Tunes for the Treats and the Tears

Multiple albums were released throughout 2017 that kept me dancing and finger-snapping throughout every season. Muggy summer jam sessions and numb winter toe taps—music has been the glue holding each season together. These albums have kept the corners of my mouth up, the introspective thoughts pumping through my bloodstream, and the weights off of my lungs on fiery or frostbitten days.

Self-Titled by: Harry Styles

Harry Styles
Photo Credit: Billboard

Although Harry Styles is a debut album, it also happens to be the product of a young and well-versed musician. Styles compiled an addictive album that combines pop, rock, and a flavor of the Beatles’ psychedelic era. Consequently, the nostalgic sixties feel brings a seemingly “new” and attractive flavor to our popular music scene, and has brought multiple singles to the forefront of the radio’s attention.

From slower ballads like “Two Ghosts” and “Sign of the Times” to upbeat rock tunes like “Kiwi” and “Carolina,” Styles incorporates a wide diversity of musical flavor among the ten-track album. Musically, Styles has proven that his tastes expand beyond the small confines of his former band, One Direction’s, uniform pop sound. The beauty of his self-titled album is that every song has a fairly unique composition, yet subtle guitar contributions and Styles’ well-trained rustic vocals tie the tracks together nicely.

As far as mega-popular artists go, Styles tops the list for me. The majority of his songs revolve around love as one might imagine, yet he brings originality and unique taste to each track that distinguishes his work from other avid love songwriters in the industry. Besides small phrases in a couple songs, none of Styles’ music is overtly sexual, which is refreshing for the popular music scene. There are many other important topics to touch upon in music that popular artists seldom do, yet even when resorting to love songs, Styles handles it tastefully. Plus, even if his music is not your cup of tea, Styles maintains a charming, charismatic personality that makes him pretty difficult to dislike.

After Laughter by: Paramore

After Laughter
Photo Credit: Target

Who likes to dance and occasionally cry? After Laughter will hit every emotion with its diversity of song topics. Paramore, led by Hayley Williams’ bold, dynamic-careful vocals, has transitioned from punk-rock to pop-disco in this album.

Synthesizer plays a consistent role across the 12 tracks, which consist of multiple happy-sounding sad songs, like “Fake Happy” and “Hard Times.” Overall, the album tells a cohesive story, starting with upbeat tunes, lulling in the middle for sadder introspections like “26,” catching a second wind of bolder thoughts, and finishing off with “Tell me How,” which questions how to establish new perspectives from past pain.

My favorite lyrics are in “26”: “Hold onto hope if you got it / don’t let it go for nobody.” This album resonates in difficult seasons and can even help prepare for future seasons of struggle. I always think pain can never be addressed enough, and whenever musicians dive into the details, it lightens everyone’s load knowing we all share in such difficulties.

6/10 by: Dodie

6 10
Photo Credit: Genius Lyrics

While only comprised of six songs, Dodie amazed me with 6/10. As a musician and YouTube personality, this thoughtful British woman is still establishing her path in the music scene. She managed to create a catchy album of songs that touch upon anxiety, depression, love’s attractiveness and damage, and a little instrumental thrown in!

Dodie’s voice is soft and meaningful. As I frequently enjoy watching the YouTube videos she creates, I can say that the brief album showcases her personality well. Both vulnerable mental health struggles and an unapologetic happy attitude are woven in, among her yellow-splashed cover and catchy ukulele tunes.

Most songs are pretty simple—vocals, ukulele, piano, maybe some soft drums. The words tend to speak for themselves and I value that immensely (of course). Also the lyrics “let’s write a story / be in my book” are pretty relatable. Dodie’s strength derives from beauty in simplicity.

Flicker by: Niall Horan

Flicker
Photo Credit: Niall Horan (Twitter)

First of all, I realize I’m incredibly biased towards this Irishman (he may or may not be a five year crush… a girl can dream). Also I get to see Niall and go to Ireland next year, which is INSANE.

Now, time to be an objective reviewer. Ha. My family is rolling their eyes right now.

