing that rather than tangible memories, we store a lot of initial information about friends and relationships digitally and so it’s all about “pressing delete” rather than throwing things in the trash. The use of terms such as “Facebook” and “Twitter” automatically date this song (probably to its detriment, although I personally don’t think it rings as unnaturally as the lyrics about getting off the Macbook and Facebook from Brandy and Monica’s otherwise-very-good “It All Belongs To Me”), but when I’ve dated my entire album through its title, it doesn’t really matter!

4. Important

I am well aware that this song sounds really similar to “Broken-Hearted Girl” by Beyoncé, but it’s not a bad song to use as a template and I really wanted the piano and drums to be straightforward – the vocals and lyrics are supposed to occupy centre stage in this song. I wanted to talk in an honest way about how it feels when you don’t know what is going on in a relationship, and whether your priorities and feelings really mesh with those of your partner’s. Are you on the same page? I left the song open-ended – we don’t know if the couple in the song stay together or break up, because although I personally tend towards the latter, the whole point is that life and love is not clear cut and the things we think we should do, we don’t always do.  Love is complicated.

5. Unforgettable

This song is a remix of / my spin on Drake’s “Unforgettable” from his first album Thank Me Later, and I loved the melancholy production. The chorus of my track I guess is a bit more reminiscent of the Nat King Cole classic; I wanted to have a rap song on my album, like “Armani Earrings” on Quiet Storm, but less incendiary and more vulnerable. The sample of Aaliyah just made Drake’s song so perfect. Mike has played such a big part in the last 3 years of my life that I didn’t know how to feel about it when he moved out of Bristol. Even though we worked together, it felt like we were drifting apart and I was sad about it. I wrote this song to encapsulate all of my emotions about the relationship with one of my best friends developing and evolving. Ultimately, I ended up moving a lot further away! I have grown up so much over the last 3 years, and I wanted to pay tribute to someone who had a considerable role to play in the man I am today. Friendship is love too, after all.

6. Phoenix Rising

This song evokes love as empowerment. This was the first track from Citizens of the World that I wrote to, and I had Nicole Scherzinger’s Killer Love album on repeat at the time, hence the namecheck in the first line. The production was ethereal, and I wanted a melody that really soared on the wings of the track. It was a challenging vocal to sing – particularly the end note! – but recording this track was really enjoyable because I got to do different and interesting things with my voice.

7. U Gotta Go

This song was much more fun and more upbeat – when I received the instrumental, it sounded so happy and pop! I immediately thought of “I Wanna Go” by Britney Spears – but I didn’t want to do something completely featherweight, so I flipped the song to make it a breakup anthem with some sassy lyrics about dumping a car in a lake that I cribbed from Tamia’s “Go” (aside: she is such a ridiculously talented singer!). I also wanted to make a poppy track that had some good vocal riffs in it – so I did that.

8. Sabo

This is my other favourite song on the album, because it is very personal and meaningful. Obviously, it’s addressed to Toby and it’s about him and us. I am so deeply, romantically and truly in love with him. He bought me a ring from Thomas Sabo for our 6-month anniversary, and I still wear it every day – I love it (black and silver are my favourite fashion colours, after all!) and I am so proud of it. I wanted to write a piano ballad the old fashioned way – chords and lyrics on top, no digital production – so that’s me playing the piano (the microphone isn’t great for recording the piano, so that’s why it sounds a bit honky-tonk). I was also in love with Beyonce’s “1+1” so I wanted to have some powerful vocals in the bridge, that really pulled out the soul that I wanted to express. The song turned out exactly how I wanted it to (honky-tonk aside), and I always knew it would be the end song / finale to my album.

Once again, I hope you enjoy the album!

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important.

