80 Reasons I am a Writer

80 Reasons I am a Writer

  1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Particularly The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Horse and His Boy)
  3. The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book by Bill Watterson
  4. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  5. The Muppet Christmas Carol by Jerry Juhl, Brian Henson
  6. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf, Victor Fleming, King Vidor, George Cukor, Norman Taurog
  7. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas, Richard Marquand
  8. Spy Kids 3D: Game Over by Robert Rodriguez
  9. Kangaroo Jack by Steve Bing, Scott Rosenberg, David McNally
  10. Aladdin by Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
  11. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  12. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  13. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, Mel Stuart
  14. The Secret of NIMH by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, Will Finn, Ken Anderson
  15. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  16. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude C. Warner
  17. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  18. The Time Warp Trio by Jon Scieszka
  19. Toy Story 2 by Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlin, Chris Webb, John Lasseter
  20. Finding Nemo by Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds
  21. The Secret Origin of Denzel Crocker! (Episode 3.21 of The Fairly Oddparents!) by Butch Hartman and Steve Marmel
  22. Back to the Future by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale
  23. Back to the Future Part II by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale
  24. The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle by Bill Myers
  25. Left Behind: The Kids by Jerry B. Jenkins, Tim LaHaye, Chris Fabry
  26. Monty Python and the Holy Grail by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
  27. Johnny English by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, William Davies, Peter Howitt
  28. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Karey Kirkpatrick, Garth Jennings
  29. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by John Hughes
  30. Sky High by Paul Hernandez, Bob Schooley, Mark McCorkle, Mike Mitchell
  31. Oliver! By Charles Dickens, Lionel Bart, Vernon Harris, Carol Reed
  32. A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, Bob Clark
  33. Home Alone by John Hughes
  34. Die Hard by Jeb Stuart, Steven E. De Souza, John McTiernan
  35. Star Wars: The Essential Chronology by Kevin J. Anderson, Daniel Wallace
  36. Halo: Combat Evolved by Bungie
  37. Madness Combat by Matt Jolly aka “Krinkels”
  38. The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
  39. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim
  40. The Matrix: Reloaded by Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
  41. 300 by Michael B. Gordon, Kurt Johnstad, Zack Snyder
  42. The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror by Disney Imagineers, Joe Dante
  43. The Mist by Stephen King, Frank Darabont
  44. A Series of Unfortunate Events by “Lemony Snicket”
  45. “Taxi” written and performed by Harry Chapin
  46. The Angry Video Game Nerd: Friday the 13th by James Rolfe
  47. Pendragon: Journal of an Adventure through Time and Space by D.J. MacHale
  48. Charlie the Unicorn 3 by Jason Steele
  49. The Door in the Dragon’s Throat by Frank Peretti
  50. Thr3e by Ted Dekker
  51. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
  52. The Dark Knight by Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
  53. The Godfather Part II by Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo
  54. X2 by Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, David Hayter, Bryan Singer
  55. The Measure of a Man (Episode 2.09 of Star Trek: The Next Generation) by Melinda M. Snodgrass, Robert Scheerer
  56. Walkabout (Episode 1.04 of LOST) by David Fury, Jack Bender
  57. M.I.A. (Episode 2.22 of Quantum Leap) by Donald P. Bellisario, Michael Zinberg
  58. Made in America (Episode 6.21 of The Sopranos) by David Chase
  59. Resignation (Episode 3.22 of House M.D.) by Pamela Davis, Martha Mitchell
  60. Exodus (Episode 4.22 of Stargate SG-1) by Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie, David Warry-Smith
  61. Before I Sleep (Episode 1.15 of Stargate Atlantis) by Carl Binder, Andy Mikita
  62. Let’s Fix Robert (Episode 5.21 of Everybody Loves Raymond) by Jennifer Crittenden, Mike Royce, Gary Halvorson
  63. The Double-Blind Job (Episode 3.05 of Leverage) by Melissa Glenn, Jessica Rieder, Marc Roskin
  64.  Kickassia (That Guy With the Glasses Two Year Anniversary Crossover Episode) by Doug Walker and “Channel Awesome”
  65.  A Softer World by Joey Comeau, Emily Horne
  66.  Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques
  67.  V. For Vendetta by Alan Moore, David Lloyd, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski, James McTeigue
  68.  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  69. A Very Potter Musical by Nick Lang, Matt Lang, Brian Holden, Darren Criss, A.J. Holmes
  70. A Very Potter Sequel by Nick Lang, Matt Lang, Brian Holden, Darren Criss
  71.  500 Days of Summer by Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, Marc Webb
  72.  Begin to Hope by Regina Spektor
  73.  11:11 by Regina Spektor
  74.  Songs by Regina Spektor
  75.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  76.  Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  77.  Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  78.  A Scandal in Belgravia (Episode 2.01 of Sherlock) by Steven Moffat, Paul McGuigan
  79. A Very Potter Senior Year by Nick Lang, Matt Lang, Brian Holden, Clark Baxtresser, Pierce Siebers, A.J. Holmes
  80.  Bojack Horseman created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Some Frank Words about Anxiety

