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There’s A Love and It Grows: One Direction’s “Walking in the Wind” and Zayn’s “Golden”

One Direction recently celebrated their six year anniversary. As new solo contracts get signed during this hiatus and the first summer without a tour passes, now is the perfect time to reflect on One Direction’s creation. A cultural phenomenon I’m happy to have witnessed myself, One Direction has helped create our modern conception of pop-rock music – through their own music, launching the career of 5 Seconds of Summer, and inspiring subsequent copycats.

It was written about endlessly for the last year that Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction would see him creating a new sound space for himself as a musician. It is true that ZAYN’s solo album relied heavily on R&B, a sound that was not heard in One Direction’s tracks. However, the slick production value of Mind of Mine was no surprise. ZAYN’s release is among the biggest records of 2016 behind Kanye West, Drake, and Beyoncé. Critics acted shocked by his performance on the charts as if ZAYN was not a veteran pop performer with five years of industry experience and a rampant following. His rise to the top of the charts was no accident. “PILLOWTALK” and “LIKE I WOULD” do not forget his pop sensibilities, but build upon them with solid engineering from top producers.

As I wrote about One Direction’s fifth album Made in the A.M. in November on witchsong:

The much publicized and debated departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction in March 2015 is not obvious in the seamless vocal recording—full, textured and layered, perhaps now more than ever as they even managed to record several tracks with a 24-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios—but Zayn’s absence is unquestionably evident in the melancholy and poignant lyrical content of Made in the A.M.  Zayn’s departure has given them the vocabulary necessary to express rage, remorse… to reminisce. The album has been dedicated time and time again to the fans. The unspoken dedication is to the boy who left center stage in March.

This is clearest in One Direction’s deluxe edition bonus track, “Walking in the Wind.” The track, which to me is reminiscent of Paul Simon’s Graceland, cannot be extracted from the narrative of Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction on March 25, 2015. The song was written by Julian Bunetta, John Ryan, J.S. Baylin, and, most importantly in this case, Harry Styles. The track ruminates on a sudden departure.

The fact that we can sit right here and say goodbye
Means we’ve already won
A necessity for apologies between you and me
Baby, there is none…

Made in the A.M. is an album written in the early morning haze of tour life. It’s also an album written in the aftermath of a departure of a beloved “brother”, best friend, and colleague. The era of Take Me Home bops has ended, darkening with age and the complications of fame. Made in the A.M. carries the weight of worldwide scandals, ended love affairs, and Zayn’s exit. There’s a real maturity to the sentiment we’ve already won. One Direction did win. Well, not the competition. But what they won was more important. They won over each other’s hearts, and in turn ours. We’ve already won holds onto the burden and pressure of goodbye. It allows the memories of the past to maintain their joy, sentimentality. There’s an acceptance of the current state of affairs, and an understanding that what is currently the status quo will one day change. There is an earned ease to Harry’s lyrics.

“Walking in the Wind” meanders; it’s reflective and aimless. It’s looking, searching for a landing.

We had some good times, didn’t we?
We had some good tricks up our sleeve
Goodbyes are bitter-sweet
But it’s not the end, I’ll see your face again…

Zayn’s departure is intrinsically a part of One Direction’s follow-up album. It is a part of the album’s narrative, but also of One Direction’s – just look at the promotional press surrounding the release. There was not a single interview that did not discuss Zayn’s sudden exit. The boys handled the questions well, but there were fractures. Days where the endless litany of the same questions seems to crack their veneer. Harry making fun of Zayn’s ying-yang tattoo or Louis admitting to The Sunday Times Style that their friendship was altered by the exit.  We had some good times, didn’t we might as well be accompanied by a reel of This Is Us clips. I’ll see your face again everywhere, in the flurry of paparazzi flashes that will constantly follow the five of them, no matter if they reside in London, Los Angeles or Bradford. Goodbyes are bittersweet and that was never more clear than in the months following the Facebook post on One Direction’s official account confirming Zayn’s exit. Vomiting in the middle of the night after Zayn spoke to The Sun about his departure, I didn’t think my mouth would ever stop tasting sour.

“Walking in the Wind” feels like a confirmation from 1D that it’s ok to wrestle with the past, present and future of the band.

You will find me, yeah you will find me
In places that we’ve never been
For reasons we don’t understand…

There will be reminders of One Direction for years to come, even if their current hiatus extends from two years to permanent. A postgraduate album of sorts, Made in the A.M. is a reflection of the fluctuating dynamics of band mates/friends/significant others as allegiances and priorities change.  Zayn Malik’s CV will always start with The X Factor, Simon Cowell, “Torn” and four other boys. Their skin is inked with tattoos that speak to the bonds forged during late nights on Bus 1 and on Madison Square Garden’s stage. The memories of #1 hits and bong hits. There’s been a manipulation of the past in interviews and cover stories, but we were all there. We’ll never forget the history that was made.

