Post by Jaime Garcia Sandoval

Most people react with confusion when first encountering Björk. The iconoclast is known to many for her avant-garde music, and to others for her bizarre attire (Google: Björk swan dress). Her music is not what one might call radio-friendly or catchy—or even music, for that matter—but that’s exactly what first made me want to know more about her. As an English major, I know how rewarding it can be to read some 300-year-old text that is initially inaccessible but, after meticulous study, decodes before my eyes. I knew it would be a challenge, but I was hoping that it would be a worthy one.

And it was. Don’t get me wrong—it took me some time to truly “get” her music. I would listen to curated playlists on Spotify but found that every song was so different from the next. It was difficult to understand where she was coming from. Then, I decided to simply listen to her albums in chronological order. Looking back, this seems like a no-brainer, but it really made a difference. Björk’s discography is a complex musical journey that offers only a couple of access points. The best way to start is to go back to her 1993 solo debut, aptly titled Debut.

It’s hard to understate the legacy this album has had on dance-pop music. Artists like M.I.A., Lady Gaga, Robyn, and Grimes have all cited being influenced by the album’s eclectic blend of genres from electropop to art pop. Debut is Björk at her most radio-friendly; the conventional verse-chorus structure is largely intact throughout, but that doesn’t mean that this a simple pop album. As co-producer, Björk uses not only her lyrics to tell her story, but the music itself. In “There’s More to Life Than This,” the singer ponders an existence beyond partying while at a bar. The song was recorded in the bathroom of a London bar and uses its hustle-and-bustle as a backdrop for its steady beat and sultry vocals. “C’mon on, girl! Let’s sneak out of this party. It’s getting boring,” she sings. The volume and clarity of the track changes as people open and close the bathroom doors, and it really feels like you’re inside a dance club with Björk as she cajoles you into sneaking off to the harbor to see the sun come up. This wish to escape the crowded city and go somewhere quiet is fulfilled in the album’s last song. “The Anchor Song” features a minimalist arrangement of saxophones that are meant to sound like boat horns. It is the only song on the album entirely produced by Björk, and notably does away with orthodox song structure. She opts instead for a single verse repeated twice, in which she vows to always live near the ocean. The song is a glimpse of the minimalist direction that the singer would adopt after the turn of the century, and the rest of her albums in the nineties are an interesting transition into that.

Björk’s second album, Post, is even more diverse than her first. The singer dives head-first into genres previously untouched by her. At times combining the genres and other times featuring them on their own, this album offers big industrial beats (“Army of Me”), jazzy pop standards (“It’s Oh So Quiet”), and the chaotic, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production of “I Miss You.” Although it’s not an immediately cohesive album, the glue that holds it together is Björk’s evolving lyricism and its relationship to the music. In “Enjoy,” the singer explores a dangerous and unprecedented moment of intimacy. Produced with the help of trip-hop pioneer Tricky, the song features a bass-heavy production that blends hip-hop beats with industrial synthesizers to create a track that is eerie yet club-ready. “How can I ignore? This is sex without touching…I’m only into this to enjoy” she says, her voice filtered and distant. Her descriptions are paradoxically precise yet ambiguous enough to contribute to the mysterious song. The song’s chorus features Björk screaming “enjoy!” and doing her signature growl over a militant beat. This simplicity and brashness is the charm of Post.

Homogenic is Björk’s marked separation from pop music and into strictly experimental music. The album deals with deeper themes and sees the singer floating unrestrained in an ocean of strings and electronic beats. This marriage of soundscapes presents itself perfectly in “Bachelorette.” The song features drastic beats coupled with a dramatic string arrangement that sounds like something out of a dark, contemporary take on Phantom of the Opera. “I’m a fountain of blood in the shape of a girl. You’re the bird on the brim, hypnotized by the whirl,” she sings, the desperation thick in her voice. The song is a part of the Isobel Series, a cycle of songs spanning the singer’s career which chronicle the adventures of a fictional woman of nature who is forced to grapple with the rise of technology and city life. Regarding the song, Björk says, “Because I wanted the lyrics to be so epic, I got my friend Sjón—who’s a poet in Iceland—to write them. We sat together at the kitchen table and drank a lot of red wine and I told him the whole story for hours and days and he wrote to the words from that story.”