People tell me I am a very open person.

Presumably this means I am more willing to be vulnerable—though I think this isn’t quite right because true vulnerability—by definition—is always uncomfortable.

I actually don’t think I’m open enough. And I’m nearly always uncomfortable, but not over writing introspective confessionals. I want to unpack these thoughts because by sharing ourselves, we can be better understood.

It’s true I wear a lot of my emotions on my sleeve. Whether that’s a sign of strength or a lack of restraint is for debate. I am direct. I try to resolve conflicts by communicating my own feelings.

I am obsessed with fully knowing myself to be the best person I can be. (I don’t know if it’s narcissistic to think publishing my insights could help others, but I’ve heard encouragement on this before.)

Perhaps one of the reasons people are hesitant to reveal an insecurity or potentially “ugly” part of themselves is that those confessions can be misunderstood. This happened to me last year when I shared something with my film class too early.

It was an insecurity I had claimed as part of my life, but not defining for my life. I don’t know if I had mentally articulated this distinction yet, though, so I put too much prominence on it. From then on I felt in conflict between the class’s perception of me, and my own intuitive understanding of my identity.

This is a conflict I’ve experienced many times, so I’ve thought a lot about those two concepts (Self-definition, and Public Perception). I’ve concluded that “identity” is only really as useful as the self or others make it out to be—so both yourself and others can be wrong about it.

But not all our weaknesses or insecurities need to be feared. By naming them for ourselves we can cement them and turn them into workable metrics for our growth.

For me, talking about my weaknesses helps me accept that they are part of my life. It helps me better accept myself and that I’m still imperfect. And so those areas stop being vulnerable for me.

—-

I turned 24 this year, and the truth is there are very few days when I honestly feel I am okay.

As I said before, that doesn’t mean I’m not okay in reality.

I don’t know if I have the psychiatric condition of “anxiety.” But I deal with a lot of anxieties in my life that someone in conversation might not immediately realize.

One is an anxiety about the gap between who I want to be and who I currently am. I am a perfectionist who despite knowing perception is uncontrollable, desperately wants the “Garrett” you encounter to be the one I know I could be.

For this reason I have difficulty in accepting failure. In a job interview someone asked, “How do you handle failure?” And I talked for six minutes about everything but the question. I am my own harshest critic, but that doesn’t make it easier.

I have an anxiety over time, particularly how I am spending my time.

Netflix breaks me. The idea that I have instant access to shows from the 70s alongside the whole last season of This is Us, or a rewatch of Breaking Bad, and no matter how much time I spend, I will never see it all—is terrifying. Same thing goes for classic literature alongside modern hits in libraries and bookstores.

It often seems imperative for me to always spend my time in pursuit of self-advancement, and ironically, this has led to a lot of wasted time trying to make a decision. I have actually gone to bed early rather than decide how to spend my night—on multiple occasions.

One part of accepting the world as it is is acknowledging that most parts of it are fundamentally uncontrollable. If you are religious, you might say that as humans we are meant to give control to God. If you are not, you might say this is because the world is chaos.

But I sometimes see the random pieces of life as working in opposition to my achieving my lofty goals. Life is messy, but I wish my circumstances were different and better. I have difficulty distinguishing what I can actually do to better myself and what I should relax about.

Though it is ridiculous to have a midlife crisis at 24, I have seen life as a ticking clock since 9th grade.

I see most positive things that happen to me as undeserved. I do not always see the qualities that my friends love about me as I already am. I worry that even if they could understand me they would not care, or that I am fundamentally different from every other person. (This last one I’ve heard is a common anxiety.)