It’s fitting that Louis, Zayn’s best friend and partner in crime, gets the last verse of “Walking in the Wind”:

Yesterday I went out
To celebrate the birthday of a friend
But as we raised our glasses up to make a toast
I realised you were missing…

There are afternoons where I’m listening to Made in the A.M. stuck on the subway, and my body jolts as I wait for a voice that will never come. Last year, it seemed like Louis was taking Zayn’s departure just as hard as I was. No one seems to have captured that emotional journey more completely than Louis – the immense sense of loss, the melancholy.

A man of few words while in One Direction, Zayn didn’t let Made in the A.M. get the last word. ZAYN’s solo debut (released on the one-year anniversary of his departure from One Direction, a level of management shade that Shakespeare is jealous he did not write) Mind of Mine allows us unrivaled access to his current headspace, which is filled mostly with romance, weed, sex and goodbyes. It’s a young artist trying to find his own identity after years of contributing little outside vocal runs. Here ZAYN had the final say in all creative decisions, at least according to his label.

In “Golden,” a Mind of Mine bonus track, fans get what feels like a direct response to “Walking in the Wind.” The first verse begins It goes and it’s golden like sands of time / I hope and I hope you’ll still be fine… The piano-driven track continues:

The choices we make change the path that we take
But I know
That somewhere out there there’s a path that we chose
There’s a life that we share, there’s a love and it grows…

The life that they share is in the pop charts, in their continued success as musicians, and in the lingering memories of One Direction fans. There’s a love and it grows… While this might have felt like proper fan fiction in the summer of 2015, there seem to be glimpses of their mended friendships. Or at least, Liam and Zayn’s continued bond according to interviews with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe and FADER.

I hope and I hope you’ll still be fine
I know that it’s bright
Look through the light and see it’s meant to be…

ZAYN wishes them the best in their future endeavors. He knows that the future is “bright” for all of them. These boys are a “jigsaw piece” that I am happy we got to watch, catapult to international acclaim for five years making exceptional pop-rock tracks. Like ZAYN, I too, after months of agony and indecision, think it was “meant to be.” The future is bright. I can’t wait to stand inside the light and see.

Shura — “Nothing’s Real”

A dreamy, hazy intro is the first thing you get from our newest pop princess Shura’s debut album. Scraps of dialogue from Shura’s father and what sounds like a rocket blasting off in the distance tune in and out like a fuzzy radio. As “(i)” fades, it’s replaced by the album’s title track. Nothing’s Real shifts from ’80s homage in songs like “What’s It Gonna Be” to near imitation in “Nothing’s Real”. Shura uses this album to take on a presence like those of the early ’80s queens, each track presenting a girlish, almost naively feminine voice.

The defining measure of the album is Shura’s introversion. In songs like “2Shy”, Shura channels the spirit of Molly Ringwald in 16 Candles, right before Michael Schoeffling is about to kiss her over the cake. Shura is hesitant, whispering over a powdery synthetic build about her desire — maybe? — for a sort of relationship with this person she might just like.

Despite this uncertainty, Shura doesn’t stray from being articulate in “2Shy”. Each note is perfectly in place, never straying from the heartbeat of the song. She might be murmuring, caressing the lyrics, but the phrasing is too deliberate to ignore: Headphones on, got a cigarette rolled, I know / I shouldn’t light it ‘cause I haven’t had one for weeks.

Shura’s shy and sweet, but she’s also deliberate and aware of everything happening around her. It’s this deliberation that drives her individuality and really matches her to the early ’80s greats. “Nothing’s Real” shows off her power more so than any other track off the album. Instead of the soft thrum of a heartbeat, the album’s title track epitomizes the throb of restlessness, ticking through the dragging hours of dissociation and panic. There’s nothing soft or playful about “Nothing’s Real,” though the hesitation and uncertainty remains

Other songs are harder to categorize. “What’s It Gonna Be”, a track with a video you should have already fallen in love with, balances indecision (incidentally, the name of another song off the album) with a defined, upbeat assuredness. Nothing’s Real is all about going boldly forward into the unknown, and suddenly the sounds of the rocket in “(i)” make a lot more sense.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the final two tracks off Nothing Is Real. Each over nine minutes long, “White Light” and “The Space Tapes” feel unfinished and uncensored. “The Space Tapes” relies on instrumentation and has the vibe of an R&B song, so much so as to be tonally distinct from the rest of the album. Both pieces include slow fades to silence, only to pick back up again with an entirely new theme. It’s almost as if Shura were piecing together a few incomplete bits of her brain, unsure what to do with them — so she just stuck them to the end of the album. “White Light” and “The Space Tapes” share a refreshing distinction from the power and precision of the rest of the album, and they add yet another layer of humanity to Nothing’s Real.

Shura’s debut album didn’t strike a chord with me because her music sounds exactly like the theme to a John Hughes movie. It didn’t strike a chord because she’s a British pop princess, or because she made a cute LGBT music video (although that certainly didn’t hurt). It resonated with me because Shura leans heavily into teasing out different aspects of what we, the audience, are led to believe make her a person with doubts and fears. Making music in itself is a scary thing, but deliberately making your art reflect a deep, true part of yourself is even scarier. So here Shura goes, boldly forward into the unknown.


