“Go”als

Here I am again, sat at a computer, doing exactly what I love most: in this particular case, listening to “8 Days a Week” by The Beatles and writing this blog. The feel of a pen or keyboard in my hands and time signatures tapping in my ears is the dream.

How will it translate into a career? Unsure.

This is the week when I’m supposed to post creative writing, but instead am going to talk about creative writing in the bigger scheme of my life, along with music… because I just read this:

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…And it meant a lot to me. I went in thinking it would be a nice little book by a big inspiration, and what I didn’t prepare for were the many tears streaming down my face, because of how personally it resonated with my artistic journey. I saw myself in Leslie’s words: my exact fears, self-doubt, and passion for words and rhythms. I saw my family within his, as he navigated an unconventional journey to find joy and dreams. And while I’ve always known how human we all are, reading his book really brought that home for me in an emotional way.

The world is a “big” scary place when you don’t know what you want to do with it. But when you start making steps toward dreams, you start realizing how small the world really is, and how interrelated we all are, even if you’ve never been across the ocean or across the country. Perhaps it’s scarier for us as artists to realize how incredibly tangible our dreams actually are, as long as we’re willing to put the work in.

My favorite summer show to watch is America’s Got Talent. Today I was struck by an elderly man who came on the show to do stand-up comedy and was then put through to the next round with 4 yeses. Despite his risque humor, I shed a few tears, because that perfectly exemplifies the heart of a true artist.

As an artist, you need a resilience of spirit. Sometimes your dream is right around the corner, and sometimes it doesn’t happen for 50 more years. So the real question is: are you willing to maintain an upbeat attitude and always strive to fail upwards, regardless of the time commitment? Because that will distinguish the dreamer from the achiever.

The past few weeks without social media have been wonderful, but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t freak me out. Social media has been the main outlet through which I pushed blogs to readers, and now I don’t have that in my grasp. My reader statistics have gone down drastically and that hasn’t been the easiest for me to watch.

Honesty time: this blog means a lot to me. I’m currently making no money, but the dream I’ve had for a while is to go further with this blog. I hope to eventually invest money into this blog. I’ve considered expanding this blog through YouTube videos, to add another dimension to my interactions with readers, especially where entertainment blogs are concerned. These are all tangible possibilities.

I know my blog cannot be my sole job. I know publishing books cannot be my sole job. I know my pursuit of the music industry in whatever capacity that manifests itself will not be my sole job. I need all three in my life, somehow, some way. I could see myself working for others or being my own boss. But in whatever I do, I need variety, and I think that’s why my interests are so broad.

More and more, I’ve felt like I’m called to something more than unconventional. Something unique. But I cannot place my finger on it.

I’m currently revising a fictional book that is fairly autobiographical. The necessity to have it published is out of a need to be heard and a feeling of under-representation as a petite woman. Throughout my scourings of the internet, I have yet to see anyone sending out such a message as the one in my book. With such autobiographical influence, it has truly become a story I believe only I can tell, which has propelled me forward in the artistic project.

Many of my blogs have originated out of a similar vein. Oftentimes I’ll want answers or agreement on a topic of interest, and cannot find such, so I feel the need to blaze the trail. Mostly because I know the power of silence, where lies can fester and wound. Frankly, even if people hate what I have to say, I’m going to say it, because at least SOMEONE will have talked it about it at that point.

So maybe I do know one piece. Whether I help brush dust off the pop music scene, whether I put out a book, whether I pen 5,000 more blogs, whether I edit books, whether I cover musical events in journalism, and on and on… I think I’m supposed to start conversations.

And I think now I’m ready for the word “go” in all of its capacities.

~Annah

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How to Prepare for (and Survive) Difficult Spiritual Seasons

I hate to break it to you, but it’s inevitable. Difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible spiritual seasons are going to come around, whether you’re mad, confused, frustrated, grieving, feeling distant, feeling disconnected, or mental health is blocking you from reaching God. Hint: I’ve experienced all of these types of seasons.

I’m writing this from a fairly good season where I’m eager to engage with God and tag-team this summer together. I have some questions I’d really appreciate answers to (*cough*), but mostly it’s smooth sailing. But I know it won’t always be, and I can’t plan how long the sailing will remain smooth, so that’s why this list is so vital. For those of you in a difficult spiritual season right now, know that I’ve had plenty of turmoil within the past 10 months and it seemed pretty bleak at the time, but I’ve come out on the other side, and you will too.

