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I found myself getting onto a boat the other day. “The Spirit of San Francisco”, she was called. I was supposed to be joining two friends who wanted me to meet their friend. No, not a dude. Her name was Liz and my friends thought we both were so cool, we had to meet each other. (Their words, not mine)
It was actually one of Liz’s work events we were crashing on that boat. So while she was checking guests in and fielding inquiries about the open bar, my friends and I walked the flight of stairs to the deck, admiring the crisp night view of San Francisco’s scenic port.
Eventually we met up with Liz, when her duties had died down, enjoyed a few drinks and gawked unabashedly at the fireworks display. And when that was over and we couldn’t bear the bone chilling cold any longer, we made our way inside to exercise our best attempts at holding sober-sounding conversations while no longer being fully sober at all.
But I was okay. I hadn’t had too much to drink. That or I had properly done my job at the all-you-can-eat buffet laden on a table one floor below our drunk footsteps. (Yes, as you can imagine this little boat excursion takes top ranks in my list of hook ups) (by “hook ups”, I mean being “hooked up”) (not the adult sleepover) Being that Liz is in the field of digital and interactive set design (think concert backdrops or Burning Man installations), we sat and started talking about some of her past projects. I had been looking forward to conversing with her because I savor any chance I can get to rest my ears upon the English accent. And because she was purportedly as cool as me.
As she’s telling me about this enormous dome with pixel mapped geometric shapes she and her team had created for SXSW, I realize something about her voice. Well, back up a bit. My realization first stemmed from a slight disappointment in how unthick her accent was. I associated that with her college experience in the States — she’d studied at Brown for four years and has been living here since.
But still her accent was fairly distinct — in a way that isn’t about how the English accent typically sounds but distinct in that it reminded me so much of someone I knew. I realized I’d heard this accent before. My mental Rolodex flipped wildly for a sec. Who could it be? Who could it be?
Bingo. It was my friend who is Indian American. Her voice sounded exactly like this female Indian American friend of mine.
Of course my Indian American friend’s accent sounded like this English girl. History. Colonization. Duh.
So weird to be celebrating America’s Independence Day with a Brit who reminds me of an Indian American.
Perhaps I could have used a few more drinks. Happy birthday, ‘Merica.
It was reported yesterday that Ms. Lauryn Hill has been charged with three counts of misdemeanor failure to file taxes. These charges were incurred for the years of 2005-2007, during a time in which Ms. Hill had removed herself and her family from society, in order to keep them safe, healthy, and free from danger. In response to these charges, Ms. Hill has issued the following statement:
“For the past several years, I have remained what others would consider underground. I did this in order to build a community of people, like-minded in their desire for freedom and the right to pursue their goals and lives without being manipulated and controlled by a media protected military industrial complex with a completely different agenda. Having put the lives and needs of other people before my own for multiple years, and having made hundreds of millions of dollars for certain institutions, under complex and sometimes severe circumstances, I began to require growth and more equitable treatment, but was met with resistance. I entered into my craft full of optimism (which I still possess), but immediately saw the suppressive force with which the system attempts to maintain it’s control over a given paradigm. I’ve seen people promote addiction, use sabotage, black listing, media bullying and any other coercion technique they could, to prevent artists from knowing their true value, or exercising their full power. These devices of control, no matter how well intentioned (or not), can have a devastating outcome on the lives of people, especially creative types who must grow and exist within a certain environment and according to a certain pace, in order to live and create optimally.
I kept my life relatively simple, even after huge successes, but it became increasingly obvious that certain indulgences and privileges were expected to come at the expense of my free soul, free mind, and therefore my health and integrity. So I left a more mainstream and public life, in order to wean both myself, and my family, away from a lifestyle that required distortion and compromise as a means for maintaining it. During this critical healing time, there were very few people accessible to me who had not already been seduced or affected by this machine, and therefore who could be trusted to not try and influence or coerce me back into a dynamic of compromise. Individual growth was expected to take place unnaturally, or stagnated outright, subject to marketing and politics. Addressing critical issues like pop culture cannibalism or its manipulation of the young at the expense of everything, was frowned upon and discouraged by limiting funding, or denying it outright. When one has a prolific creative output like I did/do, and is then forced to stop, the effects can be dangerous both emotionally and psychologically, both for the artist and those in need of that resource. It was critically important that I find a suitable pathway within which to exist, without being distorted or economically strong-armed.
