Posts Tagged ‘success’

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reboot.

May 8, 2011

When I started this blog, I just envisioned it as a fun space to talk about my life and loves, where I could be honest and frank without fear of repercussion. I branched out into talking about music and doing reviews, which I have since reined in because while these posts were popular, I just haven’t felt inspired to write any new reviews lately. Toby suggested that I could create a separate blog for music, culture and fashion in the future, but as I’m writing less posts I didn’t think I could devote enough time to two separate blogs – I feel like I am neglecting this one as it is! (A new layout is long overdue 😉 ) The idea is good and one day I would love to, but right now I am focusing on my job, trying to find a new job in London, and my family and friends, visiting Toby in London (he came down to Bristol this weekend and we had such a lovely time 🙂 ) – I just haven’t got the time.

Since I got my new laptop in December, I transferred all of my content across to it from the old one, but I haven’t used Photo Booth in a long time. Yesterday, I opened the programme and started flicking through the old photos from last year. I haven’t realised, but I used to look better (not that I look drastically awful now, but I feel that I looked slightly slimmer, slightly fresher, slightly more fashionable) a year ago when I was doing the QCG at UWE. That year was such a good one for me – I made some lovely friends, I began to make inroads into the vocational sector I wanted to pursue, and I met two people who are instrumental to my evolution into the person I have become today – Mike, who is like a big brother to me and has given me so much confidence in myself, and Toby, whom at this point I can confidently say is the love of my life who loves me back.

I found my first proper full-time salaried job doing something I wanted to do, I finally passed my driving test and bought my first car, I got my first four (!) tattoos which more than declaring my inner edginess and free spirit, declare my new-found confidence in the person I am. And now that all these big events have passed, I’m just trying to keep everything going. I feel like I am on a treadmill paying for my car, trying and so far failing to pay off my debts, growing my professional experience and my CV whilst trying to find that elusive job in London, growing my relationship with Toby. And I seem to have barely any time for myself. I have put on a little bit of weight – not a drastic amount, but a few pounds that I would like to shift. I don’t like my hair (which has always been the case, but I feel that it’s fine but not pleasing) and I would like to do something interesting with it – I may well do in the summer, as I’m thinking of dyeing it black again and cutting the sides really short, and letting the top be longer and straighter. Straightening my hair is something I’m out of practice with, but the other night I decided to use my GHDs before I went to pick up Toby from Parkway station, and it felt refreshing and cleansing just to do something different with myself.

But it’s more than that. It is about devoting time to myself – not through comfort eating (which I recognise I have been doing in the evenings over the last few months), nor through my new budgeting spreadsheet (which is something I have to do, but not what I particularly want to do!). It’s about actively taking care of myself. After an initial run at an Abs Workout iPhone app, I decided I didn’t like the exercise schemes on it, so I have found a youtube abs workout by Laura London which I am doing 4-5 times a week. In this way, I can maintain my slim figure and hopefully drop those pesky few pounds. Which in turn, makes me feel good on the inside. I aim to straighten my hair more, and do more interesting things with my appearance once the summer holidays approach (so that I don’t make any faux pas in front of the 2000 odd teenagers at college – not the most forgiving audience!) – because doing this makes me feel good and is a symbol of me taking time for myself and being prepared to value myself and say “I am important”. It’s vanity, but it’s also so much more than vanity.

Through Toby’s love, and through the close friendships I enjoy, I have nurtured others and in turn nurtured myself. One reason I have slowed down on the reviews, which I hadn’t really thought about until very recently, is that I am tired of criticism. Both receiving unwarranted criticism (which I shall talk about in a forthcoming post), but also being expected to give criticism. I don’t like the fact that so much of society seems to thrive on putting others down in order to build ourselves up. Why do we feel that in order to give an opinion on an album, a film, an outfit, a friend, we have to find something negative? It’s one thing if the negative naturally occurs to us, but to me it seems crazy to actively search it out. So until I feel ready, I am going to leave the reviews. For now, I am working on myself.