April 11, 2011

First of all, a gift / apology for not having written in such a long time! This is a new (well, new to you guys!) song called “Important”, which I did nearly a year and a half ago now – just after I finished and released Quiet Storm, so it was too late to put it onto that album. I was inspired (as is probably evident) by Beyoncé’s “Broken-Hearted Girl” musically, while the lyrics were part of my attempt to delve a little bit deeper with my lyrics. One of my aims for my new album is to talk more eloquently and honestly about love and relationships, because over the past 18 months I have experienced love, experienced relationships and friendships in such a new way. In that respect, this song precedes the timeline for my inspiration, but still fits the brief 😉 It’s just a demo version and still needs a little polishing up (and of course there is no guarantee it’ll make the final tracklist) but I like it and I hope you do too 🙂

One of the things that the song talks about is knowing your priorities and having them straight, in a relationship and in friendships. I have lately had to reprioritise my own life – financially, my car has pretty much taken over and if I am going to London to see Toby, running my car, paying rent and affording all my unavoidable expenses, I have had to accept cutting back on luxuries. I go out for coffee / dinner / cinema less, which is a shame because that means I see less of my friends. I spend less money on clothes and entertainment, and although my lust for them is undiminished, I can’t entertain getting a pretty designer thingummy any time in the near future because I just need to spend the money on other things. Once I move to London, even though my salary will increase, the need to budget intelligently is only going to intensify. I was saying to Toby yesterday that perhaps although I was rationalising at the time (with a grin on my face as I never thought I’d have to go through with it), I am glad I got my fancy jewellery and phone and sunglasses and all my designer things over the last couple of years, because they are things I treasure and now I have to make them last – now that I have them, I don’t need to get any more! My iPod (which I have had for 2 and a half years – the longest surviving iPod yet!) recently started playing up, which greatly irritated me – especially as I got a brand new car stereo so I can plug my iPod into it and play whatever music takes me mood – and I have had to spend quite a few hours over the past few days fixing it, because I can’t survive without music and I simply can’t afford another one right now.

Beyond material things, I need to treasure my friendships and my relationship. The inconveniences I have listed above are just that – inconvenient but not life-threatening! A couple of years ago, I could literally not survive without my iPod. But now, I think I could do it. I wouldn’t like it, but I could do it – other material things such as my phone, my laptop, my car have taken precedence. But my priorities have changed also. What’s important to me is keeping my relationship with Toby happy (which it seems to be up to now, and I realise that this is something to truly cherish), being a good friend and keeping a good circle of friends around me (which I feel I now have), and moving to London and building a career and a life for myself. All of a sudden, having a nice place to live in the city, having a good job and financial stability are important considerations. When did I become a grown-up?

I watched For Colored Girls today, which I had been desperate to do – and now I am desperate to read Ntozake Shange’s original choreopoem, which I shall probably purchase tonight or tomorrow. It reminded me that all of us have our own issues, our own baggage and our own insecurities which we need to conquer, but too often we struggle alone with these burdens rather than shouldering them with our friends and family to both help us cope and draw us closer together. I saw my friend Sarah yesterday whom I hadn’t seen since November, and while it was really good to see her, I found that I didn’t really know what to say to her to connect and recapture the friendship we had at university. Hopefully this is just a blip and next time we get together we can have a more effective catch-up; after 45 minutes, she had to go, but before she left she told me “not to leave it so long next time!” My life has become busy to the extent that try as I might, I can’t see all of my friends as much as I would like. And this is a shame, because when I’m at home in Bristol I can easily get lonely and no matter how much music, how many possessions I have, how many films I watch or PS3 games I play, I still feel bored and cabin-feverish. So I cherish my friendships, I cherish my relationship and how lovely it is, I cherish the things that I have, I cherish my emotions and both my ups and downs. And the real priority is making sure that I remain grateful and don’t become complacent about everything that I have. I may not be satisfied, because I have so much more in my life that I want to accomplish – but I am somewhat happy with my life and that is a really Good Thing.

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paralysis.