Carson is a 23-year-old who discovered the joys of the Backstreet Boys two years ago, when she fell down a pink fur-lined rabbit hole into the world of pop. She has since taken it upon herself to make an exodus into the underbelly of the glitter-covered beast. You can find her Spotify account here and you can also find her on Tumblr

it’s alright, it’s okay: another playlist

Otter-Pops

it is sticky hot outside and the world is ending one day at a time. here is a playlist full of songs that will hopefully feel a little bit like a cool breeze, like wading into water, like distraction, maybe like peace.

wild – troye sivan ft. alessia cara
still too long ’til the weekend still too long ’til i drown in your hands

you don’t get me high anymore – phantogram
man i am faking it the best i can

rotten teeth – holychild ft. kate nash
i can never be the girl i wanna be no no i’m never free

blessings – chance the rapper
when the praises go up the blessings come down

sometimes – ariana grande
i ain’t even think of leavin’ sometimes

ice cream colours – corinne bailey rae
you make me dream in ice cream colours

kick, push – lupe fiasco
so we kick push kick push coast

red lights – chloe x halle
turn off the world dance with myself like ballerinas

moth to the flame – chairlift
i can’t help it i’m a moth to the flame

you’re the best – wet
well baby you’re the best we’ll figure out the rest

i love you always forever – betty who
you’ve got me almost melting away

thursday girl – mitski
glory to the night it shows me what i am

god only knows – the beach boys
as long as there are stars above you you never need to doubt it

boyfriend – tegan & sara
i need to know the rules if you want me to play

electric love – børns
she’s sweet like candy in my veins

radio – lana del rey
now my life is sweet like cinnamon like a fuckin’ dream i’m livin’ in

Summer, babe: Playlist

IMG_0541 (2)

playlist

NAO – Fool to Love
I was a fool to love
I was a fool to love you

Catfish and the Bottlemen – Twice
Cause when you love the way you’re living it gets hard to fret about much

Flume – Never Be Like You (feat Kai)
I would give anything to change
This fickle minded heart that loves fake shiny things

Little Mix – OMG
Oh my gosh, I did it again
He said I broke his heart, it keeps happening

Wet – It’s All in Vain
Tell me, baby, say it slowly
All the things you never showed me

Drowners – Pick up the Pace
I have searched all the terraces for you

ZAYN – dRUNk
Right now I’m emotional

AURORA – Life on Mars
Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen

Mitski – Thursday Girl
Somebody please
Tell me no, tell me no

The Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored
I wanna be adored
You adore me

Ellie Goulding – Here’s to Us
There’s something in the way, love is never enough

One Direction – Walking in the Wind
Yeah you will find me
In places that we’ve never been
For reasons we don’t understand

Beyoncé – All Night
Kiss up and rub up and feel up
Kiss up and rub up and feel up on ya

Some Music Videos You Maybe Forgot About But You Shouldn’t Have, Because They Are Great

It is finally starting to feel like summer here in Denver, and this weekend I sat outside and drank a Lime-a-rita (because my liquor store was SOLD OUT OF LEMONADE-RITA, which I am still angry about) and ate a popsicle and listened to a lot of music. It was very soothing and I hope that all of you are able to have a similar experience very soon, and I am going to try to facilitate that as much as I can. Here are a bunch of music videos that, if you haven’t watched them in awhile (or at all, somehow), are very deserving of some of your time today. Not quite a popsicle on the porch, but maybe close enough for a Thursday.

YOGA – Janelle Monáe

Get off my areooooolaaaaaaa.

MY LOVE – Justin Timberlake

I mourn FutureSex/LoveSounds almost daily.

IRREPLACEABLE – Beyoncé

Cargo shorts!!!! Overalls!!!! Gay-ass girl band!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’M OUT – Ciara

I mean. Speaking of gay-ass shit.

CALL YOUR GIRLFRIEND – Robyn

Still delightful. Still mesmerizing.

Do you agree with the (correct) opinion that Lemonade-rita is by far the best flavor of -rita?? Do you think JT will ever recover from making his best album in 2006 and slowly declining since then?? Did you see that stupid movie with Amanda Seyfried that I saw twice in theaters??? It was really bad and I don’t recommend it but I also talk about it all the time. Remember when he was on SNL as Bon Iver and put himself to sleep with his own music? Justin! Come back to us! We deserve so much better than “Suit & Tie” and I know there are some jams on whatever that album is actually called but nothing compares to FS/LS. You know what’s cooler than a million dollars, Justin? Making a better album. Remember when that joke was relevant? All right, I’m going back to work.

 

My Mama Don’t Like You: Justin Bieber at Barclays Center

I debated whether or not to buy a ticket to Justin Bieber’s New York tour for months. It was a big financial decision. Or as a co-worker said the day after when I walked into the office in a Bieber tee, “I hope that wasn’t expensive!” Newsflash: pop concerts are not cheap, particularly when everyone on StubHub sells tickets at $150 over the original value for all those of us who couldn’t buy them the day they were released due to work, funds, life. However, I knew I desperately needed the momentary reprieve that a night of Bieber and “What Do You Mean?” could give.

