Tag Archives: music

Oh No Love, You’re Not Alone!

I remember the first time I heard Life on Mars by David Bowie. It changed my life. I had never heard a song like that before. Bowie is wailing. The piano is crashing. The guitar is crying. It’s so beautifully haunting. Very few songs hit me like this one. When I hear it sometimes it’s like being struck like a bell. I hear it and I can feel myself ringing. A little while later I would hear Rock n’ Roll Suicide. As Bowie screams “Oh no love, you’re not alone!” I would be flying down hills of my small hometown on my bike. The summer hot on my back. I was maybe 12. That song was everything I had dreamed of, yearned for. It was life changing. It was life affirming.

I’m from Newfield, New York. You’ve never heard of it. When people ask I say that I’m from Ithaca, New York. Which isn’t entirely a lie. I spent a lot of my life in Ithaca, but I grew up in the small town just outside of Ithaca. I had a class of maybe 54 other kids, give or take. I felt very alone. But Bowie would call me ‘love’ and tell me I wasn’t, so it’d make the days a little better.

I remember being in the car with my father when I first heard Space Oddity. I was young I was obsessed with the narrative. The fact the song could tell a story like that. He told me there was a follow up. I was very sad when I heard Ashes to Ashes.

Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know Major Tom’s a junkie
Strung out in heaven’s high
Hitting an all-time low

I ran into his room. I cried out, “Dad! Why?” and he explained the context for the song. How a lot of astronauts turn to drugs after space because nothing on Earth could match that. I still get a little sad when I hear that song.

Because of my obsession with Space Oddity my father gave me a David Bowie cassette. It was Changes, a lot of great songs on that hunk of plastic. It was a prized possession. When I was much younger than I am now, but older than when I got the cassette I gave it to the girl I lost my virginity to. It had Heroes on it and that was ‘our song.’ I was in high school, and in love and I gave it away because I thought that’s what you did for love. Maybe I still do.

I got older and more into Bowie. I heard the lyrics to Young Americans and I realized how that first verse was more or less exactly the story of me losing my virginity.

They pulled in just behind the bridge
He lays her down, he frowns
Gee my life’s a funny thing, am I still too young?
He kissed her then and there
She took his ring, took his babies
It took him minutes, took her nowhere
Heaven knows, she’d have taken anything…

What a young little Casanova I was. What a  fool I was. Around the time I discovered Young Americans I was beginning to question my sexuality. I think I was 16. I didn’t know how to talk about it or who to talk about it with. I didn’t know any bisexual males that I was aware of. My sister had just come out, but I didn’t want to talk to her and seem like I was trying to steal her thunder. I was alone in my anxiety and my own sexual ambiguity. I was afraid to declare anything. I wrestled with it for nearly two years.

Three years ago when David Bowie turned 69 (nice). I had decided I was done hiding from myself. If David Bowie could be so wonderfully flamboyant and incredible and bisexual and beloved then why the hell couldn’t I?

Three years ago  I came out as bisexual. I came out as bisexual in a small lil podunk town who didn’t fully understand who or what I was. They still loved me all the same. But there wasn’t anyone there who could show me the way to claim this part of myself. But that’s what I had Bowie for. And when the younger boys who called me faggot weren’t calling me faggot because of my sexuality, they said it because they didn’t know what else to call me. But it didn’t matter when they did. I was myself.

So come on
Come on
We really got a good thing going
(Well) Come on
(Well) Come on
If you think we’re gonna make it
You better hang on to yourself

Coming out was one of the best things I ever did. I felt this weight come off of my shoulders and I felt more genuinely me than I think I ever had before.

Two days later David Bowie died.

In retrospect I find it a little funny. You finally find a bi icon, a Bicon if you will, and then as soon as they give you the courage to truly be yourself, they die. I was devastated. I still am devastated.

I got in contact with my ex and got my David Bowie cassette back. Reclaiming a little bit of what I gave away.

My relationship with David Bowie would continue. Just as one sided as before. The following Halloween I was Aladdin Sane. That was my first Halloween in college. That was also the time I learned a lot of important lessons.

1)Wearing a full suit and face makeup to a dance club is a mistake.
2) When boys and girls tell you they like your costume responding with “Thanks, I did the makeup myself,” is not usually a turn on.
3) When you do finally get over enough of your social anxiety to go onto the floor. And someone decides she’s okay with making out with a man in full face paint, some of that face paint will rub off. You’ll then be able to identify all the men she makes out with after you step away to go to the bathroom. That’ll kinda hurt. Even though you never learned her name.

