Wednesday, November 30, 2016

One-Man Show

During the first week of school this year, I went to a couple welcome back shows at Tommy's Place to support my friends. A few different bands and solo artists I love were playing shows, and I figured--hey, it's the first week, I'm not busy, and it's right on campus.

As usual, my fellow pop kids blew me away with their covers and originals. Multiple-piece bands were tight and grooving, and solo singer-songwriters rocked out with poignant simplicity. They performed covers as well or better than the original artists, and they sang their own songs like they were already classics.

But almost no one heard it.

I'm no saint. I don't go to every gig I get invited to on Facebook. Sometimes it's because I legitimately can't--I'm under 21, I have another gig or rehearsal--but sometimes it's because I'm just tired and don't feel up to it. And I always feel bad when I miss one, because I know that most of the time, the coffee shop or bar or little venue could really use another body.

The students in the popular music program at Thornton are not just "good." They're great. Maybe I'm biased, but every time I DO go to a gig, I run to the keyboard or guitar right after to write. I feel massively inspired by the talent I see in the other pop kids. They are vulnerable and brave and skilled and silly. They are humble. They are versatile. They are wise beyond their years. I can only hope that my classmates feel the same way about me--to be counted among their musical and emotional equals would be an honor. My point in providing this onslaught of compliments is to affirm how much it shatters my heart to hear this groundbreaking music and realizing that not many people are listening.

It's bittersweet, really. One day, we will be making a larger impact on the music industry, whether that's through performing, writing, education, business, journalism, or some combination of the above. One day, "the time we performed for an audience of just our mom and the bartender" will be another funny story. And honestly, there's something tremendously fun about those little, seemingly inconsequential shows. There's camaraderie in knowing that none of us are selling out arenas, or even the back rooms of pubs. This is where we become our real artistic selves. It's where we test drive new material, experiment with banter and song arrangements, and learn to commit to a performance regardless of the number of people watching.

But that doesn't stop me from feeling frustrated when I see my best friends pouring their hearts out on stage, sweating under the lights, letting tears roll during particularly emotional moments, and knowing that I'm the only one who will congratulate them after the show.

I write all this to say: if you're a musician playing for single-digit audiences, you are not alone. It will all be worth it. Treasure these little shows, because one day you'll be grown and working in the music industry and missing the purity of coffee house open mics. Sing every original song and rearranged cover like you're on stage at the Staples Center, even if the only person watching is cleaning shot glasses and checking the clock. And if you're a friend of a musician: go to their shows. Buy their merch and stream their tracks on Soundcloud. Be one of the people who knew them when. Sometimes it's inconvenient. But I promise that you won't regret it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Last Night, I Wept. Today, I Apply War Paint.

I've always fancied myself a revolutionary.

In history class, when we talked about the civil rights movement or women's suffrage, I envisioned myself as the type of person who would have been on the right side of history. Maybe I wouldn't have been staging sit-ins, but certainly I would have given speeches at my university. Written pieces of incendiary journalism. Bigoted white men would roll their eyes when I came up in conversation. It would've been great.

But I was born in 1997, to a two-parent household of economic affluence in a liberal city in a liberal state. Yes, I am a mixed-race, Jewish black woman. But I'm also economically privileged, have attended private academic institutions my whole life, and have had the unconditional emotional support of two wonderful parents. So yes, people have made offensive comments to me and tried to undermine my achievements. But I have been shielded from much of the oppression that might have impeded my development had I come up in the mid-twentieth century, or in a conservative part of the country, or both. To top it all off, the bulk of my childhood was spent under the first black president of the United States. I coasted into last night, thinking that the bulk of my young adulthood would be spent under the first female president. Honestly, the thought of Hillary's victory was bittersweet to me. Where was my glass ceiling to break? Sure, police brutality is still an issue, the wage gap won't go away for another 100+ years even by optimistic estimates, and in many parts of the country, the LGBTQIA+ community is actively discriminated against, but before last night, it felt very much like we were on our way. Like I would simply be buoyed by the progress that was already taking place. Like all I had to do was exist as a socially conscious millennial, and the world would unfold before me as it always had. But then a funny thing happened.

A bigoted, incompetent, sexual predator won the presidency.

And I cried. Hard.

Last night, I lost my innocence. I watched as the America I'd built up in my mind, the America that still had a lot of work to do but was at least on the path to excellence, disintegrated before my very eyes. I read the New York Times article declaring that a reality TV-show host who will be going to trial for fraud and sexual assault will take the oath of our nation's highest office on January 20. My Uber driver asked me why I was crying. I said many things in response to that, but the crux of it is this sound bite: Trump did not invent hatred. Obama's presidency simply concealed it. Trump's campaign exposed it. The bigotry was already there. It was just less socially acceptable to show it with Obama at the helm. Now, as his time in office dwindles all too quickly to a close, the so-called "silent majority" is silent no more. Their champion has won. They have been vindicated. And last night, that felt like rock bottom. Hopeless.

But I wake up today far from hopeless. Because here's the thing, my fellow women and PoC. My LGBTQIA+, Latinx, Muslim, and disabled siblings:

NOW, more than ever, is our time.

For all the times you've wondered who you might have been during slavery, during World War II, during the Civil Rights Movement - this is when you find out. Sure, laws and amendments have been passed that are meant to protect our civil liberties, and social conditions aren't as bleak as they were 50, 100, 200 years ago. But I assure you that this is a turning point in history. I assure you that our children will be asking us about last night, and the last year, and the coming ones. I assure you that we will be confronted by hatred, and, even more frequently, indifference to our rights under a Republican president, a Republican senate, and a Republican house.

I refuse to be hopeless. I refuse to be complacent. I refuse to spend anymore time weeping. I also refuse to pretend that we are not a nation divided. I wish I could love our president-elect and his constituency unconditionally, because I truly believe that love can triumph over hate. But now is not the time for love. Not yet. In order to love, I first require mutual respect.

I don't have all the answers. I don't have any of the answers. I don't know what this movement will look like, what shape it will take. I don't know what I personally need to do, or what we need to do as a collective. So I'll do what I know to do: I will write.

And tomorrow morning, and all the mornings after that, I'll do what I did this morning.

Apply war paint.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October Playlist

October Playlist

Hey, all, and happy almost Halloween. This Halloweekend has been pretty crazy. Honestly, all of October--heck, this whole year--has been pretty crazy. Being 19 in Los Angeles in 2016 is beautiful and funny and overwhelming and terrifying and being in college is never what you expected it would be, and neither are you.

Here are the songs I've been listening to lately.

https://open.spotify.com/user/12149039602/playlist/0d3eKbQBMa3yFLUQA5HLpK

1. "Worth It" - 3:05
ALBUM: Lamentations
ARTIST: Moses Sumney

2. "Come Together - Remastered" - 4:20
ALBUM: Abbey Road - Remastered
ARTIST: The Beatles

3. "You And I" - 2:31
ALBUM: Emotions And Math
ARTIST: Margaret Glaspy

4. "October Song" - 3:25
ALBUM: Frank
ARTIST: Amy Winehouse

5. "So. Good." - 3:47
ALBUM: So. Good.
ARTIST: Johnny Stimson

6. "Beautiful Girl" - 4:03
ALBUM: Beautiful Girl
ARTIST: Sara Bareilles

7. "I Love How You Love Me" - 3:27
ALBUM: Live at Jittery Joe's
ARTIST: Jeff Mangum

8. "Milk & Honey" - 3:59
ALBUM: Milk & Honey
ARTIST: Billie Marten

9. "Cassidy" - 4:28
ALBUM: Por Favor
ARTIST: Brett Dennen

10. "Cough Drop" - 3:20
ALBUM: A Humble Masterpiece
ARTIST: The O'My's

11. "22 (OVER SN)" - 2:48
ALBUM: 22, A Million
ARTIST: Bon Iver

12. "Gibraltar" - 3:42
ALBUM: No No No
ARTIST: Beirut

13. "The Middle of Ohio" - 2:54
ALBUM: Song of a Dead Man
ARTIST: Taylor John Williams

14. "Gold In The Air" - 3:21
ALBUM: Get Your Burdens Lifted
ARTIST: Jesse Woods

15. "Above The Clouds of Pompeii" - 4:39
ALBUM: Islands
ARTIST: Bear's Den

16. "Mona Lisa" - 3:23
ALBUM: Chasing Waves
ARTIST: Vista Kicks

17. "Comfortable - Live In Birmingham" - 7:37
ALBUM: Any Given Thursday
ARTIST: John Mayer

18. "Hourglass" - 2:18
ALBUM: The Balcony
ARTIST: Catfish and the Bottlemen

19. "You Don't Know My Name" - 6:07
ALBUM: The Diary of Alicia Keys
ARTIST: Alicia Keys

20. "Trouble Sleeping" - 3:27
ALBUM: Corinne Bailey Rae
ARTIST: Corinne Bailey Rae

That's what I've been bumping. I don't know what to expect for the last two months of 2016, or the rest of college, or the rest of my life. I can't help but think about the macro because of how much my life is changing, how quickly and drastically and without warning. I read somewhere, in a piece about songwriting, that by the time an artist is 25, they have experienced everything necessary to make great art. I can't help but feel like it might be true.