Firstly, two things: there admittedly were more love songs than I had hoped (I could make a whole rant about how we don’t need more love songs, or at least full albums of them). Ironically, I’m incredibly proud of the lyrical content… besides “Slow Hands” and a couple f-bombs—not necessarily grandma-worthy. But Horan generally touched upon songs in a tasteful manner like Styles, his former band mate.

Throughout his debut album, Horan established a classic guitar and soft vocalist theme, similar to musicians like Jack Johnson. “On My Own,” an upbeat, Irish-flavored rock track, brings a Springsteen reminiscent sound into the album’s narrative. Flicker provides a strong value for music’s rawness, through emotional tracks like “Paper Houses” and “Flicker.” Similar to Dodie, it’s clear that Horan wants listeners to focus on the words, especially in vulnerable moments.

As a result, the authenticity in Horan’s work generates trust among listeners. It doesn’t hurt that this laidback Irishman is not boastful in his work, but seeks to transition from an immensely successful boy band to the direction of a quiet, respectable solo artist who wants his backup band to garner as much recognition as he receives daily.

 

All of these albums were worth every penny and deserve all the praise they’ve received. Thank you to each musician and music as a whole. I would not have nearly as many moments of joy without the beautiful art and its products.

~Annah

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The Problem of Christian Isolationism

It’s no secret that attending a Christian college means residing in a Christian bubble—it’s hardly reflective of real life, with little to no belief disagreement or push-back. We are blessed to have people challenging us intellectually, and occasionally religiously, but far too often I witness Christians isolating themselves. This is only a small portion of Christians that I engage with at one school; it happens everywhere at every stage of life.

Too many Christians nowadays only cling to explicit Christian ideas, texts, and entertainment. Frankly, I believe this is unwise and a very limiting way to live life.

I grew up in a Christian home and have officially dedicated my life to Christ for about six years now. Even at a young age, I’ve subconsciously thought about explicit Christian entertainment and how Christians should interact with their world. I always thought Christian radio was the corniest thing and wanted no part of it when other people would play it in the car. My family avoided watching movies like “The Passion of Christ” and I avidly read Harry Potter (currently re-reading for the 1000th time), starting from about age five, when people would look at my petite body next to the 500-page books and think I was the next Einstein.

Admittedly, having just finished an 11-page paper for my rhetoric class about why I believe Harry Potter has numerous Christian themes in the eighth movie alone, this topic of Christian isolationism has been on my mind a lot lately. Also, please understand this is NOT me telling anyone their methods of living are inferior or superior. There is nothing wrong with explicit Christian texts, movies, and music.

This past summer was the first time in my life I picked up a “Christian” book and read it. Since then I have read a couple and had no serious problems with them. I think some Christian books can be good and Scripture-breathed. The couple I have read (Mere Christianity, Jesus > Religion, and Uninvited) were much better than I thought they would be. However, they’re still not my first reading choice like I know they are for boatloads of other people—it’s perfectly fine to enjoy them—but it’s also important to remember that if you’re reading them thinking it’ll be a replacement for the Bible, that’s a red flag.

It’s fine to enjoy a good Christian book, but if that’s 99% of the books you read, I think there’s a problem with that. If Christian radio is your jam, sing along all you want, but if you never interact with any music outside of that, I think there’s a problem with that. If you truly believe anything that’s not explicitly Christian is sinful or satanic or any other negative denotation, I really have a problem with that.

Why do I think this is such a big deal?

Because I believe in a God who works through everything. I believe in a God who can use anything to portray his values, including tainted humans like you and I or tainted things like Harry Potter and punk music, if that’s your opinion. I believe God made everyone in his image, even those that haven’t accepted him, so small traces of his character can be found even in the most far-reaching aspects of life.

The coolest thing to me is when I read a book about another belief system or go to a concert where people smell like weed and beer, and soak in the words that are on the page or screamed from the stage, because I usually hear a small sliver of truth. Even if it’s the smallest sliver it gives me so much joy and hope, reminding me that even those people have the capability of carrying out God’s light if they wanted to.