Two years have passed since that night, and I look back on it with a lot of bemusement. I do a lot of things to try and be more like the people I idolize. I bought a pair of boots because I saw an old promotional picture of Bruce Springsteen where he wore similar ones. French 75’s officially cemented themselves as my favorite cocktail because a book said they were the most similar to the persona of David Bowie.

I didn’t know what I was going to write when I started writing this. I just knew I had to write. The anniversary of David Bowie’s death is today. He would have turned 72 on Tuesday. I’ll never meet Bowie, or tell him how much he meant to me. I’ll never be able to tell him he gave me the courage to be more myself. He gave me the strength to come out as bisexual. He gave me the courage to dress weirder. To be More. More flamboyant. More ostentatious. More grand. To be more myself.

Often times when I’m at work and I get to play music I’ll put on David Bowie and let shuffle handle the rest. Song after song I’ll be delighted.

Maybe this piece is more about me and my relationship with an icon than it is about the icon himself. Maybe that’s narcissistic.

As I’m sitting in my chair writing this, my Changes cassette sits next to me. I’ve set the Bowie discography to shuffle. Dancing out in Space is playing. I miss him.

No-one here can see you
Dancing face to face
No-one here can beat you
Dancing out in space

Some days before work I’ll be stressed. Worried about what the night will bring. And I’ll queue up Bowie’s performance of Heroes from Live Aid. I’ll listen to all the hope he has in his voice. I’ll hear the optimism he’s exuding on that stage. I’ll listen as he dedicates the song to his son. I’ll stand a little straighter. I’ll walk a little more confident into work.

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

A few weeks ago I was a little drunk and strung out on anxiety. I stumbled down the front steps of my apartment, lighting my cigarette. Wandering in the cold. I was stressed, I was tired, I felt alone. I put my headphones on, and those first few chords of Rock n Roll Suicide flooded my ears. I exhaled the smoke. I felt a sensation as some of the tension left my shoulders. Bowie was screaming and the music was swelling and I found myself choked up, lightly crying in the dark of a cold Boston night.

Bowie told me that I wasn’t alone. And ever since then, I haven’t been. I’ll always have my headphones, I’ll always have Bowie to keep me company.

Oh no, love, you’re not alone
You’re watching yourself, but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up, but if I could only make you care
Oh no, love, you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone

With Love, You’re Not Alone
Bailey F. Olmstead

Learning To Love My Least Favorite Song.

Sir Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” was probably the cheesiest 80’s pop song that wasn’t George Michael’s. Though my love for Sir Elton John runs so deep (a fact most people in my life know) this particular song was an always immediate skip in the playlist. As a listener, I couldn’t possibly start with emotional “Daniel” about a Vietnam War veteran, or my go-to karaoke jam “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and transition to an upbeat, nonsensical “I’m Still Standing” and it’s ridiculous diss: “And if our love was a circus, you’d be a clown right now.”

Quite literally “I’m Still Standing” stood out as something trivial and silly. I’ll be the first to admit it’s because as much as I constantly try to fight it, I am an innately snooty music snob. This song wasn’t “deep” at the first listen, or even the first 30 listens, so it was out. Until recently if a person were to come up to me and mention they loved Elton John only to reference “I’m Still Standing” as their favorite, I’d probably internally scream, “Sure, Jan.”

Listen to this without telling me it’s cheesy.

It wasn’t until I learned a lesson about resilience that I really understood “I’m Still Standing.” It’ll never be “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” But it isn’t trivial, and my many years of disdain for it were misinformed. I had to learn that there’s so much power in just saying, “Well, I’m still here, aren’t I?” That seemed to be a major theme of 2017 for me. I’m still here. Despite everything.

For the same reason, I personally clung to P!nk’s latest album, Beautiful Trauma. Specifically the blatantly named track, “I Am Here” and it’s’ line, “I can make anywhere home.”

