Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Britney Spears Effect

There are guilty pleasures in music. Those songs that come on the radio: shallow, anthemic little pop songs that stand for nothing but catchy, radio-friendly mainstream nothingness. The type of song that slithers it's way into your brain, regardless of how much of a wall you try to build up to keep it out. You despise the vocalist of the song, an artist you consider meritless and talentless. Or maybe you despise the lyrics, because you know your IQ just dropped a certain number of points because of the garbage you just put into your ears. Or maybe it's the fact that this song is only getting played on the radio because it's the type of music that sells, thoroughly lacking in originality or inventiveness. Either way, whatever your issue is with this song, it has found it's way, by chance or fate, into your ears. And you are forever changed. It starts with humming it a little while you go about your everyday tasks. No big deal, innocent enough. Then, you hear it on the radio again. Only this time, instead of trying to tune it out, you turn the volume up, rolling up the windows of your vehicle as you do so as to avoid other drivers who may catch you indulging in this little sin. Then, (and this is the sign of a REAL song addiction) you YouTube the video, knowing that you hate yourself a little bit more for doing so, but not being able to help yourself. THIS, my friends, is a catchy pop song. This is a guilty pleasure. I call it: The Britney Spears Effect.

My experience with guilty pleasures, or rather an album full of them, changed my view of music (for better or worse) forever. I used to avoid these artists and songs, as inescapable as they are, out of pure morality. The morality being this: that music should only be made (or played) if the artist really stands behind what they're doing, and means every bit of it. My favorite artists have always been the people who push the limits, exceed expectations, and really strive their best for originality. So naturally, I've always despised the people who own the charts, the corporate monkeys who bring CEO's of artless record labels millions in revenue. And there is one sin that I could not deal with: singing music that was written by other people. So, naturally, I always hated Britney Spears with a fiery passion...

Then, I heard Gimme More. I dare you, any of you, to try and find a song with a less clever chorus. Furthermore, I dare you to find a song that is more ridiculously overproduced. And while you're at it, try to find vocals that sound like they spent more time being altered in a computer before making it to the finished product. You will not find one. This song is as much of a guilty pleasure as there has ever been. It is pure TrashyPornoSensoryPleasurePop, and it is more addictive than crystal meth (and a LOT sexier). I only stumbled across this song because silly little me wanted to see Britney Spears' latest video, only to oogle at how much of a trainwreck she had become, and to see if it was possible for her to sink any lower. (Remember, this single was released around the Shaving of the Head era). Don't get me wrong, I felt bad for the girl, as she was being very publicly crucified by the media. I guess you could say she was a less intelligent and much more auto-tuned version of Jesus, without all the miracles or the Son of God emotional complex. But still, crucified she was, and the whole world was there to see. So, I watched her video, disgusted at how much selling-out a single person could do.

I didn't think much of the song, I only vaguely remember thinking that the beat was catchy, but remained perfectly aware that Britney herself had nothing to do with the creation of the beat, or the writing of the ridiculously shallow lyrics. Then, something strange happened. I heard the song again, and I was hooked. I didn't want to be. In fact, I would have rather been exorcised and had this demon song cast out of my body forever. But hooked I was. I began to see the value in the song, as much as I didn't want to, and I realized just how great the beat really was. It was incredibly trippy and refreshing electro pop, and that's really all there was to it. No, these lyrics did not inspire me. No, I have never felt an affinity or emotional connection to Britney Spears or her manufactured brand and image. But I've never felt an emotional connection to chocolate chip cookies, either. In fact, I feel like a guilty fat ass everytime I eat one. But I still eat them occasionally. I mean fuck, they're GOOD, aren't they?! And so was this song. It was fucking GOOD, and I dare anyone on this earth to disagree with that statement. So I did what any logical Obsessive Compulsive walking music encyclopedia facing a crisis of musical integrity vs. guilty pleasure would do, I went to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia. The God of all information sites. Any album, any song, any artist, any time period, it's all there! And sure enough, Britney is there, in all of her electronic glory. I dug a little deeper into this album of hers (Blackout) and found what I was looking for: Danja. Danja is a record producer, a fucking genius, who worked with Timbaland (one of the Saints of Modern Day Music Production) before making a name for himself as a solo producer, eventually working his way up the ranks to work with the likes of Britney herself, the queen of the charts, the virgin of the 90's, and the slut of the 2000's. This is every pop song producer's dream: to work with the one woman who can ensure that 9/10 people in this world hears your music. I realized, through my "research", that Danja not only produced this song, but most of her album as well (an album that was receiving mainly positive reviews from critics, who were stunned that Britney could still release good music even while being nailed to her metaphorical cross). I also found another interesting fact: Britney Spears was the executive producer of the album. The plot thickens.