Hence the title of this post, “reboot”. Something I have always done on this blog is write about my emotions truthfully, and connect them to what I’ve been going through. While these posts may not garner as many hits, it’s been cathartic for me to be able to reflect and grow, and the responses I do receive to those posts are the most gratifying. I am reading Janet Jackson’s new book True You, and while it may not be the most eloquent piece of literary writing, it is something I enjoy because to read someone else’s struggles, triumphs and insecurities allows me to connect with that person, and to reflect on my own. I am 25 years old, and for over half of my life I have been getting to know myself and trying to understand who I am. So in turn, by sharing my own thoughts and my own insecurities, I can start to embrace them and move past – and hopefully help you all not only to feel closer to me but to feel closer to who you are. I’m just like you, a human being – this is me, take it or leave it. But I hope that my own struggles and successes inspire you, and I also hope that you will also share yours with me because I would like to be inspired in kind! 🙂

I am rebooting my life a little bit – remembering that among the many other commitments in my life, I am important and valuable, and deserve some time and dedication. I am rebooting this blog a little bit, making sure that I find the strength and bravery to share the good and the bad with you, so that we know that we are not, that we are never alone, and that we can all grow and get past our insecurities, capitalise on our triumphs and find and nurture our happiness and our joy. I know that I sound a little bit bizarre right now, but it’s mainly because we’re not supposed to talk like this in society – it exposes our vulnerability and risks us getting hurt. Well, what I have found makes me feel better is knowing that I’m not alone – we need to be honest with one another and talk about all of these things! Otherwise we all just suffer in silence and alone. I have a good life, and I want it to be better; I want to nurture my own happiness and the happiness of those around me. I want to be able to look back on my life when I am old and say “I made mistakes and I had successes, but I always tried to do the right thing and I had a rich and full life.” If I can look back and say that, then I will be happy. That journey starts here and now. And in such a way, I am rebooting myself.

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dreams do come true!

December 15, 2010

I passed my driving test!!!!

At last. This has been hanging over me since I was 18 (I am now 25, so 7 years) and I’d got to the point, that although I was trying to let common sense prevail when I failed a couple of months ago and be rational about it (and I received some good advice from friends that ultimately turned out to be correct), I didn’t have faith in myself. I didn’t think this would happen for me – I just figured that everyone had something that they just couldn’t do no matter how they tried, and driving was that for me.

I am pleased to say that I was wrong! This morning, I didn’t want to face the day and I could barely get out of bed – I am never like that. Come lunchtime (my test was at 3:30 in the afternoon), I went back to bed and tried to pretend like the day wasn’t happening – I felt more mentally unstable than I did last time, and part of me felt like there was no point even trying to take the test. I was so sure I would fail. Driving has been the only thing I ever felt like that about, and I felt like a hypocrite when I was telling other people not to give up, because I sure felt like giving it up and throwing the towel in, especially today.

But now, with my success in my pocket (and my last aim for 2010 completed before the end of the year! – better late than never 😉 ) I can assure everyone all the more that you have to keep trying, and you should never give up on anything. I felt like I would love to not even go to the test centre, but I knew in my heart that I could not let the chance pass me by. And after 20 minutes of the test, with my questions, my reverse around the corner, and a couple of hill starts behind me, I peeked at the examiner’s sheet and he had barely written anything. Good sign. So I thought to myself “all the difficult stuff is behind me now, so if I haven’t fucked up by now, I should do ok, and I CAN DO THIS.” My self-esteem took a big leap back up. And sure enough, I proved that I could do it, and I did it. I am patting myself on the back right now, but I am also saying this because I want everyone to know that we can do anything we put our minds to.

I felt like a failure for 7 years. Driving is the only thing I had ever really failed, and it took me a long time but I have conquered that obstacle and there is no reason for me to be ashamed anymore. I had to be brave so many times (including today), and so many times I felt like I had been kicked in the teeth and had to start all over again. Hell, for 5 of those years, I didn’t have the money nor the strength to get in a car. But with my life starting to turn around once I had started the Careers Guidance course, made some terrific new friends, found a wonderful man to stand by my side and realise that I could get a decent job, I decided to step back in the car and give it another shot. And it has now paid off.

Please NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS. I am unfortunately going to be milking this story as a triumph over adversity (and I know that there are very many people who experience much more adversity than learning to drive – I’m not trying to be insensitive or naïve, but this has been the thorn in my side), so get used to it 😉 But I want to support everyone who reads this to keep trying, no matter how pessimistic you feel, no matter how the odds are stacked against you. Because when you least expect it, success might just be around the corner. 🙂

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successful.

October 28, 2010

Today I took my driving test for the first time in over 6 years, and I didn’t pass. I am a bit gutted, but at the same time I knew that in my heart of hearts, I was capable of passing, but I was unlikely to do it this time. I did better than I thought I would and it’s a nagging annoyance that I only made one big mistake – my approach speed to junctions, which was too fast because of my nerves – and the rest was good. Knowing that I’m capable of passing my driving test and I can drive pretty well makes it infuriating that my nerves get the better of me in an examined situation, but I am nearly there and next time I will do it – this test was the nearest I’ve come to passing. As long as I don’t rush myself, I’ll be fine! I’m a bit nervous about how I’m going to be travelling to work for the next 6 weeks, but I have a work colleague who lives around the corner from me and has already kindly offered her services. I just don’t like to impose.

