Lover: A Track By Track Review

Everything is Taylor Swift and nothing hurts. This was literally the album I have been waiting for. And I LOVE IT! Taylor’s sixth album, reputation, did grow on me over time. However, Lover ranks up there with 1989 as my favorite album so far!

Time to go into a deep dive, track by track review. Every song will be ranked on a scale of 1-13, 13 being the best.

  1. I Forgot That You Existed: This picks up right where reputation leaves off. Any Swiftie worth their salt knows who this song is about, but I won’t name names cuz Taylor doesn’t! I related to this song as soon as I heard the chorus. It reminds me of that time in my life when I finally let go and forgave the people who put me in a bad state of anxiety for years. I was waiting YEARS for this song! But Taylor is so right. Forgiveness can sometimes be indifference. And I LOVE IT! Favorite lyric: “I forgot that you existed/It isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference.” 12/13
  2. Cruel Summer: This song is a definitely a bop that takes you to Bridge City. Definitely a summer love track with the beat. Think “Blank Space” meets reputation at the beach. It describes falling in love in spite of dealing with hard times. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor makes this a single as she has been dropping the title of this song as an Easter Egg in a few places. Definitely like the song, but LOVE the bridge because it captures Drunk Taylor in love! Favorite lyrics: “I don’t wanna keep secrets just to keep you…And I screamed for whatever it’s worth/’I love you.’ Ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?” 10/13
  3. Lover: Can I slow dance with someone to this song, please? This is such a beautiful 60’s style doo-wop ballad. I can easily see people dancing to this at a wedding or at prom. And the music video captures the story of the album as a whole. Love is shown as imperfect, but it’s still beautiful and worth fighting for. Side note: Can we just appreciate that Taylor FINALLY has someone she can celebrate her birthday and Christmas with? Favorite Lyric: “Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand?/With every guitar string scar on my hand.” 12/13
  4. The Man: THE SHADE OF THIS SONG! This is definitely a feminist anthem. As harsh as the lyrics sound, I have seen this kind of double standard. Nobody blinks an eye at say, John Mayer or Adam Levine when it comes to their love lives and writing songs about their exes, but Taylor Swift’s dating life has been scrutinized and questioned. I also think this puts the whole Scooter Braun deal in a new light, too. If Taylor was a man, I don’t think Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta would shortchange her. Favorite Lyrics: “They’d say I hustled, put in the work/They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve” 12/13
  5. The Archer: This is one of my personal favorites. I loved this song as soon as I heard it. For me, it captures how I feel when I deal with anxiety and how I try to ground myself down. Favorite lyric: “Help me hold onto you.” 13/13
  6. I Think He Knows: Another 60’s style summer love bop. I swear this could be sung by a girl group, especially with the chorus. Postmodern Jukebox, GET ON IT! I can literally dance and skip down the street to this song! (Incidentally, this picture from her Vogue photo shoot comes to mind.) Favorite Lyric: “He got my heartbeat/Skipping down 16th Avenue”13/13
  7. Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince: Imagine if “You Belong With Me” transitioned into “Dear John,” blends with “I Know Places, and “Wildest Dreams” and meets the beat of “So It Goes.” The girl in the dress cries the whole way home and finds love in the midst of the scary times of 2016. Basically, this song captures Taylor’s past six albums in four minutes and I LOVE IT. Can there be a music video for this song, please? Favorite lyric: “The whole school is rolling fake dice
    You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes” 13/13
  8. Paper Rings: A throwback to Grease’s “You’re The One That I Want.” I could dance all night to this song. Incidentally, this song personally makes me think of the main characters of one of my WIPs. Yes, this is another 60’s summer love BOP with lots of awesome little details that takes you to Bridge City again. Favorite lyric: “I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this.”
  9. Cornelia Street: This sounds like a sequel to “Delicate” and there’s evidence that ties Delicate to this song. It also has Red vibes with verses that remind me of “State of Grace,” “Holy Ground,” and the autumn aesthetic. Favorite Lyrics: “And baby, I get mystified by how this city screams your name/And baby, I’m so terrified of if you ever walk away/I’d never walk Cornelia Street again.” 12/13
  10. Death By A Thousand Cuts: This is a classic case of lyrical dissonance (sad lyrics, happy beat) a la “The Story of Us.” According to what I gathered, Taylor was inspired by the Netflix film Someone Great. Unfortunately, I never watched that movie. I can see Taylor going crazy on the piano with this, though. I definitely like it, but it’s not one I particularly relate to and I know for sure that it’s not where Taylor is now. Favorite lyric: “You said it was a great love, one for the ages
    But if the story’s over, why am I still writing pages?” 10/13
  11. London Boy: Do I care if this is probably inaccurate to actual London geography? NOPE! Because all I can think of is a British guy I have a crush on with killer cheekbones and how much this reminds me of said hot British man with his blonde Slayer. SPUFFY FANS LISTEN TO THIS STAT! Favorite Lyrics: “He likes my American smile, like a child when our eyes meet/Darling, I fancy you.” 12/13
  12. Soon You’ll Get Better: This tearjerking track throws everyone back to the Fearless era and talks about Andrea Swift’s battle with cancer and Taylor’s fears of possibly losing her mother. The thing is, though, this can apply to dealing with any loved one who’s battling a disease or even losing them. Favorite lyrics: “And I hate to make this all about me/But who am I supposed to talk to?/What am I supposed to do/If there’s no you?” 11/13
  13. False God: Sorry, Taylor, but this is a track I’m skipping. Tying in religious imagery with sex or making your relationship your idol always turns me off, personally. I understand why some people would like this song cuz it kinda throws back to “Don’t Blame Me.” It sounds nice, but the lyrics unfortunately rub me the wrong way. Lyrics I liked: “Hell is when I fight with you/But we can patch it up good/Make confessions and we’re begging for forgiveness.” 5/13
  14. You Need to Calm Down: Taylor’s most blatantly political song aside from “The Man.” Taylor covers a lot of different stuff people deal with in this song and I definitely like the music video. Seriously wish people could stop saying Taylor is anti-Christian, though. Yes, she swings left and she includes anti-gay protestors in the music video here. I don’t agree with all of her politics, but did we just forget that Westboro Baptist Church exists? Favorite Lyrics: “I’ve learned a lesson that stressin’ and obsessin’ ’bout somebody else is no fun/And snakes and stones never broke my bones” 10/13
  15. Afterglow: Taylor hinted in her “Lover” music video that this song ties into “King of My Heart.” And I can hear the connection. This is a relationship making-up song. What comes to mind for me is Spike and Buffy towards the latter end of Season 6 and all of Season 7. This song points out that relationships can fall apart and that Taylor can own up to her mistakes. Favorite lyrics: “I’m the one who burned us down/But it’s not what I meant/I’m sorry that I hurt you.” 11/13
  16. ME!: I loved Taylor’s first single as soon as I watched the video! The aesthetic alone was just beautiful. And I love that it’s an anthem to loving yourself as you are. Favorite Lyric: “I’m the only one of me. Baby, that’s the fun of me.” 12/13
  17. It’s Nice to Have A Friend. Is it just me or does the music sound Chinese/Japanese? I know that steel drums are used, but the song just gives me shojo light novel anime vibes. It’s the most innocent song on the album. No lyrics stand out to me in particular, though. I like it, but I don’t love it. 7/13.
  18. Daylight. As soon as Taylor shared an Instagram picture with the caption: “Step into the daylight and let go,” I knew I would love whatever song the lyrics came from and I was right. This is the song I relate to the most on here. The chorus and the outro are the best parts and, arguably, the most important thing Taylor ever wrote, IMHO. 13/13.