People say I overthink things. I would propose instead that I consider more or different details than what is average. The fullest version of myself and the gift I wish to bring the world is being someone who does consider those details and knows which are relevant.

For all these reasons, I find myself talking at times I wish I were quiet, or quiet at times I wish I would speak up. I do not act like myself.

These anxieties have put a huge toll on my ability to claim personal happiness, and claiming happiness is the only way for anyone to have it.

—-

This last year might have been the worst time in my life. Upon finishing 4 1/2 years of college with a great record, wonderful friendships, and clearly defined life goals, I traveled across the country to educate myself on the television industry in Hollywood and learn how to be a single independent adult. I knew my first year would be challenging, but I resolved to keep my mission simple: find a job in LA and survive for Year 2.

What I didn’t realize was that back home, I was probably exploiting my friends as a crutch for personal therapy or real personal growth, and being so far away with no collegiate/institutional structure would force me to face the dark parts I saw in myself.

The human body is designed to avoid pain at any cost. I learned this because of the spiderweb of destructive behaviors I’ve used to avoid actually confronting my issues. And I’ve realized my anxieties are in reality coping mechanisms.

These are traits about myself I’m not proud of. They don’t constitute my identity, and I’m not obligated to leave room for them—either through self-pity or making excuses. But they have been part of who I am for a long time.

There is no real conclusion to this essay. Just know that if you’re a person who has similar anxieties that have prevented me from seeing you—I see you now. I hope by examining my anxieties I can eventually redeem them, and by defining them myself, I will not be ruled by them.

Quitting Twitter

I’m done with Twitter and specifically the community it attracts. I confess it’s tempting to try & rack up followers, butt in on any cultural conversation, and have a place to air witty quips. But aside from the ever present narcissism it develops in me it has become too exhausting to weed through all the negativity.

I’m tired of seeing people I respect retweet comments that are hateful.

Here’s a lesson: Generalizations about people are always bad.

Much of culture has become obsessed with being “woke,” and that is good. Diversity is vital. Sometimes, it’s necessary for people who have held power in the past to shut up (to listen), or even be replaced (in order to make future progress possible).

I accept that as someone who lives with privilege, my voice won’t always be relevant. I also acknowledge as a person of faith that I might sometimes believe things you don’t believe.

However, too often I go online to read people who post thoughtlessly, based on assumptions or deepseeded anger. For a long time this has made me question whether (as a person of privilege) my thoughts are valid, whether my feelings matter, and whether my opinions can be important.

As a writer, this is particularly frustrating to me. There is less incentive to interact and critically examine myself if I feel like any conclusions I come to will be dismissed by malicious posters.

But more importantly, Twitter has negatively impacted my creativity. It’s not worth the amount of material I would potentially write if I weren’t dealing with the self-doubt it encourages.

It has become too snowflake-y, and yes, I recognize the irony of allowing excessively offended people to excessively offend me. But I believe in freeing oneself from anything that holds power over you.

I also believe that a world of diverse perspectives cannot come at the cost of individuality. I believe that everybody matters. Excluding less common viewpoints is not woke—it’s bullshit.

I’m tired of having to put up a disclaimer to prove I’m not a hot take, or coming up with an identifier besides Straight White Male to become relevant.

SWM is an idol. A conceptual character that I think never existed in the form of which it is currently being invoked. Nobody likes being misrepresented, but that is the result when people needlessly villainize, or refuse to acknowledge that there are infinite variations of someone’s experience, no matter their demographic.

Our culture wars are too serious to fall into pettiness. Everyone needs to put down their pitchforks and chill out. Don’t apply your pet issue to everything that comes across your feed. Don’t misunderstand justice and liberty. Do your research before posting.

Years from now our generation will be relentlessly lampooned—we will be mired in so many different causes that we run out of abbreviations we thought necessary to invent in order to discuss them.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird  ★★★★1/2

Holy crap!

What a powerful, thought provoking film featuring one of the strongest female protagonists I have ever seen come to life.

(It’s also really funny!)

This coming of age story is believable, and it needs to be in order to support a character that is so out of place in life. This is about someone who knows who she wants to be. But she isn’t quite there yet, and how she sees herself clashes with her circumstances.

It’s about a relationship between a mother and daughter who are joined at the hip but have completely different values and needs in receiving love. And I was so glad to find Metcalf’s delivery laced with layers of hurt, bitterness, insecurity, pride, longing…all those important emotions to prevent the role from being a 1 dimensional and annoying hateful mother. The dad is pretty great too and though more understated definitely plays a role in sustaining the journey.

