Posts Tagged ‘self-worth’

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Kylie Minogue – Aphrodite. (album review)

June 27, 2010

Aphrodite marks Kylie Minogue’s 11th studio album, and the general attitude is that this is the Australian star’s comeback album following her battle with breast cancer, after the scattershot effort of previous project X. Not only did X not allude to her personal life and struggles (to many fans’ dismay), it seemed determined to overlook them; however, the genre-hopping and quality rollercoaster displeased many listeners.  This is not to take away from the album’s strongpoints; for the gigantic misses of glam-rock lead single “2 Hearts” and the tepid, forgettable “No More Rain”, there were hits such as the excellently addictive “In My Arms” and the sensuous “Sensitized”, not to mention the beautiful closing lightweight ballad “Cosmic”.  X was a frustrating listen not because it ignored Kylie’s personal foibles but because it didn’t know where its head was at, and fired off moments of sheer brilliance and then of complete twaddle seemingly at will.  It’s true that in contrast to that album, Aphrodite is cohesive, focused and honed to target the fibrillating emotional dance-pop that so pleases the radio and Kylie’s gay fanbase.

Aphrodite bears much in common with that other Kylie comeback record, Fever.  Both are love letters to the dance floor, where the tempo and beats are relentless, while Kylie purrs over the top at once calculated and lascivious.  Both are pure pop, and neither of them take enough risks to stand with Kylie’s best albums: the daring, creative zenith of Impossible Princess or the seductive Body Language that was comprised of songs that were so off-kilter and curious that it was a pleasant surprise just how well the songs worked both individually and as a whole.  Nevertheless, Aphrodite aims to please, and on lead single “All The Lovers”, Kylie does just that with a lyric that pleads simultaneously for love and for the dancefloor.  Primed for the radio and for the gays with its pop-dance leanings, Kylie seems to have struck a home run.  However, this song epitomises much of one of my criticisms of Aphrodite as a whole: the sentiments of the lyrics (which are well-written) and the beauty in the melodies (which are often evocative and well-structured) get swallowed up by the uniform pop production of the album.  It at once unifies the record and smooths out most of its interesting quirks: if X was too schizophrenic, Kylie has gone too far the other way with Aphrodite to create a record that is too homogenous.  Like Madonna’s Confessions On A Dance Floor, Stuart Price oversees production duties here to melt the songs together into one continuous blur, making the decent songs fight to announce themselves as individuals to the listener’s ear.

With songs such as “All The Lovers”, “Closer” and “Everything Is Beautiful”, this is a problem: for example, “Closer” is structurally and melodically a ballad, fighting against production that wants to make it a bitter dance song.  “Everything Is Beautiful” should be a gentle, sweet ode to the joys of love, but the insistent drum beat transforms the song into an anthemic but ill-fitting upbeat pop song. These identity crises give much of Aphrodite the sense that it is trying too hard to be something it’s not, or that the tracks are not allowed to be themselves.  There are a couple of plain weak tracks: “Better Than Today” sounds entirely like a Scissor Sisters track and Kylie Minogue (who is not credited enough for her vocal and interpretative abilities) sings it in just that way; “Looking For An Angel” is listless filler which once again seems to have earned its spot on the record because it fits in with the overarching feel of the album as a whole.  It’s a shame that unlike on the quirky Body Language where the album’s moments of strangeness worked, a large part of Aphrodite feels like it is a square peg forced into a round hole.

This is especially highlighted when one listens to the songs that do work.  “Get Outta My Way” is a focused, upstanding anthem that takes its 4-to-the-floor beat and runs, creating an exhilarating standout; “Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)” bears the essence of Fever‘s infectious “Love At First Sight” and is similarly lovely; the title track “Aphrodite” is a statement of self-worth and determination to triumph that totally suits its marching-band beat and lyrics that declare “Did you think I wasn’t real?… I’m fierce and I’m feeling mighty / I’m a golden girl, I’m an Aphrodite / Alright?” Its confidence and zest spearhead Aphrodite’s most successful moments.  However, “Cupid Boy” is the antithesis of this and still shines; a moody guitar-driven mid-tempo that proves that (unlike the aforementioned “Closer”) it certainly is possible to successfully deliver an emotionally-charged ballad-esque track while still keeping the overarching dance feel of the album intact.  Closer “Can’t Beat The Feeling” is one of the album’s poppiest moments, but its embrace of its own cheesiness is almost delightful, with Kylie’s vocal delivery transforming throwaway candy-floss lyrics such as “Feel the force of the reaction / Let it take you on a ride /… I can’t beat the feeling that I get when I’m with you” into a delirious proclamation of love.