  1. Dig into Scripture consistently/have verses at the ready

Yes, we all know this one should be a given, but I think a lot of us (I’m already raising my hand) don’t crack open the Word nearly as much as we should. This doesn’t mean you have to scarf down 50 pages in one sitting, take one verse at a time if you’d rather! This is about fitting in truth into whatever little crevice of the day works for you, because we are fed the world’s lies on a daily basis and it constantly weighs on us either directly or subconsciously.

Whether the verses you read end up being applicable or not to whatever your next difficult season entails, I don’t believe that entirely matters. Oftentimes I’m so desperate in my difficult season that verbally or mentally speaking any kind of truth (a.k.a. any verse in the Bible) gives me a pinprick of hope that I’ll make it through. But also, you can never go wrong with the truth within the Gospels, Psalms, or one of the letters in the New Testament, like Philippians. My personal favorites to calm me down are Philippians, James, Psalm 139, and Hebrews 12:1-2.

These verses are love for you, they are your sword, they have been provided for you to stab the darkness when it lashes out at you, so grab the pages and start soaking them in.

  1. Confide in an honest community

Make sure you are a part of some kind of group that is comprised of faithful people who feel comfortable sharing their trials and victories with one another. Community is essential for Christians, and these people will be able to support you in your difficult seasons through prayer and reminders of God’s goodness, according to their unique perspectives.

The great thing about difficult seasons is that we don’t all experience them simultaneously. The great thing about sin is that no sin is isolated; someone else will understand what you’re going through in some capacity. Put these two facts together and the darkness begins crumbling.

Make no mistake, young people are incredible, and as 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” However, being able to talk to people older than you with more experience is always comforting, if you want to obtain a larger perspective on things.

  1. Pray

Everyone knows how important prayer is to faith, but more specifically, I think physically documenting prayer in some way is really beneficial for difficult seasons. I like to keep a prayer journal whenever I have time, because later when the going gets tough (or I’m just curious), I can look back and see how God has provided and answered prayers.

What does that ultimately mean for your difficult season? That God is faithful. That God sticks to his promises—he will provide for you, in one way or another, even if that means the afterlife. I mean, what better provision could you have than Heaven? I’d say we’re pretty well looked after, even when the evil of this world temporarily holds us within its grasp. I think it’s pretty clear who’s going to win the fight, so bask in the promises and the conversation God has maintained with you through your prayers.

It’s pretty comforting to dwell upon what God has carried you through in the past, because it just assures you he’ll carry you through the uncertainty and funky feelings once more.

  1. Have those go-to people

Maybe it’s a YouTuber, a podcast, a musician, a writer… it always helps to have faithful entertainers in your life whose words are ready and waiting for you to easily find again when the darkness returns. Pick those wordsmiths who you know will restore hope in your soul, because that’s really what these difficult seasons are about… hope in relation to faith, and a lack thereof. God is constant. God is always who he says he is. God is always good and faithful to his promises and his people. You need as many voices as you can who will remind you of that.

  1. Put together a hopeful playlist

Along that same vein, this point is kind of what spurred me to write this blog. My favorite way to prepare for hard seasons is through music and compiling either a physical online playlist or a soul-list you can easily pull out when it’s pretty hard to see anything good about your faith or your life. I believe the entertainment we intake, especially as Christians, is life-shaping, and our duty is to locate messages that bring us closer to our faith.

That doesn’t mean explicitly Christian music (although it can), but words that help you feel less alone in your anger or frustration or confusion, words that make you feel less crazy for feeling what you do, words that encourage you and remind you it will get better again, just hold on.

This summer I have been considering starting a radio station when I return for my last year of college, called Annah’s Anxiety Tunes. I want to provide songs of hope for listeners to store up for hard seasons, whether mentally or in general, because I know how desperately I seek that. Regardless of whether or not it ends up happening, storing up hopeful songs is something I will actively continue to do and share with loved ones.

 

These are the primary weapons you need to poke a beaming yellow happy face in that blanket of black. God is on your side. He will not let you go. You matter. You are valuable. God has not forgotten you.