July 12, 2010

This weekend was lovely for me.  I went to London to see Toby’s new place and also to spend some time with Nana, one of my closest friends from my time at Oxford.  I was due to be in London the following weekend (now this coming weekend) anyway as me and Toby are going to the Surrey University Grad Ball, but Nana texted me asking whether I was free and she needed to talk.  As it’s more than about time I went down to London (she’s come to visit me in Bristol a few times but between university, family and various other commitments I had never made it down), I decided to take a trip on the very cheap Megabus and spend a couple of days.  We had a really nice time eating, chilling, shopping (though I was restrained with spending money – my driving test is looming so it’s time to prioritise) and it was just great to catch up.  But anyway, that’s not what I’m writing about.

On the Friday night after we’d been for cocktails (Toby & Nana got on superbly, and they were able to talk about science while I smiled and vacated my brain and just looked pretty), Toby and I got the tube back to his.  We got off at Earls Court, and due to him not usually getting off at that station and it being vaguely confusing in the night-time, he ended up walking me slightly the wrong way.  We went down one road in particular, and in the entranceway to the first house on the road there was a man slumped, ostensibly asleep.  It was about 10:45 in the evening, he had a backpack still on his back, and he was strewn across the entrance to the house with one arm covering his face.  His clothes looked vaguely dirty (probably from the ground) but other than that I couldn’t tell much of his appearance, from my vantage point of being stood up.  In other words, it just looked like he’d had too much to drink and passed out.

Toby and I stopped, and Toby wondered if the guy was alright.  At this point, I urged Toby to just keep walking, as he was probably just drunk and would be fine. As the words came out of my mouth, I started to question myself: Why was I so eager to just carry on? What if something bad had happened to the guy? What if he needed someone to call the emergency services? And most of all, what was I so afraid of? I can’t deny that I felt a strong intuition to just keep walking and not get involved in something that was probably not a problem and certainly not my business. The media report and project so many stories about people who’ve wound up injured, hurt or worse by getting involved in other people’s tribulations when they were only trying to help.  But what if that man were me? What if I needed somebody to call for help on my behalf, and they just kept on walking?

The dilemma swirled in my mind even as I convinced Toby that we should just leave the guy and keep on walking. As luck would have it, Toby was using the GPS on his mobile and discovered we needed to walk back down the same road and take a different turning to get to his place, so we were due to end up passing the unconscious man again. To assuage my conscience, I said that if the guy looked like he was really in trouble, if we could see blood or signs of something dangerous (we had already noted that the guy didn’t appear to be bleeding, and seemed to be breathing ok), we would call the police. As we approached the entrance to the house again, we passed many other pedestrians on their way home / wherever, and none of them seemed to be the slightest bit concerned about the guy. At this point, I wondered whether I was just naïve: I’m from a decent-sized city but it’s not London, and things are different there. Perhaps it was even more commonplace than in Bristol, and perhaps they had judged it more dangerous to get involved than to keep walking.  Maybe they hadn’t even noticed. But the combination of other people’s lack of concern, the fact that a lot of the houses had lights on so it wasn’t as if the guy would be in danger nor did any of the occupants seem to be particularly bothered by his presence, and the fact that when we did pass him again, he didn’t seem to be in any distress or be injured (in other words, he did genuinely appear to be passed out asleep) meant that we didn’t call 999 but just went on our way.

I hope that he was alright in the end. I just can’t help but wonder if I did the right thing: obviously putting my own safety (and Toby’s) first is important. But at the same time, how much danger could a barely conscious man who was probably stinking drunk pose to us? Why did I feel an instinctual sense of alarm, and was I right to trust that instinct? I believe myself to be the kind of person who would help a person in need, but in this instance should I have done more? Or am I just being naïve and thinking about a commonplace incident far too much? Am I right in thinking that if nobody living on the road nor the other pedestrians walking past seemed to be alarmed, I didn’t need to be either? Is that just being realistic, or is it a dangerous blind eye to turn? I wonder what this says about me as a person, about us as an urban society, that we’re afraid of making a social blunder that could cost us our own personal safety, even when the situation probably is less dangerous than we fear and the person might need our help? Is the media to blame for hyping such incidents to the point that we are too afraid to help others for fear of the consequences that a misguided retaliation might mean for ourselves? I suppose the most telling thing is that if I could do it again, I would probably do exactly the same and play it safe for me and Toby. I just wonder if it was the right thing to do.