2016 has already been a rough year for us all. We’ve endured the loss of Bowie and Prince, survived another winter, and, if you’re like me, departed work a little more world-weary with each passing day. I bought the ticket to Justin Bieber in hopes of celebrating his revival (yes, Selena Gomez’s not the only one) and hoping for my own.

No one can deny the ascent of Justin Bieber on last year’s charts. His crossover appeal has seen such a rise that Urban Outfitters now sells “vintage” men’s tees of his baby face (I loathe these shirts. Men can continue owning Metallica tees for all I care.). It’s been ok’d by Complex and Pitchfork to indulge in Bieber’s musings. I’ve always been a Bieber fan musically, but I’ve been on the fringe of his fandom. I will defend “Die In Your Arms” until the end of time, but I’ve never quite seen the appeal of his locks or tattoos. I already have my fandom (One Direction), and it takes up more than enough of my time and money. Yet in light of their hiatus, I knew I had the savings to allow for one night of carefree dancing and swaying to “No Sense” and “Love Yourself”. The price of admission was entirely worth it once Bieber sat on a velvet sofa and sang you think I’m crying on my own, well I ain’t to a reverent audience.

Upon arrival at Barclays, I immediately made the mistake of purchasing a tee outside of the arena only to discover my favorite shirt inside after four steps into the arena. $80 and two tees later, I trudged past the merchandise only to discover the beer lounge immediately to my right. I’ll be honest: I plopped myself there for the first two openers alongside wine moms and Bud Light dads. I was here for Justin and Justin alone. I made sure to charge my phone, and watched as gleeful teens in a uniform of ripped black jeans and tank tops made their way to their seats. I lusted after a Saint Laurent jacket that walked by on a young teen and watched the number of Calvin Klein merch bags grow in number. I was pleased to see that most of the people in attendance were still the young women who had been there since the beginning. Pop airwaves might be drowned in “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean?”, but among the fans paying for tickets are the same women who attended the Believe Tour.

The tour opened with Purpose’s album opener, “Mark My Words.” Singing from the middle of a glass box, fists and face pressed against the glass, Justin Bieber sang Mark my words, that’s all that I have / Mark my words, give you all I got. After the spiral of the last few years, Purpose begins with a hushed promise.  There was a reliance on the stark images of Justin on top of a metaphorical mountain on stage, the slope of the stage. He climbed the inclined stage as he did the charts—effortlessly.

The concert kicked into gear when Bieber came back out, the box descending into the depths of Barclays Center, to perform “Where Are Ü Now”, the smash hit remix of 2015. “Where Are Ü Now” has been remixed for the tour, and Bieber effortlessly carried out killer dance moves alongside his vocals. Singing to us fans, he pleaded, I need you, you, you, you, you, you / You, you, you / I need you the most.

It’s impossible to separate the narrative of the relationship between Selena Gomez and Justin from Purpose. He confronts the tabloid culture of his breakdown on “I’ll Show You”, singing My life is a movie and everyone’s watching / So let’s get to the good part and past all the nonsense… Much like his continued appearances on James Corden, striving to show his heart, his humanity, Justin just wants us all to focus on the beats and lyrics. He wants us to focus on his craft and not the spectacle. I’m not made out of steel / Don’t forget that I’m human, don’t forget that I’m real… It can be hard to remember that the celebrities we see on Tumblr and Twitter exist outside of our browsers. “I’ll Show You” asks us to look for the man behind the music. Act like you know me, but you never will… As I stood there, swaying and spilling beer, I thought of all those meet and greets Bieber had cancelled due to sapped energy. The distance between us and Bieber grows daily as the magnitude of his celebrity engulfs him, but lyrically we’ve never known him better. Bieber, the singer, is trying to let us in. He just wants to set the limits. He just wants to show us, under the lights of an arena.

Bieber went on to perform “The Feeling,” his collaboration with Halsey, and the instant classic “Boyfriend”. The arena joyously sang along to the slick vocal magic of “Boyfriend,” which is just as massive as it was in 2012. It’s still exhilarating to sing along to Chillin’ by the fire while we eatin’ fondue / I don’t know about me but I know about you.

I was happiest to hear “Love Yourself.” There’s no arguing with the brilliance of the lyric my mama don’t like you and she likes everyone. By pairing up with Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber wrote the first song off Purpose that might not actually be aimed at Selena or his fame. This isn’t an apology, but a declaration. The kiss-off that I’m happy to add to my pop arsenal is you should go and love yourself. Even better, in a year of self-care, the shortened love yourself. Ed Sheeran knows how to write a ballad, and this track allows Bieber to do what he does best: quite simply, sing. I’ve loved watching Bieber take this song around the world. The presentation in concert was minimal, which allowed for the track to find its true depth. Anyone who has watched the concert film Believe knows that Bieber’s tours of old were about bombast, cinema, and flair. The Purpose Tour smartly contains itself. It’s not as interested in the staging as it is in Justin’s restoration. Sure, there are dancers; but at times there is just Justin, the man, alone on stage. Nearly consumed by the lights, we get to watch him apologize and resurrect the career he nearly imploded.