I wanna be defined by the things that I love
Not the things I hate
Not the things that I’m afraid of, I’m afraid of
Not the things that haunt me in the middle of the night
I, I just think that
You are what you love

Six: The Musical – The Tudor Ladies Tell Their Tale

Ladies and Gentlemen, from across the pond in London and currently showing in Chicago, we bring you a musical revue where the wives of Henry VIII take the stage!

I love finding new musicals through the Internet. Even though I don’t have an obsession with medieval history and only a vague knowledge of the Tudors, I fell in love at first listen with this album.

The premise of this show is basic: The six wives of King Henry VIII (Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr) are updated into a modern day all-girl group with each of them having a song about their lives and their marriage. It’s basically Hamilton crossed with Chicago.

Since the musical only just came to the US, I’m gonna give y’all a track-by-track review/analysis.

  1. Ex-Wives: It starts with the famous rhyme “Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.” This introduces the six ladies and gives everyone a sneak preview of what each lady is like. This is where all the comparisons to Chicago comes from.
  2. No Way: Catherine of Aragon, a woman of integrity. Her track is basically like if Beyonce collaborated with Gloria Estefan to make a break up track. From what little I know about the actual Catherine of Aragon, I think it captures her spirit quite well.
  3. Don’t Lose Ur Head: This track became very popular through the app Tik Tok. It’s a party girl song with a Brit Pop beat. Anne is an opinionated lady, but her opinions and alleged flirtations with other men led to her eventual beheading. But she is #sorrynotsorry.
  4. Heart of Stone: Jane Seymour’s track is very reminiscent of an Adele song, a heartbreaking ballad about how she will be strong no matter what. The fact that she dies after giving birth to Edward just makes this song even more heartbreaking.
  5. House of Holbein: A Eurovision style track about how Anne of Cleves gets a cosmetic makeover for her portrait. It’s a total mood whiplash after Heart of Stone, but it’s also a great commentary on how women got prettied up back in the days before Photoshop and plastic surgery.
  6. Get Down: First of all, Genesis Lynea sounds exactly like Estelle. (In the very slim chance that Estelle reads this…You need to do a cover of this track!) This track gets compared to female hip hop acts. There’s a bit of Beyonce, a bit of Lady Gaga, a bit of Nicki Minaj, Charlie XCX. It’s a very fun track, capturing the vibes of modern day trap mixed with hip hop and techno.
  7. All You Wanna Do: My inner Britney fangirl is in love with this track. But this “Womanizer” track goes tragic fast because you quickly realize that Katherine Howard was used by men throughout her life all she wants is to be loved for her, not for her body. What REALLY hurts is that there are probably a lot of girls out there who can relate to this.
  8. I Don’t Need Your Love: Catherine Parr was in love with someone before she married Henry and she’s been married twice before. But aside from her marriage, Catherine Parr has her own legacy, writing her own reflections on Scripture (which is actually true). This becomes a bridge to the ending, with all the ladies realizing that they can define themselves separate from their marriage to one man.
  9. Six: The title track and my personal favorite. Taking the sound to modern day pop, the six ex-wives rewrite a happy ending for themselves. Catherine joined a nunnery and became a gospel choir singer. Anne Boleyn remixed “Greensleeves” and now collaborates with Shakespeare (Historically inaccurate given their age difference, but if you imagine an afterlife AU, it works). Jane Seymour gets a huge family and makes a band with them. Anne of Cleves takes up with the artist that painted her portrait and goes on tour in Prussia. Catherine Howard becomes a singer, foregoing the musician who took advantage of her. Catherine Parr brings the band together.