The song’s video adds another dimension to the storytelling by featuring Isobel (played by Björk) going into a city that becomes overtaken by nature. It’s hard to do this visually stunning masterpiece justice using words, so I highly recommend watching it. Critically acclaimed art production is a hallmark of this era. The iconic Homogenic album cover features Björk with a heart painted on her lips, wearing an Alexander McQueen kimono-style gown and “10 kilos of hair” arranged in an exaggerated version of Princess Leia’s hair buns. The cover is one of Björk’s most iconic career moments.

Four years after Homogenic, Björk returned with a much more subdued sound that would come to define her style for years to come. During the early 2000s, music sharing sites like Napster were threatening the music industry by providing pirated music to listeners online. Due to the technology of the time, these illegal mp3’s greatly reduced music’s quality. As a result, Björk set out to craft an album whose quality would not diminish if illegally downloaded. She says, “I use micro-beats, a lot of whispery vocals, which I think sound amazing when they’re downloaded because of the secrecy of the medium. The only acoustic instruments I would use would be those that sound good after they’ve been downloaded, so the harp, the music box, celeste and clavichord.” As a result, Vespertine is an album noticeably different than its predecessor. Whereas Homogenic had an aggressive techno sound, Vespertine had a more subdued, ethereal charm.

Björk’s idea about the secrecy of music downloading and individual listening continues into the content of the music itself, with the album’s first track being titled “Hidden Place.” The song features a subtle choir paired with micro-beats that were created from everyday domestic sounds. The song gives a feeling of closeness, as if Björk is personally whispering to you, “let’s go to our hidden place.” On the next track, “Cocoon,” Björk softly murmurs about the surprising intimacy she has found with her partner. “When I wake up…In his arms, he’s still inside me,” she sings in shaky falsetto. This album is not a place where Björk is concerned with vocal performance so much as creating the right ambiance. The places where her voice cracks only add to the texture of each song, making it seem that much more earnest. Vespertine is an album that focuses on the aesthetic of honesty and transparency. Rather than shout and growl, Björk whispers sweet nothings. At times, she simply vocalizes wordlessly along with the music. The effect of the album’s musical direction creates a beautiful album that only gets better with each listen. It’s Björk’s quietest album by far, but that’s precisely what makes it so loud. Vespertine is considered Björk’s best album by many fans and critics alike.

Björk is certainly an acquired taste, and she takes some effort to truly understand. Throughout my years listening to her, I have realized that it requires work to parse out all the different layers of her art. But, damn, it’s worth it. Every time I give one of her albums a spin, I find something new to focus on. If you’re ever in the mood for some music that gives you a bit of a challenge, throw on Björk’s Debut and get ready for a genre-bending musical journey.

Post by Tabatha Lewis

There is no doubt that Ariana Grande is an insanely talented singer. She has proven her vocal prowess on Saturday Night Live, imitating singers such as Shakira, Céline Dion, and Rihanna. However, I would argue that her song lyrics and music videos are lackluster and cliché. She leaves the audience wondering whether she is empowering women’s sexuality or inviting them to have sex with her through their computer screens.

One of her hit songs last year was “God is a Woman.” With such an enticing title, there is a hope that the song will empower women to some extent, as it plays with the idea of God being historically viewed as a male entity—depending on the religion and one’s own perception of gender, what does God having a gender even really mean? Yet the way the audio and visual effects of “God is a Woman” are interwoven makes me feel as if I’m watching a blurred out porno. In one of the scenes we see Ariana slathered in paint, conveniently covering her nipples. In all her sexual prowess, why does she insist on conforming to society’s discomfort about seeing female nipples, when masculine nipples are a common sighting. I feel much more empowered as a woman watching Cardi B’s “Money” music video in which women’s breast are unashamedly shown, and Cardi B herself is shown breastfeeding in the music video. “Money” promotes women’s sexuality and power more than “God is a Woman” by bravely straddling the line of what it means for a woman to show her body as it is, rather than as a sexualized object, waiting to be viewed on the internet.