Talk soon. xo

Saturday, October 1, 2016

September Playlist

September Playlist

Eeek! I am a day late on my September playlist! My apologies, pals!

It has been a turbulent couple weeks. Nothing I can't handle, just a little strange. Unfortunately, not much to report on the boy and career fronts, which are my two favorite fronts. But school is chugging along, and at this moment I am in my childhood bedroom, which is always a good time.

Here are the songs! First a Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/user/12149039602/playlist/0Svuq7pYs0OyShuh33rW2T

And now the list of tunes:

1. "Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect" - 4:29
ALBUM: Castaways and Cutouts
ARTIST: The Decemberists

2. "untitled 03 | 05.28.2013." - 2:34
ALBUM: untitled unmastered.
ARTIST: Kendrick Lamar

3. "Unaware" - 5:49
ALBUM: Allen Stone
ARTIST: Allen Stone

4. "Three Thirty" - 3:35
ALBUM: Three Thirty
ARTIST: Eighty Ninety

5. "Bad Self Portraits" - 3:25
ALBUM: Bad Self Portraits
ARTIST: Lake Street Dive

6. "Lost In The Light" - 3:57
ALBUM: Barchords
ARTIST: Bahamas

7. "Lady Of The Desert" - 3:53
ALBUM: Imaginary Man
ARTIST: Rayland Baxter

8. "Secret" - 4:09
ALBUM: H & the Bay
ARTIST: Flearoy

9. "The Bird" - 3:38
ALBUM: Malibu
ARTIST: Anderson .Paak

10. "The Blacker The Berry" - 5:29
ALBUM: To Pimp A Butterfly
ARTIST: Kendrick Lamar

11. "High And Dry" - 4:17
ALBUM: The Bends
ARTIST: Nowhere to Run

12. "Nowhere to Run" - 3:29
ALBUM: Don't Dream Alone
ARTIST: My Brothers And I

13. "This Is on Me" - 4:07
ALBUM: Sirens
ARTIST: Ben Abraham, Sara Bareilles

14. "The Wolves (Act I and II)" - 5:22
ALBUM: For Emma, Forever Ago
ARTIST: Bon Iver

15. "Let Us Now Praise Simple Men" - 3:00
ALBUM: Don't Get Too Grand
ARTIST: Donovan Woods

16. "My Boy" - 4:25
ALBUM: Don't Get Too Grand
ARTIST: Donovan Woods

That'll do it, fans. My October playlist is pretty sparse at the moment, which just means it's full of possibility. I've got a couple cool performances coming up this month, so I'm excited about that. Other than that, I'm just trying to survive sophomore year. And 2016, I guess, which is suspiciously close to ending...

Talk soon. xo

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

So...What Do You Do?

The title of this blog post is a question I get a lot as a popular music major.

I don't really blame anyone for asking it. The pop music program at Thornton is relatively new - the first graduating class was in 2013 - and for people who aren't dedicating their lives to the pursuit of such an unusual career, it can be hard to fathom what it is we do all do.

"Oh, you're a pop major? So like...you just sing all the time?"

Yeah, not exactly.

As a popular music major, our course load is substantial. There are aural skills and theory classes to help you master the...well, theoretical side of things, songwriting, music history, individual instruction on our primary instruments, proficiency classes for instruments we can't play yet, music technology, arranging, and...popular music performance.

I don't mean to make it sound ominous, but truth be told, performance class is exhilarating and fulfilling and terrifying and in general way more than I (or any of my classmates) bargained for when we enrolled here.

Every quarter, the class is divided into four bands, each one equipped with a lead guitarist, a drummer, a bass player, a keyboardist (maybe), and handful of vocalists and singer-songwriters to cover lead vocals, backing vocals, second keyboard and guitar parts, and handheld percussion. The first class of the quarter, we figure out our biweekly rehearsal times, and get assigned our first week of material. And that's when it gets crazy.

Twice a week (or probably more...vocal rehearsals are a great way to bond over how hard it is to hear backing vocals on recordings from the 1960s), we meet up and try to replicate some of the most significant popular music in recorded history. We go to performance class and, despite our best efforts during the week, we get roasted by your professor. We get behind on your charts and stay up really late the night before they're due trying to finish them. We get stressed out and curse the powers that be that this class--this class that you dedicate double-digit hours to every week--gets us a whopping two units closer to our degrees.

But then, in the middle of October, something incredible happens.

We have our performance midterm.

Freshmen perform on a Wednesday night at Ground Zero, the milkshake kingdom of the University of Southern California. The blenders don't stop whirring for anyone, not even the sweaty 18-year-olds belting 50s pop like their lives depend on it, and even though it's the middle of the week and the dead of midterms season, you can bet that GZ will be packed with friends and family of the froshpop cult clan. Adrenaline races as Andy calls for the freshman pop kids to huddle up like a championship basketball team. The first pep talk is always the most inspiring. It's hard to remember exactly what he says to hype us up that night, but rest assured, the energy spikes even more as the house lights come down and the show begins.

Sure, we'd been playing those songs for weeks. Sure, three bands sing "The Great Pretender" even though no one was that big a fan of that song in the first place. Sure, the keyboard does that weird thing where it spits out a synth beat for like forty-five painful seconds while the keys player looks for a piccolo sound. And sure, one of the singers trips on a wire and curses really loud and a stage mic picks it up.

But you know what else happens?

The guitarist absolutely NAILS the "Johnny B. Goode" solo. The vocalists soar on the tough backing harmonies. The drummer's stick goes sailing into the audience right after the last crash of the last song and the crowd goes wild. And right in the middle of the set, everyone looks at each other and smiles with giddy disbelief, communicating without saying a single word: I can't believe this is a midterm.

Because this is what we do. We spend hours, days, weeks, months perfecting music that laid the foundation for modern pop. We perform with the musicians that we'll be working with for the rest of our lives. We live the dream.

I haven't had a sophomore performance exam this year, so I can't speak to the differences yet. We perform on Fridays instead of Wednesdays. The material is harder. The expectations are higher. The venue is the massive, newly renovated Carson Soundstage instead of the gritty milkshake café we all came to love last year. But I know a few things will remain the same--the last-minute crazy outfit choices. The giggly, anxiety-ridden run-throughs of lyrics to confusing funk songs. But more than anything else: forming unshakable bonds during the most exhilarating final exams in the world. And then, when that crazy night is over, we show up for performance class the next Tuesday. We get assigned new bands and new songs.

And we do it all again.

Monday, August 22, 2016

August Playlist

August Playlist

Coming to you live from my new house and the first day of sophomore year...!

Pretty weird to think that I started this blog at the end of my sophomore year of high school, and now I'm starting my sophomore year of college. My brain isn't really processing how I am Basically An Adult (and am gonna be 19 in less than three weeks! Woo!)

I've been listening to these tunes a lot this month, on planes and in cars and just doing a whole lotta nothing in my room. It's sad, as always, to bid adieu to summer, but this year is gonna be a series of wild adventures, frustrating rehearsals, and big laughs. So let's do it! One sophomore slump, please! Hold the slump!

1. "Drive Slow" - 4:32
ALBUM: Late Registration
ARTIST: Kanye West

2. "The Mates of Soul" - 4:00
ALBUM: The Mates of Soul
ARTIST: Taylor John Williams

3. "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" - 4:05
ALBUM: The Queen Is Dead
ARTIST: The Smiths

4. "I Want You" - 3:32
ALBUM: ACT ONE
ARTIST: Marian Hill

5. "ILYSB - STRIPPED" - 4:05
ALBUM: Make Out
ARTIST: Lany

6. "Bad Day" - 3:06
ALBUM: Darwin Deez
ARTIST: Darwin Deez

7. "Have Mercy" - 4:40
ALBUM: Aviary: Act 1
ARTIST: Eryn Allen Kane

8. "Flying Kites" - 2:42
ALBUM: Beach Island
ARTIST: Jeremy Zucker

9. "Peaches" - 2:34
ALBUM: A Perfect Day
ARTIST: Bob Schneider

10. "Recreational Love" - 3:10
ALBUM: Recreational Love
ARTIST: the bird and the bee

11. "If I Go" - 3:57
ALBUM: If I Go
ARTIST: Jake McMullen

12. "You & Me" - 3:52
ALBUM: Jill Baylon - EP
ARTIST: Jill Baylon

So that's what I've been bumping, more or less. I've already started curating my playlist for September, and I'm excited to see what the next month, next semester, next year has in store for me. I'm trying not to have any crazy expectations. I'm just gonna do what makes me happy and hope for the best. Journal. Drink tea. Burn candles. Write. And of course, make music.

Talk soon. xo

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July Playlist

July Playlist

Hey fam! July has been a pretty good month, I think. Honestly, it's mostly blurring in my mind--Tumblr, journaling, songwriting, screenplay-writing, novel-writing, finally exercising...but mostly me laying on my bed and staring at a screen. LOL. Nothing has changed.

I leave for a quick vacation on August 1st, and the next time I post a monthly playlist, I'll be moved into my sophomore year house, which is INSANE, but anyway here is my music for the month of July! My last two playlists were quite anticlimactic, because I wasn't listening to much music, but I've been listening to these tracks constantly, so I hope you enjoy!

Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/user/12149039602/playlist/0EhngKWmwDrDsFBvdbcuUV

1. "Plastic" - 2.37
ALBUM: Mid-City Island
ARTIST: Moses Sumney

2. "Emotions And Math" - 3:17
ALBUM: Emotions and Math
ARTIST: Margaret Glaspy

3. "Tilted" - 3:53
ALBUM: Christine And The Queens
ARTIST: Christine and the Queens

4. "Where's Your Heart Gone" - 4:10
ALBUM: Where's Your Heart Gone
ARTIST: Golden Youth

5. "After Rain" - 4:54
ALBUM: After Rain
ARTIST: Dermot Kennedy

6. "Rejoice" - 3:34
ALBUM: Sprained Ankle
ARTIST: Julien Baker

7. "Wildfire" - 4:13
ALBUM: Paradise Valley
ARTIST: John Mayer

8. "All Falls Down" - 3:44
ALBUM: The College Dropout
ARTIST: Kanye West, Syleena Johnson

9. "Bluegrass" - 5:19
ALBUM: Move
ARTIST: Matt Phillips, Phil Harmonic

10. "Coffee" - 3:46
ALBUM: FMA
ARTIST: Grace

11. "Yellow Eyes" - 3:51
ALBUM: Yellow Eyes
ARTIST: Rayland Baxter

12. "Way Down We Go" - 3:40
ALBUM: Way Down We Go
ARTIST: Kaleo

13. "Getting Ready to Get Down" - 3:16
ALBUM: Getting Ready to Get Down
ARTIST: Josh Ritter

14. "Famous" - 3:16
ALBUM: The Life of Pablo
ARTIST: Kanye West

These are all the songs I've been listening to for the last three and a half weeks. I've been having a great summer so far, but I'm getting super excited for my second year of college. THINGS ARE CHANGING. For real this time. Let's do it.

Talk soon. xo

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Another Word on Police Brutality

Disclaimer: I support the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Disclaimer: I am pro-cop. Well, I'm pro-good cop.
Disclaimer: I am as anti-gun as they come.

I've seen a lot of emotional calls to action, logical breakdowns of fact, and mixes of the two. I have seen liberals and conservatives duke it out on social media for supremacy of opinion. And I am exhausted by it.

I don't want to write that long of a post here, I just want to say what I really think about the problem of police brutality in this country.

Being in a police officer is dangerous. But it's not the most dangerous job in the world by any stretch of the imagination. It's also a choice. If you do not want to put your life on the line every day, perhaps you are better suited to a job that is not often dangerous or life-threatening. No matter how noble your intentions are, every time you put on your badge and walk the streets, you are not just enforcing the law and protecting the innocent. You have pinned a shiny gold target to your chest. And no matter how race relations change in this country, that will always be an immutable fact.

I read a lengthy post from a police officer about how black-on-black crime is a much larger problem than cop-on-black crime. (I'm not even going to get into how the only reason that's a problem is because of systemic discrimination and abuse, because it would take too long). I've read articles stating that more white people have been killed by police than black people and about how Latinos are killed in almost the same numbers as blacks.

That information doesn't matter to me, and here's why.

Police should NEVER shoot to kill.

The problem of police brutality is racial. We need to stop dancing around that. There's way, way more statistical information to back up the fact that blacks are more frequently harassed, verbally abused, physically attacked, tasered, and yes, shot and killed by police than whites, even while unarmed. But statistics can be biased. Statistics can be misleading. What we can calculate is how often police have killed people, regardless of race.

And no matter what number you get, if it's larger than zero, we've got a problem.

Police will argue that if their lives are in jeopardy, they have no choice but to shoot. And I would agree that if your life is threatened you should be able to defend yourself. But there are so, so many jobs with equal or greater danger posed by other human beings where killing is not an option. Think of a social worker. Think of an orderly in a mental hospital with violent patients. These are people who walk into equally or more dangerous situations as police officers every day, but with no guns. They have to subdue violent people or escape violent circumstances without killing people all the time. So why do the police kill so often? When a social worker enters a dysfunctional home to remove children from the care of an unfit and abusive parent, they know that there's a chance the situation will escalate to the violence. But do they walk in with a gun in their belt, hand already gripped around the trigger? No. They don't.

I am of the controversial opinion that our police force should not be armed at all and that no civilians should be allowed possession of guns. I hate guns. I really, really hate them. I think the second amendment is just as outdated as the Three-Fifths compromise, and that if the greatest threat to your civil rights is having your gun taken away, then your life is pretty good. I think that in other countries, where the police forces are far less heavily armed and there are next to zero fatalities caused by police, they've got it right.

But I know that the United States is way too gun-happy--and that many members of the government are too far in the pocket of the NRA--to get rid of guns in the way I'd like.

So I just want to say this: bad cops need to figure out a way to stop killing people. Black and white and everyone in between. This is a heavily racialized issue, and I wish people would stop trying to deny that, but it's also just a purely human issue. Our police forces are practically military in their armaments, and they seem way too quick to pull triggers and end lives. If police officers are going to be armed, the gun needs to be the last resort, and it should never be used to kill. There are ways to disarm dangerous criminals without shooting them.

The police have to do their jobs without committing murder. There are so many good cops out there, and just a few bad ones who slaughter innocents and criminals alike. The God complex has to stop. The bloodshed has to stop.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

It Is Hard to Be Yourself

It is really difficult to be yourself. Or maybe it's just difficult to be MY self.

I feel like the people I've met at college fall into these neat little boxes--the carefree artist, the reserved academic, the ambitious preprofessional, the inebriated frat star, the boisterous clown. I find myself at the nexus of a lot of these groups, always on the outskirts of their fun and never quite invited in. I'm either too boring or too wild or too lazy or too uptight or too unfunny at any given time to any given person. I feel like other than my family, I don't really have anyone who makes me comfortable being my full self. I don't mean to cast aspersions on my friends who appear to fall into these boxes--and I recognize how tremendously unfair it is for me to categorize these people so narrowly--because I know they're not trying to change me. But it's inherent that when you're hanging out with seven of your friends and all seven of them are in sync and you're not there with them, you're gonna feel some pressure to be different.

I guess what I want to know is how I can feel contented with who I am and not feel like it's too much or not enough.

The artists make me worry that I'm too mainstream when they come to class in big flowing skirts and cool vintage clothes, and I'm wearing an outfit plucked straight off a mannequin from the Gap. The academics make me feel like a burnout when they spend their Friday nights holed up in the library, and I stay up till 3am, bouncing from party to party with my music and film friends. The preprofessionals make think that I haven't done enough for my future when they land internship after internship, where my resume lays mostly blank. The frat stars make me feel like a square when they do five shots in a row or have one-night stands, and I quietly explain that I don't drink or do drugs or sleep with strangers. The clowns make me feel exceedingly boring when they get a big laugh in our motley crew of friends, and my jokes fall flat.

I just don't want to feel like I'm listening to the wrong music or wearing the wrong clothes or watching the wrong movies. I want to feel like people want me around and not like I'm this strange passenger who stole aboard their cargo ship moments before launching into the sea.

That sounded weird as hell, but I'm going with it.

I think the worst part about these feelings is that sometimes, I know EXACTLY who I am. When it comes to my career, I know what I want and where I want to go. But all of that gets muddled when I hang out with people whose personalities seem a lot more defined, or at least recognizable. Embarrassingly, I feel like I can't even recognize myself sometimes.

I guess the point of me writing all this is to say that one of my goals for my next year of college--and all the years to come in my life, I suppose--is to get better at being myself in front of other people. Going to a school like USC, being in a program like the pop music program, living in a house full of film majors--I'm surrounded by unique individuals all the time, and somehow, that has always made me feel like I'm standing out wrong (which just situationally makes no sense). I'm going to embrace all aspects of my personality: be loud when I feel like being loud, shutting up when I feel introspective and quiet, cracking jokes when they come to me, writing when I'm inspired, and being the odd patchwork person that I am. The artist, the academic, the preprofessional, the frat star, the clown. (Okay, maybe I'm not much of a frat star, but you get my point.)

And if you've ever felt these feelings, if I've explained them in a way that makes them sound familiar to you, then I urge you to do the same. Spend the next academic year of your life without superfluous filters. As long as you're not hurting anyone, you should be allowed to do pretty much whatever you want. So, I guess, figure out what that is, and then go do it.

Talk soon. xo

Friday, July 1, 2016

June Playlist

June Playlist

I KNOW. This is madness. June playlist coming a day late. But hey, maybe I'll start a new tradition on posting this thing on the first of every month...?

Anyway, here goes nothin. Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/user/12149039602/playlist/2e0a90Ti1eyxH9AbnHfuO7

And now for the list of tunes under the cut (real short this time, but hang in there fam, July will probably be longer):

1. "It Ain't Me Babe" - 3:34
ALBUM: Another Side of Bob Dylan
ARTIST: Bob Dylan

2. "G Train" - 3:36
ALBUM: Searching
ARTIST: Thirdstory

3. "Take Me Dancing" - 3:10
ALBUM: Take Me Dancing
ARTIST: Will Joseph Cook

4. "The Joy" - 4:58
ALBUM: The Joy
ARTIST: M&O

5. "Tourist" - 3:46
ALBUM: Yuna
ARTIST: Yuna

6. "Indica" - 4:48
ALBUM: Dealer
ARTIST: Foxing

So yeah, that's actually it for what I listened to in June. I didn't listen to music all that much, which I get is weird, but if you can believe it, there wasn't much occasion for it. I read a lot, wrote a lot (in more than one medium), journaled a lot...but this month I plan on really diving into more music-listening (and maybe music learning, since I gotta get into fighting shape for fall term). I feel GOOD right now! It's weird that it's already July, that we're halfway through 2016, that at the end of next month I have to go back and do that whole college thing again, this time as a sophomore with way more responsibilities and expectations on my shoulders. But I'm ready for ya. One sophomore slump, please, hold the slump!