All of this seems like useless information, the rant of one who remembers way too much about music that matters way too little. But there IS a point. The point is this: the minute that I knew a little bit of the background of the song, the more interesting the song became. What could be viewed as a simple stupid hit song was becoming, in my head, an epic piece of pop masterpiece. Once I realized that there was someone behind the scenes of this song, arranging synthesizers, drum loops, and all kinds of strange sounds and samples, someone who knew exactly how to create a mesmerizing and hypnotic effect on the ears and brain, I became fascinated. I stopped listening to Britney. I mean sure, she was still there, singing in that breathy, sexy ass voice of hers, but I didn't really care about that. I could imagine Danja, sitting in his studio at 3 in the morning, knowing that there was something missing, something he needed to add before the song could be JUST right, and not giving up until he did it. Now, that's probably an incredibly romantic and ridiculous portrayal of the creation of this album, but it serves the point: I was beginning to listen to the actual music of the song, viewing it as a piece of art that was created by someone with a passion for music, rather than just letting it wash over me the way most people do. I really just delved in. I eventually bought the album. I fucking love it.

I guess the point is that music has its way of changing your perception. It's hard to view any song as meritless when you actually stop and LISTEN to every little sound, and realize that someone, somewhere, created this, because they are good at what they do, hopefully because they LIKE what they do. I really got into pop music much more in the years after this, not because I'm shallow or close-minded as a music listener, but because I began to fall in love with the producers. These people whose job is to use the electronic production tools available in the new millennium to create entire orchestrations of sound, using no organic instruments whatsoever. I started researching even the most shallow of all music, looking for the names of the songwriters and producers who worked on the songs that had a beat or sound that I had fallen for. I started to look BEHIND the scenes, instead of just looking at what's on stage. And I began to appreciate the radio, and the electronic sound that is so "in" in 2010. We're lucky to have so many people who are good with keyboards.

So I guess you could say I started to appreciate Britney Spears as well. Might even say I became a fan. I began to regard her use of songwriters to craft her songs as the equivalent of the frontman of a rock band using his band to craft the sound he wants. Sure, he may not pick up a guitar, may not know how to hit the drums the right way, but he knows what he wants. He knows what he's going for. And he'll use any means necessary to get the sound he wants. This may, once again, be a romantic view of Britney Spears' songwriting process. As much as I would love to sit here and think that she is wholly devoted to each and every one of her songs, and uses her songwriters as a band to craft the sound she wants, I don't really know that. I've never met the bitch. But it's a nice thought. And I respect her, if simply for the fact that her name and silky-smooth voice is the window by which many producers can get their music out there to the world. That's just badass.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


It occurs to me that this world is made up of dichotomies. Polar opposites seem to work together in the most extreme ways. The Ying-Yang sign seems to be the one symbol that speaks some truth about the meaning of the universe. Ever notice how many situations in life are like a double-edged sword? If you want the moon, you have to get rid of the sun. If you want the joy of children, you have to deal with the incredibly intense child-bearing process, and the continuous job of taking care of a child. If you want money, you have to work (well, that's true for MOST people). There are a trillion different examples I could list off, but the point has been made. Many, perhaps even MOST, things in life are a dichotomy. The negative is balanced by the positive, the hard work balanced with reward, the trials balanced by the lessons we learn from them, etc.