Additionally, the lyrics in “God is a Woman” mirror the artistic vision of the music video. The lyrics produce this message that women draw their strength from their ability to please men/women. Exemplified in the opening line, “You love it how I move you, You love it how I touch you,”  and another lyric,“have it any way you like.” Each sets up the dynamic of Ariana pleasuring another, which is a misguided attempt at showing off a female/male’s prowess. As someone who identifies as a female, my strength doesn’t come from my ability to pleasure a male, it comes from my ability to succeed at any task I put my mind to. My sexual appeal is an amalgam: of looks to an extent, intellect and character, but certainly not the way I can make a male feel with my body. Properly worded, this song could have empowered women yet by focusing on pleasuring another being it made woman the physical equivalent of a sex doll.

Her newest music video “Thank u, next”, was hugely popular. While amidst this massive crossover of the most well-known “Chick Flick” films available, Ariana Grande relates a positive message of thanking, not bashing on, her ex-boyfriends for the things she’s learned from and experienced with them. The use of iconic, albeit basic, movies in the music video certainly helps broadcast its message as it attracts the attention of its target audience. While the message is clear, and is one that modern day youth should process, the writing of the lyrics itself leaves much to be desired; most of them are unnecessary and repetitive. Half of the lyrics are the song title itself, some name drops and then a few lyrics regarding lessons about patience and love. Making popular music with simplistic lyrics is an insult to many other great artists, like one of my personal favorites, Twenty-One Pilots, who have complex lyrics and themes behind their songs.

The importance of lyrics in music varies in magnitude depending on the genre. For example, in electronic dance music (EDM) or classical music, the lyrics are not essential to the music, whereas the beat and all of the accompanying sounds are placed at the forefront. On the other end of the spectrum is rap, where lyrics are crucial to the song. Pop music falls somewhere in the middle, making it a little more difficult to navigate. Artists can choose to have meaningless lyrics and tell their fans to “Shake it Off”, or produce something quite personal and profound, like admitting to the fallibility of the human condition and the inability to break an addiction. That is the artist and their team’s choice. Choosing the former, however, forgoes the artist’s ability to shape society’s perception of important issues, while the latter can be a tool to aid society in looking at a particular topic in a different light.

All in all, Ariana Grande’s music and music videos conform considerably to pop cultures entertainment standards, as do many artists. However Ariana Grande is arguably a more talented vocalist than those artists. In my opinion, her voice belongs on Broadway where she can fully showcase her talent, not in music videos that falsely make women feel empowered when they are, in actuality, just being portrayed as objects used for pleasure. While she has incredible vocals she is not the best song writer, making a strong case for the idea that being an amazing singer does not a good writer make.

Post by Eunice Shin

Music, literature, and film are often heavily connected, one medium referencing the other and vice versa. As an avid pop music listener and as an English major, I enjoy these connections, especially when they come in the form of allusions in the lyrics or in music videos. While I have to dig a little deeper for the lyrical allusions, with the visual form of the music video, these connections are made all the more obvious, especially when the concept for these music videos seems to come directly from the books. Whether it is because the song references the book itself or because the song mirrors the themes contained within the book, the added narrative element that accompanies each song really adds to the whole experience of the music, video and all. In honor of the retelling prompt for Westwind’s Flash Fiction contest, here are eight pop music videos with striking literary and film connections and contain a version of retelling.

1. Taylor Swift – “Love Story”

Of course, any list of music videos and literature has to contain Swift’s “Love Story” because of how blatantly literary it is. She references Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet directly in both the lyrics and the video, rewriting the tragic love story of young teenagers where Romeo and Juliet meet, marry each other, and die in the span of less than a week. Instead, Romeo somehow convinces Juliet’s father to forget about the longstanding feud between the Montagues and the Capulets and they get a happy ending. The video interestingly has a more Pride and Prejudice feel what with the dancing and the running in fields but the video does get the looking out of windows and love at first meetings part of the play down through the reinterpretation.

Taylor is no stranger to literary allusions. In her new album, she references The Great Gatsby, Kurt Vonnegut, and Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities. Some other literary-related music Taylor Swift has done are “Blank Space” (with allusions to The Picture of Dorian Gray, Calypso from The Oddysey, and Twilight), “Ready For It” (with its sci-fi-esque imagery), and “You Belong with Me” (with the plot of what is probably a great many YA books).