Talk soon. xo

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tomi Lahren, Let's Talk

Sorry to hit y'all with two political posts in a row, monthly playlist coming later today.

I don't usually like to call people out on the Internet. I like to choose my battles. Generally, I don't talk about celebrity missteps because I feel like it's not worth it. Cultural appropriation, for example, deserves to be dragged for FILTH, but the topic is too nuanced to be accurately debated over any social media platform. Rape culture exists similarly; people who are anti-feminist love to spout statistics about how the wage gap isn't real, or about how rape is not a big a problem as people think, or about how cat-calling is a compliment. Or something.

But today, I am calling someone out. Tomi Lahren, let's talk.

She is a television and online video host who, right now, is under fire for her controversial comments about Jesse Williams' BET Humanitarian Award acceptance speech. Just for fun, I'm gonna link the two videos side by side so you can watch them and form your own opinions before you read mine.

Jesse Williams (& accompanying report from Slate): http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/06/27/actor_and_activist_jesse_williams_gave_a_fiery_speech_at_the_bet_awards.html

Tomi Lahren (not sure if this specific link will work, but you shouldn't have a problem finding it on her Facebook page): https://www.facebook.com/TomiLahren/videos/1017506241675896/

I'll wait.

Okay, welcome back.

Now, there's a lot of nuance involved in Jesse Williams' speech. There's the argument that it's easy for people like the ones at the BET awards to comment on the plight of African-Americans, because their own lives are somewhat removed from things like police brutality or profiling or the pay gap (it's been proven that there IS a Hollywood pay gap, but it matters way more on principle than in practice, considering that all big-name Hollywood actors are making absolutely ludicrous amounts of money). There's the idea that perhaps Williams was showboating, that his speech was a bit theatrical and long-running and almost self-serving given the severity of the issues he spoke about. There's the argument--and this is the only one I really find compelling--that being a biracial, light-skinned man talking about black issues is almost as Kiplingesque as a white man talking about the same issues (see: White Man's Burden). As a biracial person myself (albeit one not quite as racially ambiguous as Williams), I often question my place in racial discussions. Should our opinions come with an asterisk?

But colorism and socioeconomic status can be touched on another day. I'm looking at an issue that's just a little bit more black and white (excuse the pun).

Jesse Williams made a lot of phenomenal points. He talked about police brutality in a tender way that highlighted the lives of the victims rather than the death caused at the hands of their blue-clad executioners. He thanked black women, the unsung heroes of political movements and households, and promised to do better by them. He talked about cultural appropriation, the desire of black entertainers to be given modern "brands," as it were, and seamlessly integrated a quote from "Strange Fruit," a poem that remains worth reading in 2016. He was composed, he was articulate, and he never strayed from his intent. He maintained that our work is not done, and that simply being a successful African-American is not enough to stave off the oppression of our less successful brothers and sisters.

I cried when I watched that speech.

Now Tomi. I honestly pity you. Because the hate that you summoned in your response to this speech--a speech that was carefully curated and delivered to convey love, and NOT hate--could only have been learned behavior. Who taught you to hate? Who taught you to willfully dismiss struggles that you cannot understand? You're not a bad person. You've just been benefitting from a system that privileges pretty white women your entire life. What I don't understand is that white women have their own struggles. Being a beautiful woman, it must have been hard to be taken seriously in the fields of entertainment and journalism. You're probably not getting paid as much as your male colleagues for doing similar work. You probably get cat-called on your daily commute. You probably had to work really, really hard just to get where you are, and you're probably discriminated against all the time.

So why can't you see that black people are going through? Why can't you at least acknowledge that there have been miscarriages of justice, even if you don't exactly understand how?

I'm gonna dissect your response now.

You begin by saying that the BET awards were "very black." This is a fair observation, because BET stands for Black Entertainment Television. The need for such an initialism, such a channel, developed in the 20th century when black people were few and far between on major network shows, and if they were featured, they were caricatures and stereotypes, active players in their own degradation--they essentially played themselves in minstrel shows. With BET, black actors and executives took control of their destinies and put forth the programming that they wanted to see. BET has been rightfully criticized for some of its negative portrayals of its own people, through perpetuations of stereotypes in TV shows and music videos. However, while I'm not a huge fan of everything BET puts on the air, I respect what it symbolizes--a place for black entertainers to get their (well-deserved) chance on the small screen. I especially love the BET Awards, where black performers who are snubbed at major (read: white) awards shows can be recognized for their talents.

You then criticize Williams for "police bashing." While Williams brings up Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot dead by police for playing with a toy gun in a public park--among others--you talk about how the phrase "unarmed black man" is only technically accurate. You say that if someone reaches for an officer's gun or uses another object as a means of defense, they don't deserve a "free pass." I'm not up to date on recent cop-on-black attacks, but as far as I know, many of the deaths that have made headlines--and caused outrage in the black community--are not about violent perps savagely beating cops. I, for one, am not a proponent of mindless violence. They're about unarmed--literally and figuratively--black men who are arrested or detained on minor charges, who cooperate with officers, and who are still, for some reason, shot to death. Even in cases where the victims became violent, it was in self-defense.

I'm not going to talk about black people who have only hatred of the police due to a history of abuse. That's not a life I've lived, and I don't think I can speak on that. What I will say is that I don't hate police, and I don't think Jessie Williams hates police. I think he hates police brutality. And while not all cops brutalize their suspects, all police brutality is caused by cops.

You then play a couple of my favorite quotes from Williams' speech. I'll paraphrase: "If you have a critique for our resistance, you better have a record of critiquing our oppression. If you don't believe in equal rights for black people, then do not offer suggestions for those who do. Sit down."

You ask what rights black people don't have. Well, just to name a few: many predominantly black neighborhoods have been systematically disenfranchised, meaning that despite voting rights for all having been put on the books ~50 years ago, the government is still finding ways to stop black people from doing so; the wage gap between white men and black women, Asian woman, and Latina women is far greater than the wage gap between white men and white women; studies have been done proving that people with "ethnic sounding" names are more likely to be rejected by employers even if they have the same qualifications as applicants with "white sounding" names; and people of color are dramatically underrepresented (and badly represented) in mainstream media (Asians and Latinos actually struggle with this far more than black people, but blacks are still not being represented accurately). Oh, right. And black men are seven times more likely to be shot and killed by police while unarmed than white men are.

So, yeah. We'd just like the vote (regardless of where we live), equal pay, fair opportunities at employment, adequate representation in the media, and also not to die because some (NOT ALL JUST SOME) police officers are scared of black people. You seem to be fine with how things are now. That's really saying something about what you think of people of color.

You also say that white people have a track record of critiquing our oppression by citing that a lot of white people fought for the North in the Civil War. Well, Tomi, if we're gonna get historical, allow me to point out that the only reason there was slavery in America in the first place was because white people went to Africa and stole black people from their homes to make them work for no money. And then they physically and verbally abused them for centuries and implemented a political system that would continue to disadvantage them to the present day.

Williams wasn't TALKING about the Civil War in that moment. He was talking about modern individuals who are so quick to silence black voices in the discussion of equality for being illogical or overemotional or combative, when they never once criticize our oppressors for the ills they cause.

Your point about white Southern Democrats fighting FOR slavery is also just bizarre. An American history teacher can tell you that after the Civil War, the parties realigned their beliefs, and so what we now consider to be Democrats would actually have been Republicans in the 1800s, and vice versa. Sooooooo.

You then tell Jesse Williams to check his privilege and accuses people like him of dividing America, not white people. This statement absolutely blows my mind. I can't even really put into words how ignorant it is to suggest that black people are the source of racial hatred in the United States.

You also say that you pity him if he thinks he's a victim. Well, if you pay attention to other parts of his speech, you'll notice that he's not talking about himself, and he even calls out his own financial success, as well as the success of others in the room. They know that they, personally, are not victims. But they speak for a community of oppressed people. To be wealthy and famous and black brings you a powerful platform for the poor and the disconnected. Williams is reminding his fortunate counterparts that their job is to do the work that others can't, to represent their race as strong and intelligent and creative and beautiful, to speak for the voiceless.

Another troubling point you bring up is that Williams seems to be asking for special treatment instead of equal rights. Here is a comic that might explain what he's actually talking about:


Great. Now we've got that covered.

You end by telling Jesse Williams that HE is the one who needs to "sit down." In a way, it's fitting that you conclude with this statement. It's condescending and uneducated and coming from a place of fear--a fear of black strength, beauty, and intelligence that has flowed through white people since the 1600s, when we were brought over here on slave ships, and fear of your own falling empire. White people in positions of power will do everything they can to prevent minorities from rising up. It's hard to see from this angle, given all the progress that we've made. But those old systems are still in place--creaky and precarious, but still there. And people like you, Tomi Lahren, seem to want to keep it that way.