~Annah

Grade 15

A heavy workload. Aching eyes that cried too many times to count. Tough, beneficial conversations. Deep loss. Deep grief. Some 3 AM nights. Other 11 PM nights. Big career conundrums and frustrations. Little blips of clarity concerning one’s true passions. The realization of one’s youth. The realization of one’s maturity. Old friends. New friends. Internships. Housing crises. A lot of sass. The assurance of things hoped for. My very first novel draft. Large steps of independence and individuality. A fearful introvert becoming fearless in times of uncertainty. Constant pushes outside of cozy comfort zones. A broadening of my awareness for diverse opinions and lifestyles. An ear for the minority races and sexualities. An ear for the broken and confused. An ear whilst everyone else has lost theirs. Flinging into spring. Lots and lots of hopeful yellows that echo truth into my weary soul. Heavy weariness with a belly laugh of a silver lining. Crying girls in bedrooms. Crying boys in bedrooms. Smiles in between tears. Romance and the tenderness of feelings, so breakable indeed. People from the bad parts of town are people too. More attention to the minorities and outcasts. Protests for change. Sorrow that things will never be the same. Spontaneous outings for yummy treats. Professional resilience. Unapologetic appreciation for whoever puts a smile on my face. An introvert yelling friends’ names across rooms. Remembrance of commonalities. The necessity of music with its soothing narratives of pain and joy. Bittersweet, this life we have crafted for ourselves. Oh wait… It is not for yourself. Moldy hearts, forever being tilled. 💛

Junior year: defined as “how to power through anything and everything, one breath at a time.”

~Annah

An Unspoken “Inferior” Population

Let’s imagine you’re in a coffee shop and you’re looking for music recommendations.

Amiable chatter surrounds you, the cappuccino is hot in your palms, you want some random sampling. To your left, a man in his thirties is seated at a table, intently typing away at something important on his laptop. To your right, a couple of high school girls sit on stools, animatedly talking about something.

Who do you turn to for recommendations?

I have a hunch. You picked the man. (Unless, perhaps, you’re a teenage girl yourself.)

Upon first glance, nothing seems to be an issue. But if you start thinking more intently, I would imagine your choice correlated with a few prejudices and judgments. Start thinking more, and be honest.

Why didn’t you pick the teenage girls?

Maybe your age is closer to that of the man’s. Maybe you figured the man would know more music. Maybe you figured you’d be able to strike up a more meaningful conversation concerning music tastes with the man. Regardless, there’s one large assumption in place–that for whatever reason, the teenage girls’ opinions aren’t as legitimate or serious.

And this is not just the case with music! We feel this way about all topics, in regards to teenage girls, whether entertainment, political, or social topics.

I think there’s a problem with that. If we push aside their opinions or are quick to label their opinions inferior, we are damaging not only their self-worth, but their sense of worth in the future. Our future women.

Why can’t they have a legitimate say? Why does everything avidly enjoyed by teenage girls have to be looked down upon by the older population? What’s wrong with enjoying something that teenage girls like? There’s often this idea that people who enjoy musicians or books or movies that teenage girls like need to feel a sense of shame or embarrassment. Their interests are inferioryou state, implicitly.

Now, I understand labeling opinions invalid if teenage girls try to provide thoughts on topics they are not familiar with, as with any human. But rarely, if ever, is that the case. Teenage girls are passionate, and passionate about topics they are well-acquainted with. Therefore, there is no reason to consider their opinions invalid.

If we are going to continue promoting to young girls that they are capable of anything, we should treat their opinions with the genuine respect and acknowledgement that they deserve, same as anyone else. Otherwise, we inflate their sense of insecurity and hypocrisy rears its ugly head.

“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.” -Harry Styles

~Annah

 

Stillness

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. ~Psalm 23:2

As I look at 2018 and as I look at my life beyond 2018, I sense plenty of chaos. More and more decisions as I grow older, less and less of a comfort zone in place, and a ginormous temptation to be in an ever-present frenzy of fears.

I always had this naive idea that once school/homework left the picture, life would be grand. But every semester I take a step closer to graduation and realize that it’ll only become harder. Later on questions transition to where do I live? who do I live with? where am I going to work? what do I even like doing? and the list can go on and on.