 

I am disappointed that I couldn’t tie in a driving success to the other high points of this year (although if I get a cancellation, it might still be possible!), but I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I do put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve, and I fervently wish that I had not stopped taking tests when I was 18. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! But I just have to keep my head to the sky and live up to my stubborn / determined nature. I won’t give up! The positive is that I now have more time to save up for a car, and I made myself feel better by paying off some money from my credit card and from my student bank account. Doing sensible things with my money seemed like the best way to make light of an unfortunate situation. I thought I would indulge in some retail therapy, but I arrived in the centre of town and the urge had left me; which is a good thing for my bank account! I am seeing Toby for his birthday tomorrow (wish him a happy birthday here!) and I knew that whatever the outcome of today’s test, I would have that to look forward to. We are going to Thorpe Park this weekend for Fright Night, and I’m looking forward to seeing the Saw maze and going on the rides; I haven’t been to a theme park since I visited Alton Towers when I was 18. So I’m determined to put this little failure behind me (which I will redress – I have come too far now to give up again! If I’m not meant to drive – and this has occurred to me in low moments, including today – then a big sign is literally going to have to come down from the sky and smack me upside the head) and enjoy the rest of my week off before I return to work on Monday.

 

I guess this is what people mean when they say that you sometimes have to fight hard for what you believe in. I have fought hard and worked hard, but hard work comes easy to me in a way; I was raised with an intense work ethic. I have been blessed with a good brain for achieving academically, and I put in the work to back it up; it was never really difficult for me, but I took no prisoners just so that I could be lucky enough to have an educational career that puts most to shame. I learned to sing from Mariah Carey albums (and a variety of others, but she will always be the ultimate for me) and I never questioned that I would be able to have a voice like that; lo and behold, my whistle register is not as good as hers (owing to my Y chromosome) but other than that I’m pretty much there. I have always loved singing, playing the piano and guitar, and writing and producing my own songs – I have an innate musicality, I suppose, and although mastering software and songwriting structures alike has required perseverance, I’ve never found it particularly difficult to make progress. Once I found the right man (and he is truly amazing!), the troubles I had in my previous dating life more or less melted away and now I find it easy to be in love. The aspects of relationships that I found challenging, I have worked to resolve and they are mainly down to my own insecurities and upbringing. I have many good friends (communicating and social skills have been a strong point of my personality, hence my current vocation working with young people in a college), and I learned some hard lessons during my school life which has enabled me to judge someone’s character and thus gather a tight circle of very good people to whom I am indebted for my sanity, among other things! (I appreciate y’all and I enjoy y’all – never forget it! 😉 ) I am often complimented on my sense of fashion and style, and that has always come effortlessly to me (because, in part, I am a potent combination of vain and fussy); I observe the latest trends and fashions, and then cast aside 90% of it, retain the things I like and add them to a style I hope is elegant, classic, timeless and most importantly, me.

 

The two things in my life that I have found most difficult are: losing weight in order to attain a body that I am happy with; and learning to drive. I am more or less happy with the way that I look now, although it’s always a work in progress, and I could do more exercise than I currently do! I will work on it. But I have taken 20 years to get to a point where I am not repulsed by what I see in the mirror, and that is a very positive thing. Passing my driving test will hopefully not take me 20 years! But I have to take pride in the fact that I have a good work ethic and am willing to put in the work to achieve my goals. Success is an uphill struggle but I need to learn to appreciate the things that have come easily to me, because there are a hell of a lot of them and I should be thankful for them. I’m a lucky person, and I’m not a complacent person. I just have to keep going a little bit longer, and never give up.

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day one.

August 16, 2010

I will keep this entry brief as I’m exhausted, but I had my first day at my new job at Cirencester College, and it was epic but a success!  I did not enjoy the 5:45 wakeup, especially considering I had trouble getting to sleep the night before as my body clock is programmed not to sleep before midnight and I was half-consciously hyper about the job.  In the afternoon I could feel my fatigue kicking in briefly, but 20 minutes later I recovered and got a second wind, plus Rachel (the new girl who also started today in my faculty) felt the same so it might have just been a result of the information overload.