In all my blog posts so far, I've explored the idea of "escape", and how it affects the human consciousness. I'm very convinced that all humans are born with a natural need for dreams (whether they be daydreams or nightdreams), and a private space in their own hearts and minds where they can idealize the world around them, their future, themselves, and life in general. Hence the need for and creation of art, music, films, fashion, and every other category of things that TECHNICALLY aren't needed by us humans for survival, but HONESTLY are needed if we are to remain sane or enjoy life on this planet at all. It's almost as if we as a species spend half of our lives idealizing life itself, whether that be by listening to our favorite bands, watching our favorite TV shows, or creating works of art ourselves.

So the conclusion that I have come to, through observation, is that humans live in two seperate worlds at the same time. We live in the world of the animal kingdom, where we eat, shit, fuck, and display all of the animalistic, selfish tendencies of untamed creatures. But at the same time, unique to us humans above all other animals, we live in a spiritual realm as well. We dream when we sleep at night. We look to the past and hope for the future. We relish or detest the present. We have FEELINGS, beyond the instinctual feelings of beasts of the earth. Our short lives here on earth seem to be, for each individual, one big lesson in discipline.

What is discipline? I just googled the term, and found many different usages of the word. But let's use an example. Let's say there are two roommates. One roommate wakes up every day to a blunt of weed, smoking it to the face before spending most of his day alternating between playing video games and eating food. He may spend his night getting more stoned, or going out to party with friends. The other roommate gets up at precisely 8 AM every morning for class, finds time to workout and study in between classes, and makes the most out of every other possible hour of daylight, so as to end the day feeling productive. Who is more disciplined? The answer is obvious.

So, I'm not using the word "discipline" to talk about a child who is punished because of his bad actions, or any other negative use of the word. I'm using the term to illustrate the self-control and priority setting that a "disciplined" individual has. It's just strange to me, how we humans have a natural selfish instinct in our hearts, to always be seeking pleasure or entertainment, when the productive things in life are the tasks that require patience, sacrifice, and sometimes even pain. Everybody seems to be aware of this fact. Obviously, children are accepted as being selfish creatures, because that is their natural instinct upon birth. But as they grow, we as a society require them to learn to be less selfish, year upon year, until finally they are completely independent. Parents have the incredibly stressful and difficult burden of trying to teach their children to learn from their mistakes, to choose right from wrong, to avoid temptations and pitfalls of all kinds, and, all in all, to be better today than they were yesterday.

But why is this the case? Why would we be born with the instinct of selfish desire when the only way to truly live a full life is to throw this desire out the window, to master ourselves, to make our emotions and weaknesses our bitch instead of letting them run and ruin us? Once again, making judgment calls based purely on 19 years of observation, I feel that "discipline" is what we are here for. Obviously, there's many other things to be experienced in life than just school, work, and schedules. But to live your life as a work in progress, to try and make every day better than the last, to make priorities and schedules based not on what you FEEL like doing, but what you know you OUGHT to do, is a virtue.

Every person has to learn this lesson at one point or another. It doesn't matter what your issues are, what background you come from, how damaged or undamaged you are, EVERYONE has to learn it. There is no reward in a life full of pleasure. Ask the drug addict, who's sole purpose is to find a way to feel good every minute of every day. Ask the fat ass, the person who eats whatever they want and treats their body like something they detest. Ask the nympho, the girl or guy who runs away from their pain by sleeping with other people. We all have our addictions, our temptations, our reasons for escaping from our pain or stress using our desires and pleasures. But we all have to wake up at some point, to realize that the only way to make progress is to control ourselves, to sacrifice for a reward that is not immediate, to accrue the wisdom to know that you have to do some things you don't want, or quit doing some things that you love, in order to get to a much higher goal. Whether this means spending hours putting your body through physical stress in the gym, or avoiding the pack of cigarettes that is calling your name in the gas station, or spending an extra hour studying every night, we ALL have to learn a little bit of discipline.