During this period of crisis, much was said about me, both slanted and inaccurate, by those who had become dependent on my creative force, yet unwilling to fully acknowledge the importance of my contribution, nor compensate me equitably for it. This was done in an effort to smear my public image, in order to directly affect my ability to earn independently of this system. It took a long time to locate and nurture a community of people strong enough to resist the incredibly unhealthy tide, and more importantly see through it. If I had not been able to make contact with, and establish this community, my life, safety and freedom, would have been directly affected as well as the lives, safety and freedom of my family. Failure to create a non toxic, non exploitative environment was not an option.
As my potential to work, and therefore earn freely, was being threatened, I did whatever needed to be done in order to insulate my family from the climate of hostility, false entitlement, manipulation, racial prejudice, sexism and ageism that I was surrounded by. This was absolutely critical while trying to find and establish a new and very necessary community of healthy people, and also heal and detoxify myself and my family while raising my young children.
There were no exotic trips, no fleet of cars, just an all out war for safety, integrity, wholeness and health, without mistreatment denial, and/or exploitation. In order to liberate myself from those who found it ok to oppose my wholeness, free speech and integral growth by inflicting different forms of punitive action against it, I used my resources to sustain our safety and survival until I was able to restore my ability to earn outside of it!
When artists experience danger and crisis under the effects of this kind of insidious manipulation, everyone easily accepts that there was something either dysfunctional or defective with the artist, rather than look at, and fully examine, the system and its means and policies of exploiting/’doing business’. Not only is this unrealistic, it is very dark in its motivation, conveniently targeting the object of their hero worship by removing any evidence that they ‘needed’ or celebrated this very same resource just years, months or moments before. Since those who believe they need a hero/celebrity outnumber the actual heroes/celebrities, people feel safe and comfortably justified in numbers, committing egregious crimes in the name of the greater social ego. Ironically diminishing their own true hero-celebrity nature in the process.
It was this schism and the hypocrisy, violence and social cannibalism it enabled, that I wanted and needed to be freed from, not from art or music, but the suppression/repression and reduction of that art and music to a bottom line alone, without regard for anything else. Over-commercialization and its resulting restrictions and limitations can be very damaging and distorting to the inherent nature of the individual. I Love making art, I Love making music, these are as natural and necessary for me almost as breathing or talking. To be denied the right to pursue it according to my ability, as well as be properly acknowledged and compensated for it, in an attempt to control, is manipulation directed at my most basic rights! These forms of expression, along with others, effectively comprise my free speech! Defending, preserving, and protecting these rights are critically important, especially in a paradigm where veiled racism, sexism, ageism, nepotism, and deliberate economic control are still blatant realities!!!
Learning from the past, insulating friends and family from the influence of external manipulation and corruption, is far more important to me than being misunderstood for a season! I did not deliberately abandon my fans, nor did I deliberately abandon any responsibilities, but I did however put my safety, health and freedom and the freedom, safety and health of my family first over all other material concerns! I also embraced my right to resist a system intentionally opposing my right to whole and integral survival.
I conveyed all of this when questioned as to why I did not file taxes during this time period. Obviously, the danger I faced was not accepted as reasonable grounds for deferring my tax payments, as authorities, who despite being told all of this, still chose to pursue action against me, as opposed to finding an alternative solution.
My intention has always been to get this situation rectified. When I was working consistently without being affected by the interferences mentioned above, I filed and paid my taxes. This only stopped when it was necessary to withdraw from society, in order to guarantee the safety and well-being of myself and my family.