A year ago I wouldn’t have imagined where I would be now. I’m sure many feel the same about 2017 both politically and not. I have many new faces in my life. That’s a weird way to put that, but I’ve got a lot of new company. I’ve strengthened older friendships, too. I went from someone who had a lot of acquaintances they never hung out with to a person who cackles with them over drinks. I didn’t know that I’d live in my favorite neighborhood in Boston. Mostly, I didn’t, and still don’t really know, how to manage that mental health thing people talk about.

I also don’t have to disclose much about that. I constantly remind myself I don’t have to share that. I don’t owe anyone anything, in that regard. Brevity is a virtue.

Recently, I was talking post-grad plans with my dad, about where I may take a job. He said maybe jokingly, maybe seriously, “You couldn’t even survive living alone in LA!” I shot right back, amused, “I’m still here, aren’t I?”

That’s the thing. I’ve survived 3,000 miles away from everything I knew. I’ve survived heartbreak. I’ve survived loss. I’ve survived every single day that I’ve ever doubted myself. Nothing and no one can take that away from me.

A week or so goes by, and I’ve left what was supposed to be a normal doctor’s appointment worried. I was laying on my bed, pondering and listening to Elton John’s latest album, “Diamonds” staring at the ceiling, as one does. Teary-eyed, I heard the stupid beginning to my least favorite masterpiece. I reached for the skip button, almost laughing, “Dear god, not this stupid song, not now” but I stopped myself.

It took a mixture of crying and laughing for me to understand this silly song. I guess I’m just trying to say that I’m still standing, better than I ever did.

Lizzo Is ‘Good As Hell’

The time in between Beyoncé albums is grueling and unpredictable. We never quite know when she’ll announce an album release on Instagram or drop Lemonade. Fear not. I have found a solution to Beyoncé-less eras: a feminist lyrical powerhouse that goes by the name Lizzo.

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The 28-year-old alternative hip hop artist performed a few songs from her latest EP Coconut Oil this past weekend at Entertainment Weekly’s Pop Culture festival and that’s when it all clicked. For optimal viewing of this post, click the video below and listen to the audio as you read.

Lizzo’s onstage energy is a magnetic force-field of confidence. She’s a woman, she’s thick, she’s black, and she’s proud. During her performance, Lizzo and her entourage wore fierce single-ladies-esque black unitards for best booty-shakin’ conditions. Her confidence was a breath of fresh air, and her pipes were the wind to carry that air. She sang about loving herself, her fellow ladies, and about being turnt. That’s the trifecta of a perfect feminist anthem and I’m %100 here for it.

Lizzo main hit right now is called Good As Hell and that is a perfect way to describe her. Good As Hell came out this past March and has over 3,000,000 plays on Spotify.

She may have only had this one viral hit so far, but I believe there is much more coming from Lizzo. Now is the time to get on board with her before she blows up and is soon the name on everyone’s lips – because isn’t it cool to know about things before your friends do? You’re welcome.

Watsky’s X Infinity – touched my heart and anxiety

This past weekend a few of my best friends from home went and saw Watsky perform in Boston. I watched their snapchats with envy and nostalgia. After all, his older song Sloppy Seconds once seemed to be the summer anthem that kept our friend group glued together. His words, “I don’t care where you’ve you been, how many miles, I still love you.” sting even more now that I’m in Los Angeles, California while my best friends are mostly in Boston, Massachusetts.

George Watsky, spoken-word poet, rapper, and Emerson College alumn, tends to have that stinging effect on young twenty somethings who haven’t quite found their way yet. His latest album, X Infinity, came out this past August and I was all over it. I listening to it for days on repeat. I couldn’t get enough of the introspective, honest, and raw insights. Each song seemed to mean something more to me than the last.

For no reason at all I wrote down my thoughts about each track when I listened to the album in full for the first time in my iPhone notes. Here is that journey. Warning: following language is explicit and nonsensical.

Before even hitting play:

!!!!!!!!! Yes bitch !!!!!!!!!! I’m so ready

Track – Pink Lemonade 

– I love the line “You want to run a country? That makes me shiver. Bitch, I don’t trust you to run with adult scissors.”
– This song is strong on it’s own. It’s very obviously a song about current political climate/how ridiculous America is right now. True.
– “I vote Yeezus, DeezNuts 20/20.”

Track – Tiny Glowing Screens Pt.3
– No words. Take everything ever and we are that, times infinity.