The movie effortlessly takes the hallmarks of Senior Year, which has been explored through dozens of male narratives, and tells the story of one family and friend group without feeling tropey.

It’s about ambition, and learning to appreciate the moments that shaped you regardless of their class or universality. Christine “Lady Bird” grows up in a Catholic school in “the Midwest of Southern California.” But you can bet her desire to get out and really be someone is relatable, especially in a frightening, rapidly changing world.

It is relevant to current day concerns while firmly set in the early 2000s and being nostalgic for that world. This is a story where one mobile phone message can really represent a defining character moment–the rites of passage here aren’t rampant dick pics and Instagram–it’s before fake news.

It feels like it covered a lot more than 93 minutes but is never boring. Lots ambiguous to dissect on further viewings. Slice of Life in the best way. A+

Ode to Star Wars

The official trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be coming out tomorrow.

We pretty much know this for fact, most likely between 12 and 12:30pm EST, at the conclusion of Rian Johnson’s panel discussion at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando. Every Star Wars mega-fan around the globe waits like it’s Christmas Eve.

Tomorrow, my state of mind could just as likely be overwhelmed in feverish joy as incredibly disappointed. If you know me in real life, you’ve probably heard my complex emotional ramblings about the franchise and what it’s meant to my life. I won’t repeat them comprehensively here. I should note that I think Episode VIII will be the series’ most important film yet. But before it drops and we see that first footage, I wanted to reflect on some absolutely good things the series has brought in the last 40 years that helped make it not only the world’s biggest franchise, but such a meaningful one.

Regardless of the newest film’s good/bad tone, or the quality of any given installment in the series, Star Wars gave me a childhood full of adventure. I got fed some from other influences. I played a lot of video games–Mario was a big one; I liked Buzz Lightyear, Micky and Daffy Duck, and books like the Chronicles of Narnia. But there was nothing like Star Wars. We had six lightsaber toys in our house, not including the build-your-own lightsaber, a ton of books and games from the Expanded Universe, the 2003 Animated Clone Wars Series from Cartoon Network, posters, and a giant Yoda cardboard Standup in our playroom. Actually we had two. I started my own Jedi Academy and trained all the other kids in my family to avoid the Dark Side.

I remember going to see Revenge of the Sith in theatres opening weekend. I distinctly remember being in middle school, and reading about the rumored “Sequel Trilogy,” and hearing that it would probably never be made, because the original Trio would be too old to star in it. I remember when the CGI Clone Wars movie came out, and being so disappointed. I started focusing on the negative qualities of the prequels, and made fun of George Lucas’s directing choices, even though these were the movies that made me most excited.

I think all things considered, Episode II: Attack of the Clones has some great and subtle meditations on the underside of pride and the nature of abuse. Yoda’s insistence on a knight’s order of neutrality, and his need to keep his head in the sand led to the rise of a shadow insurgent (or Phantom Menace) in the government right next door. I love the epic political grandstanding of the prequels, and how George Lucas relentlessly chased down all the economic and nationalistic implications of the Republic’s downfall and brought them to life. The philosophy of the prequels that Fear leads to Anger, which leads to Hate, to Suffering, is somewhat profound. Though the movies are filtered through the lens of swordfighting and magic, in the domestic sphere Anakin’s character is painted quite thoroughly as a hurt person who hurts people. When you stop critiquing, and just sit back and enjoy them for what they are, every Star Wars movie has brought some sense of wonder and provoked moral thought.

I may have watched the “The Force Awakens” trailer more times than any other preview for a movie. In particular, the second one which starts on a wrecked Imperial Star Destroyer and ends on Han Solo saying “Chewie, We’re Home” is a masterpiece of modern advertising. It was released a whole year in advance and was complete with unused footage, and doused in J.J. Abram’s “mystery box” metaphor and fanservice in the best way. It sold the whole world on a feeling–that this movie would return them to the magic of better times.