I wrote this in a fit of inspiration after watching your video, Tomi, but I now know that this isn't addressed to you. If you even read this, you won't be changed by it. You'll say that I'm just like Jesse Williams, that I'm trying to racially divide our peoples, that I'm playing the victim, that I want a "gold star just for being born." Even though none of those things are true, you're going to keep believing it, because it makes you feel better. You don't want to acknowledge the awful things that some of your white ancestors did. You don't want to acknowledge the awful things that white people today, your counterparts, are still doing. You'd rather have black people comfort you and tell you that racism is over because it makes you feel good than to do something about the injustices that are playing out on stages all over the country to this day.

So yeah, this isn't really addressed to you. It's addressed to anyone who had a serious problem with Jesse Williams' speech. It's addressed to anyone who doesn't want to talk about race anymore. This is a letter for anyone who somehow believes that 2016 is just another year in post-racial America.

Best,
Jensen

Saturday, June 25, 2016

In Defense of Affirmative Action - Unpacking #StayMadAbby and the Secrets of College Admission

I am not going to be citing statistics or studies or Supreme Court cases in this post because this blog is not a news source. This is my opinion, though I do believe that it is a compelling one. If you'd like to see hard facts supporting my opinion, the Internet is full of valuable resources.

I was accepted into two prestigious universities during my senior year of high school, one of which I ended up attending (the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California). The other institution was ranked higher on lists comparing national universities, and when the news broke of my acceptance - I'd like to add that I didn't intend for the news to spread so broadly and so quickly - I experienced a wide variety of reactions. There was support from friends and acquaintances who were just proud and excited for me. There was indifference from people who didn't know me or didn't care about such goings on. And there was vitriol. The vitriol was fueled by jealousy - people who weren't accepted to the same or similar universities (one friend said, "Oh, I guess they're just letting everyone in now") - as well as other tensions. As much as people would hate to admit it, that tension was sometimes racially driven. At an academically rigorous and competitive high school, many people were vying for the precious few spots at these top universities, and in their eyes, I had taken a spot that belonged to them (which, it should be noted, is not how college admission works). In their (rightful) disappointment, hurt, and anger at being rejected, they lashed out at me. Countless friends told me about classmates who'd said that I didn't deserve to get in and that, because the school was not my first choice, I was taking a spot from someone who really wanted it (again, not how college admission works - after I denied the offer of admission, it was invariably offered to someone else, perhaps even one of my own classmates who'd been deferred). When discussing a rejection with one of my close friends, they said: "well, we can't all be black, Jewish women." The statement was problematic on a number of levels. One, it assumes that being Jewish or being a woman is helpful in college admission, when in fact both of those attributes are somewhat detrimental in the process (more Jews and more women are applying to college every year; women are even starting to outnumber men in that pool, as far as I know). Two, it assumes that if you're lacking those attributes, it's a given that you will be rejected from your top choice school. And three - and most insidious, in my opinion - this statement assumes that the only reason I was accepted into that selective school was because of my race.

I tried to laugh it off and counter this person's moment of hurtful commentary, but they remained steadfast. They laughed, too, but did not say that they were kidding or retract the statement. They simply said something else to affirm it and moved on.

I was not accepted into my top choice colleges because I am black.

It is frowned upon, for some reason, to talk about one's own qualifications and achievements, but I'm going to do it. I had a good GPA in high school. I tested above the median at my school on the SAT (and the median score at my school is no joke). I participated in a lot of extracurricular activities and achieved leadership positions in many of them. I took foreign language for all four years and, in doing so, finished the entire Spanish curriculum. I got good recommendations and wrote good essays.

I wasn't the perfect candidate. I didn't play sports or write for the newspaper or work on the yearbook or take an AP science. But what made me a great candidate for these schools - aside from the academic proof that I could do all the work - was how different I was from the other applicants. My extracurricular activities were unusual--improv, slam poetry, peer counseling, admission work, and a random stint as a student council rep my senior year. My essays were funny and conversational and emotional - they sounded more like memoirs than a paper you'd turn in for an English class. I submitted a video supplement of my original songs to the other school I applied to, a school that didn't offer very many music classes, let alone a degree in popular music performance. And yes, also, I am black.

But again, I was not accepted because I am black. I was accepted because I'm different.

Racial diversity is a huge part of college admission. Colleges seek to slightly increase their percentages of minority students every year, and many universities are reaching out to minority communities in newer and better ways in order to do that. It is a beautiful thing, because while I am a racial minority in a position of economic privilege, there are many people with my skin color who are not in the same boat socioeconomically. Colleges at every level of selectivity offer a way up and out of bad situations. On still another positive note, the more people of color graduate from four-year universities, the more role models that young people of color will have. It will be a cycle of productivity, mobility, success--you get the picture.

But while racial diversity is a huge part of college admission, by far the biggest part of the process is experiential diversity. Colleges want people from all walks of life. What sets you apart? It might be your race. But it might be your socioeconomic status. It might be a death or a divorce in your youth that made you stronger when you overcame it. It might be that you published a novel or wrote a hit song or invented a machine that makes people's lives easier. More than likely, it will be a combination of all these things. Experiential diversity in all communities, especially academic communities, enriches the life experience of all involved. No matter how numerically qualified you are to attend a university, if there are a thousand versions of you out there vying for the same spots, there's a chance you won't get admitted. That's yet another thing you have to consider in this process. I was admitted because I was qualified, and because I was different, but also because I got lucky. This whole thing is a numbers game, people! At the end of the day, they only have a few seats to fill. You might have done great things, but it might be that there's just not enough space for you. In cases like that, I PROMISE that you will wind up at an equally great school. Seriously. I know this for a fact.

If you are academically qualified and experientially diverse, you will get in somewhere great. So chill on that front. If you got rejected, I promise it's not because you're white. It's because they didn't think you'd fit, or because they already had people like you in the class. Think about it this way: at the place you do end up going to school, you'll be one-of-a-kind! (Or at least just a few of a kind!)

Affirmative action is an evolving policy. It's clear that when under-qualified applicants are accepted and ultimately attend rigorous universities, they do poorly and/or drop out. But more than likely, when a student with grades or test scores below a university's median that winds up going there, there's a pretty good reason. They have proven that they are capable of overcoming obstacles. They have a kind of intelligence that isn't accurately measured with regular modes of testing. They have a hidden talent. They have untapped potential. And someone in that admission office saw it. Affirmative action forces a university to consider things outside of test scores and grades which, let's be honest, are a pretty antiquated way of determining how a student will fare in the "real world." I fully acknowledge that there is a need to standardize the way they evaluate academic ability, but I am thrilled that they are seeking more holistic and unconventional ways to do so, too.

I'm writing this because I'm still seeing articles about people going to court over being rejected from their dream school. I'm writing this because this year, when the Class of 2016 gets their college decisions, frustrated white students are going to lash out at students of color for their success. I'm writing this because I want you to know, whoever you are, that if you work hard and be your best self, things will work out for you. And I'm writing this because I'm proud of my achievements and I don't want there to be any confusion about why I do what I do. I do well. I stand out. And sometimes, I get lucky. I bet you will, too.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May Playlist

May Playlist

Hey all. Summer is being enjoyed, Criminal Minds is being binged, and smoothies are being blended. I'm living it up. Haven't listened to this playlist all that much, but they're all beautiful tunes. Enjoy, my friends.

1. "Bang Bang" - 3:04
ALBUM: Bang Bang
ARTIST: Lawrence Taylor

2. "Fools" - 3:24
ALBUM: Fools
ARTIST: Wild Child

3. "Whenever You Hold Me" - 2:53
ALBUM: EP3
ARTIST: JP Cooper

4. "Simple Twist of Fate" - 4:17
ALBUM: Blood On The Tracks
ARTIST: Bob Dylan

5. "Punks and Poets" - 4:04
ALBUM: 2
ARTIST: Elliot Root

6. "Home of Stone" - 3:47
ALBUM: Home of Stone
ARTIST: Max Pope

7. "So They Say" - 2:57
ALBUM: September Songs
ARTIST: Rukhsana Merrise

8. "Can't Stop the Feeling" -  3:56
ALBUM: Can't Stop the Feeling
ARTIST: Justin Timberlake

9. "California" - 3:05
ALBUM: Jakarta
ARTIST: Kina Grannis

A short playlist for a month too full for much reflective music listening. Next couple months, I plan to  listen to more. This summer, I'm trying to take care of myself and prepare for what will surely be a grueling school year ahead. I always thought I knew exactly who I was. But hey, maybe I'm wrong. I think a lot of things are about to change for me. Or at least, I hope they do.

Talk soon. xo

Monday, May 16, 2016

An Open Letter to the USC Pop Kids, Class of 2020

(No, this won't be anything like the Odyssey).

To the next generation of pop kids:

First off, congratulations! It was a huge accomplishment just getting here.