In my eyes, this is the only way to a full life, a life with as little regrets as possible. And just like the rest of you, I'm still working on it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why Gaga Matters

Lady Gaga. The name has become synonymous with many terms: "freak", "genius", "pop star", "performance artist", etc. etc. The list goes on and on. Arguably the most famous woman in the world at this point in time, anything she touches turns to gold. She is a corporate record label's dream come true. She is an artist with an incredibly large fanbase who writes her own music, designs her own stage show, envisions her own music videos, and makes millions upon millions of dollars doing it. She is truly valuable, in the most capitalist sense of the word. Every song she has ever released as a single has immediately engraved itself into the minds of the masses with the ferocity of WWII propaganda and the gentleness of a flirty come-on. Is it the catchiness of her self-written songs that makes her the queen of the charts? Or is it the ridiculously outlandish costumes she wears that garner her so much attention and infatuation? What exactly is it that has made everyone go gaga over Gaga?

Music, and the people who make music, are very grounded in the setting (the time and place) that the music is created in. The 60's would not have been the 60's without the fantastic need for escape, peaceful existence, and psychedelic adventures that resulted from the lack of imagination and happiness in a time of war and divide. The 70's would not have been the 70's had the 60's not come directly before it, and the 80's wouldn't have been the 80's had everyone not decided they were sick of the 60's and 70's and wanted to go in a much more insane, fucked up direction than ever before. And the 90's (my personal favorite) would not have been the 90's had the previous decades not already gone in every possible direction musically, politically, and fashion-wise. The people who lived through these time periods were not always self-conscious about the fact that they were making history, but they were making it nonetheless. The ones that we remember, the bands and artists that we still talk about, are the ones that examined the commotion and culture explosion around them, and said that they wanted to carve their own path. The ones that we remember (Elvis, the Beatles, Madonna, etc.) are the people who stood out in their time period. They were the ones who did things a little (or a lot) differently than anyone else at the time. They are the ones who said something with their music that needed to be said. They did something that people wanted, maybe even NEEDED, and therefore earned the credit they deserved.

The most common theme in music, if you trace it back through history, is escape. There is a constant need in the human mind for validation that there is something more to life than the immediate material world that we see around us. There is a want and a need to reach out and discover something spiritual and free inside and outside of ourselves that is completely untouched by disease, pain, politics, religion, war, and any other ailment that is exclusive to this grounded world of ours. Call it heaven or whatever you will, but humans have a desire for something beyond what they see around them. Because, truth be told, the real world is not as pretty or as ideal as we like to imagine it to be. Music has served this purpose throughout the ages. In every time period and culture, there has been a specific type of sound and feeling that has helped the common man feel validated and hopeful. This is the role that musical artists play, this is why they have an audience, and this is why we need them.

With the turn of the new millenium, not much seemed to change. Y2K didn't bring about an electronic breakdown the way people feared. Jesus didn't descend from the clouds and take all of his children back up with him. Earthquakes, floods, and plagues didn't break out to destroy all civilization. In fact, it still felt like the 90's. But one thing, not immediately noticeable, did begin to change: music. Western society had already seen it all. We had the acid-trip happy soft rock of the 60's and the slightly harder acid-trip rock of the 70's. We had the cheap thrills and larger-than-life hair, clothes, and style of the 80's. And we had already seen the comedown in the 90's, when the artists seemed to finally come down to earth, creating jam-rock, grunge, and funk that seemed like the last hope for originality. And in a way, it WAS the last hope for originality. Enter the new decade. The music industry is not run by artists, (was it ever, though?) but by greedy corporate executives. Music is no longer something that needs to be created on organic instruments. We have Pro-Tools and an ever expanding range of production technology to handle that for us. And at this point, the people who sing the music aren't even required to write the music or stand behind it in any way. If you're young and attractive enough, your record label can simply hire producers and songwriters to create music for you. And create they will. Entire songs can be put together in minutes, hours at the most. Beats and drum loops are intertwined and connected by talented engineers who get paid mucho money to create a sound that is "in", "marketable", and fits a certain demographic. Vocals don't require a good voice, all they really require is auto-tune and someone who knows how to use it. Nothing is sacred or real anymore, yet somehow, we can't get enough of it.