For me, Star Wars Episode 7 represented the completion of a promise, which was that one day, the hero Luke Skywalker would grow into a Jedi Master and train new young Jedi of his own. After the movie was announced, I waited three years in anticipation of seeing this childhood dream come to life on the big screen. I didn’t really care how good it was. Even if it wasn’t exactly how I imagined it, at least I would have the chance to see what one of my favorite characters had been up to after all this time. I became even more excited when so much of the advertising mysteriously had Luke missing. Where was he? What was the big reveal? Imagine my emotion when I realized, at the end of the film, that Luke would not say even a single word in the movie. It felt like I had been slapped with a 2×4. It slowly dawned on me that I would have to wait two more years to see how that cliffhanger resolved. I felt very betrayed and led on by what seemed like a cash grab to get me to come back to see Episode VIII. I wondered how the creators had missed something so seemingly obvious as reuniting the original trio onscreen.

But I can’t deny I am happy that Star Wars is back in the cultural mind again. I’m happy that people are making new material–TV Shows, books, comics, toys, and games–and that I have a reason to dig through the huge mythos of Star Wars when I’m not physically watching a new movie. Seeing all the different writers who have fleshed out different parts of the franchise and their creativity is inspiring.

I believe it’s incredibly important to always remember that when Disney brought back Star Wars, they made the leading character a woman. It’s easy to forget how risky a move this was when it happened. Though it’s true that all the new leads are good looking, Disney cast a woman, a black guy, and a Hispanic guy as the new trio, which is an insanely firm and progressive stance, considering how white and male-centric the Star Wars universe has always been. There was a chance that there would be backlash that would hurt the investment. I think this is why it’s so important that Rey’s arc is done right and has emotional resonance, though, because this move may be the sequel series’ greatest achievement on its own.

Sure, I’m going to Ep. 8 to see Luke. But it has also been a blast to watch Daisy Ridley mature in confidence as an actor behind the scenes, parallel to her character’s training in the films. The implication is that fans of Star Wars in the 70s, 2000s, and today could all be inspired by a young woman, regardless of their gender or age. I’m watching the series for the first time as an adult, but thanks to Rey, there are now young girls who can get into Star Wars the same way I did when I was a kid. And there are young boys who are being exposed to the radical idea that cool stories can be told about women, and there’s nothing shameful about enjoying them.

I have some very specific hopes for the new movie. In particular, I want to know whether Luke’s encounter with Palpatine and Vader at the end of the original movies represented his failure or success in controlling the impatience and anger that Yoda clearly said would drive him to become “an agent of evil.”

But there are many strong, lasting themes in Star Wars. By setting the prequels through the perspective of Anakin, Lucas made the films ultimately about Redemption. By revealing Vader as Luke’s father, the films became a family drama. Rian Johnson has said some of his influences for The Last Jedi are Westerns, which romanticize both those elements. The classic Western, like Star Wars, is a callback to times “long ago” in a place “far, far away,” in a wilderness where everyone is out for themselves and mysterious dangers could be around every corner.

If it’s not Johnson who will bring back that sense of exploration, risk, adventure, and character-based storytelling, it will be someone else. Luke Skywalker or not, it is in the blood of the franchise. No matter what the world sees concerning “The Last Jedi” tomorrow, or how I feel about it, I don’t think the handprints that Star Wars has left in its path will ever truly die out.

How I feel about Lorde’s “Green Light”

(Note: This post falls into the “Late to the Party” category, since I formed my opinion a week ago but only now was able to edit through my notes. As of this writing, I have yet to listen to Lorde’s new single, “Liability,” which released Thursday. For the sake of reviewing this song independently, I’ll be waiting until after this is published.)

The TL:DR is, Green Light made me feel disappointed.

But it’s complicated.

Retrospective

I remember the first time I heard “Royals,” in my sophomore year of college, through my roommate’s YouTube feed. The video (both New Zealand and US versions) was remarkably low-concept. Though impressive, it felt like something she could have shot with her friends in her bedroom. I think my exact reaction was something close to: “This is the most incredible songwriter of the next generation.”

Though she was already attached with producers at that point and getting attention through the radio, for a long time I thought she was a Youtube sensation along the lines of Justin Bieber. And that was a lot of the appeal of Lorde. She posted ramblings on Tumblr. She hung out with a non-celebrity boyfriend. Her full album, Pure Heroine, was filled with suburban humility and biting commentary on the upper classes.

Her first album absolutely became my go-to for studying, driving, chilling out, Et. Al. It was my happy place. It was bouncy and stylistically crisp, with pleasing vocals. I most loved Lorde’s lyricism, though, which has a unique, grammatical playfulness that has always appealed to me in poets. Even in her stage name, “Lorde,” was hand-designed by her in order to evoke power, yet include a feminine touch at the end.