You are in excellent company. This much, I can guarantee you. Your 20-30 classmates are all wildly skilled vocalists, instrumentalists, and/or songwriters. Over the course of your first year, you will become really close with them. It might not seem like that the first time you meet. It might be awkward or scary; after all, many of you have never been around this many hyper-talented, ambitious musicians at once. But don't be scared. They don't bite. ;)

You are going to be exhausted. A lot. I compared my class schedule with a neuroscience major on my floor last year. We spent the same amount of hours in class (and, in my case, rehearsal). Yep, that's right, you have as many hours of classes as the premed kids. The difference is that your 22+ hours of class will be spent making music, listening to music, or learning about how it works. Plus, you're suffering through it with a crazy cast of characters that will ultimately see right through to the most fragile parts of your soul. Ain't life grand?!

Probably the most important thing I can tell you is that you belong here. During your freshman year, you are going to doubt this. When Andy roasts you during performance class, or you bomb a theory exam, or you don't practice enough for individual instruction and you can't fake your way through your pieces, you're going to wonder if you made the right choice. You're going to think fondly of high school, middle school, any time prior to this when music was just a hobby instead of your job. But in those moments, I will urge you to reach inside of yourself for the hot, bright will to create that brought you here. I want you to think about how much music has hurt and healed you. I want you to reflect on the exploding days and empty nights where all you could think about was the soundtrack to what you were feeling. And I want you to remember that you are one of the people with the unique blessing/curse to make the music for someone else's soundtrack. You are good enough to do it. You owe it to yourself to try your best.

Here are some tips, pieces of advice, and pearls of wisdom that I gathered during my first year of college as a pop music major at USC:

1. Everyone is having a breakdown, just had one, or is about to have one. Don't trust anyone who doesn't have a breakdown their freshman year of college.

2. Your professors are only hard on you because you have the potential to get better. No teacher has ever bothered yelling at a lost cause.

3. There are dozens upon dozens of VoCal ragers, Gateway hangs, EP launches, and Egg Carton kickbacks. Feel free to stay in some nights and skip the predictable chaos of college parties.

4. Your classmates are going to get cool opportunities, and you are going to be jealous of them. This is okay. There is more space for you to succeed than you think.

5. Hook up with other pop kids at your own risk. But I say go for it, if it sounds fun to you. What am I, your mom? (Actually, don't answer that).

6. Do your theory and aural skills homework. Please just do it. Okay? You don't even have to go to office hours or study for tests. But just do it. Please. All right. Good talk.

7a. You are probably going to fall in love with someone in your pop class, or in one of the other pop classes. You are probably going to write songs about them. Play those songs at your shows, even if they're in the audience; I guarantee they will be some of your best.

7b. As an addendum to the above: they probably won't even know you wrote it about them, unless you say your name or something. So seriously, go for it.

8. You are going to be tempted to collaborate with literally every person in your program. Do it. They're definitely talented, and whether or not you get along, you will learn something from the experience.

9a. Ask your teachers a lot of questions, both in and out of the classroom. Pretty much all of them have had a foot in the door of the industry, and they're going to have great advice.

9b. As an addendum to the above: ask the same question to 10 people, and you will get 10 different answers. You get to pick which one you use.

10. Make friends with people outside the pop program. There's a great big world out there, and you'll lose sight of it if you spend all your time talking about Father John Misty and how underrated the minor five is as a chord.

11. If you've never heard of that album/artist/song, don't pretend that you have. Trust me, whoever you're talking to is gonna notice.

12. Don't be intimidated by the older pop kids. Believe it or not, they were not always the cigarette-smoking, smooth-talking musical geniuses that they are today. Once, they were timid freshmen, as uncertain about their taste in music as they were about their sexual preferences. Make friends with the older kids so you can get out of your dorm every once in a while.

13. Go to pop forum. I swear, the one class you miss will be the one where Linda Perry interviews your friends and makes them cry onstage (and yes, that happened first semester). So even though it's oh-so-easy to skip, you really should go.

14. The performance finals are exactly as much as fun as they look, if not a million times more so. So no matter what time slot you draw, no matter what song Andy gives for your solo, no matter how much you and your band mates fought during the quarter, don't forget to have fun up there--this is what you've been waiting for. And you only get four shots at it freshman year, so don't screw it up. ;)

15. Me and my classmates got Andy guitar picks with our class picture on them. You will not be able to top this gift, but don't forget to show your professors how much you care about them. Freshman year is all about laying foundations; they're putting you on a long road to success.

16. Learn your part for performance class. Your band mates will understand if it's a little rocky at the first rehearsal, but if you're messing up changes or rhythms on Tuesday, it's not gonna be pretty. You've got a week. Learn the part.

17. It's okay to cry onstage. Whether you're rehearsing in TMC Auditorium or doing a run-through at Carson during performance class or hitting the last chord of your last song during the midterm at Ground Zero, you can let tears the roll. You're not a robot, after all.

18. No one has any idea what they're doing for the first couple weeks, so for God's sake, TALK TO EACH OTHER. None of you are going to survive this if you all pretend like everything is fine. Make friends. Go get coffee. Hang out in each other's dorm rooms, eating Mega Stuf Oreos (you're welcome, people who didn't know those existed). Laugh and cry and bond. This business is crazy. You need as many friends as you can get.

19. Go to your friend's shows, even if they're in weird coffee shops off-campus. I get that you won't be able to go to everyone's gigs. But if you don't have anything else to do, get a group together and split an Uber four ways to Alhambra. You have no idea how much it means to the person performing. Plus, going off-campus guarantees non-dining hall food. And how can you turn THAT down?

20. It's okay to feel like you're not enough. But don't worry. You are.

Okay, you're ready now. Enjoy your freshman year. Remember all the things I've told you. Be good. Be safe. And as always, fight on.

Friday, April 29, 2016

April Playlist

April Playlist

As promised, here is my April playlist, live from the last day of classes for spring term!

So freshman year is basically done. I've got some finals the next two weeks, but only just barely. This is strange.

Here are my tunes for this month. Spotify link - https://open.spotify.com/user/12149039602/playlist/3W35KQQvJJUPUNlqiFdyma - and songs under the cut:

1. "Need Somebody to Love" - 6:00
ALBUM: This is My EP
ARTIST: Ady Suleiman

2. "Don't Tell Our Friends About Me" - 5:20
ALBUM: Heigh Ho
ARTIST: Blake Mills

3. "Bloodstyle" - 3:25
ALBUM: Half About Being a Woman
ARTIST: Caroline Smith

4. "Things Are Changin' - Live [Solo Acoustic] - 4:31
ALBUM: The Bright Lights - Australian Tour Edition
ARTIST: Gary Clark Jr.

5. "Better Man" - 4:43
ALBUM: Count Your Blessings
ARTIST: George Ogilvie

6. "Everything To Me" - 3:23
ALBUM: Hand Picked vol 2
ARTIST: Mark Wilkinson

7. "Open Arms" - 3:49
ALBUM: Open Arms
ARTIST: RKCB, Demo Taped

8. "Hometown Hero" - 3:44
ALBUM: The Bearer of Bad News
ARTIST: Andy Shauf

9. "To Be Alone With You" - 2:48
ALBUM: Seven Swans
ARTIST: Sufjan Stevens

10. "Kids These Days" - 3:33
ALBUM: Jillian Jacqueline
ARTIST: Jillian Jacqueline

11. "Angela" - 3:22
ALBUM: Angela
ARTIST: The Lumineers

12. "Love Is Beginning" - 3:43
ALBUM: Sunlight
ARTIST: Imaginary Future

13. "How Can I" - 3:22
ALBUM: Short Movie
ARTIST: Laura Marling

14. "Beach" - 2:56
ALBUM: Proof Enough EP
ARTIST: Will Joseph Cook

15. "Call It Heaven (feat. Esmé Patterson)" - 3:11
ALBUM: And The War Came
ARTIST: Shakey Graves

16. "You Go Down Smooth" - 3:29
ALBUM: Bad Self Portraits
ARTIST: Lake Street Dive

17. "Boys Like You" - 3:15
ALBUM: Boys Like You
ARTIST: Who Is Fancy, Meghan Trainor, Ariana Grande

18. "Someone New" - 4:41
ALBUM: Goddess
ARTIST: Banks

19. "I Had a Real Good Lover" - 6:32
ALBUM: Mouthoil
ARTIST: The Shouting Matches

20. "Mama, You Been On My Mind" - 2:55
ALBUM: The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare and Unreleased) 1961-1991
ARTIST: Bob Dylan

Those are the 20 songs I've been bumping this month, plus a good vibes playlist I created I may post here at some point. Freshman year was...I don't want to list adjectives, because they always feel cliche. But rest assured that freshman year was. And yours will be too.

Monday, March 28, 2016

March Playlist

March Playlist

Yo. It's time for this thing. I'm so ready for this semester to be over. Only five weeks to go till summer...