2. Ariana Grande – “Right There”

Following the Romeo and Juliet train is Ariana Grande’s “Right There” which also seems to focus on the happy first meeting of the fated pair and little else. Reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann’s film Romeo+Juliet (and also his Gatsby coincidentally), Ariana (or Juliet, as the video prefaces with) frolics around a masquerade ball, meets Romeo, sings to him from a balcony, and ends up fully clothed in the pool with him, all while fluttering a fan. The song itself is about faithful and fated love, only one of which have been proven in the actual text, but really captures the feelings of young and impulsive love that the play portrays. Meanwhile, Big Sean (who is labeled as the Priest and not Friar Laurence) raps about the merits of his girl while chilling inside a church. Definitely a more faithful retelling of the iconic love tragedy than “Love Story.”

3. Pink – “Please Don’t Leave Me”

Moving away from the hopeful love and faithful promises that both Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande have portrayed as Juliet, Pink’s “Please Don’t Leave Me” is decidedly darker. For one, Pink moves away from the delicate and traditionally beautiful image of Juliet and Shakespeare altogether, choosing to go the Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery route instead. She locks her man in a room, inflicts various acts of violence on him, and prevents him from leaving through various tactics – just as Annie Wilkes does with Paul Sheldon. There’s also a nice nod to King’s The Shining, when Pink cuts a hole in the door with an ax and looks inside in true Jack fashion. All these horrifying actions take place while Pink apologetically croons to her lover and begs him not to leave her, adding a sinister edge to both the song and the video.

4. Twice – “What Is Love”

Twice’s infectious, bright jam about optimism and the naïve wish to experience love is crammed with all sorts of literary and film references about the different ways of finding love in books and movies. The music video shows the members enacting different parts of movies, taking inspiration from iconic scenes from The Princess Diaries, Ghost, La Boum, Pulp Fiction, Romeo and Juliet, Love Letter, La La Land, and Leon: The Professional. Through all of these references, they ask the question of “What Is Love” and all the feelings that come with it, mostly focusing on the pleasant aspects of it. Through these film references, Twice captures the wide range of what it means to be in love quite well, thus enhancing the video and the song through their reenactments of the films.

5. Iggy Azalea – “Fancy” (feat. Charli XCX)

Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” is an obvious tribute to the film Clueless, from the outfits, the setting, the actions and the people in the video reenact. Just as Clueless is a film about the wealth and status of Cher, Iggy Azalea’s song is similarly about wealth and status, more specifically Iggy’s own credibility. The music video hammers these themes home as it shows reenactments of iconic scenes such as the debate, the car ride on the freeway, the tennis courts, and the party. All that is absent is Josh and Cher’s lawyer father which only adds to the narrative of self-made success and emphasizes the 90’s icon that is Alicia Silverstone’s character. On a side note, Clueless is loosely based off of Jane Austen’s novel Emma which also contains the similar themes of wealth and societal standing.

6. BTS – “Blood Sweat & Tears”

BTS’s “Blood Sweat & Tears” is filled with art, aesthetically pleasing visuals, and bright contrasts of color. Given that Herman Hesse’s novel Demian heavily inspired the video, all of these choices come as no surprise. All of the cracks in the sculptures, the surplus of art, the organ playing, the images of wings and birds, the dialogue of “He too was a tempter,” and countless other images and scenes refer back to Demian and the characters within the novel. The song itself is about wanting and sacrificing everything for the pursuit of want regardless of whether it is wholesome or detrimental. This pursuit of want and the resulting discoveries connect back to Hesse’s novel which makes the song all the more complex and insightful on issues of love, success, and meaning.

7. Lana del Rey – “Tropico”

Lana Del Rey’s work is always brimming with literary allusions, ranging from Lolita to Carmen. In her short film “Tropico,” she performs her songs “Body Electric,” “Gods and Monsters,” and “Bel Air” to convey a Whitmanic ode. Within the short film, she uses figures like John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, and Jesus. Lana herself dresses as both Eve and Mary, using the religious figures to contrast and highlight the division between religion and the pursuit of the self while also combining the concepts of soul and body.  Referencing the Bible, Whitman, and others, she creates a complex relationship with the self and spirituality while seeming to celebrate herself and her body as Whitman encourages. The contrast between bright rosy colors and the dark shadows and dimly lit rooms within the video emphasizes the various divides the videos and the songs explore.