I don’t know anyone who was prepared for her performance of Royals at the 2014 Grammys, which featured a flickering gothic archangel, black makeup, and feral dance moves that seem to have been inspired by a clawing demonic possession. No one dances the way Lorde does, and no one ever will again. Over the years, I’ve struggled with this image—which makes me so uncomfortable—coming from someone whose music is so inspiring to me. I eventually decided that Lorde’s dancing (which has since become signature in all her video appearances) represents the kind of unbridled emotion only present in artists who dance without care for being judged.

For better or worse, it didn’t stop me from desperately wanting more music. When she was picked to curate the Hunger Games Mockingjay soundtrack, I cheered. Lorde proved to be the perfect match for bringing Katniss’s voice to life. In my opinion, the album’s feature single, “Yellow Flicker Beat” is still her best work to date (with the sole exception of her South Park cameo “I am Lorde, Ya Ya Ya,” which parodied her upper lip hair).

Which Brings us to Today

Green light seems so different from the Lorde of years past that the first several times I listened, I didn’t know what to do with it. Lorde herself admits it’s different, and wants her audience to accept it as part of her evolving public image. I think this leads audiences into a great quandary, because the fact is, despite how an artist’s livelihood is tied to their fans, artists can and do change without those fans’ approval.

Most artists with an extended career will eventually produce albums that resonate differently with different people. For example, I am deeply impacted by Coldplay’s sound and lyrical themes pre- “Viva la Vida,” and I think their new music is boring. However, I know people who would argue that technically, the band is currently doing their most daring work (or by some reports, is “done” making music after having hit the ceiling).

In Green Light and in all the promo material for her upcoming record, Lorde presents a decidedly more mature image. She is still intimate, but no longer a bedroom pop prodigy. She’s growing up. And it’s not like we weren’t expecting it to happen. In her announcement for the album, Lorde said she wanted to chronicle the last three and a half years of her life. Her new album appears to be primarily about this journey into adulthood. The night before she turned 20, she wrote:

“All my life I’ve been obsessed with adolescence, drunk on it…Since 13 I’ve spent my life building this giant teenage museum, mausoleum maybe, dutifully wolfishly writing every moment down, and repeating it all back like folklore. And now there isn’t any more of it…Writing Pure Heroine was my way of enshrining our teenage glory, putting it up in lights forever so that part of me never dies, and this record – well, this one is about what comes next. ”

In-Depth Analysis

So Lorde is definitely changing. But the question is: is it progress?

She said she wanted to write music she could dance to—and I guess this delivers. It’s not her catchiest tune. But as soon as I made that conclusion, it got stuck in my head for the next two days. The tag “Hope they bite you” in particular feels like it’s been a part of Lorde’s music for years.

It still feels like a Lorde song in many ways. She is still writing about disillusionment, with her inability to “get my things and just let go.” She mentions how the “Great Whites they have big teeth” —Teeth are a major theme in her earlier work. Structurally, it’s as creative as her old work. But it takes risks in different ways, and in the end, I just don’t like it as much.

My biggest problem with the song is common to other pop anthems, where the chorus sounds like it should have just been a pre-chorus. There is a huge ramp up of emotion at “I hear the sounds in my mind,” and especially when Lorde and the backups shout, “I’M WAITING FOR IT, THAT GREEN LIGHT, I WANT IT” like the pit crew of Speed Racer. But technically, the repeated part is only two lines, and it falls flat. Even if you include the pre chorus as “…I hear the sounds,” it’s just not long or distinctive enough to feel like a chorus. You can dance to it, but it makes it harder to sing.

One thing that stands out from a little research is Lorde’s dedication to the labor of songcrafting. I have to admit I don’t have any complaints on the lyric front. It’s the subtle things that make the song: “I do my makeup in somebody else’s car” followed by the added -s at the end of “We order different drinks at the same bars.” The way she almost says “Honey” without an H for the sake of the aesthetic. Or her use of “ever” in place of “wherever” on the line, “I’ll be seeing you ever I go.”

Probably the most suggestive part of the song is “Sometimes I wake up in a different bedroom,” and I don’t have words to describe how good a line that is. Confessional, sultry, yet just vague enough to totally work.