As this, and other areas of issue are resolved and set straight, I am able to get back to doing what I should be doing, the way it should be done. This is part of that process. To those supporters who were told that I abandoned them, that is untrue. I abandoned greed, corruption, and compromise, never you, and never the artistic gifts and abilities that sustained me.”
I don’t regret many things in life. Actually I can probably count on one hand all of the things I’ve ever regretted in my lifetime. But I am fearful of a several things. Spiders, flesh being cut open, large iguanas in a group, being unable to maintain a womanly figure after bearing children. I’d just rather not deal with any of them. If you’ve ever been around while I encounter any of the aforementioned, I do this thing where I put face behind my hands, make squealing sounds and hope that makes them “go away.”
I suppose this one isn’t a fear so much as it is loathing. Or maybe it’s equal parts fear and loathing.
It’s that girl you see. Kaylee, arch-nemesis of Alec Baldwin’s character, Jack Donaghy. I fear and loath the day I meet my Kaylee.
It’s already happening, I know it. There are girls out there who are cooler, snider, brighter, prettier, smarter, and lovelier than me (Maybe I don’t think I am all or any of those things (except maybe snide) but I’d like to think I can be some sort of competition for women within my age range and education level). And I fear the day I meet one of them.
I think I will freeze up inside, then curse and then think it will be time for me to retire.
But I will try to go down fighting, like Jack. Hopefully she won’t be a deceitful mastermind with a penchant for well-designed ruses, but I will not hide behind my hands and squeal them away. Rather I will do my best to muster up my years of wisdom and maturity and see to it that I retire when I’m ready to retire. Maybe I will even mentor one of those bambis.
I’m just a little freaked out by all these young kids who seem so smart and knowledgeable about so many things at one time. Can you blame me? It makes me feel my days are numbered and I haven’t even had the chance to unravel 1/4 of my full career plan.
Well, I will beat you, spawn of the Moist Towelette Generation. I will beat you or I will join you. But you will not push me out.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted this mix to be about. I just knew it wasn’t going to contain any music from the witch house genre because that genre is so dumb, I can’t believe it exists.
I thought about some of the things I’ve been ruminating over and being a woman has been a major one. Being that it’s National Women’s History Month, it seemed fitting to make a mix with this theme in mind.
I have never been convinced that I would ever truly be a woman until I was bearing my own children. And if that’s how we’re defining things, I’m nowhere near being a woman. Maybe a very large girl but not a woman.
I’m in a stage of life which generally consists of dodging exasperated reminders that my eggs are dying (thanks Mom), and having non-religious friends and co-workers wonder what the hell is wrong with me and my friends (considering a good 70% of my friends are now married, I attend around 5-7 weddings per year and of these friends getting married, ALL are younger than me). So it has been brought to my attention that maybe I should start figuring out what all this womanhood stuff is about.
Whether I like it or not, and whether I am ready or not, are all irrelevant: I already am a woman. As I’ve wrestled with what it means to be Asian or the oldest child in the past few years, the last year in particular I’ve thought a good deal about what it means to be a woman and a Christian. Though I want to, I can’t articulate any of these thoughts quite yet. But I will, hopefully before the very last of my eggs die.
This mix is about being female and being proud of it — because as much as I hate some of the crap women have to put up with, I love being a lady. It’s not necessarily a mix that third wave feminists will find super enlightening but it’s something that will hopefully make you appreciate female artists of merit.
So take a moment to celebrate the women in your life and if you are female, celebrate yourself and your achievements and get ready for some good jams.
About the cover art (click the image to download the music): The little girl’s name is “Mirai-chan” and she is the subject of a photography book by her mother, Japanese photographer Kotori Kawashima. If you haven’t noticed from my last post on Yoshitomo Nara, I seem to be developing a strange fascination for little disgruntled looking Japanese girls (…there has got to be a better way to word that) (and that’s why we call this blog “Lizisms”).
I think I looked pretty disgruntled as kid in my younger days; maybe that’s why I relate. But what I really love about these photos of Mirai-chan is her total nonchalance to the world. Some of the pictures of this bright-eyed, furrowed-brow child made me laugh out loud (here and here), in a very unattractive way.