8. Michael Jackson – “Thriller”

Easily one of the most iconic videos in music history, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is a culmination of various horror movies and tropes packed into a video that is almost fourteen minutes long. Incorporating sinister monologues, acting bits, and dance sequences, “Thriller” embodies the lyrics that emphasize fright and terror. Borrowing from films like The Wolfman, Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead for the storyline and the scenes and from Citizen Kane for elements of camera movements, staging, montages, and lighting, Michael Jackson creates a compelling video that emphasizes the frightening aspects of his song, one that adds greatly to it.

With all of these retellings, reenactments, and allusions to bolster each song, the intersection of music, film, and literature is made all too obvious. Not only do these allusions add levels of meaning and complexity to each song they are used for, they also embody the creative spirit that comes with retelling and art, thus making them more than trite songs on the radio.


(post by Megan Lent)

Commonly misheard lyrics, also known as mondegreensI wish I could say that I had to research this term and didnt already know it due to a memorable swan-dive into a Wikipedia K-hole last summer that started with malapropismand ended with me splayed out in one of the deeper circles of semiotics hellare wonderful. I think its beautiful that some people hear one thing and some hear another and theyre both kind of equally right, or at least equally revealing as to the listeners interior life.

Hold me closer, Tony Danzais an adorable phrase, and even though I think that joke is from Friends, it has so entered the popular cultural lexicon that I feel I can reference it without necessarily acknowledging a show I dont like. Neutral Milk Hotel fans can go on for days about whether the line in Oh Comelyis drunk on your awe to meor drunk on your automy(as in a shortened autonomy) (as in its totally this one because its so much more gorgeous to think of a person drunk on their own sense of self and sense of freedom than someone worshipping another human, thats so gross, like, go get a tattoo and reassert your individual humanity, better yet get a Neutral Milk Hotel tattoo, better yet get a tattoo of Neutral Milk Hotel lyrics that are so nonsensical that strange men will use them as a means of attempting to start conversations with you any time you wear short sleeves for the rest of your life,but I digress.) There are swaths of Bob Dylan songs that could either be smartly cynical indictments of modern capitalism or recipes for brownies with a dash of coffee added into the batter to pack a little punch.

The whole reason Im bringing up mondegreens, though, is to talk about my favorite mondegreen that isnt a mondegreen. By which I mean that its the actual line to an actual song, but its so, so, so terrific, and so unlike anything anyone else Im familiar with would ever write, that I cant totally believe its real.

Im talking about the part in Raspberry Beretwhere the girl with the raspberry beret comes into the Five and Dime: she came in through the out door.

In just seven words, Prince created an entire character whos so full and engaging, immediately recognizable yet wholly new. Hes efficient, its effective, its affecting. People spend hundreds of pages in novel after novel trying to do this. People spend their whole lives trying to do this. And very few can do what Prince did as well as Prince did.

But most of what Prince did very few can do well, if at all.

Ive watched Purple Rain three times in the past two and a half weeks; I listen to Dirty Mind or1999 daily; Ive consistently worn more purple eye shadow than is usually required for daytime activities. His face is my phones home screen for gods sake. Im past the point of consciously knowing if Im doing this out of self-care or in some last-ditch hope that it will bring him back. Its a harmless preoccupation that will probably flirt with the border of obsession sometime soon. But flirting with obsessionseems like a very Prince-esque concept, with Prince as the flirt, the obsessor, and the obsessed-over.

You can see him playing those roles, to some degree, in Little Red Corvette.He depicts himself as overwhelmed by the girl who pops her color and loves em and leaves em fastshes more experienced sexually, shes savvier in relationships, shes both in control of herself and intoxicatingly exciting. He may say shes got to slow down, but its not because hes trying to tame her. Noits that he wants to keep up. His depiction of their dynamic is, just like in Raspberry Beret,economical and brilliant. But its phrases like the ride is so smooth you must be a limousinethat really take the song to the next level. There arent many cases where a metaphor for sex is somehow way dirtier, way sexier, and way cooler than the explicit.