My main worry was the transport, as this week Mike is on holiday in Cornwall (he starts next Monday, and he will give me a lift on the way) and so I’m getting the bus to the train station, then the train to Kemble railway station and a taxi from there.  If the bus in the morning was late, I would risk missing my train; if the bus went too slowly, I would miss my train; if the train was delayed (although this would have had to be by a considerable amount), I would miss my connection to Kemble.  But this morning bodes well as everything ran smoothly, and I was lucky enough to be able to jump straight into a taxi (despite my connecting train being held up 5 minutes) and get to Cirencester College before 8:30 (I didn’t have to be there before 9am today, but my official start time will be 8:30 so it was a nice trial run). The taxi driver was kind and friendly, which was another good omen for the day. Transport-wise, as soon as my new colleagues heard that I was relying on public transport this week, they organised between them to collect me from and run me to the local station every morning and afternoon more or less, so that will save on taxi fare (which is a financial burden lifted!). I was really touched how welcomed everyone made me feel, and how well I got on with Rachel and all my other new colleagues, both those I had met previously and those who were new faces.

As for what we covered, I was a little overwhelmed by the information (although in comparison to last year, apparently they’ve made it a much less intense start!) but most of it seems to make sense and I have more or less sorted out everything that I need; Thursday and Friday are enrolment days following the publication of A-Level results, so that will be the first day I get to meet students, which is both exciting and daunting, but after today I feel more confident about it.  I am finally a grown up, even though it still hasn’t sunk in that I am actually employed there, I have a real, full-time, professional job and I am not just pretending or on placement! My confidence will hopefully grow.  A sign of things to come is that I have just made my own sandwiches for lunch, whereas as a child (and even as a young adult!) my mother always made my sandwiches. It’s time to take control!  I’m feeling tired but feeling good and positive and I hope that this week goes well 🙂

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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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appraisal.

May 29, 2010

1 year ago:

  • I was about one week away from finishing my job as Assistant Manager at the Perfume Shop.  I was eager to leave and start my Careers Guidance postgrad at UWE, and my new job at the BRI who were taking their sweet time to contact me – for most of June and July 2009 I claimed JSA while I was waiting for them to give me a start date, which felt pretty bleak!  Luckily, they did at the end of July, and I’ve enjoyed working there ever since, especially as my boss has been so flexible and understanding regarding my university course this year.  I can’t wait to go into work next week and tell them that I was successful in my job interview for Personal Tutor at Cirencester College – they’ll be so pleased for me. 🙂  Also, I think that a couple of them might have placed a bet on me getting the job?… Madness!
  • I was about one month away from starting this blog!  I can’t believe I’ve been writing on here and connecting with you all now for 11 months, it’s mad!  I feel that my writing has improved as a result, as well as the fact that I’ve been able to share with you all my music, my heart, my trials and tribulations regarding relationships, friendships, and everything in between!  Some of the comments that I have received and some of the friends that I have made as a result of writing this blog make it all worthwhile and I am very touched that sometimes, at one moment in time two lives can connect, because we can be going through the same thing.
  • I was emotionally drained after two dating attempts that were non-starters.  It would take me a few more attempts before I finally got it right, but I remember believing, even up until recently, that perhaps love just wasn’t for me, and I might be a popular person and have lots of friends and cherish them, but never quite find someone with whom I connected on a romantic level.  I was still dating because I didn’t want to give up, but I was secretly convinced that it was no use.  Love comes around when we least expect it.
  • I had started my twitter account (follow me!) a month ago,  and I have since made fantastic friends such as Nick, Nigel & Ness (all the N’s!).  The Twitterati was born!!! 😉

6 months ago:

  • I was working through my feelings regarding Mike (remember that saga?), and things were just in the process of getting really tangled and confused.  It was an emotionally bleak time, because I’d truly never felt like that, because this was someone I cared about so much and was so important to me.  I’m glad to say that now we’ve come out the other side, and he is one of my best, closest friends. Listening to Cheryl Cole (whose album I had just downloaded at the time), we really had to “fight for this love” (oh god that sounds cheesy but never mind), but it was all worth it because without him I wouldn’t have my beautiful tattoos (I still had virgin skin at this point!), the strength to have started my own relationship with Toby, nor the placement or transport which enabled me to get the job at Cirencester.  Mike (through the Careers Guidance course) has really helped me transform my life.
  • I was coming to breaking point with my relationship with my parents.  Christmas was a particularly low period, and I remember sitting in the park in the dark on Christmas Day quietly hating them, just wishing I could escape.  I felt like I was a nuisance to their lives, that they didn’t really want me around but since I had nowhere else to go, they expected me to just sit with them without complaint.  My friends were helpful distractions during the day, but coming home in the evenings and sitting around the dinner table was always a daunting prospect.  I was only just realising that, at 24 years old, that my problems with my parents were reflections on them: time and again I’ve made close friends easily, and generally my friends and I see eye to eye and we don’t argue.  So the fact that I had these problems with my parents, that their relationship is so volatile, is a reflection of them and not me.  I was finally starting to learn that I am not an ugly person on the inside and that there is nothing wrong with me, but that’s still a work in progress.