To me she kind of captures what it means to be female: at some point in your life, you do what you want without knowing you’re doing it. And after you go through a period of self-realization, you do what you want, but with total deliberation. I think both are important to note in becoming a woman.
Well that’s enough ruminating. On to the music!
01. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay (Live) – Sara Bareilles
I love this song. No one does it better than Otis but I have to hand it to Sara, I think Mr. Redding would be proud. I appreciate that Sara’s music is not conventional pop music and that her artist image doesn’t pander to stupid notions of what a female pop artist is usually associated with.
02. SexyBack – Corinne Bailey Rae (Justin Timberlake cover)
I tried to stay away from songs that talk about how much a woman needs her man or how her world is nothing without him. That being said, I hope I didn’t compromise my efforts by including such a sensual song but damn, Rae knows how to do a cover. I have admired her as an artist for a few years now and after reading about the tragic loss of her husband, have only grown in my respect for her musicianship and individuality as an artist. I recommend all of her music. All of it.
03. Well OK Honey – Jenny O.
She has a nice voice and a versatile sound. And I like this song. The end.
04. A Change Is Gonna Come – Leela James
I can never get enough soul music. If I had to choose a genre to listen to for the rest of my life, it would be soul. As much as I love other types of music, I can never get sick of soul. I’m probably the only 26-year old I know who regularly stocks her car with CDs by The Temptations or those Greatest Motown Hits compilation discs that are always in the clearance bin. This song has always been such a source of inspiration for me when I think of the dreams that social movers and shakers had before me and in my own personal pursuits. Originally penned by the illustrious Sam Cooke, I think Leela James truly does this song justice. If you are not familiar with James’ discography, get on that (likewise for Sam Cooke).
05. Crush – Sleigh Bells
This band brings my leather-studded heart warm electric fuzzies. There is a part of me that loves unleashing my inner pop punk fangirl (Fat Wreck Chords, anyone!???) and thrash my head to loud, bass driven music with huge guitar riffs. That is exactly what this band is all about. And how about Allison Krauss’ angelic vocals? It’s such a stark contrast against the monstrous instrumentals. Listening to these guys is about as bad ass as I will ever get in this life. Weeeeee.
06. Bitter Heart – Zee Avi
I first heard about Zee Avi from a friend a few years ago. I thought it ironic that she later signed to Brushfire Records because she always reminded me of a female Jack Johnson. While her music isn’t naturally my taste, I am proud of her and her heritage as a female Malaysian artist who has made it big enough to sell her music at almost every Starbucks I’ve ever been to. I always smile when I see her CDs there.
07. Islands – the xx
Most people know about the xx by now. After I found out about them, I watched a few videos of them performing live and impromptu in Denmark and other places around Europe. I was always impressed by how good Romy Madley Croft sounds live. She doesn’t need a recording studio or a thousand dollar mic. Her voice is true talent. And in spite of her fame she seems incredibly down to earth too. I feel a bit bad this song isn’t very representative of her voice but I think it’s a good introduction to those of us who aren’t familiar with the band.
08. Criminal – ZZ Ward
This woman could give Adele a run for her money. Her sound is a bit different but with nothing lacking in terms of soulfulness. I would liken her to a one woman version of The Black Keys as she employs a huge range of sounds and instruments in her music. I like how she mixes R&B, soul and blues so fluidly and that she’s not afraid to sing over Childish Gambino or Tyler the Creator beats. She’s relatively new on the scene (I found out about her on NPR’s 2011 SXSW Preview) but will eventually be a force to be reckoned with.
09. Lana Del Rey x Nas – If I Ruled the Diet Mountain Dew (SoSuperSam Remix)
I’m quite a fan of SoSuperSam, an female DJ who hails from LA. Not only is she very stylish, she has great taste in music. But I can’t stand Lana Del Rey or her music and was almost offended when I saw Sam had made a mashup of Nas with Lana. I mean, the prior is a legitimate hip hop icon while the other skates painfully close to being a caricature of herself. But ladies have to stick together. So while I wouldn’t be the best to recommend good Lana Del Rey songs, I appreciate her guts to put music out there and perform it live. If you listen to each song separately, then the mashup, you realize how ingenious the combination is. Also, Lauryn is on the track. One up.