Christians, I challenge you to read or listen to something you don’t like and see if you can find something decent in it. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise you avoid texts and entertainment for surface-level reasons and miss the bits you actually would like. For example, if you put down a Harry Potter book at page two for having witchcraft, you’ll completely miss out on the sacrifice, love, and friendship themes that remain prevalent in the overarching storyline.

I don’t believe I’m being “worldly” if I enjoy fantasy books or listen to pop music. I believe I’m engaging with God’s world—a world that extends beyond Bob Goff and Hillsong.

~Annah

Band Gives Monday a Good Reputation

(Note: Original title was “Almost A Growing Sensation.” Sadly, strikethroughs aren’t formatted to the title… I was bummed.)

I’m interrupting my normal blog rotation to tell you about this really special band, hot off the press of the industry. Everyone wave, because they’re likely reading this.

Almost Monday
Photo Credit: Almost Monday

A new band has entered the music fray and they are off to a strong start. Who are they? Almost Monday, a San Diego-based band comprised of Dawson Daugherty, Luke Fabry, Cole Clisby, and Michael Leto.

I had the honor of discovering this band through Switchfoot last fall. With such a genuine, introspective group of men backing Almost Monday, I can only imagine what bright, joyful personalities these guys must have. Anyone approved by Jon Foreman has to be pretty special, and that’s becoming increasingly clear to me as I witness and interact with the talent that is Almost Monday.

The band’s official debut single “Take Me Higher” aired across iTunes, Spotify, and Tidal streaming platforms Nov. 1. Plenty of praise has already been conveyed through the band’s fan base, already nearly 600 people strong. This number will quickly rise as devoted fans spread Almost Monday’s name to other friends and across social media.

However, you could never tell that “Take Me Higher” is their first official single. It exudes a confident, knowledgeable tone of a band that fully understands the music scene and has created a unique sound that fits perfectly into the present-day desires of music consumers. The combination of pop and disco-funk elements, among the synthesizer, bass dynamics, and Daugherty’s well-trained falsettos, ring with a Michael Jackson flavor that result in irresistible dancing.

From here, the potential future projects from Almost Monday seem limitless. They have already showcased their infectious, talented dynamic through one single—clearly, they could excel in many different genres. Until then, I will be streaming “Take Me Higher” on my “Jams” playlist, and I encourage you to do the same.

Follow Almost Monday on Facebook (@ALMOSTMONDAYBAND), Twitter (@ALMOSTMONDAYY), and Instagram (almost.monday) for more updates from the guys!

With a catchy musical sound and amiable personalities, Almost Monday’s just getting started and will surely be doing big things for the music scene.

~Annah

Concert Chatter

It’s creative writing week, yay! This memoir was based off a dialogue prompt that asked us to write a couple pages of dialogue between a group of people, which also reveals bits of their character along the way. To enhance the memoir, I’ve included a picture from the evening!  Here’s to memorable sibling moments. Hopefully they don’t hate me after this, I hear that’s what happens when you write about family…

 

“Cassidy, you know how to hook up the Bluetooth, right?” Dilyn extended the phone cord in Cassidy’s direction from where she sat behind the steering wheel, not moving her eyes from the winding country road.

“Of course, I’m an engineer.”

“Play some Twenty One Pilots!” I insisted, as she grabbed the cord and started monkeying around with her Android.

“…And Mutemath.” Hitting the road for a concert means you listen to the bands’ music. “Do we have all the tickets?”

“Right here, Dil.” Charley held a stack of papers in his hand. Tyler Joseph’s voice began drifting steadily louder out of the speakers, singing the words to “House of Gold.”

“YES!” Dilyn and Cassidy high-fived.

I snorted unnecessarily. “Can I have mine now, Charley? Where are we sitting? How many rows from the front?” With a lunge, I grabbed a ticket from his hand and stared intently at the row and seat numbers in the top right-hand corner.