Or, take this part in Lets Go Crazy:He calls his girlfriend. She answers. She drops the phone on the floor. And she starts ecstatically moaning, presumably because of someone else, presumably knowing that Prince is listening. That moment is brief, but so vulnerable and funny, containing the particularly bleak absurdity of being alive. And its in an all-time great dance anthem. Actually, just take all of Purple Rain: I Would Die 4 U(also a great song to dance to, and the second-best song on Purple Rain to reference doves) features Prince challenging the gender binary in the very first two lines. Regardless of what he meant or didnt mean by Im not a woman/Im not a man,Im so comforted by the fact that a song like that exists, and has existed since 1984. As clear of a character as the girl in Little Red Corvetteis made out to be, the way were introduced to Darling Nikkihas to be in some XXX-rated Hall of Character Exposition Fame out there. (Which is, incidentally, the only type of museum I would ever be qualified to curate.)

And like, who the hell would ever own up to wondering if your relationship turmoil is caused by you and your lover being too much like your own mother and father? Like who has a) that kind of insight and b) that kind of honesty and c) who would write that into the first-best dove-related song on Purple Rain and also possibly the best song of the 1980s? Who would do that? No one would. No one but Prince. Only he would.

He was one of the best storytellers in pop (and funk and soul and rock and 50 other genres, some of which he himself invented) music. And not just from a lyrical standpoint, although thats what Ive been focusing on here. Taking the bass out of When Doves Cry,and thus nixing the level of steadiness that instrument typically provides, allows listeners to better experience the ungrounded dysfunction of the relationship depicted in the song. Every sonic element of his first few albums form fascinating interactions, which makes a decent amount of sense, given that he played every instrument and produced every track. With meticulousness and passion, he could coax a guitar into admitting heated emotions and difficult thoughts and not-just-sexual (but sometimes also 100% definitely sexual) desires.

He could create whole universes in the span of a 4-minute song, and in those universes he found ways to reflect aspects of each of our individual, personal universes. And, despite his enigmatic reputation, he gently threw in pieces of himself, too. Most songs are not universes. There is nothing wrong with this, thoughno one ever said a song had to be. But Im thankful that Prince decided that songs needed enormity. Its not like anyone else was going to.

caro3(post by Libby Hsieh)

Originally from Minnesota, musician and songwriter Caroline Smith splits her time between Los Angeles and Minneapolis. After the positive reception of her album “Half About Being A Woman” in 2013, Caroline continues now to work on her upcoming album in anticipation for her latest single, which comes out in next month. Her music can be described in one word: honest. Her songs often feature many different messages that empower women with a soulful and groovy vibe. Ever since the release of her last album, Caroline has been such a big influence in my music style and writing as her art is extremely relatable and all-encompassing. In light of her upcoming tour, I wanted to get the inside word about her journey in the music industry. As you can imagine, talking to her was a delight.

First things first, how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
I would say like women-centric, honest, alternative soul.

What was the first concert you attended/record you bought and how did affect your musical journey?
The first concert I attended was N*SYNC. I was wearing this American Eagle tube top but I didn’t have any breasts so it was hard to keep it up. The first album I ever bought was TLC. Performing on a bigger level, like N’Sync or Beyonce, has always been fascinating to me. Maybe just bringing that level of care and production to a smaller stage. TLC I listened to over and over and over again. Massively obsessed with TLC. I think that definitely molded by song writing. I was listening to folk music like Jewel. So in writing, I kind of had the poeticism of Jewel but with the TLC swag.

Who are your musical influences now as you have evolved as an artist?
Beyonce is obviously one of them. That’s really typical but whatever she’s doing I’m like, “Oh God, I have to be doing that.” I guess women who are really in control of their own brand like Grimes. I’m a huge Aretha Franklin and Carol King fan. I guess women who are really in control of their own music. Women like HAIM, Lorde, Grimes, people that write their own music and really brand themselves. It’s easy to be like “Ah, I’ll just have someone else do it. Selena Gomez looks great, I’ll just do that route”. At the end of the day, those women inspire me to keep going.