Yes, this musical is a feminist revisionist history thing. But it WORKS. It gives you a glimpse of the lives of the wives beyond how their marriage with Henry ended. They deserved a happier ending and in this musical, they finally get it.

If you live in the Chicago area, Six is currently showing until June 30 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. For now, I’m just gonna play this album on repeat!

Taylor Swift’s reputation: Love It or Hate It?

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I’m having a love/hate relationship with reputation era Taylor Swift. So lemme get all the “hate” out of the way first. I had no knowledge of her big scandal/feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. I trust Taylor Swift way more than Kanye and Kim. What I don’t trust Taylor Swift on right now is her love life. This album isn’t exactly “telling it like it is.” And I’m not gonna go into a tirade about how disappointed I am that Taylor is “not that innocent” anymore. Someone else did it for me.

That said, I still love Taylor Swift. In the end, I want her to be happy and I want to believe that once she properly deals with her issues instead of being insecure and drinking too much, she will finally find the happiness she has been looking for.

This blog post won’t be a moral tirade of how Taylor needs to change, though. Instead, I want to tell you whether this album is worth your money on a track-by-track basis. You can buy the individual tracks on Amazon or just listen to the promotional singles on YouTube, but it’s ultimately up to you whether this album is worth your money.

After listening to the album from beginning to end, only two out of the 15 tracks are ones that I can guarantee that everyone will love: “Call It What You Want” and “New Year’s Day.” The rest…well, read on and decide for yourself.

fifteen taylors

There’s also a theory that each of the fifteen Taylors from the end of the “Look What You Made Me Do” represents one of the tracks on this album. I’ll be guessing which Taylor the song might be about.