The world has become more convoluted than ever. The internet age has brought about a lack of privacy and a shortened attention span that has never been seen before. The disorder known as ADD is no longer a condition that only affects a few chemically-challenged brains, it is now a way of life for people living in the industrialized nations of the world. The juggernaut of YouTube, Facebook, iPhones, commercials, tabloids, reality tv shows, and everything else that defines our trashy existence in the new millenium has created a new type of lifestyle for our generation. We require constant entertainment and distraction. We require something new to occupy our minds every five seconds lest we get bored. Every artist that has come before now, those that ruled the charts in the decades preceding ours, has NO CLUE as to how to survive in this new marketplace, where even CD's don't sell well anymore.

"Escape", that's the key word. That's what we need right now. I know it, you know it, and thank God, Lady Gaga knows it.

At first, the woman seemed to be just another pop star, singing about deep things like disco sticks and poker faces over catchy hip-hop influenced dance-pop beats. Other than an actual intellect and a penchant for wearing strange things, the world didn't quite differentiate her from the other young, attractive blonde girls that got paid millions to release catchy tunes. But as time has gone on, the costumes got more and more bizarre. The music has gotten better and better. And the fanbase has gotten larger and larger. The word of mouth (well, really, the media's large mouth) has spread that she is a REAL talent, a woman with a good voice who writes her own music. How strange in this day and age, that an attractive young pop artist should write her own music?!

The reason why Gaga stands out from the crowd so much is simple: she is conscious of her role. And for better or worse, she decided, upon getting a record deal, that she would choose her role carefully and responsibly. Unlike any other artist that is making music right now, Gaga knows EXACTLY what the world needs. Her unique viewpoint on music and performance art is brought about by the fact that she really is one of us. Underneath the masks, sunglasses, and outfits, she is an extremely intelligent 24 year old who cares about art and music more than anything else. She saw the death of originality that the end of the 90's brought about. She is acutely aware of the fact that every type of musical style that can be invented has already been invented. She knows that we, as fans and as art-starved humans, need constant flow from our musical artists if we are to show them any attention at all. And most of all, we need something REAL. Gaga decided to do something that has rarely been done in the past ten years: make REAL pop music. Funny, that the one woman who is heralded as being one of the most creative voices of our generation should invest so much of her time and effort into a genre that is known as being controlled, corporate, and thoroughly un-original. But she wouldn't have been relevant any other way, would she? In planning her rise to fame, Gaga realized that the only way to TRULY matter is to turn the industry on its head. All those bands in the 90's would still be waving their flags and refusing to give in to corporate pressure, but this isn't the 90's now, is it? The only way to truly make a difference at this point is to fully inject yourself into the machine, abandoning any doubt or fears in the process. And inject herself, she did.

At first, the music seemed original, but vaguely, as if it could be a hoax. She created a small fan-base, people who loved electronic music but also despised the stupidity with which it is often associated with. Finally, the people of the world had an INTELLECTUAL pop star, someone that made herself seem more lovable and intelligent with every interview. Not only did she write her own music, but when she sat down at that piano and played, GOD could she sing! The art-starved masses finally had a glimpse of something substantial, something that might be all they've been looking for this entire millenium. But the doubts were still there. Aside from a few songs that had double-entendres, most of the songs off of her debut album were shallow club anthems, though with very clever lyrics. Still, the hope remained for everyone that was starting to notice her: maybe she IS what we've been waiting for. Maybe she has something deeper and better to say, maybe if we just wait, she'll save us from the death of music.