“Want to play MASH?” Cassidy leafed through a notebook. I grinned.

“Sure! Well, I have to pick Josh Dun since he’s in Twenty One Pilots… and then Niall Horan because he’s forever my one and only…”

“Eric’s still bitter he wasn’t invited to the sibling concert.” Dilyn looked at Charley. “He’s your sibling now; you should’ve bought him a ticket!”

“Seester, how about including realistic people too? I’m adding Nathan for you.”

“…Fine.”

“He could’ve still bought his own ticket and joined us.”

“Charley, that’s not the same.”

There was a pause as Cassidy sat writing the names down.

“Shit!

Dilyn!” Our unified voices rang out.

“Sorry, but I just realized I left parking cash at home!”

“I have some you can use,” Charley said, still giggling at the swear word.

***

            With a slam! of Camry doors, my siblings and I made our way through the parking lot toward the entrance to DTE Energy Theatre. It was an outdoor concert, and even though no sign of the stage could be seen from our parking spot, we heard a telltale Mutemath rumble.

Guys, they’ve already started their set, hurry!” Dilyn started running towards the entrance. “They put on such a good show; you don’t want to miss it!” I matched her pace eagerly.
“I’m going to the bathroom first.” We looked back to find Cassidy headed in the opposite direction, toward a long line of people who could only be awaiting the Porta-Potty.

“Cassidy, seriously?” Dilyn rolled her eyes.

“Cass, there are bathrooms inside!” Charley yelled, but she was already in line.

“Ugh… she’s just like Mom.”

“I still can’t believe you’ve seen Twenty One Pilots three times already and never told me! Or took me with you…” I huffed, stopping in my tracks next to my brother.

“Hey, missy, I bought your ticket so quit your crying.”

“Thanks for that, big brother,” I replied, sincerely.

Cassidy reappeared to Dilyn’s urgent “Come on”s. Once we reached our seating on the far right side, about thirty rows back, Mutemath left the stage to loud cheers.

“Dang it, we missed them! Are you kidding me?” Dilyn sat down, her shoulders slumping, while everyone in the crowd gradually returned to their seats.

“Oh, boo hoo.” Charley pulled his arm away from Dilyn, as she tried to smack him.

“I’m sorry; the line for the bathroom was just so long! I’m so sorry, Dilyn!”

“Just my luck.”

Meanwhile my eyes were fixed on the stage. “Do you think they’ll come out soon?”

 

 

~Annah

My Greatest Inspiration

Three years ago yesterday I got baptized. One year ago today I saw my favorite band, Switchfoot, in concert for the first time, after listening to them for at least a good 12 years of my life. So naturally, it’s only fitting that my sister and I are going to watch Jon Foreman, the lead singer of Switchfoot, perform today. And frankly, all three of these events are strongly correlated (yeah, statistics lingo! It does come in handy.).

This post is dedicated to Jon Foreman, my greatest inspiration of all time. I’m going to tell you about the little I know of this man and why he deserves an entire blog post.

  1. Jon is an incredible writer and strings words together beautifully.

Look no further than any Jon Foreman or Switchfoot song to find poetry and poetry done well. But it’s also well-done in its simplicity, which is something I respect immensely. Many people strive to write the most eloquently or the most scholarly, but sometimes the best messages are simple and straightforward, and sometimes that’s what it takes to make words stick.

“Your heart is a work of art.”

“I arrived at the conclusion: love isn’t made, love doesn’t sell or pay, but we buy and sell our love away.”

“Don’t let the panic bring you down.”

“Don’t let your spirit die before your body does.”

  1. Jon is introspective, and thus, can pull on your heartstrings just the right way.

If you know yourself well and your faults well, you probably know humanity well. That’s Jon Foreman. He gave an incredible TED talk that I still love listening to (and I suggest you all check it out. It’s still bookmarked on my computer from a year ago.) His art and personal character don’t evolve from an outpouring of perfection, but from a man who knows his faults and imperfections very well. I love and respect those who are willing to share their struggles openly; I believe that’s what people of faith should be like, as God thrives in our weaknesses.