Thankfully, the last half of the concert retained old hits “As Long As You Love Me” and “Baby”, while adding  “Purpose” and “What Do You Mean?”

It’s interesting how “Baby” in 2016 retains its desperation:

And I’m in pieces, baby fix me
And just shake me ‘til you wake me from this bad dream
I’m going down, down, down, down
And I just can’t believe my first love won’t be around…

At the height of his fame, Justin still is in pieces. He still can’t believe his first love won’t be around. Week after week, we get continued Instagram posts where Justin reflects on his history with Selena. While she was seen crumpling a sign calling for her to marry Justin earlier last week on her Revival Tour, Justin seems intent on hanging onto the past.  “Baby”, a breakout pop hit, feels just as relevant to Justin’s history and headspace now as it did in 2010. The song now carries the weight of his real true love, the media backlash, and the continued desire to connect with millions of people through music.

I am still speechless that Bieber performed “Children.” The track dragged. If I’d been in need of another 20-oz beer this would have been the time.

I’d like to remind you to not leave during his drum solo, a pulsating reminder of the talent behind every changing hairstyle (thankfully, he cut the cornrows before Barclays so I could attend in good conscience). The encore of the night was, of course, “Sorry”. As we grabbed our coats and threw away our beers, Justin wanted us to remember that he wanted to redeem himself. Justin, in my opinion, consider yourself absolved.

Setlist:

Mark My Words
Where Are Ü Now (Jack Ü cover) (Purpose Tour remix)
Get Used To It
I’ll Show You
The Feeling
Boyfriend
Cry Me A River (Timberlake cover)
Love Yourself
Been You
Company
No Sense
Hold Tight
No Pressure
As Long As You Love Me
Justin Bieber Drum Solo
U Smile
Children
Life Is Worth Living
What Do You Mean?
Baby
Purpose

Encore:
Sorry

We Found Love: Goldy Moldavsky’s ‘Kill The Boy Band’

I was wary of reading the young adult novel Kill The Boy Band. Don’t get me wrong, the title hooked me right away. Goldy Moldavsky and the publisher knew what they were doing when they titled the book and put the script in highlighter pink (the ads on my Tumblr didn’t hurt as far as promotion is concerned either). My interest was piqued. However, I was troubled by an interview I’d seen in the Observer, which made it sound like the book was a judgment call being passed on “fangirls.” As a fangirl—as a girl invested in a boy band herself—I was wary of what this book would have to say about me.

[image from Scholastic’s blog]
Already from the About The Book on Scholastic’s website, I grew concerned. The narrator says, “We are fans. Okay, superfans who spend all of our free time tweeting about the boys and updating our fan tumblrs. But so what, that’s what you do when you love a group so much it hurts.” The phrasing here seems to beg for laughs from readers.

I’m not saying I haven’t at my worst moments expressed that same type of gleeful judgment, trepidation, and shock at fan behavior that I felt had crossed a line. A girl fainted next to me in Detroit when 5 Seconds of Summer took the stage prior to One Direction’s concert, and I froze in panic and then broke into laughter when I looked at my best friend. (Yes, I made sure this girl was ok; I also inwardly thought, “I’m glad we express our adoration differently.”) I just couldn’t find that type of fervor for Ashton Irwin.

So in a world intent on telling girls how to dress, act, and talk, I was a little nervous to start Kill The Boy Band. I feel so protective of the real world fandom us girls have all created–the men’s bathrooms at venues converted into women’s bathroom, meet-ups before concerts with people we’ve only met on the Internet, but who are soon to be IRL friends. The hushed silence that descends on an auditorium when the boys you’ve reblogged on Tumblr transform from pixels to flesh. Teen girls don’t need to be told to love in moderation. Society is already telling them to eat smaller portions, to take up less space. Girls are not allowed anything in excess, and that extends to the way they must love pop culture.

Kill The Boy Band is a fast read. I should start there. I devoured the book. Goldy Moldavsky creates a world rich with today’s social media platforms. This book cannot be separated from our current landscape. The Ruperts, the boy band of the title, are a conglomeration of 90’s acts (*NSYNC, The Backstreet Boys) and today’s rock acts (One Direction). As much as this book is fiction, there are moments when it reads like non-fiction. If you’re a “fangirl,” the shorthand on fanfic and investigation into lives of beloved boy band members is familiar territory. Goldy pushes the envelope in order to ask thought-provoking questions about what fandom can eventually look like.

The book opens promisingly: “Fangirls get a bad rap all the time. They say we’re weird, hysterical, obsessed, certifiable. But those people don’t understand. Just because I love something a lot doesn’t mean I’m crazy.” Sixty pages in, when a dude confronts the narrator about her feelings on boy bands, I cheered as her internal monologue stated, “When you find something that makes you happy and giddy and excited every day, us fangirls know a truth that everyone else seems to have forgotten: You hold on to that joy tenaciously.” Goldy, here, correctly understands the mindset of what it means to be in a fandom, but later I felt let down by the idea that kept appearing throughout about growing up and out of fandom culture: that these girls have wasted time, energy, friendships on boys who don’t deserve them.