Today:

  • After two months of sending off applications for jobs as I approach the end of my Careers Guidance Qualification, I had an interview for a Personal Tutor position at Cirencester College.  Out of 110 applicants, they interviewed about 20 people, and of those 20, 4 of them were employed.  I am one of those 4, Mike is another.  It’s ridiculous, it’s amazing, I am unbelievably happy because it is the job I wanted, the people who work there are a pleasure to be around, and the students are some of the best in the country (the College has an excellent reputation).  Just as I was getting despondent regarding my lack of interviews, 2 came at once (I have to cancel my Careers Wales one) and I got the job I wanted.  I am going to be helping to shape young people’s futures, which is quite daunting, but I feel ready for this.  Bring it on!  Plus, I’m going to be working with one of my best friends… I wonder if Cirencester knows what it has let itself in for?
  • I am nearly 5 months into my relationship with Toby.  He is the hands down the best boyfriend I’ve ever had, he seems to pretty much adore me, and already in this short time I have learned a lot about relationships, about love, and about myself.  Although he’s going to be in London from July while I’ll be in Cirencester, we’re both determined to make it work – it’s not like we’re across the world from each other, it’s one and a half hour’s drive.  At this point, despite my own feeling that I don’t deserve love, that I am scared to let someone in and see all of me, we’re doing it and living the dream, and at 24 years old I’m pretty lucky to have everything suddenly start working out.  Toby is a dream, I am so lucky and we are gonna make it 🙂  Also, he is my home away from home, and between staying at his and socialising / partying with my other friends, I have that extra distance I need from my parents until I move out.
  • I have been having driving lessons for 2 and a half months now, and it’s been harder than I expected, if truth be told.  My instructor Russell is fantastic, and I’m hoping to increase my lessons in July once I finish at uni, with a view to taking my test during the summer.  For Cirencester, a car will come in incredibly useful (though to start with I reckon I could get by without it) and for my general independence, a car is necessary.  If I can pass my driving test (and I notice that my attitude to driving has changed and I feel a bit more confident, more capable of it – so I can pass my test), I will buy a nice little car and I will have achieved my three aims for this year : boyfriend, car, job.  More importantly, I failed my driving test when I was 18, and for all the time in the interim, I’ve had a secret nagging feeling of failure that I can’t drive.  It’s time to conquer those fears once and for all, redress the balance and vanquish that feeling of failure and inadequacy.
  • I have my 3 lovely tattoos, and my raven is on the Iron & Ink website for you all to see!  Check it out here!  I’m famous! 😉

2010 is destined to be my year of transformation, I am determined to turn my life around and this is the final piece in the puzzle.  I will move out once everything else is in place, but at least moving out doesn’t require passing any sort of exam or any protracted interview / dating process!  Looking back over how far I’ve come, it’s pretty overwhelming and I feel almost powerful that I’ve finally taken control, with the help of so many friends, and it’s time to keep moving forward.  No regrets, no apologies. 🙂

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Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (album review.)

May 23, 2010

I literally don’t know where to start with this review.  Comparisons have been made to James Brown (the lead single “Tightrope” has a funky, dirty bass and backchat with Monáe’s band), Judy Garland (“Oh, Maker” features a stately purity of voice in its verses, only to give way to a joyful exaltation of a chorus, and is one of the album’s highlights) and even Erykah Badu (Monáe sings with a knowing voice, sometimes sounding wise well beyond her years while not even connected to this cosmos).  But Janelle Monáe is undeniably her own woman: crazy hairstyles, performing in black-tie tuxedos, employing ethereal instruments coupled with double-time beats, composing her material in suites… It would be audacious enough if it didn’t succeed, if Monáe were above her station with this Metropolis, 28th century high-concept shit.  But she’s not.  Although at times The ArchAndroid feels a bit like it’s overreaching, the vast majority of it is exciting, mindblowing and more than a little bizarre.  This makes it one of the boldest releases to come out in quite a while.