“Maybe that’s where life is born

when our facades are torn…

pain gives birth to the promise ahead.”

  1. Because of a daily walk with the Lord, Jon’s lyrics are drenched in Jesus and his promises.

One great lyric that I believe represents Jon’s worldview best is “We were born into the fight.” As a believer, we face a daily battle and the struggle of choosing the Lord over temporary pleasures. One of my favorite Switchfoot songs on their most recent album is called “If The House Burns Down Tonight” which is a powerful message originating from a fire in his hometown. His solo music especially frequently breathes out Bible verses, proving his familiarity with the Word.

“Would you create in me a clean heart, O God? Restore in me the joy of your salvation.”

“I’m not sentimental. This skin and bones is a rental.”

  1. Joy seeps out of every one of Jon’s pores.

I learned this from going to Switchfoot’s concert last year. Multiple times throughout the concert, Jon interacted with the crowd. The best part was when he walked through everyone standing in front and made his way to the people sitting in the back, who had probably not expected his attention at all. He went up to a young man and plopped his hat on his head, acting like they were old friends. But what a cool metaphor for Jesus! We are to be people who exhale joy and make everybody feel like somebody. You matter.

  1. Jon soaks in people and does not take a single one for granted.

Jon puts everything aside to cater to other people. For example, he nearly missed a plane one day at the Detroit airport because he stopped to talk and take a picture with my brother and his friend. (I was not at all jealous…) We were made to bring hope to others, but we remain so self-centered! Live in active awareness of that struggle and push past it.

“You’re gonna be you and it’s going to take a lifetime of practice.”

“Don’t let past mistakes rob the present of its potential for beauty and joy.”

“It’s going to take a struggle to become who you are.”

Let’s use Jon Foreman’s faithful spirit, among other inspirations, to push ourselves to action. Let’s grow the Christian family that society so often misconstrues. Because if we don’t properly portray God’s love and joy to others, why would they want check Jesus out? The world receives improper portrayals of Christ daily, so let’s be the light, shall we?

(This link looks funky, but it should work fine!)

~Annah

Dear Terrorists,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that the world has angered you in more ways than I can imagine. Sometimes it’s hard to see any good when people are frustrating, acting in ways or expressing views you disagree with. I understand that there are many frustrations in the world.

Your life is valuable and you matter. But so does everyone else. I wish you could understand that.

I also know you might feel ostracized from the rest of the world. But you are still a human and the God I believe in still seeks you out and invites you to be his ‘beloved.’ I’m sorry if some people lose sight of your humanity amidst their anger. However, they have reason to be angry and I’m saddened that you are apathetic about the pain you are causing others, and ultimately, yourself. I may not know all your motives (and maybe they make perfect sense to you), but know that I think you’ve lost sight of others’ humanity too. Remembering each other’s humanness is what will solve our issues as the human race.

Would eliminating everyone with different viewpoints really be effective? You would become very lonely, grow restless and still not be satisfied at the end of the day. If you learned how to communicate more effectively face-to-face with others that would help heaps more. Talk to others about why you hold such a strong opinion and why you think they would benefit from acquiring your viewpoint. People would fully hear out your argument that way and you could potentially gain supporters. Whereas, if you killed everyone who disagreed with you sadness, anger and emptiness within yourself all increase. Argue with words, not weapons.

The other day one of you committed an act of terrorism at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. This was not only tragic because of the lives lost, but because it was at a concert of all places. I’m going to go out on a limb and say you all appreciate some music; every human loves music. The thing about music is that it shows people they are not alone, it provides community regardless of political or spiritual views, and it connects people from all parts of the world. This empathetic art is something we can all agree upon and appreciate—it has been part of societal rituals like weddings and funerals, provided a great stress reliever to all who seek it, and communicated messages our hearts cannot put into words.