  1. ...Ready For It? : 6/10. I love the music video for this song more than the song itself. The lyrics are dangerous and provocative. Also, I so don’t believe the line “I’m so very tame now.” Not with the way you’re talking in this track, Taylor! I think the Taylor in the fishnet stockings fits this song because of how Taylor dressed when she performed it on SNL.
  2. End Game (featuring Ed Sheeran & Future): 7/10. This is a hip-hop/rap track that I have to admit is fun and catchy, but Future’s presence is honestly unnecessary. I kinda swoon over Ed Sheeran’s voice, though. I think the “Shake it Off” ballerina Taylor fits this song because it’s reminiscent of 1989’s sound. Best line: “I swear I don’t love the drama. It loves me.”
  3. I Did Something Bad: 3/10 because the bridge was the only part I liked. You know the Taylor in the velvet leotard with the word “rep” at the center? This one embodies her. A dark and twisted song with a chorus that basically embodies the nature of sin: It starts out feeling good, but you kinda resign yourself to it. “This is how the world works” is the most telling lyric. Also, they didn’t burn witches in the Salem Witch Trials.
  4. Don’t Blame Me: 1/10. This song is basically Blank Space 2.0, represented by the bank robber Taylor who’s wearing a sweater that says “Blinded by Love” and got compared to Harley Quinn. Comparing your love to a drug is too Ke$ha 2009. Can’t you be more like present-day Ke$ha who’s singing about praying?! The most telling lyric: “Baby for you, I would fall from grace.”
  5. Delicate: 6/10. This song is almost authentically vulnerable, which is why I think it corresponds with the sparkly dress Fearless-era Taylor. Meeting a new guy, being uncertain of whether this will work? Hoping that someone will love you for who you truly are? That I can relate to. Inviting him up to your room and saying “I don’t wanna share”? Not so much. Basically, I like the pre-chorus, chorus, and bridge more than the verses. “Is it too soon to do this?” Honey, I think it’s too late.
  6. Look What You Made Me Do: 3/10. There are many reasons why this song doesn’t work for Taylor. The biggest reason is that this is a villain song and even though she tried with the whole Snake Queen look, Taylor is not a villain. She’s just majorly flawed. That said, somebody made an AMV to this song using Death Note and it is perfect.
  7. So It Goes…: 1/10. I don’t like this track. It sounds good, but…let’s just say that the Taylor in the giant birdcage is a great indicator of the state of Taylor’s soul right now. (And yes, I know I said it before. It bears repeating.) This and a few other songs on here can easily fit on a 50 Shades soundtrack, with lyrics like “You know, I’m not a bad girl, but I do bad things with you” and “scratches down your back.” And that’s not a good thing.
  8. Gorgeous: 8/10. I loved this song when this came out, but upon listening to it more, it’s starting to sound like a mixed bag. The song is relatable because everyone has probably found someone attractive even though they were in a relationship with someone else. Acting on those feelings is another story. Best line: “Guess I’ll just stumble on home to my cats.” I think Met Gala Taylor represents this song cuz the dress is gorgeous.
  9. Getaway Car: 6/10. I’m pretty sure this song is about Calvin and Tom. The way that Taylor is telling the story, it paints Tom as being her “rebound guy” from Calvin and the relationship in this song sounds like it didn’t last long, doomed from the start. Biker Girl Taylor is the best candidate for the representative for this song as Taylor compares herself and the person in the song to “Bonnie and Clyde.”
  10. King of My Heart: 9/10. I love the song conceptually. The idea of finding real love after thinking you’re done with it, not to mention wanting a more simple life? More of this please! Just cut out the line “We rule the kingdom inside my room” and this song would basically be perfect. Also, the chorus of my song is MY LIFE! It takes me to Heaven and back! The “You Belong With Me” Taylor in the Junior Jewels shirt definitely fits this song!
  11. Dancing With Our Hands Tied: 5/10. I have no clue who this song is about. On the one hand, I want to pick the Out of the Woods zombie Taylor because the song is about uncertainty in the midst of a relationship, but a lot of Swifties compared this song to “Holy Ground,” which means it’s more like the Red Era Circus Ringmaster Taylor. I don’t like the title of this song, either, cuz…well, the image that comes to mind is very 50 Shades of Grey.
  12. Dress: 2/10. This song is the most 50 Shades aside from “Don’t Blame Me.” Give this song an R rating for explicit, provocative lyrics! (That was not a compliment.) My best friend thinks that it could work if you think that the dress is a wedding dress, but this song is far from being romantic, even if it sounds ethereal. This song isn’t “deep and tender,” as Taylor claims. It’s just one big “F#$& Me” song. Also, I have no clue which Taylor fits this song.
  13. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: 5/10. The Taylor dressed in a cheetah print coat talking about “getting receipts” fits this song because this is a good-sounding, bitchy, condescending song that gives a big middle finger to Kanye and Kim. This is the song that comes to mind when I think of “complaining about being famous” songs. I really hope you forgive Kanye and Kim someday, Taylor, because forgiveness isn’t a “nice thing to do,” it’s a necessity if you really want to move on and be happy. That said, she should have made this her first single because it’s honestly clever.
  14. Call It What You Want: 9/10. This song is such a huge mood whiplash from the previous song. But I loved this song from the moment I heard it and still love it. The idea of having someone in your corner in the midst of all the hard times in life is something I love. But Taylor definitely seems happy in the lyric video for this song. Since the Taylor in the background is standing on a plane, I can’t help but hope that this is the song that represents the Real Taylor.
  15. New Year’s Day: 10/10. If there’s one song that I think everyone should buy, it’s this one. The lyrics are basically “relationship goals” in song form: spending time with the one you love and cleaning up after a party, planning for the future, promising forever, being with him/her for better or for worse. I love that Taylor plays the piano because it just sounds beautiful. This is the best sounding track, musically and lyrically.  This is also one I think represents the Real Taylor, the one standing in the back.

I hope Taylor’s next album will be one I can love with all my heart and sound more like the last two tracks. As it is, I’ll just live with the “Dark Taylor” and pray that this is just a phase.

“…Ready for It?” No, I Was NOT!

ready for it

I was really worried that I wouldn’t like Taylor Swift after all the anger she unleashed in her first music video “Look What You Made Me Do.” When I listened to her second single, “…Ready For It?” I still had doubts because it’s her most mature song, implying erotic dreams and having this dark bass beat. I felt a little better when listening to “Gorgeous” because it had actual music on the track, not just synthetic beats, but I wasn’t sure if I could love all of “reputation.”

Then Taylor dropped a teaser of a music video for “…Ready For It?” And I screamed like I just won Hamilton tickets. And when the music video dropped last night, I couldn’t sleep. I watched it multiple times.

There is no way that I could analyze this video completely. I can’t read the Chinese characters in the background. But I’ll do my best to give my own take on this.

The video begins with Taylor with electric blue eyes, wearing a black cape/hoodie, walking through a dark alley surrounded by robots. She pushes some buttons on a keypad and opens up a large room that has another Taylor, looking like a mix of Tron and Ghost in the Shell, trapped in some kind of glass box.

The first thing Swifties on Tumblr have pointed out is that Dark Taylor, the one in the hood, is her reputation in the media. The Dark Taylor is who everyone thinks Taylor is.  The Taylor in the glass box is the Real Taylor.

In the second verse, the Dark Taylor sings to Real Taylor while dressing her up as a cyber-warrior, with black armor.  Real Taylor calls Dark Taylor her “jailer.” This particular moment reminds me of the birdcage scene in “Look What You Made Me Do.” When I saw Taylor in the giant birdcage, I felt like I was looking at the state of her soul, trapped by everything that she’s been experiencing. Dark Taylor also personifies temptation, talking to Real Taylor about how boys are “Burton to this Taylor,” how “you’ll never be alone,” and “no one has to know.”