Overall, Aphrodite caters to its target group, but a little too efficiently.  Some songs feel like they’ve been forced to be what they’re not, a couple seem to be present only by dint of the fact that they musically sound like Kylie Minogue tracks – facsimiles of songs rather than songs in their own right.  But at least half of the album works, and when the individual elements of Aphrodite react successfully and the songs stand up with the help of the production rather than being strapped down by it, the results are impressive.  I enjoyed this album more than I expected to, and it marks one step closer to a return to form for Minogue… even if she’s not quite at her peak.

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regret.

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!  Here’s to the next decade!  Last night I went to Panache with Hannah and Alex to dance the night away.  And I certainly did! The music was generally very good (though it did prove just how dire music is at the moment, since the older hits from the earlier part of the decade, and even hits in the past 3 or 4 years stand head and shoulders above most of what is released today), and we all seemed to enjoy ourselves.  We bumped into a couple of people we knew from school, and I generally ended up feeling very old (I am 24, the others were all 20 or 21) but it was a nice impromptu reunion with people whom I actually didn’t despise at school (generally, the idea of a school reunion fills me with dread and revulsion).

However, on my journey home from Hannah’s house today, I was thinking about some things that I need to get a grip on.  After the afternoon’s passed and I’ve relaxed at home, these things don’t seem quite as urgent as they did at the time, but I still think it’d be good to write them down just so that I have a record of what I was thinking (or wasn’t, as the case may be).  I know that when we went to the club, I looked good and I felt good, and I had drunk some but I wasn’t smashed.  However, by the end of the night, I was embarrassingly off my face.  I remember being aware of it, not being able to focus my eyes, coordinate my limbs (my dancing, usually pretty decent, had deteriorated into a bit of a joke) and slumping in the seating area while Hannah brought me water.  In the taxi home, it was only shame and finance that stopped me from vomiting all over the back seat (motion sickness really gets to me when I’m drunk – I know that it’s motion sickness because as soon as I get out of the car, I’m fine – and I wasn’t sick at all that night nor in the morning.  It’s happened before when I first met Mike and we went to the student bar and then he drove me home – I wasn’t sick then and I wasn’t about to start now).  I wasn’t going to have to pay £70 for the privilege of being sick in a moving vehicle, and I wasn’t going to embarrass myself by not being able to control my own basic bodily functions.  But it was a close one!  Somehow I managed to wake up and not feel hungover – a small miracle, but also not really the point.

I also drank so much that although I was perfectly happy and I didn’t do anything embarrassing, I sorta did behave flirtatiously with one guy who was dancing up against me and vice versa (it was all unwitting but funny) – but more seriously, I ended up slightly coming onto one of the people we bumped into from my old school later in that evening.  After a while, I gave up which was a really good move, because in the morning I just was like “OMG WHAT was I thinking?” The guy is ok, but somewhat immature and really not that attractive.  It would have purely been because he was there, and because to try and take my mind off Mike, I would be distracting myself by whoring myself out to other people.  As has been proven over this Christmas break, that’s not the way to go.  I’m worth much more than random forced encounters, and I’m certainly worth much more than lowering myself to the standards of any average-looking person. And Mike is better than that, and it’s sorta a disgrace to try and replace what he means to me with the first random who shows an interest.  Plus, I get frustrated at the fact that I have to make effort and chase these people – why isn’t anyone chasing me?  I like how I look more than I ever did before, so why is it suddenly so difficult to find someone?  I’m in Gucci, Armani, Prada – most guys my age don’t know what those even are.  And I guess I answered my own question – I try to be solid gold on the outside as well as on the inside (I know that I have a good heart) but I try too hard and it goes unappreciated, and I forget my earlier wisdom of being ice king and not easily won.  Overall I’m glad that nothing happened, and I’m mortified that I even entertained the thought.  I thought about giving up alcohol, but that would never happen; lo and behold, I appear to be staying over at Mike’s on Monday night, so drinking will definitely happen then anyway!