I’ve always been pretty confident that I don’t know what the heck I’m doing with my life. Family members have tried endlessly to conjure up work ideas for temporary or permanent work, and I’m very grateful for their diligence in regards to my future. But at the end of the day, I can’t help but believe that me and God are gonna tag-team this one. It’s a large daunting concept isn’t it: YOUR CALLING (*cue dramatic music*), but I think people tend to go about it the wrong way, like God will magically descend and say ‘Annah, here’s what I want you to do.’ Until then you’re supposed to fret and bite your nails apparently.

I think you can do anything, as long as you’re spreading God’s light in the field you’re in. One of my favorite chapel messages at my college this past semester was given by a former graduate, who stated something to the effect of: The world doesn’t need more seminary students and Christians going into ministry. What it needs are people willing to undertake the hard fields, where God’s light is often shut down and scoffed at.

All it takes is stillness to find answers. Stillness helps you listen and redirect your focus on whose voice really matters. Stillness is intentional and not focused on yourself (because honestly, we’re all about go, go, go). Stillness gives you a chance to sort out your priorities, because at the end of the day that’s up to you. When your priorities are coated in Scripture, how can you ever go wrong?

I’ve learned many things from stillness, all very important. I’ve learned that I am replenished by acts of stillness and fighting my innate hurried nature to focus on God. I have learned that I only like writing when it’s something I’m passionate about. I’ve learned I love to write emotional and authentic thoughts on social media, because many people scrolling need to hear it and I absolutely abhor that social media’s a cesspool of pretending like everything’s great 24/7.  I’ve learned that I am in the best mindset and full of the most gratitude and peace when I am immersed in music, whether classical or modern. I have learned that I value and hold a passion for all of God’s forms of entertainment.

Given daily moments of stillness, I think you can gain a lot of insight too. We focus so much on the ‘doing’ that we usually forget about the ‘being’: when we need to listen and focus on God’s desires rather than our own. Let Psalm 23 wash over you this year, as it has started to wash over me:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters. 

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the 

shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me; 

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me 

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord 

forever.

For now, I’ll stick to the joys I have been given: music and words. (Currently listening to Harry Potter music.)

The questions and choices in your life may grow louder and more frantic over the years, but you don’t have to follow suit. Praise the Lord!

~Annah

My Favorite Gems of 2017

As the year closes off, I wanted to take a moment to reminisce. While 2017 was emotionally draining in many ways for me, there were also golden nuggets of goodness everywhere. I wanted to highlight random bits and pieces that made this year a little brighter. Some aspects of this list are unique to 2017, while others have been around and I only just discovered them this year. While you read, feel free to come up with a list of your own, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. (…especially anything music-related!)

Song: This has two parts: my favorite song I discovered this year was “Knock on my Door” by Faouzia, but my favorite song that actually released this year was “Rhythm of Your Heart” by Marianas Trench. (Shout out to my sister Cassidy and my friend Hannah for these finds!) In both cases I think they’re great to dance to, maybe even at a New Year’s Eve party?! Sometimes a good dance party can make or break your day.

Book:The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Apparently I missed this bandwagon a few years ago… but better late than never! Rudy stole my heart and Zusak took all of my tissues, but I’m grateful and now I have my own copy. YAY! (99% of the time I only buy books that I already love and would read again/to future children. My book collection is only my absolute favorites.)

Musician/Band: Almost Monday

Still waiting for new music, because these guys ROCK. That’s all I have to say about that. *cues Forrest Gump’s voice*

Bible Verse: Hebrews 12:1-2

This verse has been the tune of my heart this year, and whenever the going gets tough I just remember ‘run with endurance’ and ‘endure for the joy’ set before me. I also shared this verse in a letter to a yellow angel named Luke, with some unique Annah annotations that I copied down in my own Bible. Keep running, friends.

Movie: I found my all-time favorite movie this year, yet it’s an oldie: Harold & Maude. Since watching it and sniggering alone in my dorm room last April, I have watched it approximately five more times. However, my favorite movie that came out this year was probably Dunkirk (which I just watched again last night!)