This is a song that can be interpreted ambiguously. Apparently, it’s about a breakup. But it also paints a pretty good picture of compulsive debauchery and self-medicating through adrenaline. I don’t want to judge Lorde’s moral character, except that she clearly judges herself throughout the song. There is so much packed into the lyrics that by the end, there is little question about the kind of emotion she’s describing, regardless of the specifics you imagine.

It’s a song about recklessness, or at least restlessness. It is filled with reverb and various sounds fading in and out like a passing car in a city. For all the fun and dancing, it leaves you with a sense of emptiness. It starts abruptly, and is over too fast. That could be the point, if the song is intended to imitate a wild night. But because I’m not by any means a music critic, all I have to draw from is how the song made me feel—which is just that. I wanted more.

This is what happens when you fall in love with music, but not with the artist. I know it’s nearly impossible to follow up a great debut. But though Lorde paints herself as having grown up, it’s hard not to feel like she’s lost something.

I’m not giving up hope, though. Lorde says that the upcoming record, Melodrama, has the best lyrics she’s ever written, and she is prouder of it than anything else she’s ever done. I know that feeling. From all accounts, she absolutely poured herself into this upcoming record. Regardless of my own expectations for how it should be done, there is something confidence-inducing about a project when it is clear that the artist was intentional about the choices they made. Their dedication allows you to accept and respect it, because it’s important and true to them. At least Lorde’s confidence makes me want to trust her enough to see where this goes.

Confessions of an Egomaniac

April 18, 2016, Originally Published in Covenant College’s Newspaper- “The Bagpipe”

 

Two years ago, I wrote my first article for the Bagpipe in the Opinions section about my first Kilter experience. A month later, when I followed that up with a review of Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz album, Emmett Gienapp told me that the whole staff room cheered.

Since then, much of my college experience could be summarized as a cycle of trying to be remembered. I am part of a hall community that thrives on public stunts, with which I’ve taken every opportunity to use my talents in writing and theatre to create an image and boost it. My Facebook page has oft been filled with ironic meta-statements on the nature of connection and bombastic pictures featuring my photogenic personality. During this time I’ve also acquired more nicknames than could reasonably be counted.

When offstage, I sometimes try to keep a low profile and build an air of mystique, only speaking when necessary. The idea is that this way, when an issue comes up that I may want to change, I can reply with an out-of-the-box comment and people might listen. Although to be fair, I don’t know how well I’ve pulled this last strategy off. I tend to talk a lot when I get excited.

What I am saying is that I’ve attempted analysis on how I’m being perceived by strangers and adjusted my life accordingly. Some of this comes from childhood insecurities I’ve struggled against my whole life. Related to this is a well-intentioned, but fear-driven desire to make my best friends in college, and make memories I can take into my adult life.

But despite the many photos, stunts, and memories documented in my file, when I look back at my time in college, I will no doubt see it as a very troubled time in my life. More than that, living my life in a “public image cycle,” always waiting for the next time I can get that high from being the center of attention, has affected my ability to use my gifts responsibly.

The trap comes when you are focused on earning the love of others—which really just stems from a love of self—at the expense of glorifying God. The truth is, one cannot know how they are being perceived, and even if they could, it should not influence their convictions to speak boldly or to love others through ministry, when those convictions are being prompted in your heart by God.

There have been many times when I’ve wondered, because of my insecurities and rapt attention on some constructed, imaginary persona, whether I should be allowed to give opinions, perform, or otherwise live my life in freedom of expression. Is it narcissistic to consider whether you’re showing off too much? Furthermore, is it worth risking being called a narcissist if you think the things you want to do would glorify God and serve your community?     What is the limit on taking initiative? On stepping out in roles of leadership?

I write this article not because I have the answers to these questions, but because I have an opinion on them. More importantly, I want to speak to people who, like me, may also have opinions, but are too worried about what others will think to speak into their community’s discourse with them.

Don’t spend your time in college, or your life, worried about your legacy. It will never be enough, and it will cripple you in places you actually care about.

Don’t spend your life concerned about what others are thinking. You will be disappointed.

When God calls you to do something, you should do it, even if it means more responsibility and the chance that you’ll be in the public eye.

Be yourself. But remember to try, at least imperfectly, to keep your bigheadedness in check. Matt. 5:3 says, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And it seems to me that living life under that philosophy, with a healthy understanding of where your gifts and opportunities come from, will save you from a lot of problems that come with egocentrism.