Alcohol also makes me (as it did during the Christmas party a few weeks ago; although last night I was about 3 times as drunk) seem to run off in random directions.  Hannah and Tess went missing during one period of the evening, and I spent half an hour pushing through people in the club in an effort to find them – it turned out they had gone to the kebab van without telling anyone!  Then I ended up helping a girl who was in tears, had acquired another girl’s phone but had lost her own, and needed a lift from her friend but didn’t know where to meet him.  I was out of the club wandering around Broadmead for half an hour with this girl who clung to me tighter than a starfish on a rock, who was using my phone (luckily I’m on contract so it was fine) and smoking my cigarette – she was appreciative, but it’s not something I would ever have taken the time to do had I been sober!  And I hazard a guess that if she had been sober, she wouldn’t have been in that situation anyway 😉  The moral of this post seems to be that alcohol is messy!  And it is.  But I suppose that compared to what could have happened, it was all pretty harmless.  I did have a good time, and I didn’t do anything wrong or bad.  We got there and back in one piece, I wasn’t sick anywhere, I didn’t embarrass myself (as far as I’m aware) at Hannah’s house in front of her parents, and I don’t appear to have lost anything vital.

But the reason why I wanted to write this post was to say more than “don’t drink too much or you may act like a twat”.  Everyone knows that.  I just wanted to say that although it’s not a complete excuse, alcohol made me forget myself.  It made me forget my own sense of dignity, which I nearly compromised by being sick, by pulling someone below my station and ultimately, by forgetting that I am worth more.  I guess I’m disappointed in myself because I felt and acted weak last night, and I should be strong – most of the time, I am strong.  But last night, I forgot that a meaningless encounter won’t hold a candle to a strong friendship and infatuation with a close friend; I forgot that I am a good person inside as well as on the outside, and I shouldn’t settle.  I deserve more, so why did I entertain settling for less?  That’s my first regret of 2010 (I start early!), but I hope that it’s something I can do something about. 🙂

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trust, humiliation & beauty.

November 7, 2009

I understand that this blog has been a bit Rihanna-focused lately, but between the new material that has been premiering online and the publicity surrounding her 20/20 interview (which is a must-see – check it out at Toya’s World), I’ve been hooked on her once again.

Within this interview (which resonated with me more than I will go into on this particular post), Rihanna said two things that I thought were particularly interesting.  One thing was the notion of feeling ashamed and embarrassed when the picture of her battered face was leaked by the media – because she fell in love with a person who could do that to her.  Obviously you can’t help who you fall in love with, you never know how abusive they might be until the first time it happens, and the notion of shame is one that we could debate for days anyway.  But the idea of that was interesting to me, that there are certain of us who seem to feel humiliated or ashamed by things that are essentially not our fault – yet we take the blame for ourselves.  It reminded me of a time when I was dating L, and we found out that we had a friend in common, M.  So everything was cool, and it was a nice coincidence and all that business.  And I remember having a conversation with L, and he said that M had told him effectively to be gentle / careful with me as I’d been hurt in the past.  I remember just feeling utterly mortified, humiliated and ashamed.  I wasn’t angry (and I’m not angry about it now) – after all, M wasn’t wrong, and I wasn’t embarrassed by the fact that he had told L to treat me nicely; although it wasn’t necessary for him to do that, I appreciated the sentiment and understand that M was only looking out for me.