Dunkirk.jpg
Photo Credit: FanFest

It made me cry within the first five minutes, as most of my favorite entertainment does, and I thought it left a powerful impact with its unique musical rhythm and bare movie essentials. It put me constantly on edge and as empathetic as possible to situations I have never experienced. Time and time again, through literature and imagery, soldiers and their sacrifices astound me. Sometimes it seems like the ones that survive sacrifice even more than those who gave up their lives, because the remainder of their lives are transformed by tragedy. To have to rebuild sanity afterwards… I could never imagine the pain.

TV Show: Riverdale

Honestly, I watched season 1 in three days… Based on Archie comics, the dark mysteries alone will keep you watching episode after episode. They certainly know how to attract viewers, I’ll give them that.

YouTuber: Mark Ferris

Honestly, I don’t watch television. Instead, I watch YouTube, and it’s probably one of my favorite ways to unwind after a long day. I subscribe to many different people, but most are usually entertainers, comedians, or daily vloggers (video bloggers). Mark Ferris, a lanky, lovable, amiable man from Britain is probably my male alter ego. His videos make me laugh all the time, probably because we have the same sense of humor. Mostly he just makes vlogs, which I also appreciate as they’re essentially a visual alternative to blogs.

Phone App: Spotify

Most people frequently use Spotify, so it’s no secret that everyone loves this music-streaming app. However, I constantly find and adore different features of the app what seems like every week. As someone who tries to listen to anything and everything, I appreciate that they make playlists of music for you based on your interests. My favorites are “Discover Weekly,” “Release Radar,” and “Your Top Songs 2017,” kudos to a recent feature that summarizes what you listened to the most over the year and how often you listened.

Class: Intermediate Creative Nonfiction

This category is exclusive to students, but  my favorite class I took through the spring and fall this year was definitely “Intermediate Creative Nonfiction.” We focused on writing memoirs, read some great memoirs like The Glass Castle and The Mountain and the Fathers, and workshopped one another’s work. It helped me further develop my creative writing voice and allowed me to let loose with my writing humor.

Album:Self-Titled by Harry Styles

I talked about this recently, but I thoroughly enjoy Styles’ album every time I return to it. There’s no way for me to describe how much I love Styles’ musical work without it sounding corny. Basically, he’s bringing fresh work into what I would consider a ‘bland’ popular music scene. (Controversial opinion, I know…) I still appreciate techno and electronic pop sounds, but that really can never beat the sound of real instruments in my opinion. Also I just read in an interview article that Styles’ popular single “Sign of the Times” is meant to be a mom talking to her baby, so that just added another layer to an intriguing tune. I’m linking the video because the filmmaking is incredible as well! (Did I mention Styles debuted in Dunkirk?! Multi-talented at 23 years old.)

Food: Bunnies

Seriously, just go buy some of these crackers and eat the glorious food. It’s organic. 😉

Concert: Jon Foreman (9/29)

My favorite musician makes for my favorite concert. Foreman asked us for a Grand Rapids ‘Yeehaw’ and we gave it to him. My sister and I had a great night and the honest, intimate question-and-answer at the end was pretty cool. Wise words were spoken by all.

Creative Writing Piece: “Yellow Birthday” poem

I posted this in a previous blog from August with the poem’s title. This was inspired by Luke, previously mentioned. Loss: short-term sadness, long-term joy.

Event: Dance Marathon

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Back in March my college hosted this annual 24-hour event, and we raised money for the Helen DeVos children’s hospital. Money went towards casts, bills, and other medical necessities. Luke used to go to that hospital frequently; it was an incredible opportunity to support those in need. I moraled and cheered on my 24-hour dancer friends for 8 hours. We had a blast and I’ll likely participate again.

Experience: Joining flute choir

This past semester, I joined my college’s flute choir. I joined for zero credit, because flute has always been a great way to de-stress for me. As a junior, I am now officially sad I never knew about the group sooner. It has been an incredible once-a-week relaxation, with lots of laughs and smiles. I’m definitely looking forward to more fun this semester.

I always think simple pleasures are necessary, and this list definitely supports that claim. If you and I were to count the little blessings and enjoyments over the years, I think we’ll likely find that they far outweigh any pains, large or small, that have come our way. There is always more light and hope than we think in dark situations. Here is to another exciting, joy-filled year in 2018. Here is to finding the silver linings, even when our outlooks are looking grim.

Remember, you can and will persevere, you always do.

~Annah

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