I live my life through a series of instant attractions – I am a black or white person. Give me a new book and I will either really love it or really hate it. The same with movies, places, people certainly, music definitely. It isn’t often that you will find me half-hearted over a particular subject.
I know by opening chords of a song whether it has enough passion and power to seduce me. Whether it is worth my time to listen to the whole thing. And we should all be the same. Listen to the songs that hook you at the opening bars, because I listen to music that grabs my soul instantly. What is the point of wasting your expensive time on something you’re not sure about? I listen to the souls that dare.
I listen to those artists that dare not to be pretty – voices that sing out - rather than keeping things tidy and attractive. Those voices that want you to hear the words themselves, and that don’t necessarily care about how they sound. The voices that sing with soul. Artists such as Joni Mitchel, Patti Smith, and Tracy Chapman, these women don’t fit into the parameters of what is called conventionally ‘pretty’ sounds – unpolished, virgin - but what they have to sing about, and the daring they show by singing it truthfully is done beautifully. It is good music. Dare yourself to listen to those souls who don’t care about being ‘polished’ in the conventional sense. Because through their honesty you find beautiful music.
I listen to artists that dare to talk about things unconventionally. Take Linda Ronstadt’s When Will I Be Loved? as a prime example. The song is quite literally her asking the world when will be her turn to be loved. It’s quite a moving an honest thing to ask the world. When will it be my time? It would have been oh so easy for Ronstadt to churn out a slow-moving, woe-is-me, ballad to bemoan her message. But she doesn’t. The energy in her song is so electric, her voice so free, that a listener can’t help feeling hopeful and uplifted. She turns convention on its head. It is so much more daring, so much more courageous, to take a sad story and make it happy.
Listen to those souls who tell you be brave, who dare you to be happy despite the sad story.
I listen to the artists that dare to be raw about their music. The souls who choose to combine simple words with simple melodies, creating something mesmeric in its simplicity. I fall in love with those artists that don’t allow their listeners to get lost in complicated guitar solos, those that allow nothing to come between us as listeners and the whole point of the song in the first place. The Doors' track People are Strange is so good, so listenable, because it isn’t trying to complicate things. It has a simple melody, a simple rhythm, and an honest message.
Listen to those souls that refuse over-complication. Life shouldn’t be complicated and neither should music. Please move away from artists that try to dazzle you with jazz hands, because through simplicity comes clarity, from clarity comes understanding. I listen to those artists that dare to ask questions through their music. Confucius said that the man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life. There is a huge catalogue of songs out there to help us to accept things. But the songs that really interest me are those songs which dare to ask why? Because if we simply learn to accept we will never grow, nothing will ever change, and if music can’t help us learn to question things than what will. Kate Bush’s killer track Why Should I Love You? is brilliant because it is unconventional. Rather that talking about love itself she asks quite honestly why should I go about loving you? Where does it come from?
Listen to those artists that dare you to ask questions. Listen to those artists that actually make you think about things. All of this talking has brought one song to the forefront of my mind. A song that I believe perfectly sums up everything I am saying here. It’s a perfect song. It’s Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart. That song is sexy. It oozes sexiness. That soulful intro, that oh so powerfully draws you in like a fisherman reeling in his catch of the day. Enhanced only by liquid soul that is the voice of Janis Joplin. That rawness, that depth, the truth with which she sings is far from ladylike. It is pure beauty. Pure strength. She questions her man, she asks him Didn’t I make you feel like you were the only man? It’s such an honest appeal. She searches through the song for an answer to this question, and we are right there with her, feeling all the emotions that she throws out with her voice. Janis’ isn’t a sad song. It’s a soulful, angry song, and that is why it is so great. That is why it so perfectly sums up all of my arguments. She is fighting in this song, fighting and being daring in a way in which we could all learn from. Janis’ approach is the approach we should all take towards life.
Listen to the souls that dare you to listen to them. Listen to the souls that dare to take you to the brink of emotion. Listen to the songs that intrigue you, that excite you, but that most importantly seduce you. Because we are all of us formed by the things we allow ourselves to be exposed to: the people, the places, the literature, the experiences, and the music. So listen to those souls that bring some sexiness to your life. Because life should always be sexy. Victoria Barnes/Artwork by André Boitard www.andreboitard.com available at SoulObjects
1. Jefferson Airplane, Somebody to Love
2. Joan Armatrading, When I get it right
3. Joni Mitchel, All I Want
4. Credence Clearwater Survival, Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
5. Tracy Chapman, Give Me One Reason
6. Fleetwood Mac, Silver Springs
7. Patti Smith, Because the Night
8. The Doors, People Are Strange
9. Linda Ronstadt, When Will I be Loved?
10. Janis Joplin, Piece of My Heart