I’m not going to attempt any detail of the story behind this album; it’s only vaguely important to the running order of the songs.  In very brief, Cindi Mayweather was an android who fell in love; the cyber-hunters were invited to hunt her down; she has since discovered the ArchAndroid helmet which displays the city of Metropolis on the top – yep, that’s the album cover above! – and has transformed from pariah to messiah for the robot population of Metropolis.  Monáe creates a textured evocation of this hyper-space reality within her music, and it’s appropriate that The ArchAndroid sounds nothing like anything else in current popular music.  However, its melodies are still catchy, its production tricks are still appreciable (although the music sounds far removed from anything Sean “Diddy” Combs would touch, Monáe is signed to his BadBoy imprint, whose releases normally display impeccable production values – if, at times, little else), and the meanings behind the inventive, often poetic lyrics (from “Say You’ll Go” – “Love is not a fantasy / A haiku written in Japanese”) go beyond the specifics of the Metropolis concept to speak more generally of love, society, and human emotions and situations.  In other words, Monáe hasn’t concept-ed herself into oblivion; the songs can still have meanings to each individual listener, which is important because we still need to relate in order to truly engage with the music.

Moving to the specifics of the music on The ArchAndroid, it’s a hefty album, comprising two suites that are much weightier then Monáe’s The Chase EP; that disc had three songs which were swift, exciting and irresistible.  The special edition had two extra non-concept tracks; a plea to the President for social consideration, and a beautiful, restrained cover of Nat King Cole’s “Smile”. Monáe may not be a vocalist in the same way as Beyoncé, Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera, but she has an extraordinary control of her instrument, and displays its versatility when songs require it (similar, in a way, to Toni Braxton or Sade).  On The ArchAndroid, Monáe alternately displays grace (“Oh, Maker”), subtlety (“Sir Greendown”), uninhibited release (“Come Alive (The War Of The Roses)”) and an old-school sensibility that fuses scat, Broadway and Latin rhythms (epic closer “BaBopByeYa”).  Suite II (the first suite of The ArchAndroid) is generally more immediate and accessible to the uninitiated listener: after a classical intro (although its concept hangs together flawlessly for most of the album, the instrumental interludes may be slick but they are still unnecessary filler!), Monáe gets straight down to business with the help of spoken word artist Saul Williams for “Dance Or Die”.  Beats fibrillate below Monáe’s haughty poetry, and before the listener knows it, the song segues into “Faster”, into “Locked Inside”…; before you know it, you’ve reached subdued ballad “Mushrooms & Roses” and Suite II is nearly over.

The seamless melting of one song into the next is a neat production trick, but one that we have seen before.  It has its risks, since the listener has to pay attention to his iPod, CD player or media player of choice in order to determine where one track ends and the next begins.  If the songs are dull, they risk totally going over the listener’s head.  Luckily, the majority of The ArchAndroid has enough memorable hooks, production tricks and bizarre sections to stick in the mind and merit repeat listens.  Suite II is far stronger than Suite III for this however; Suite III, although shorter, is much denser and ethereal. Although Suite II had some lovely slower material (“Oh, Maker” and “Sir Greendown”), Suite III seems weighed down by the lack of upbeat or midtempo songs.  “Make The Bus” is an ok effort but hardly lives up to the breathtaking pace of Suite II; “Wondaland” seems altogether too precious.  However, Suite III comes into its own as it reaches its conclusion: “57821” (the serial number of the robot Cindi Mayweather) begins to engage the listener with its subtle, undulating backing, before the majesty of closing tracks “Say You’ll Go” and “BaBopByeYa” unfurls.  In all, Suite II is stronger and more addictive listening, but Suite III has its moments despite its more downbeat demeanour.

Why does it all work? It’s beyond me, as Janelle Monáe seems to have thrown everything and the kitchen sink into this album – in terms of lyrics, vocal approaches, production tricks, musical genres, concept… It’s a miracle that it doesn’t sound overblown, desperate or self-important, but for the most part – it doesn’t.  Only on “Wondaland”, “Mushrooms & Roses” and “Neon Valley Street” does Monáe sound a tiny bit like she’s faking, stalling while she scrabbles for a new idea with which to blindside us.  The vast majority of The ArchAndroid is not only severely impressive, but sounds genuine.  Which makes Janelle Monáe a hugely talented, innovative young woman, and one of the best new artists to emerge in recent years.  Take a listen to The ArchAndroid and prepare to be both mentally and aurally stimulated.