Bonus Track – Exquisite Corpse 

– Holy shit. So much commentary. This song has so many people featured on this song.
– “Bill the science guy told us the end is nye.” Ugh, a pun so good it makes me groan.
– A song about a potential Apocalypse and how to survive.
– “Atlanta is lost, Justin Bieber is dead.”
– Most powerful part is Chinaka Hodge’s verse: “Nothing’s all that different, been the same for black women, when apocalyptic breakfast follows revelation dinners. The lights been out, the water smelling of Flint. Exquisite corpses laying where the bodies had been. No bombs over Baghdad, just drones with grenades. When life gives us citrus we learn to drop Lemonade.”

Track – Knots 

– A song about failing to succeed.
–  Beautiful piano composure on this one.
– This is how I feel about making content when I’ve run out of ideas x 1000.
– Sounds like a very dramatic musical monologue in a weird adaption of The Catcher Of The Rye. Holden Caulfield vibes.

Track – Chemical Angels 

– A song I would put on if I hosted a house party.
– “Comfort I crave.” Same.
– “My brain has a mind of it’s own.” Same.
– Pretty sure it’s about drug/alcohol use, and not wanting to change.

Track – Going Down 

– A song about ‘going down,’ literally.
– Sexuality is celebrated.
– Comments how masculinity is fragile in a hilarious way.
– This is a jam. It’s my friend’s favorite song on the whole album.

Track – Conversations 

– I love this.
– Conversations with parents.
– Uncertainty about what comes next. Same.
– Parent: “How did I raise this emo f***** 9-year-old?”
– Children have ton of answers that adults cannot offer them.

Track – Don’t Be Nice 

– Yas, Queen. I’m calling Watsky “Queen” because I hate when people call artists “Daddy.” He kills it in this, though.

Track – Brave New World 

– The voice of guest Chaos Chaos is so soothing.
– Again, another one with a lot of commentary about the political state.
– “Every minute, deeper in it, another fantasy is brought to life.”

Track – Love Letters 

– “If you love someone, then you tell them.”

Track – Talking To Myself 

– This is my favorite song on the whole album, I can already tell.
– It’s about being your own best friend.
– I relate to this so much because I constantly battle anxiety and that can be alienating.
– Sounds worse than it feels, but this song puts into words how I often feel.
– “Have you felt a little off today? Had a lot to say? But wound up talking to yourself?”

Track – Midnight Heart 

– I want to send this song to every dumb guy that has ever tried to manipulate me, or mansplained to me, or just disrespected me in general.
– It’s the Don’t Hurt Yourself (Beyoncé’s Lemonade) of this album.
– “Sorry buddy, it’s time you knew. Nothing you ever said was funny; the punchline is you.”
– “I can’t bend over for someone I don’t respect.”

Track – Roses

– This song sounds so soothing and sweet.
– It’s about having the strength to move on.
– It’s goes off on needing attention and fueling ambition.
– It this reflects how he’s feeling, I’m glad Watsky is seemingly at peace with himself and content. He must be protected at all costs.

Track – Yes Britannia

– I love this.
– About saying goodbye and finding resolutions.
– “See you never, I guess.”
– Reminds me of those relationships that quickly and suddenly unravel.
– Flashbacks to watching someone losing interest in me, haaaaa.
– “The world is one mean, motherf*****” Well said.

Track – Stick To Your Guns

– A metaphor about school shootings and the need for gun control in the U.S.
– This song makes me uncomfortable, but I think it’s supposed to.
– Talks about glorification of shooters and the monetization of tragedy.

Track – Little Slice

– This is another song I would put on if I hosted a house party.
– Reminds me of my college friends (same college as Watsky, actually).
– “There’s so many people I love right here, but it hasn’t been a good night, until the sh** gets kind of weird.”
– I also just want a little slice of paradise. Where can I get this?

Track – Springtime In New York

– The only song I do not like.
– The screeching subway and New York City background sounds give me anxiety.
– I had to shut it off.

Overall album thoughts:

10/10 would recommend. This is Watsky’s best album. I crave his meta anxious experimental commentary.

From Sloppy Seconds’ summertime homely bliss to Talking To Myself’s frustration, Watsky knows how to strike just the right heart string for it to work.

X Infinity is so good that I worry it’s a departure album. His grand ‘going out with a bang.” I hope this isn’t the case, but until then I’ll be trying to grab a slice of paradise – I don’t need the whole pie, just got to have my little slice.