But I felt ashamed that someone viewed me as fragile, vulnerable or emotionally unstable.  That someone might have to explain my apparent insecurities to someone else made me feel humiliated.  I mean, yes, I have been hurt in the past (and then during that relationship – although I caused L hurt too, something which I still feel sad about, as I never meant to – and since) and my reluctance to let somebody in right away stems from that.  I was discussing with Emma last night that I am a very suspicious person, and if someone is friends with me or enters into a relationship with me, or even just approaches me in a bar or whatever flirtatious setting, I can’t help but wonder why they’re doing it, what they want from me, and whether they just want to use me up and throw me away.  I guess that comes from past experiences, and also probably what I’ve learned from my mother.  But I can’t help suspecting people, and I admit that I’m still growing as a person and I’m more insecure than I might care to admit to anyone who isn’t very close to me.  So for somebody to not only penetrate the façade I uphold of being strong (and at the same time as being a vulnerable person, I also believe that I am a strong person and that the two can co-exist within me), of being independent and of being teflon, but also to have to make excuses for the way I am and the fact that I might not let somebody in as quickly as 1-2-3 made me feel embarrassed.

Why should I feel embarrassed about myself?  In relationships, I don’t know what is up with me but I generally manage to get into these tortuous situations without ever having something concrete that lasts very long.  But I am a popular person, an intelligent person and a handsome person – my friends say that I will not be single for long, etc. etc.  These are things people say – who knows whether it will come true or not?  There’s more to life, but I can’t help but wonder if the façade I try to maintain at all times slips more often than I realise?  I think I would feel equally humiliated to know that the vulnerability and sadness I try to hide every day of my life was in actuality on full show half the time, and that that might be part of what turns people off wanting to date me or feeling attracted to me.  I hate the thought of people feeling sorry for me – not only because they shouldn’t, since everyone has their own pain and who’s to say that mine is greater than anyone else’s, but because I’d rather people didn’t focus their pity on me.  I understand it’s out of kindness or what have you, but I don’t desire that kind of attention.

The second sentiment Rihanna expressed was that of “F love”.  If you’re in an abusive relationship, be it physically, verbally or emotionally, you have to keep your judgment unclouded by love, and you need to do what is logically right for you, your safety and your health, regardless of the direction in which your heart pulls you.  That is a hell of a lot easier said than done; exhibit a) my current infatuation with somebody with a ring on it.  And this isn’t the first time that love has led me astray – this time, although the feelings are intense, at least I am getting something out of the relationship and it makes me happy more than it makes me sad.  Looking at my parents’ marriage, both past and very current present, although I’m proud of the storms they have weathered, if I had been in my mother’s position, I would never have put up with it.  And if I had been in my father’s position, I would never have put up with it.  Without saying too much, I don’t know if love was their only motivation in deciding to stay together (I highly doubt it, since things are rarely that clear-cut), but I would certainly have said “Fuck love, fuck everything, I’m gone.”  Even though I am a vulnerable person, and quite often I believe that part of me must be really an ugly person, I still have more self-worth than to go along with it.

Last night, I was out with Emma and we had some really special heart-to-heart conversations.  Obviously I am going to divulge nothing of what we discussed (here or anywhere else), because I made her a promise to keep what she told me to myself, and that is the whole point – I am a trustworthy person and trust is such a fragile thing, such a precious thing and something that takes so long to build.  Be it because of past experiences, be it because of what I’ve learned from my parents and other relationships that have surrounded me as I’ve grown up, but I find it hard to trust people and it’s rare that I am totally and immediately open with my heart to friends I’ve known for years, let alone somebody new in my life.  But I believe that trust is vital for life, for relationships, for friendships.  The thought of my betraying someone else makes me feel sick; a promise is a sacred thing, and there is so little that is sacred in life.  I think that having some self-worth as a person, even if it ebbs and flows sometimes, is really important, and the fact that I feel I am trustworthy, that I have dignity, and that I have the ability to give love but also am now aware that sometimes we have to say “F love” makes me a good friend and will one day mean that I might be a good boyfriend and not feel so ugly at my lowest… These things give me hope, they give me something to aspire to, and I hope to at the end of my life be able to look back and say that I was a good person, I was a strong person and that I did myself proud.  Work in progress.