Another note: The different images that Real Taylor tries on in this video remind me of her music videos from 1989. The armored robot? Totally “Bad Blood.” Then in the 2nd pre-chorus, she’s on a white horse, reminding people of “Blank Space.” In the 2nd chorus, Taylor is holding a blue orb and then she’s surrounded by tiny blue lights, floating in midair, reminiscent of “Out of the Woods.”

As the song goes into the bridge, Real Taylor starts to channel lightning, as if she was a futuristic version of Frankenstein’s monster. I can’t help but think that it’s also a shout out to when she co-wrote Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s “This Is What You Came For,” since there’s a line about how “lightning strikes every time she moves.”\

My favorite part of this video, though, is when Real Taylor and Dark Taylor stand face to face. As the song goes into the third chorus, Real Taylor screams and breaks the glass. The shards cut into Dark Taylor’s skin, revealing her to be a robot. Towards the end of the video, Real Taylor walks up a stairway while Dark Taylor stands on another stairway, being struck by lightning as other robots run towards her. According to Tumblr Swifties, this represents Taylor taking back the narrative, killing off everything that the media has said about her. The video ends with Real Taylor smiling at the death of her reputation and then staring into the camera and asking the audience “Are you ready for it?” as her eyes glow that electric blue one last time.

I was basically waiting for this video. It blows “Look What You Made Me Do” out of the water.

There are some parts of the video that scare me, such as when Real Taylor is covered in snakes (I think) for half a second in the first pre-chorus. And the part where she channels lightning is almost demonic and I didn’t like the phrase on the stairway that Dark Taylor stands on that says “They’re burning all the witches!” I guess it’s supposed to mean that Taylor’s reputation became a witch hunt, but with the term “witch” becoming a badge of honor in liberal feminist circles, I don’t want Taylor embracing the idea of being a witch.

Nevertheless, there’s something in this video that “Look What You Made Me Do” didn’t have: Hope. This video is giving me hope that Taylor is starting this new era with love and happiness and not a desire for revenge and retribution.

Crush the heads of those snakes, Taylor. Grace will be coming for you.

Resurrection vs. Retribution

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Ever since 2006, when I first heard “Picture to Burn” on my local country radio station, I have been a “Swiftie.” Taylor Swift’s songs always resonated with me. However,  I recently started feeling a dissonance between how I saw life and how Taylor saw hers. This dissonance was most profound when I listened to her latest single “Look What You Made Me Do” and watched the music video that debuted on Sunday night. To me, it didn’t sound like Taylor at all aside from a few lines here and there. I know that Taylor has been through a lot in the past few years, but I wondered why she chose to portray herself the way she did in her music video.

“Look What You Made Me Do” starts out with Taylor crawling out of her grave, looking like a zombified version of how she looked in “Out of the Woods,” which was my favorite music video from her thus far. But her face reminded me of Anya Jenkins, who started out as a vengeance demon on Buffy:

anya demon face

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox. Image is used for editorial purposes only.

The prechorus of the song goes: “I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time. Honey, I rose up from the dead. I do it all the time.” Why did she show herself coming back from the dead as a zombie? I see it as a distorted version of the Resurrection. Zombies, vampires, and other versions of the undead are all dark, perverted types of “resurrections.” To quote Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she came back wrong.

Taylor has written songs about revenge in the past. But at the same time, she also wrote songs about forgiveness as well. So why does she choose to use revenge now?

A few telling lines from the second verse give the answer: “The world moves on, another day, another drama drama. But not for me, not for me. All I think about is karma.”

I recently read an article from Bishop Robert Barron about the difference between karma and grace. In the most simplistic terms, karma is about retribution. “Do good things and you get good in return. Do bad things and you will suffer.” Taylor is driven by revenge in the hopes that everyone who did her wrong will get what they deserve.

The last significant line in the song is this spoken line and it’s the one that Taylor puts on all her social media: “I’m sorry. The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh. ‘Cause she’s dead.” In the video, this is shown by all of her past selves falling down into a dark chasm, with the new Taylor standing on top of a hill with a giant T behind her.

The old Taylor is definitely dead. But instead of embracing grace and forgiveness, Taylor chose to be the bad guy, bent on revenge and retribution.

Now flip the script and take a look at my life recently. In the past few years, I went through my share of bad dating experiences. I was one guy’s rebound date. I went speed dating, but never really connected with anyone. I even dated someone who turned out to be a narcissist!

But at the same time, I kept writing. I worked on my novel and got to share it with other writers at a couple of conferences. I went to Chicago on my own! My first real grown-up adventure! I have been finding my writing voice, this clear, resonating bell that people can hear and listen to. I learned what forgiveness actually feels like and how to persevere in the face of adversity. In other words, I became stronger.

What gave me my strength? Grace. By rooting myself with God, He gave me strength I never knew I had. Even now, as Hurricane Harvey flees Texas, I have found the strength to overcome the anxiety that was building up within me since the storm hit. Grace is not something that I deserved because I was good. God’s strength was given to me because I needed it. Grace is a gift, one that we need to share with others. Through grace, we find the strength to forgive and renew ourselves. We find the strength to persevere. We die to ourselves and live again through Christ.