(HELP ME)

In all honesty, I've had a really great first year of college so far, but I'm totally wiped from all this music-learning and rehearsing and paper-writing and socializing with other humans. This whole college thing takes a lot out of you. But I've got my tunes, so that's a plus. Here we go. The Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/user/12149039602/playlist/3Cva3C17VU4tf1yrfA9tnU and the list of tracks:

1. "In My Life" - 2:26
ALBUM: Rubber Soul
ARTIST: The Beatles

2. "The Heaviest Stars" -3:59
ALBUM: Ford Turrell
ARTIST: Ford Turrell

3. "Pretty Words" - 4:58
ALBUM: Little Sway
ARTIST: Crissi Cochrane

4. "Lover Come Back" - 3:55
ALBUM: If I Should Go Before You
ARTIST: City and Colour

5. "Sleeping in My T-Shirt" - 3:37
ALBUM: Lip Service
ARTIST: Zak Waters

6. "For You" - 3:02
ALBUM: Bitter Pill
ARTIST: Gavin James

7. "Girls Like Me" - 3:15
ALBUM: Girls Like Me
ARTIST: Will Joseph Cook

8. "Hand Covers Bruise" - 4:19
ALBUM: The Social Network
ARTIST: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

9. "Lift Me Up (feat. Nick Hakim)" - 3:51
ALBUM: Red Balloon
ARTIST: Gizmo

10. "Again" - 2:56
ALBUM: Anything.
ARTIST: Def Sound

11. "Drive" - 3:16
ALBUM: Oh Wonder
ARTIST: Oh Wonder

12. "Museum of Flight" - 2:51
ALBUM: Maraqopa
ARTIST: Damien Jurado

13. "American Beauty" - 2:38
ALBUM: Medicine
ARTIST: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors

14. "Campus" - 2:56
ALBUM: Vampire Weekend
ARTIST: Vampire Weekend

15. "Lost in My Mind" - 4:19
ALBUM: The Head and the Heart
ARTIST: The Head and the Heart

16. "If the Hudson Overflows" - 3:57
ALBUM: Aerogramme
ARTIST: Goldspot

17. "Good to Sea" - 3:12
ALBUM: Autumn of the Seraphs
ARTIST: Pinback

18. "Anchor" - 4:16
ALBUM: Anchor
ARTIST: Novo Amor

19. "The African Way - Live In New York" - 4:45
ALBUM: The Dusty Food On The Road
ARTIST: K'NAAN

20. "Love And Happiness" - 5:04
ALBUM: Greatest Hits
ARTIST: Al Green

21. "Colors" - 2:40
ALBUM: Amos Lee
ARTIST: Amos Lee

22. "Pain In My Heart" - 2:25
ALBUM: Pain In My Heart
ARTIST: Otis Redding

23. "In The Waiting Line" - 4:32
ALBUM: RECORD
ARTIST: Zero 7

That'll do it for this one. The next playlist I post will probably be my last day of classes, or around then, at least, which boggles the mind. I vividly remember move-in day, my first day of classes, my first pop midterm...all of it. Maybe I'll write a post about this ridiculously busy, seismically shifting year. But maybe when all this finally ends, I'll just lay face down and stop scribbling my thoughts everywhere. We'll see. Talk soon. xo

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Very Dark and Very Quiet

I'm writing this because it's 10pm on a Thursday and a friend of mine just got some really awful, awful news. The world seems like a very quiet, very dark place right now.

I spent the last half hour or so just scrolling through my own Facebook profile. I stopped at spring 2014. I felt myself going through the familiar routine of longing for a time gone by. I mythologize my junior year as the pinnacle of my adolescent happiness--still somewhat isolated from my peers, but okay with it; content with my group of friends; happy with my body; doing well in school; succeeding in my extracurriculars. I also look back on it as the time B.G.C., or Before Grammy Camp, when my life was turned upside down in a way that I can't quite explain. To put it vaguely, my life was simpler before I met the people at that magic summer camp. My life is not better or worse now, just a great deal more complicated.

But the truth is, if I really force myself to remember my junior year, I know that it wasn't perfect. There were nights when I was incredibly stressed out by my demanding course load. There were weekends when I felt lonely because I wasn't out on dates or at parties with my classmates. And there were days where I was bored or insecure or mad at my family or unproductive with my writing because that is how the world works. No stretch of time is ever as perfect as we remember it to be.

More to the point, when I was a junior in high school, I looked back on years prior as simpler times, specifically middle school. And it's true, it was simpler. But the biggest truth is that the simplest time of my life was when I was an infant, and it's because I only knew like five people, all of whom were related to me. The more people there are in your life, the more complicated it becomes. This is the hardest lesson I've learned through growing up. The only way to keep things simple is to shut everyone out. But simple is lonely. Even for an introvert who would gladly spend all day holed up in a room with just a piano, a laptop, and a bag of snacks.

Even though I know my obsession with my junior year is dumb, I still find myself wishing I could go back to late 2013 and early 2014. I want to relive those days, when I still lived at home, when I was surrounded by people who I knew so well, albeit people who I didn't always click with. That's another thing about being a freshman in college: even the closest friendships feel so transient. The person I consider my closest friend is someone I met in September. We've only known each other for six months. The friendships I had when I graduated high school were founded on four to six years of meals and movies and sleepovers and study dates. Now what is it? Parties in which I took care of their drunken, stumbling bodies? A few chance deep conversations in their dorm rooms? Some especially productive jam sessions at the music school?

I guess what I'm saying now is that despite how truly incredible the people at my university are, I still feel very disconnected. I can count on one hand the number of times I've formed a real, long-lasting bond with someone on an immediate basis (it's probably only been once). For the most part, my friendships are a slow burn. I haven't completely opened up to anyone I've met at college. There are certain parts of myself that I don't trust with other people. I don't know how to change that. Maybe it's best that I don't.

This post doesn't have a thesis statement or even a point. But it's 10pm, and I am writing, because the world is very dark, and very quiet.

Talk soon. xo

Sunday, February 28, 2016

February Playlist

February Playlist

Hey there, fam! It's time for another monthly playlist, this one coming in just under the wire. Thank goodness for leap day, right?

This month has been great in a lot of ways. I shot the short film I wrote with a great group of friends, and just last week I got to perform for Lamont Dozier, one of the most influential songwriters in the history of American pop music. But this month also kept me pretty grounded and stable. I've kept up my healthy eating regimen and continued losing weight. I feel like a person, almost. But I'm very much ready for spring break, which is just two weeks away now...

Anyway, onto the tunes! You can check it out for yourself on Spotify here - https://open.spotify.com/user/12149039602/playlist/5JTrB7QGv33ShiXUeBLqwH - or view the tracks I've got listed just down below. Happy listening!

1. "The Animals" - 3:45
ALBUM: The Switch
ARTIST: Emily King

2. "Elijah" - 4:10
ALBUM: Elijah
ARTIST: Matthew and the Atlas

3. "Georgia" - 4:04
ALBUM: The Seven EP
ARTIST: Emily King

4. "Fidelity" - 3:46
ALBUM: Begin to Hope
ARTIST: Regina Spektor

5. "The Wait" - 2:15
ALBUM: Goon
ARTIST: Tobias Jesso Jr.

6. "Dark Side of the Moon" - 3:27
ALBUM: American Soft
ARTIST: Chris Staples

7. "Rusty Old American Dream" - 2:38
ALBUM: How Did You Find Me Here
ARTIST: David Wilcox

8. "We Don't Talk Anymore (feat. Selena Gomez)" - 3:38
ALBUM: Nine Track Mind
ARTIST: Charlie Puth

9. "River" - 3:41
ALBUM: River
ARTIST: Bishop

10. "Blossom" - 3:44
ALBUM: Carry The Ghost
ARTIST: Noah Gundersen

11. "All the Ways" - 3:33
ALBUM: All the Ways
ARTIST: Wet

12. "Better" - 3:06
ALBUM: Better
ARTIST: Banks

13. "Love Yourself" - 3:54
ALBUM: Purpose
ARTIST: Justin Bieber

14. "To Know Him Is To Love Him - Live" - 2:24
ALBUM: Back to Black: B-Sides
ARTIST: Amy Winehouse

15. "Love Within" - 3:00
ALBUM: Shangri La EP
ARTIST: James Tillman

16. "Money Can't Buy (Single)" - 3:22
ALBUM: Money Can't Buy (Single)
ARTIST: Howard

17. "After The Storm" - 4:08
ALBUM: Sigh No More
ARTIST: Mumford & Sons

That'll do it for my February playlist. My spring semester is really flying by. It's hard to believe that soon I'll be done with my freshman year. It seems so recent that I was in high school, dreaming of this mythical better life on the other side of graduation, and yet also so very distant in the past. The thing I've realized about growing up is that I find myself looking back at who I was five or ten years ago and wondering what it is she would think of me now. I think she'd be proud. I hope so.

Talk soon, everybody. xo

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Teenagers and Our Culture of Bingeing Culture

I'm a big fan of youth binge culture with regard to media consumption.

I'm sure sociologists and journalists have branded this phenomenon with their own pithy soundbites, but I'm going to call it like I see it. Teenagers have a tendency to binge--sometimes on destructive things, but that's another story--especially when it comes to media. We find a band we like; we listen to all their albums on Spotify, watch all their music videos, watch interviews with the lead singer. We find a good TV show; we barrel through all eight seasons in three weeks on Netflix (what? I didn't say that. I've never done that. I have a healthy relationship with television). We see a great stand-up special; we spend hours scouring YouTube for clips of that comedian doing other shows. It's a habit that I've fallen into. The Internet makes it easy. But I'm in a bit of a rut right now. I'm not in the process of bingeing anything at all.

I could start in with some new TV show or explore the discography of an artist I've never listened to. But instead, I've decided to examine what it is, exactly, that drives me to do this. Part of it is my obsessive personality; I'm very all or nothing, so if I like something, I'm gonna invest myself into it as much as possible. But I think it's a process that many people in my generation go through.