Maybe it’s due to my Cancer horoscope, my weak inner constitution, and my deep-rooted hatred of criticism, but I can’t help but be angry that Goldy ultimately ridicules the adoration teen girls feel for boy bands. I hope no one who picks up Kill The Boy Band reflects on their time loving a boy band with self-hatred. I hope they can remember how it feels to love something larger than yourself – something that you helped create. The Ruperts of Kill The Boy Band only exist because of these teen girls (Erin, Isabel, Apple, and the unnamed narrator). There is a power in that.

Yes, their loyalties might change. We can all be fickle. We can all move on. However, we shouldn’t judge our former selves for what we needed in order to survive day to day. The GIFs, Snapchats, Instagrams, and memes are fleeting but what they give us is not. The laughs we shared with Internet friends a whole continent away, our fangirl kin that understood exactly what we meant when we used emojis to describe the latest shirtless selfie of our fav.

Kill The Boy Band succeeds in being readable, knowledgeable entertainment, but I worry about the passages where the book seems to say: One Direction is sure to let you down the same way The Ruperts have let down these girls. I’m uncomfortable with that assertion. I don’t think we have to be embarrassed by the pop culture we use as shorthand. I think there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Yes, it’s good to look deeper at the allegiances girls have to boy bands. But to paraphrase one of the pivotal characters, I don’t think we should be telling girls that their passion and power can be better utilized. I don’t see men being taught that they need to set down their remote controls in order to wield their brainpower in other mediums.

I urge witchsong readers to pick up their own copy from a local library, independent bookstore or Barnes & Noble, and let me know what they thought. In the meantime, I’ll be blasting One Direction’s “Change Your Ticket.”

nonrequired reading: art and artists and one witch

Hello again! I have been reading a lot of books about art lately (okay, two of them), but as a person who works predominantly with art and who considers myself to be at least a little bit an artist I am always enthralled by books of this kind.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is about a girl who forges a painting in grad school because she’s broke (#relatable), grows up to become a famous curator, and then curates a show where – surprise – her forgery and the original show up. It is a little bit historical fiction, set respectively in the Golden Age of Dutch painting (late 1500s-early 1600s), the 1950s, and today, following painter, forger, and owner of the painting. There is a lot of rather technical detail about forging paintings which I personally found to be very interesting – types of brushstrokes, how to age a canvas, etc., etc., but it is also just a really beautiful study of people. The writing is incredible; there were certain parts that I had to just stop and stare at.

The Drowning Girl is a book about ghosts but also about art and it is, honestly, a piece of art in itself. I am about halfway through but I can already tell this is a book I will read and read and read. It has captured me so completely – it is almost impossible to describe, which I think is the point, but it resonates in my bones. It’s written so perfectly, so utterly truly – there is a part where she says that people fear vampires and werewolves and ghosts and whatnot because although they are not factual they are true. This book is true and I want you all to read it and come talk to me about it.

Now the witch! Of course there is a witch. Hex is a translation from its original Dutch (lots of Dutch today!) and the author reworked it a bit in the translating. It is a horror novel about a small town in upstate New York (I think? somewhere staid and unflappable, anyway) that has a witch. And they know they have a witch, and they’re resigned to having a witch, and when she inevitably shows up in someone’s living room to stand there for hours on end, they put a towel on her head so they don’t have to look at her face and keep watching TV. Obviously havoc ensues, eventually, but it’s a really interesting take on haunting as a concept and is pretty creepy at times, if I’m being honest.

Other books about art which I have loved: The Goldfinch,  The Swan Thieves, Tell the Wolves I’m Home. Anything that talks about the texture of light in a painting is something I am going to read. I am partial to landscapes and still lifes, Maria van Oosterwyck, Wyeth but not his weirder stuff. I would rather look at a Thomas Kinkade than a Rothko and I understand objectively why that is wrong but I am who I am. There is a painting by Didier Paquignon of a car on an overpass and the first time I saw it I cried because the light was so beautiful. There is a way that art gets talked about in fiction – painting, specifically – that makes me feel shivery and connected to humanity and these books have all got it.

Next time I will talk about Girls on Fire! I have finished it but I am still processing. It is amazing, I will tell you that much.

nonrequired reading

Hello again! I read some more things. Once again I implore you to join me on Litsy (@furiosa) which is shaping up to be maybe pretty good. I would love to follow some of our readers – y’all have good taste <3 and one of the books I am gonna recommend here today was suggested to me by one of you!