“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

And grace is the difference between having a personal resurrection and being fueled by the revenge from the death of your reputation.

*mic drop*

Walking By Faith: 5 Songs for a Lenten Season

Not an actual picture of me. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Not an actual picture of me. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

While I love Audrey Assad’s latest album, Inheritance, there are a lot of other songs on my playlist that I’m listening to this Lent. Today, I want to share you ten songs from my Lenten Playlist “Walking By Faith.” If you want to see the whole playlist, check it out here.

The first song I want to share with you is Matt Maher’s “Everything is Grace.” I already loved this song because of its association with St. Therese of Lisieux, but when I read this particular meditation about Simon of Cyrene from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship’s Lent Bible study, the song took on a whole new meaning.

Danielle Rose’s “Holiness is Faithfulness” is another song that is also associated with the Lent Bible study from Heart of Mary. It’s a song that meditates on the 4th Sorrowful Mystery of Jesus carrying his cross, incorporating the Stations of the Cross that lead up Jesus being nailed to the cross.

This next song is a bit of an unusual choice. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was created by an atheist and Season 6 was a heart-wrecker in the best way possible. But one major theme about Season 6 is that it empahsizes the nature of suffering a lot more. “Once More With Feeling” is an episode that conveys apathy, uncertainty, and a longing for purpose that sadly isn’t found until the very end of the season. The reason why I chose this particular song is that it conveys that resolve to keep moving on in spite of the trials that we all face. I hope you like the song without the context of the episode.

And since I started this post with Audrey Assad, it’s only fair that I end it with a song of hers from another album. “Lament” is a bit of a downer song to end on, but it’s a song I often relate to because it represents a longing for home, a longing for rest.

 

I hope you enjoy my song choices.

 

 

The Necessity of Making Art

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One of the biggest influences in my life is Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I learned so much about what it meant to be creative from that book. The most important lesson being that art doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be yours. A singer/songwriter that I admire said that artists always take the pain they have and put it in their art so that they can share their pain with others.

And I think that’s the beauty of art. That it provides a way for us to the pain we experience and create something good out of something bad. 

I don’t think it’s any surprise to me that adult coloring books are the latest trend. I know that when I color, my energy starts focusing more on creating something rather than letting my thoughts go towards emotions like anger or anxiety or sadness. Sometimes, we can choose colors that express the things that we feel.

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But art isn’t just a matter of crayons and paper. The first time I experienced art therapy was indirectly, when I created this shield using oil pastels and a pencil:

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Sometimes, people can choose words to express their feelings. Some do so through writing stories. Others do it through poetry. I tend to express my emotions in a mix of both.

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Yet there is also another beautiful aspect about art. There’s something more to art than just an outlet for emotions. In the act of making art, we become creators. It isn’t just found in painters, drawers, and sculptors who can literally create a new thing using materials and tools. Fantasy and sci-fi writers create entire lands and universes in a process called “worldbuilding.” Mystery writers get into the minds of villains in the hopes of understanding evil. Romance writers explore the nature of love and how it manifests in two people. Dancers and actors become experts of their own bodies and show how beauty can exist through movement and gestures and expressions.

I always marvel at the concept that there are people who believe that the universe, this entire, beautiful, vast universe filled with stars and planets, came at random, out of nothing for no reason whatsoever. How can people look at the beauty of this world: the biodiversity of every animal and insect and plant, the intricate colorings of every single butterfly and flower and bird, and the colors painted in the sky and think that it’s nothing but cold hard scientific theories? Science is a part of our world, but can it explain the purpose of beauty? Even if you try to explain it with “the continuation of the species” it doesn’t explain why there is beauty in the vastness of space, in the various blues and greens and grays of the oceans, and the death and rebirths of the millions of stars in our galaxy. There is evidence of a Divine Artist because we see His art everywhere.

But honestly, I think the words of a saint can say the necessity of artists better than I can.

 

LEVV Lights a Strange Fire With Debut Album

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You wanna know why I wonder Audrey Assad gets any sleep? Because she’s always doing something. LEVV is a departure from Audrey Assad’s usual stuff, in the sense that it isn’t Praise and Worship/Gospel/Christian music. But there’s an ethereal quality that still feels like God is a part of this album as much as Audrey’s other stuff.

For those who don’t know LEVV is a band consisting of Audrey Assad and Seth Jones and the music is pop, but there’s so much more depth in these five songs (plus the song “Dream” from the Arrow single) than I’ve heard from anything on the air right now. Audrey goes more into the name of the band on LEVV’s Tumblr page. Without further ado, let the album review begin!

1. Darkness

Darkness sounds like a ballad collaboration between Calvin Harris and Sia. It starts out slow with a piano and lyrics that tell the story of a dark love. The person in the song was fighting against her feelings for someone and yet the lover broke through. It’s a haunting song and you could almost see it as something coming out of a Gothic novel.