That hope got fulfilled with her second album. With most artists, as fame and popularity seeps in, so does greed and loss of artistic value. But, as I've said before, Gaga is VERY conscious of her role. She knows exactly what lines not to cross. So as more and more people downloaded her music, bought her albums, and got exposed to her new empire, she went more and more off the deep end. Designing stage performances and music videos that became increasingly more complex and bizarre, she went in the opposite direction of everything that she is expected to do. Her art requires thought, analyzation, and actual interpretation. Her music, while retaining it's radio-friendly dance-pop vibe, consists of lyrics that actually mean something to her and her fans. And instead of letting fame get to her, she has very honorably taken on the role that this generation needs: that of an escape artist. Like Madonna, David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, and every other icon that has come before her, she has created a space for her fans where the imagination is the most important moral. Art is the only real aspiration, and money and hatred have no place in her world. By letting the current music industry market her and sell her as they will, while still not releasing a single song or project that is not wholly and completely her own, she has reminded everyone of why we care about music, art, and fashion in the first place. She decided, only a few years ago, when she adopted her new name of Lady Gaga, that she would kill herself into art. The point of Lady Gaga, why she matters so much, is not because of the insane celebrity-worship culture we and the media have built. It's the opposite. The masks, the costumes and outfits, the layers of make-up, are constantly reminding us of one thing: this could be anyone. We're not infatuated with Lady Gaga because we are obsessed with her, we're infatuated because we're obsessed with what she represents. She has become a symbol for art. She gave herself one label from the very beginning, from the very earliest interviews, and that label was "performance artist". She doesn't want you to look at her the way you do Beyonce and Britney Spears. She doesn't want you to envy her or wish you were her. She wants you to see her as a living, breathing art project. She is a flag for everyone to wave, a reminder that there is hope for music, that there are people out there (and many of them, judging by her ever-expanding fanbase) that do care about art more than money, love more than prejudice, and music more than monotony. She has decided that her role, in this new millenium, is that of the Renaissance Man. If she can do anything and be anything that her heart desires, then we can too. The odds were no more in her favor than they are in ours. All you need is a little bit of heart. She is inviting us all to abandon boredom and insecurity and to find our place in the escape that art provides. And most of us are happy to go along for the ride.

Oh, and the music's good too.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Electronic Life