Yeah, there is more honesty in that as well. Being able to write from your own experience and taking over your own brand. Do you write solely from specific experiences?
The songs that translate best are the ones from my own personal experience. But I have a really tight knit group of girlfriends. I found that writing from their experiences also works well. I’m sure you’ve had a girlfriend who had a guy break her heart and she tries to go back to her and you just want to shake her and be like, “AHHH!” Those emotions are super real too. Songs about my friends relationships. You can take it into first person or have a message to her. They can universally translate to all people—including men.

How did you decide you were going to pursue music?
It just happened. I was in school and my band really wanted to tour so they were like “lets just book a tour. lets go on tour.” It was during winter break. And that tour turned into another tour and that one turned into a mother tour. We just started touring so I had to stop going to school. I always said I would go back to finish my degree but I never did. It just started working. I never did the scary “I’ll just quit everything and do music.” I’m very a pragmatic person. It just worked out. I always just follow the path that’s in front of me.

So, what inspired you to go your own route rather than choose the conventional route that many people try to take?
I honestly feel like I just never had an option. Whenever I try to do the other thing, cause I’ve tried, It just doesn’t feel right and I feel really unhappy because I’m not saying what I need to say. Going down the independent or alternative way was just what made me happy and fulfilled.

If you were ever to leave the industry, what would be the catalyst to that?
I think creative people often use a number of outlets to practice their creativity. For me, music is just one of them. If I felt like music wasn’t fulfilling me creatively anymore, I would find something else like writing, fashion design, music video production, you know, whatever. Something that I could practice and explore as a new creative medium. You know, people like Kanye West. He’s so creative. He’s just brimming with creativity. He want’s to work with everything and act on everything. Thats great and I think sometimes in the music industry it can move so slow and you can get locked up in that because that’s just the way the world works. There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s when you get interested in something else like, I don’t know, fucking shoe design.

What are some of the biggest obstacles for upcoming artists?
The hardest thing for people is just releasing the music. People get stuck in their own head and get worried because the music doesn’t sound perfect or doesn’t sound finish. Just giving yourself a cut off point is really healthy. I watch a lot of people get stuck in feedback loops and get too scared to release something. A lot of my musician friends and I talk about the idea of recklessness. You just have to be brave. You have to be reckless. You have to release things. Try things that might not work. You won’t know unless you try it. You’re not gonna know if your music is good or bad unless you release it. If it’s bad and everyone hates it, you’ll grow from it. That would be my advice to people. Just do it. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for people to do something for you. Get out of your own way. If you find a team of people who believe in what you’re doing, that’s important. Keep them happy. If you find a team that love you, care about you, and support you, keep those people close to you. Those are the people who are gonna tell you that your shit is bad.

(post by Melissa Villalon)

(The radio personnel and hosts of Alma del Barrio. Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Alma del Barrio, or soul of the neighborhood, persists as one of the most successful Hispanic radio programs in the country, lasting for over forty years in Los Angeles. Two Loyola Marymount University students, Enrique Soto and Raul Villa, sought to present an eclectic assortment of the many aspects of Hispanic culture, starting the radio program in 1973 as a one-hour segment on KXLU, promoting not only talented artists like Celia Cruz and Tito Puente but also new, less renowned musicians, film directors, poets, authors and painters. With increasing prominence and popularity, the station was eventually scheduled from 6 am – 6 pm every Saturday and Sunday, which is still the time slot today.

[Francisco Aguabella (center), a former UCLA professor, played the batá drums and is an artist frequently discussed on Alma del Barrio. Still image from YouTube]

Radio DJs and hosts are bilingual. Spanish flows into English, and English melds to Spanish again. Both languages are inseparable, a testament to the assimilation and blending of cultures. Alma del Barrio features a weekly calendar of imminent, local Latino cultural events in live music performances, art exhibitions, poetry readings, and film previews. When you’re stuck in traffic on the dreaded 405 or when you want to listen to something new, try 88.9 FM! Alma del Barrio is a spiritual home in Los Angeles where any person can learn, listen, and discuss the dynamic Hispanic culture.