The Expedition – Bea Uusma (hi Agnes!)
If you liked Dead Mountain – frankly, if you have even heard of it – you may be in the sort of unsolved-mountain-death-mystery club that I am. There is just something transfixing about a group of people dying inexplicably! I’m sorry! I want to know what happened! And obviously we never will – I fall into this trap every time I read one of these things, like, this person definitely solved it, we’re finally gonna KNOW THE TRUTH – like, let me stop you there and warn you, that is not what this book is. But it is beautifully written and sad and really prettily arranged; it is as much a work of art as it is a piece of writing, and it is really just lovely. It is about the first-ever Arctic expedition, and these three guys who, uh, tried to fly to the North Pole in a hydrogen balloon. You read that right. It is really fascinating from a scientific standpoint – lots of theories, debunking of theories, and did you know that the Arctic isn’t land? There’s no land! It’s just ice! Really thick ice! I freaked out about that for awhile. The seafloor is ten thousand feet below this fake ice continent! It is also, though, as all of these types of books are, a love story. There is a reason people do these things, as inexplicable as we may find it, and I think the reason I love these books is because they are a window into this kind of love, this dangerous, reckless love. Anyway, you should read it, it was translated from the original Swedish (I think?) and is maybe only available as a Kindle book in English, but still. Worth it. (Postscript: if you are into this kind of thing and have not watched Devil’s Pass, please do so and report back. Note that it is a horror movie and as such is a work of fiction, but still. But still.) 5 stars, would read again.

The Fireman – Joe Hill
More horror reviews from your horrorgirl, that’s me, always reading all the horror all the time, trying desperately to find the next best most terrifying thing. This one was not quite horror if I’m being honest, but I did like it. I have a weird relationship with Joe Hill, in that I half suspect that his dad is ghostwriting for him, but whether that’s true or not his recent stuff far eclipses his early work. N0S4A2, in particular, was truly haunting and I think about it a lot. But The Fireman is not horror. It is basically The Stand again, but in this decade, and with a new disease, and some other variations. It is also much, much better than The Stand. (I hate The Stand. I’m sorry. I know this is blasphemy. I love Stephen King despite his many missteps but I haaate The Stand. In a fun installment of “Aly misunderstands very common pop culture phenomena”, I actually did not read it for years despite loving King because I for some reason thought it was a 1500-page book about a trial. Taking the stand? Listen, I watch a lot of crime shows. Anyway, I finally read it and hated it, so, joke’s on me.) So this is another during-and-post-apocalypse tale that draws fairly heavily from The Horror Greats, which makes for a sort of fun Easter-egg spot-the-reference reading experience, and although it is a little bit predictable it is still very enjoyable. The universe that Hill has created is a good one, and I kind of want to write a bunch of things involving Dragonscale, the exciting new plague that’s sweeping the nation. Ha. 4 stars, will probably not read again but will definitely read a sequel/spinoff.

I’m currently reading War of the Foxes, which is a small and devastating book of poetry by Richard Siken containing many poems that are definitely about Bucky Barnes.

Next up on the list is something called Girls on Fire, which I know almost nothing about except that the author usually writes YA and it was described as “nightmarishly compelling”. Much like myself. After that, I’m keeping my eye out for a copy of the new YA book about the descendants of the Countess of Bathory (I KNOW. I KNOW!!).

Recommend things! Tell me what you’re reading! Tell me whether you think I’m giving Joe Hill too much/not enough credit! Did you read Horns? Did you see it? Do you think Daniel Radcliffe is eating enough? Do you think he wants to hang out with me sometime? I just feel like we’d hit it off. Comment below, I’ve got coffee and I’m ready to chat!

BELIEVE IN THE SKY: APRIL 2016

Hello! It is April! It is the month of my birth and also Gerard Way’s and Kristen Stewart’s and many of our readers and two of my very dearest friends, who were actually born on the same day as me! So! It is a good month, a month I love, and I am very excited for all of us as it unfolds. Here we go!

ts eliot, “the waste land”

Aries: “What You Waiting For?”, Gwen Stefani. Take a chance ’cause you might grow.

There is never going to be a perfect time, Aries. There is never going to be what Jack Sparrow called the opportune moment, some bright shining thing that emerges from the sky and says to you yes, now, yes. There is never going to come a day when all of your conditions are met; there is no ideal time at which everything you undertake will go well. Instead, consider this your signal. This is not the opportune moment, but it is the moment in which you have a choice. You can move, now, out of the shadow and into a light of your own making, or you can stand still and wait for it to find you. Don’t stand still. Don’t wait.

Taurus: “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)”, the Decemberists. Look for me with the sun-bright sparrow, I will come on the breath of the wind.

It is very trying to feel sad in the spring,  and very lonely. It feels somehow inauthentic. But listen, Taurus: your heart does not always correspond to the seasons on Earth. There is a landscape in your soul that is yours and yours alone, dappled with sun and shadow, snow-capped peaks next to the sea. If I can quote Whitman, and I will, you contain multitudes. You are always reflected in the world, no matter what you think, but the problem lies in that often you are not looking for yourself in the right place. This month is for meeting yourself where you are, not where you think you should be.

Gemini: “Golden Slumbers”, the Beatles. Once there was a way to get back homeward.