2. Heartbreaker

This song is the most “Top 40” sounding song with a catchy beat and easy rhymes. But as I said, most top 40 acts wish they could sound this good. The song speaks of still loving a person even after being rejected. It’s a bit sad underneath the upbeat melody. There’s a wonderful electric guitar bridge and a techno beat that would feel totally in place in the club. Of course, this song isn’t exactly the kind you would dance to at a typical raging nightclub. The song’s more suited to a VIP kind of nightclub on ladies night, more singing and less grinding. Like Bridesmaids.

3. I Feel Good

Once again, lyrical dissonance is at play in this song. The melody is like a sunrise, like the feeling you get when you wake up on a weekend. The lyrics, however, feel like the story of someone struggling with depression. I mean the chorus goes “But I feel good/I feel okay/I’ve got a pill waiting for me at home at the end of the day.” There’s a beautiful piano bridge in this song that transitions into a bridge that speaks of the post-breakup blues. Way to make a misleading title, Audrey!

4. Arrow

“Arrow” was the first single from this album. There isn’t much to this song lyrically and yet I can’t help but think of Eros and Psyche when I listen to this song. The song tells the story of falling in love unexpectedly. There’s a piano melody that plays after the chorus, followed by a cool techno/drum beat as the chorus echoes again and again until the end of the song.

5. Learning to Let Go

The story in this song of two lovers in war with each other for no real reason. The lover in the song is jumping at shadows and the way he’s treating the beloved in this song is making her act like she’s at fault and giving her major relationship issues in the process. The chorus is just one line, but it repeats and overlaps with beautiful vocalizations. The song is a tragically beautiful track and I can definitely relate to.

Bonus: Dream

Dream is a track from the Arrow EP and I’ll be honest when I say that I wish that this song was on the actual “Strange Fire” album because this is the LEVV song I relate to the most. The lyrics tell the story of a broken woman finding love, finding home with someone. The song has a beautiful piano melody that honestly doesn’t feel out of place with the rest of Audrey’s usual music. My favorite lyrics from the song are the chorus:

I would love you with my whole heart if my heart was whole—

as it is I’m all in pieces, and you can have them all.

Strange Fire is available on LEVV’s Bandcamp page for $4.99, but you can get a discount by tweeting about the album on Thunderclap. You can download Dream for free from the Arrow single off of LEVV’s Noisetrade page.

I can’t wait to see what this band will create next. I hope for an album that has at least 10 tracks. And seriously Audrey Assad, GET SOME SLEEP! You’re making the rest of us look unproductive!

Album cover courtesy of Audrey Assad and Seth Jones and is used for editorial purposes only.

Ghost of the Robot's Bourgeois Faux Pas – An Album Review

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Pronounced “boar gee oh is fox pass”

So who exactly is Ghost of the Robot, you ask? They’re a multi-genre band based in Los Angeles, California. Their music ranges from pop-rock to hard rock to metal with a bit of country thrown in for good measure. How exactly do I know about this band? I have a crush on the lead singer.

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Photo and stickers were sent by a dear friend who is a fellow Buffy fan.

That’s right, people. James Marsters from Buffy is the lead singer and guitar for Ghost of the Robot. It’s basically his band, one that he started with his friend Charlie de Mars. Kevin McPherson, Jordan Latham, and James’s son Sullivan make up the rest of the band.

To date, the band has 3 albums: Mad Brilliant, B-Sider, and Murphy’s Law. James Marsters also has 2 solo albums out. Bourgeois Faux Pas is available for pre-order on their site and hopefully it’ll be available on Spotify soon. Until then, I’ll review the album and you decide if it’s worth pre-ordering.

Warning: I’m not a music expert so I don’t know what kind of instruments are being used. Plus, fangirl squee will ensue.

1) Hello “Hello” was the first single from this album. It’s an upbeat track about meeting someone for the first time with love being a definite potential maybe. When I listened to the single version of this, it evoked memories of when I met James Marsters at Comicpalooza. And no, I’m still not over it!  The vocals and instrumentals are great in this track and I like the lyrics. It’s a great opening track that has an excellent electric guitar outro.

2) Back To Act Too When I checked up on the news surrounding the album, the band said that different members of the band would sing lead in different songs. This is the first instance of that. This song is pop-rock, a breakup song that feels like it would belong in a beach movie. It’s a good track.

3) Three This was where I said to myself “Okay, I’m officially dead!” because James Marsters’s voice is distinct in this song. The song reminds me so much of Spuffy in Season 6, specifically, the angst that Spike feels about Buffy having the weight of the world on her shoulders and using him just to feel something. It’s a touching ballad and yes, I am melting as I type this.

4) Mother of Peril This song starts out slow and then goes into a hard rock intro. Lyrically, it’s a bit confusing, but it picks up towards the second half. I like the fake out outro guitar bridge. The music evokes a feeling of sadness, like a relationship issues kind of song, and yet there’s a bit of hope in it.

5) Bad This is one of the songs originally from James Marsters’s solo albums. This is what I call the “hard rock remix” version of the song. I still giggle when I listen because the song is basically a bad boy anthem, but the echos of the electric guitars almost drown out the vocals here. Otherwise, I think it would be great to hear live and I love the new bridge. He may be bad, but he does it so well.