At the age of 18, I'm only just now entering the world of mass media. As a child and even somewhat as a teenager, my tastes were mandated by what I was allowed to watch and what was marketed towards me. Though I've always been very individualistic, it wasn't until the end of high school that I began discovering things that weren't recommended to me by my parents or commercials for shows I was already watching. This mainly took the form of stand-up comedy, a long-forbidden haven of jokes both dirty and way over my head, but also in new kinds of literature, interesting music, and bizarre movies (Being John Malkovich is my second favorite movie and also the weirdest thing I've ever seen).

The moment teenagers like me enter this realm of new entertainment possibilities, we go a little bit crazy. We are at such a fascinating point in history in which if I find something I like to consume, I can view it over and over again or use the endless archive of the Internet to find things similar to it. I don't have to go to the library or the record store or the Blockbuster. Almost everything I want to watch, read, or listen to is available on my laptop, in my bedroom, and a lot of it is free.

However, there is a point at which we run out of material on a particular subject. I'm going to use Louis C.K. as an example. I found one of his specials, "Oh My God," on Netflix, remembered hearing his name in some context, and decided to check it out. I laughed harder at that special than I have at anything in my entire life. I eagerly await the idea that someone or something makes me laugh that hard again. I was so enamored of his POV and style that I quickly digested his other specials and began combing the web for more clips of him in interviews and his TV show, Louie. I like Louie (from what I've seen, which is only about half a season), but to me it's not as rip-roaringly hilarious as his stand-up, so now I'm at a bit of an impasse. I can keep rewatching his specials on Netflix or through his website, but I'm going to have to wait a while for new material. Joining the Louis C.K. boat this late meant a tremendous backlog of content for me to watch, but also missed opportunities to see him on tour or get access to the new stuff just as it was coming out. I'm constantly searching for his name in the news to see if he's got a new tour or special planned, but he came out with something in May of 2015 (that I loved), so it's going to be a minute.

Same thing with me and John Mayer. My senior year of high school I became obsessed with him. He's one of my all-time favorite artists, and he wrote my all-time favorite song ("In Your Atmosphere," which is on his live album Where the Light Is). I spent most of 2015 listening to his albums, of which there are many. Now that I've heard every song of his (I believe), I've grown incredibly impatient for his next record, which is due out in the fall. Every time he posts on social media about it, I freak out for like ten minutes and start imagining it and how incredible it will be because he's going in the studio with the same people who made Continuum which I believe is inarguably his best album and maybe one of the best albums of all--

I need to relax with this whole John Mayer thing, I'm aware.

I think my point is that while there are drawbacks to the way that teenagers consume artistic content-- in the way that we essentially overdose on an artist or media personality and very quickly run out of our supply--it's a pretty great time to be alive. And while I am very eager for my favorite creators to put out new products, the old stuff is always just a click away. And it always stands up to another binge.

Friday, January 29, 2016

January Playlist

January Playlist

Well, we've all got our first month of 2016 under our belt, which means it's time for me to give you guys a playlist of what I've been bumping. I decided to change things up this year, and make public playlists on Spotify for everything I listen to! So here's a link:

https://open.spotify.com/user/12149039602/playlist/3O8G7JY6Rtc0kTufxaeM11

If you want to get a preview of what's on there, though, here are the tracks all written out the old-fashioned way:

1. "Fly - Acoustic" - 3:32
ARTIST: Meadowlark
ALBUM: Dual

2. "Georgia" - 3:51
ALBUM: Dream Your Life Away
ARTIST: Vance Joy

3. "Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)" - 2:51
ALBUM: I Love You, Honeybear
ARTIST: Father John Misty

4. "Something" - 3:53
ALBUM: Sprained Ankle
ARTIST: Julien Baker

5. "The New Year" - 4:06
ALBUM: Transatlanticism
ARTIST: Death Cab for Cutie

6. "Everything is Temporary" - 4:06
ALBUM: Songs for Felix
ARTIST: The Nova Darlings

7. "Devil Side" - 3:59
ALBUM: Devil Side
ARTIST: Foxes

8. "Way Back When" - 3:26
ALBUM: In A Perfect World
ARTIST: Kodaline

9. "T-Shirt Weather" - 3:14
ALBUM: T-Shirt Weather
ARTIST: Circa Waves

10. "Reaper" - 3:38
ALBUM: This Is Acting
ARTIST: Sia

11. "Outer Space feat. Genevieve)" - 3:31
ALBUM: Outer Space (feat. Genevieve) - Single
ARTIST: G, Genevieve

12. "Loudspeaker" - 3:30
ALBUM: Loudspeaker - Single
ARTIST: MUNA

13. Heartbeats" - 2:42
ALBUM: Imperial Recordings Best Of
ARTIST: José Gonzalez

14. "The Sound" - 4:09
ALBUM: The Sound
ARTIST: The 1975

15. "Feels" - 3:03
ALBUM: Feels
ARTIST: Kiiara

16. "You're Such A" - 3:36
ALBUM: HAIZ
ARTIST: Hailee Steinfeld

17. "Worry" - 4:01
ALBUM: Remnants
ARTIST: Jack Garratt

18. "1612" - 3:20
ALBUM: Fugue State
ARTIST: Vulfpeck

19. "Elevate" - 5:08
ALBUM: When The Night
ARTIST: St. Lucia

20. "Clay & Cast Iron" - 2:56
ALBUM: Birds Say
ARTIST: Darlingside

Those are the 20 songs I've been listening to this past month! 2016 is off to a good start. I'm feeling mostly content and calm (even though I've got a WRIT-150 essay to finish and a whole boatload of cover sheets for performance class to do...but let's not muddy this beautiful Friday with talk of schoolwork). I'm eating healthy, dressing confidently, and just in general trying to enjoy my life. I've been writing down good memories every day and putting them in this ceramic box I've got in my dorm room. At the end of the semester, I'm gonna dump 'em all out and look at all the cool things I did. I've tried to do it before but I always forgot; here's hoping I keep it up! On an unrelated note...don't give up hope. Don't put your life on hold for someone that isn't making themselves available to you, for whatever reason. But if you've been waiting a little while...well, there's gotta be a reason, right? So keep moving forward and living and making changes--but save a little space inside yourself for the waiting thing. It might surprise you someday. Talk soon. xo

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Favorite Slams! (Part I)

Hey, all! As some of you may know, I am an amateur slam poet. I was on my slam poetry team for two years in high school and my senior year, my team came in third place in the finals for the Get Lit Classic Slam, one of the biggest poetry competitions for teens in Los Angeles. A video of a poem I did with my friend Alex wound up on Button Poetry, which is THE premier YouTube channel for slam poetry - aka one of the most exciting things that's ever happened to me! Here's a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfLdvMxeQWg

But I thought I'd also share some of my favorite spoken word pieces by other poets. You can find all of these on Button Poetry, but here's a starter guide to some of the best ones.

Neil Hilborn - "OCD"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnKZ4pdSU-s
The most famous upload to the Button Poetry channel - over 10 million views. Sort of a rite of passage that you watch this first. Subject: love and mental illness. Big stuff.

Neil Hilborn - "The Future"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xUEg2WxGqQ
Another Hilborn piece! One of my all-time favorites. I watch it at least once a week. It just makes me feel good inside. Neil is a really incredible artist. He's also got some books out - I haven't bought any yet but I'm sure they're worth checking out! Subject: mental illness and survival. Beautiful and inspirational.

Dylan Garity - "Rigged Game"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo3KFUzyMUI
Fun fact - Garity helped tape the Get Lit slam for Button Poetry and I got to meet him! I fangirled a lot. He was confused. Fair enough. Anyway, this poem is among the first I watched and it's got a lot of crazy intense one-liners. Whole thing is a must-see. Subject: the state of education in the U.S. He nails it.

Simon Stolzoff - "Boyfriend Material"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVpbvxEd1iE
Hilarious but weirdly sweet. A great poem to watch if you're feeling a bit down and want a good laugh (and to look at a cute boy from UPenn doing slam!) Subject: satire and relationships. Great  combo.

Phil Kaye - "Repetition"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KI6c_IfvHg
I adore Phil Kaye. He always delivers really heartfelt stuff, and this poem is no different. Definitely get his book and watch this little deal. Subject: family issues and speech impediments. He ties them together perfectly.

Anthony McPherson - "All Lives Matter: 1800s Edition"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGR0ihYux6w
HOLY MOTHER. This is one of the most crazy-good videos I have EVER seen. I get chills during every line. McPherson is a poetry god. Subject: race relations across generations. Utterly breathtaking.

Blythe Baird - "When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16Tb_bZZDv0
Heartbreaking and so, so real. Blythe Baird really digs into the hard stuff with this one and it hits especially close to home with me. Subject: eating disorder and body image.

Kevin Kantor & Sienna Burnett - "Phases"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=su75AX_urjU
This poem uses a lot of really great devices to talk about a really tough subject, which I believe is truly the point of great slam - to communicate powerful emotion and politics through wordplay and wit. This poem is exactly that. Subject: sexual orientation and the heartbreaking realities of questioning it. Really beautiful piece that caught me way off-guard.

I'll make another post like this in the future, but if you're trying to figure out why there's so much hype about spoken word, hopefully these videos get you into it. Enjoy, and of course, talk soon. xo