Your world is getting bigger, every single day, by simple virtue of the fact that you are a living thing. It can make you feel small when you think about it, the tiny boat of yourself in a vast expanding sea. It can make you want to stay still. Instead I want you to try, this month, to think of this widening life as a blessing. You are the same size no matter how many directions you can strike out in; a small fish in a small bowl feels big, but it’s confined. Recognize the incredible mobility that you have and reach for the edges of your map. Carry yourself as bravely as you can.

Cancer: “Tonight I’m Getting Over You”, Carly Rae Jepsen. No more cryin’ to get me through.

Pruning is important. It is vital, this cutting, this weeping of ichor. To stay healthy, to grow, you have to prune yourself down. Examine yourself this month. Look at the core of you, the bright flourishing new growth. Follow the branches of your life out to what is withering; take hold of those things and cut them away. You must be as impassive as you can as you do this. It will hurt, but these things are sapping you, choking you. It will hurt, but you will not miss them when they are gone – this is how you will know you were right. Protect your vitality.

Leo: “Breathe (2 AM)”, Anna Nalick. You can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable.

Balance is so very important. You are a hunting creature, a seeking striving thing, and the incredible, single-minded focus you possess is a double-edged sword. There is a difference between purposeful motion and running yourself into exhaustion. It is not weakness to rest, to acknowledge that you need rest in the first place. Allow yourself some leeway this month. Be gentle with yourself; acknowledge your needs and try as hard as you can to remember that they are valid. Doing this is not straying from the path toward what you want – only pausing upon it.

Virgo: “Like Dylan in the Movies”, Belle and Sebastian. Don’t look back, like Dylan in the movies.

You will get nothing from looking back except a mouthful of salt. This month I want you to keep your eyes forward. Dwelling on what has been will not bring it back or change it; this is a hard lesson to learn but it is crucial. You cannot live your life looking at what you have left behind, at the things you have moved beyond. Start to learn to carry the past with you without taking it out, examining it, turning it over in the light. Eventually you will be able to put it down altogether.

Libra: “Everything I Am”, Kanye West. Everything I’m not made me everything I am.

You are made up of other people, of places and books and movies and paintings, the things you learn from them and the world as a whole. Everything that has ever taught you is a part of you, and this does not make you inauthentic. Even natural things are constructed – think of crystals, think of snowflakes, think of the perfect fluid grace of any skeleton. You can make your own way even as you follow in the footsteps of others – this is how you make yourself better. This is how you make the world better. Don’t be afraid of losing yourself; everything you are is yours.

Scorpio: “BeFoUr”, ZAYN. I can’t be bothered to fight it no more, no.

Try to find it in yourself to be soft this month. It is natural, when the world becomes sharp and hard, to steel yourself against it, to spark against it like flint. It is natural to bite when you are cornered. This is against your instinct – against the instinct of all animals, really – but sometimes the unexpected move is what wins the fight. Let yourself be pliable this month; let yourself yield. Slip out of the grasp of the things that would hold you, crush you, even as you drew blood from their fingers. Live to fight another day.

Sagittarius: “Birdhouse in Your Soul”, They Might Be Giants. Keep the nightlight on inside the birdhouse in your soul.

Things flourish when they are safe. They bloom when they are nurtured. There is always the temptation to dismiss the mundane, the familiar, but there has to be a harbor. There has to be a place where you can put down roots, spread yourself upward and outward and unfurl all your tiny wings. Think, this month, about the places you feel safe, and the people you allow there. Remind yourself of your foundation, the things you can rely on, the ground out of which you will grow. Learn to take these things with you as you navigate the world. Make a home inside yourself, and know that it is safe there.

Capricorn: “Changes”, David Bowie. Turn and face the strange.

Do not be fooled into thinking that you deserve your suffering. Do not be fooled into thinking that sadness is a matter of course. Remember: feelings are finite. This is a beautiful, daunting gift. Everything you feel at every moment is new, no matter how familiar it seems – you are a new person every moment, every breath that you take. There are shades and shades of everything you will ever feel and no two are the same. Listen carefully to yourself this month, the way you would try to make out a very distant, half-remembered song. Witness the minute, dizzying, endless variations of your emotions, and know that you will feel different.

Aquarius: “Out is Through”, Alanis Morissette. I think there must be easier ways

The forest is very dark, but the only way back into the sun is to go through it. It is so difficult, in the moment, in the middle of the darkness, to remember this, but this month I want you to try. I want you to remember that the sun always rises. There is always, always a way forward – there is always meaning. There is a reason you are in the dark in the first place, but the forest tries to swallow it up and keep you there. Do not let the weary actuality of the struggle make you forget what you are struggling towards. Do not lose hope.

Pisces: “Benson Hedges”, fun. You’re beautiful for all your big mistakes.

Memory is a fluid and fickle thing, something ruled by the head and the heart, something ruled by the soles of the feet. It is tempting to ignore it, to dismiss it, to try and escape it, but this month I want you to turn and face it head-on. Your memories are a part of you as much as your blood and your bones, even the ones you don’t love. Let your past exist within you, and know that it does not make you weak. Know that to hold all of these things inside you is a great and terrible thing, something to aspire to, something to be proud of. Know that it is a kind of home.