As an avid concert-goer myself, this act broke my heart because I know that people wait weeks, months and even a year in advance for concerts. Precious money is saved up for a night of bliss when everyone can sing in harmony in one room to musicians that have cheered them up on gloomy days or even saved their lives. Hundreds and even thousands of people waited in excited anticipation for that concert just to end up dead, hospitalized or traumatized for life. That was the last place they ever expected to die. Concerts are safe havens for so many. Does that really not register any emotions within you? I hate that you’re plagued by apathy.

I hope you have all been moved by music at some point in your life; those are beautifully indescribable moments. If you haven’t, I hope you do soon. Music is a timeless beauty that comes in all shapes and forms.

It is never too late to communicate your feelings in a more productive way. I hope you understand the weight and sadness of your actions someday. I hope you start feeling sympathy for people with different viewpoints someday.

You are still human and I will always treat you as such. I’m upset you have such discontentment in your heart and I’m sorry fulfillment has not flooded into your life. I will pray that you find peace in peace someday.

Sincerely,

A Woman who Loves Music and People

Female Objectification by… Females?

You’ve heard it all before: how many male musicians, especially prevalent in rap or hip-hop genres, are well-known for objectifying women. Obviously treating women in this fashion is not okay.

However, I’m more disturbed by the fact that women are so against this, yet many famous female singers and bands do the exact same things to themselves. While I believe they generally have good intentions, some female musicians who claim to be empowering women and showing their gender’s capabilities occasionally do the exact opposite.

It’s one thing to sing a love song to someone you care about, but it’s quite another to sing an overtly sensual song, where the body is flaunted and seeks to be controlled by a man. Music videos can sometimes be a problem on their own, where women intentionally or unintentionally glorify their bodies for anyone and everyone who watch the video. Yes, it’s great to be comfortable and confident in your own skin, and we as women should continually work on helping each other love our own bodies. However, I don’t think showing your nearly naked body off to thousands or millions of people on the Internet is the best way to exemplify this self-love. Women are worth more than their bodies but these videos are putting everyone’s focus on their bodies! Even if your intentions are to portray confidence in your body, there is no way people are going to see that and not be reminded of something sexual. Nakedness will always have a sexual connotation.

I am not looking down on any certain musicians; I still enjoy some of their music and think they’re talented. That being said, I will not be including names and songs of those that sang these lyrics, because that is not what matters within this topic. What matters is that female objectification is an issue that is so incredibly commonplace in music we have turned numb to it. We inhale these videos and exhale these lyrics daily. Is no one else concerned by that? Do these lyrics and trends bother anyone else? I know these ladies are not trying to objectify themselves, but nevertheless, they are.

Here are lyrics from randomly chosen songs females sing that have this sensual quality:

“Bang bang, all over you, I’ll let you have it.”

“Gonna wear that dress you like, skin-tight… I just want to look good for you.”

“Since the last time we danced I’ve learned some brand new moves… I want to try them on you.”

“You can touch me with slow hands…”

I used to not mind these kinds of songs, honestly, because they were catchy and fun to dance to. But strip away the beat and it’s quite sickening to digest these lyrics, personally. Is this how we want to represent ourselves? When people think of women in music, are these the songs we want them to think of? Is this the extent of our lyrical depth and human experience? By writing and singing songs like this, female musicians are perpetuating this theme that we are first and foremost sexual beings. We tell men not to sexually objectify ourselves and then turn around and sing about the same thing. Just because the female is the one talking about sex and is consenting to it doesn’t mean the overall message cannot objectify her body.

I don’t know about you, but I am worth far more than sex or a romantic relationship. My life is filled with much more complexity and purpose than seeking marriage or intimate love from another human being. Sex is a gift given to us, a regular part of life and we are naturally attracted to it, but women are not living on this planet for that sole purpose. However, that is what these songs convey, especially when some of these artists write almost entire albums with similar themes.

If you want to truly empower your fellow females worldwide when you have such a vast audience, female musicians, work on emphasizing that they can do anything. But not that they can get or forget any romantic partner they want, no. Don’t even mention those things. To truly empower women we need to convey that our worth and identity are not even dependent upon romance and relationships.

~Annah