6) All That She Wanted The song has uplifting instrumentals, but the song itself a post-breakup song about a guy kicking himself about not treating his girl right. It has a great beat (bass line?) with a repetitive chorus that is likely gonna get stuck in my head all week. There’s an awesome electric guitar solo midway through the song. It’s basically lyrical dissonance in the best way possible.

7) Why Do We Love The song begins with a vocal harmony. The first thing I notice is that the first verse gives way to a counterpoint duet in the chorus. The song itself wonders what love is and why people experience it. It’s not an easy thing to figure out, sad to say, and the song doesn’t answer the question that it brought up but the song’s outro is fantastic.

8) Katie This is another song originally from James Marsters’s solo albums. The band performs this live at their concerts and the remix evokes that showy concert feel, with more hard rock style instrumentals. I can imagine myself in a crowd dancing along to the song. Lyrically, the song talks about a girl named girl who has a lot of tattoos and might have a boyfriend but it’s never certain but the singer is definitely interested. I still prefer the version on the solo album, but again, I think this song would be great to hear live.

9) The Weight This song is sadly a huge contrast from the rest of the album. It sounds like a Pink Floyd track in the middle of a Journey album. The lyrics are kind of Holden Caulfield-esque talking about phonies, but the words go by too fast for me to really understand. The vocals are almost hard to understand because they yell out a lot of the lyrics. It’s not my favorite track.

10) Fall Away This is a rock ballad, more emphasis on the vocals than on the instrumentals. It starts with a mix of piano and guitar (I think). The lyrics don’t really make a lot of sense though. They sound like words scattered in a dream, like a musical version of a surrealist movie. The vocals turn into outright yelling for a bit halfway through the song, but there’s some harmonizing towards the end. But just when you think the song is about to end, there’s a bit of vocalizing and music that outros out the song instead. Overall, the song feels like a dream.

11) Dark Matter The first thing you hear is the sound of water with island instruments that quickly get drowned out by the hard rock guitars and drums. The other thing you notice in this song is that there is a female backup singer in this song. I honestly don’t know who that mysterious female singer is. I almost wished that they made a Game of Thrones shout out with them saying “You are my sun and stars,” but then again, I’m not a Game of Thrones fan. The lyrics evoke a love song that would belong in a space opera. The song itself is a great closer to the album.

 

Overall, the album gets an 8/10 for me. My favorite album from Ghost of the Robot is still Murphy’s Law. And some fans of the band are mixed about this one. Ultimately, though, I hope that the album comes out on Spotify so that you can listen and see if it’s a keeper.

Men of Christ Monday: Matt Maher

I had the very very fortunate privilege of interviewing Matt Maher recently about his album “Saints and Sinners.” I have reviewed the album on this blog, but it’s quite another thing to hear the story behind the creative process in making this album.

 

So where did the inspiration for this album come from? 

I was thinking about this next album while on tour for All the People Said Amen. Originally making protest songs, going back to the Shakespearean definition of the word, which means. loudly proclaim something you believe. too confusing. too long to explain. Moved on to the idea of being inspired by the saints. Not just those who are canonized. Reveal something about God’s heart. Inspired by world youth day in Brazil. Look through Church History. January of last year, starting writing A Future Not My Own. Had a phase of writer’s block. Record label wanted a whole album and he had a lot of unfinished songs.

 

 

Tell me the stories behind some of the songs on this album.

Because He Lives-Gaither. Taking pieces of the song and sort of making it a “part two” to the original. Instrument is, obviously, inspired by St. Francis. It felt like God was working through me with this particular song because it just feels so timely. Abide With Me was inspired by “Abide In Me.” The song was composed by Henry Francis Lyte as he was dying. Glory Bound was nspired by Woody Guthrie’s “This Train is Bound for Glory.” I use the music in this album to illustrate the dichotomy of being called to be saints, but still being a sinner. 80s music was a big influence, including Springsteen. Land of My Father was inspired by a talk that centered on idea of returning to the Kingdom of God. The chorus was inspired by Isaiah 6 and the vision of Heaven. It reminds people of God’s kingship.

 

What is your personal favorite song on the album?

When I first created the album, my favorite track was “Rest.” I wrote it while my grandmother was losing her eyesight, coming to terms with the fact that she’s dying. I started thinking about the idea of dying with dignity.

My current favorite, now that I’m on tour is “Deliverer.” “Deliverer” was inspired by life as a parent and as an artist. Mary held all these things in her heart-and I’m just starting to learn what that means now. The moments you experience with children reveal a glimpse of the kingdom of God, impact your life. This song was inspired by my son overcoming his fear of the dark, but it didn’t come to me right away. It came from carrying this memory in my heart first.

 

Who are your go-to saints?

This album is round one of my list. These are the saints that are walking with me.

 

What advice would you give to young Catholic adults?

To those in the church: Memory is a powerful thing. Most of our faith is rooted in our memory. Sin is rooted in our fear of the future or the past. We have memories of what it means to be a sinner, not just to remind us about the Mercy of God, but to continue actively pursuing a relationship with God. We remember needing mercy so that we can be merciful to others. The mercy we are called to extend is limitless and inexhaustible. What the world needs now are saints that are rooted in reality and not in sentimentality. Most people grew up with a distortion of Christianity. God shining in our weakness, the power of the Cross is perfected in our weakness.