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what we want.

January 8, 2010

It’s funny how what we want, on a smaller scale, changes. Presumably, nearly all of us ultimately want to be happy; it’s a basic thing.  But the little things, the goals we seek to accomplish on the way to that happiness, are different for all of us.  I was on the bus stop on Tuesday on my way to Starbucks, and I got into conversation with a guy who’d been waiting there for ages.  He was telling me that he had belated Christmas presents to deliver to his sister’s daughter, who lives across town. Because apparently he didn’t have much money (his brother owed him some but wasn’t paying him – bla bla) he couldn’t get what he wanted to buy, which was a pair of Timberland boots.  I get the impression that his niece was young, because he said that the following year, once she outgrew the boots, he would have had them dipped in gold (and then proceeded to tell me about how they freeze the boots in liquid nitrogen before dipping them in gold).  In my head I was furiously thinking that that was horrendously tacky (which it is), but looking at the man’s face as he was talking, he seemed so excited about the idea that it was genuinely sweet.  He really wanted it.  And if that made him happy, and it would make his niece happy, then who am I to judge his dream?

If I were to make a quick list of things that I want in the next year or so, I could go for ages and into specific minutia of jewellery, as well as vague wishes and hopes.  But concrete things that I would like, that I think are possible to achieve, and that would help me on the way to “happiness”, would be:

  • A good, decent boyfriend for whom I can wake up enough to appreciate him.
  • Passing my driving test and getting a car.
  • Finishing my careers guidance course and getting a job that enables me to have my own place.

I think that’s it really! Although sometimes I focus so much on these things that it feels like nothing that I have is ever enough, I appreciate that I have some really fantastic friends (it took me long enough to acquire them but in the last year alone, I’ve made three or four new bffs!), I am sorta good-looking and I lost plenty of weight so that apart from when I am having a little crisis, I know I am not fat.  I have nice things, including designer jewellery, decent technology and a wardrobe with which I am satisfied.  I have a pretty good singing voice, and the ability to make my own music and for that I am blessed, because even if it’s not on a grand scale, I have the tools to realise my own dreams.  And as you know, I finally got my tattoo!  None of this precludes me from wanting to improve or revolutionise all of these aspects of myself, but as things stand now, I am satisfied and I have made progress. My dissatisfaction just comes from a desire to keep moving and growing!  But in terms of goals, I only have those three main ones I listed at the top.

Mike told me that more than anything right now, he wants to move away from central Bristol to somewhere a little quieter, with more green space.  I can’t understand it myself because I’m the total opposite, but then he has a wife and child, he’s had a different upbringing, and so he has different things that will make him happy.  It’s really important to him in the next few months to achieve his dream.  I have a friend who is hoping to be successful in his new job application, another who wants to do really well in her finals at university, and one more who is on the next step to realising her dream of becoming a doctor – a journey which has taken her a really long time.  I admire everyone who has goals, because I think it’s goals that make us get up in the morning, work that little bit harder and keep it moving.  Looking at my parents, a generation older than me, and I don’t know if this is because relations between us are kinda tenuous at the moment, but I couldn’t tell you what they want.  I mean, they have done well for themselves in life, but I can’t imagine that at 50 years old, you suddenly just become satisfied with everything you have.  Isn’t it part of the human condition to always want something?  Again, by that, I think we all want to be happy ultimately, and we don’t stop on the quest for that happiness – but doesn’t everyone want at least one thing that puts them that bit closer to being happy?  I can’t imagine that changing with age… I hope that although I can always appreciate what I have, that I never feel completely satisfied… to me, that is a kind of complacency and I always want to be striving for more, for better, to be the best that I can be.  Tyler Durden in Fight Club said that that was a form of masturbation; the Army uses it as their motto; but I really want to be the best.  Not by anyone else’s criteria, but by my own – an even taller order.  Game on. 😉