(post by Pauline Pechakjian)
Lana Del Rey has built her career off of beautiful melodies paired with her delicately haunting voice that evoke rich, nostalgic sensory images and memories existing in the imagination of her musical persona. To date, the songstress, whose real name is Elizabeth Grant, has released four studio albums over the past four years and has reached tremendous amounts of success with her fans. Throughout her time on the public radar, there have been many debates that have questioned Del Rey’s authenticity – although she is marketed as being an alternative musician when compared to the likes of more mainstream artists that stream bubblegum-pop music, many claim that she is essentially just as “pop” as her contemporaries, only marketed differently. An aspect of this debate that I think doesn’t garner much attention is her use of literary icons and frequent references peppered throughout her songs.

As a philosophy major at Fordham University, I’m sure Grant received a solid education in many literary works and probably is truly inspired by the authors and poets that she frequently quotes. However, I’m not sure if her name-dropping of these influencers throughout her songs does much to actually convey any meaning or significance of these works outside of adding a touch of “intellectual” flair. Personally, I’m torn on the issue myself. I find that certain references to some of my favorite authors and poets help provoke certain images and memories when I listen to her music, but at the same time, I find it a bit unnecessary to saturate songs with hollow references that don’t intellectually contribute much other than possibly introduce names and concepts to previously uninformed listeners.
Let’s look at some of these examples from her catalogue of songs. Off of the Born to Die album, in “Carmen,” she quotes A Streetcar Named Desire written by playwright Tennessee Williams, singing, “Relying on the kindness of strangers.” The line in the play refers to the character of Blanche DuBois, a deeply troubled woman who shares subtle similarities with the heroine of Del Rey’s song. Another instance is in her song, “Body Electric,” off of her Paradise album, in which she croons “Whitman is my daddy” and “I sing the body electric.” It can be argued that her utilization of Whitman and the way in which she frames him is an authentic form of showing her connection and appreciation for him, maybe akin to the way Allen Ginsberg does so in his “Supermarket in California” poem, but once again, these lines do little more than name-drop the American icon. The same album holds another literary-reference packed song, (and one of my personal favorites), “Gods & Monsters,” in which she alludes to both Oscar Wilde and John Milton. She repeats Wilde’s famous declaration that “life imitates art,” and the whole song, or even whole album, strongly ties in to themes presented by Milton’s Paradise Lost on the loss of innocence. A more recent example of Lana Del Rey’s use of literature on her albums is “Burnt Norton (Interlude)” featured on Honeymoon, which was released last September. Del Rey reads out the first part of T. S. Elliot’s poem of the same name while elegant sounds are heard in the background.

Out of all of her literary references and allusions, Lana Del Rey undoubtedly gives the most attention to Vladimir Nabokov’s famous novel, Lolita. She has a song with the same name, in which she sings “Kiss me in the p-a-r-k park tonight,” possibly assuming the voice of 12-year-old Dolores Haze singing to her abuser, Humbert Humbert. In another song from Born to Die, “Off to the Races,” she describes a lover as being the “light of my life, fire of my loins,” a direct quote from Nabokov’s novel in which the narrator expresses his infatuation for his much younger object of admiration. Although Lolita is one of my favorite novels, and perhaps may be one of Elizabeth Grant’s as well, her romanticization of the relationship presented in the book is not a true and accurate representation of the story set between Humbert and Lolita, and her allusions to their “love” completely overlook the hilarity and satire that Nabokov cleverly utilizes to portray the inner workings of a delusional, ill-adapted man.
With all being said, I am and will always be a huge fan of Lana Del Rey’s music. I love her voice, her melodies, and the nostalgic, old-world feel that conjures up specific memories, images, and experiences whenever I listen to her songs. I personally believe that her catalogue of albums can all hold their own merit without being peppered with various literary references that ultimately don’t contribute much to her music at all. I don’t question whether or not Elizabeth Grant is personally inspired by Whitman, Wilde, Milton, Williams, and Nabokov; I’m sure all of these extremely influential poets and writers have played a large role in the shaping of her as an artist and individual. However, I think that the songstress’ strengths lie in her own musical innovations rather than the name-dropping of her favorite influencers. I love Lana Del Rey, and I love literature, but feel that her music is better off focusing on her own unique experiences and ideas rather than relating blurred ideas of famous literary icons.


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