10. Fame Boozer’s Lullaby – TOKiMONSTA
TOKi is an Asian American female DJ who is respected by enough people to be signed with Brainfeeder. ‘Nuff said.
11. Valerie – Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse is hugely underrated. If you haven’t listened to Frank, you are severely short changing yourself. While she received a lot of flak for being an unstable diva, there is no denying how talented she was. I immensely appreciate how she helped to usher soul back into our diet of mainstream pop music. Her music wasn’t gimmicky and her voice is irreplaceable. I wish her inner demons hadn’t got the best of her because she sang with a raw honesty she was actually capable of. It’s something a lot of current female pop artists only able to emulate through fancy production.
12. Haiti – Arcade Fire
When you Google Regine Chassagne, two searches come up: “Regine Chassagne can’t sing” and “Regine Chassagne ugly”. People are horrible. I don’t agree with either statement and obviously Win Butler, the frontman and co-founder of this groundbreaking band, feels the same. Butler is married to Chassagne and in my opinion, she adds an unmistakable amount of charisma to the group. She’s also a multi-instrumentalist, short in stature and not skinny. I like that, a lot. This song in particular is primarily sung by her, off their 2004 record Funeral. In it, she poignantly sings about the extreme disparity that exists in Haiti, where her parents emigrated from to Canada. So to all the haters: she’s got some substance too.
13. Myth – Beach House
In my mind, Beach House is such a feminine band. Listen to the vocals, the lyrics, the music. And yet, I know so many guys who resonate with their music and may not have any problems saying such is the case. I had the opportunity to see them live at Coachella in 2010 and was absolutely enthralled with their gold streamer-filled set. This is a new song off their upcoming album, Bloom.
14. Take It All – Adele
I’ve been intentionally reading a lot of interviews on Adele. Most recently, I read about her in both Vogue and Cosmopolitan (the latter my roommate subscribes to so you can stop judging me) and I was so impressed with her detachment to her fame. Perhaps it’s an elaborate press scheme but she really comes across as a hard-nosed gal with a good sense of friendship, fortune and fame. She talked about being pissed about having to go to the Grammys as it fell on the same night of her friend’s bridal shower. That’s what I’m talking about.
15. Fembot – Robyn
GQ recently did a huge series on artists who had made remarkable comebacks in their musical careers. They profiled everyone from Lil Wayne to Iggy Pop. I personally think they should have included Robyn. She’s come a long, long way from “Show Me Love,” people. Her last album, Body Talk is ripe with songs of assertiveness and strength, all set to catchy, futuristic beats.
16. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Lauryn Hill
For someone born in the late 80’s this woman pretty much defined what it meant to be a female with undeniable strength and creativity. I salute you, Ms. Hill.
17. Ritual Union – Little Dragon
Something about Yukimi Nagano’s voice is very likeable to my ears. I think I could see myself being reincarnated as Little Dragon music, if I believed in reincarnation. I think it’s marvelous the way the band has made music around her very unique voice and lyrics. I quite enjoy the way she not only commands but guides the band, from interviews I’ve watched. All of her collaborations with other artists have been stellar, most notably with Gorillaz, SBTRKT, and soon to be Big Boi!
18. Million Dollar Bill – Whitney Houston
Rest in peace, Whitney. This is one of those songs that let you know you were definitely born before 1990 but one that represents the staying power artists like Houston, MJ and only a handful of others truly have. It’s a rarity these days. In the days after Houston’s passing, I thought about her roots, growing up singing in the church and how much more simple her life was back then. I hope she is resting in the peaceful presence of her Savior.
Tim Keller, “The New Heaven and New Earth”.
New York, 9/30/11