Pop music. Dance music. Techno, electro, etc, etc. There is a fascination with electronic music in our culture that seems to be very particular and relevant. What is it about keyboards, synthesizers, and drum loops that reaches out in a way that guitar and drums simply can't?
Maybe it's the culture that surrounds it. Electronic music is largely perpetuated through the club scene, through booming speakers in college parties, and the vibrating subs of 25 year old males everywhere. Ok, so that's a clique. But a somewhat accurate one. The deep-sounding beats usually mix with shallow-sounding lyrics in the most perfect way, forcing the listener to bob their head or even (after a few shots) head to the dance floor. If hard rock (which will always have a sacred place in my heart) appeases the mind of those who want to openly push the limits and shout their opinions, electronic music appeases the heart of those who want to be undercover subversive. Instead of shouting, head-banging, and moshing with a crowd of people, these particular scoundrels want to throw on their stunner shades and go underground, dancing in the dark under flashing lights while the world outside falls apart.
Maybe THAT is the real appeal of this particular type of music. The invincibility of it all. The listener doesn't have to worry whether or not the drummer, guitarist, and vocalist is too drunk to perform well. In fact, the listener doesn't really have to worry about a live band at all. A live band is almost DETRIMENTAL to electronic music, rather than supportive. Because a live band bespeaks reality, a thing which these beats would rather avoid altogether. The music will go on, regardless of whether or not the creator of the song is even alive or dead. One doesn't even have to listen to enjoy the music, in some cases. Just feeling the bass vibrating against their bones and eardrums is enough for the hair-gelled, nicely dressed, sweatily composed people who are grinding against each other on the dance floor.
And for those who aren't a part of the club scene? For some, electronic music is a lifestyle, not something to enjoy every now and then. Just putting your earphones in and adjusting your iPod to play your favorite pop song is enough to take you away from the bills, deadlines, heartbreak, and monotony of everyday life. It's enough to remind you of your dreams, of the world inside your soul that doesn't REALLY give a shit about good grades or pleasing your parents or waking up early to go to work. That part of you that simply wants to love and move and flow with the river of life itself seems to respond to the timeless, invincible, and limitless possibilities of the production techniques employed today to create sound.
Unlike any other brand of music, electronic music doesn't use real instruments. Not entirely, anyway. Yes, keyboards, synths, and drum pads are involved, not to mention very complicated computer software and recording devices. But none of it is organic sound. There is no acoustic guitar or grand piano with real strings that vibrate, simply IDEAS that can be manifest using speakers. This is the magic of it all, that the IDEA of POSSIBILITY is more important than the reality of what is really there. That the mind itself holds enough power to create art and music and feeling, without having any physical manifestation. In this way, the sound is more organic by not being organic at all.
This is not just a type of music. This is not just a shallow-minded money making tool. Pop music, electronic music, all of it, is a manifestation of mankind's wish for invincibility in a world where we are doomed to never be invincible at all. It is the "average" person's path to being not so average, even if that means simply listening. It is a reminder of the groove that is in us all; the groove we seem to lose track of way too often in this boring planet of ours. It is our way of living, of moving forward and not looking back, of believing in ourselves and in others. It is our way of capturing feelings, emotions, and even moments in time, simply by committing it to the memory of our hearts and minds using drum loops. Maybe if we listen long enough, dance hard enough, and believe strong enough, we will be invincible after all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Growing up, I was always told what I needed to care about. I went to Christian school every year except 7th grade, and even before I started school I went to church every Sunday. My father is the type of guy who believes that he is right above all others in his opinions, so I was always being told very clearly what is right and wrong, what is interesting and not interesting, what is acceptable and what isn't, etc etc. But I never really felt like I fit into the mold at all as a kid. I felt that I was unique, and didn't quite fit into the society I was a part of, whether it be the kickball team on the playground or the goodie-two-shoes group at church on Sunday's. I felt, and still do, like a Natural Born Rebel. I believed in the Christian religion I was raised in as a child, simply because it's the logical thing to do when everyone you know and trust is telling you what's right and wrong. But I always had an understanding of, devotion to, and love for movies, music, and art of any kind more than the Bible or Jesus. I felt at odds with what I was being told was right, because I knew in my heart what truly mattered to me, and it wasn't going to heaven when I died. I always thought heaven sounded really boring, anyways. What mattered to me, what STILL matters to me, is art. The only thing that has ever reached into my soul and grabbed my heart, the only thing that has ever raised goosebumps on my flesh and made me cry inside because of the sheer beauty of it all, is art.
"Art" is such a vague term, and yet such an important one. It encompasses so many different genres and ideas, and covers so many different mediums, that it's really a useless word, because it doesn't specify worth shit. But at the same time, it's one of the most powerful and important words the world has ever had the pleasure of coming in contact with. "Art" means that visual, or sound, or material, that is aesthetically or emotionally appealing, horrifying, attention-grabbing, pleasing, and/or (if it's true, "perfect" art) heartfelt. It's the most basic way of communication between different people. A picture is worth 1000 words, they say, and I believe it. It can make you completely fall in love with someone you've never even met, just by looking at what they've created. It's the opposite of destruction, because art, by it's nature, is creation. And whether it be a song, or a film, or a painting, we all know what it's like to have a work of art reach out and grab our very souls, changing us forever. Everyone has that song, the one that they can remember hearing for the first time; or the one that brings to mind a very particular person or event, making one moment in history completely significant and epic. Everyone has that movie, the one that makes them cry or laugh everytime they see it, the film they will forever comment on in a positive way everytime it comes up in conversation; the one they will show their kids, or spouse, because it has become and always will be a piece of their heart.
Religious texts and high school math classes never have mattered to me the way my favorite bands have. Politicians and "successful" leaders have never connected with me the way the avant-garde, "trashy" musicians I look up to have. And after 19 years of existence, 19 years of trying to figure out what matters and what doesn't in this short period of time we have on earth, I think I've figured out what matters to me. Art, and Art alone. This is my spirituality.