being a fangirl

I read this article and wanted to write something about being a fan.

I’m ten years old, sitting in the back of my parents Honda, listening to their CDs. It’s 2008. My dad has bought the Strokes, Adele, the Killers, the Fratellis, Vampire Weekend, and the Arctic Monkeys. I am still listening to Hannah Montana and I’m upset that we’re not allowed to play the new Kelly Clarkson song. The same year, my parents buy me a purple iPod. It is shiny and new and I can put all my favourite songs on it, and I don’t have to listen to their rubbish CDs.

It’s the summer of 2012, and I’m 14. I’ve left my purple iPod at home by accident and so I can’t listen to any of the music I like. Very Annoying. My dad lends me his iPod, and I find a song called Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa. We are staying in a place called Cape Cod so I think that’s pretty cool and I listen to it. What follows is the start of my teenage fangirl identity. Not a phase so much as a way of life, I think. I’m obsessed.

It’s November 2013, I’m 15 and oh boy am I excited. I found tickets to Vampire Weekend’s London show the week before they play. I don’t even have time to get properly excited because once we’ve arranged how I’ll get there and back home again, the day has arrived. I don’t get there very early because I don’t really know the etiquette of being a huge fan just yet. I’m quite near the back, but I think that’s okay. I’m quite small and not sure I’m ready for the huge speakers on the front rows. It’s my first experience of unadulterated joy and it’s my first experience of letting go. My shoulders unhunch from their clenched position up by my ears. I am surrounded (literally) by men over the age of 25 (Very Old in my 15 year old brain). They don’t scream the lyrics like I do, and they kind of edge away from me. It’s fine, I don’t really care, but one of them sighs really loudly and another few roll their eyes. It’s my first experience of being looked at like that. With such patronising contempt. But whatever, at least I’m enjoying seeing my favourite band.

I start a music blog in 2013 as well. It’s mainly so I can write up a lengthy, analytical, loving review of Vampire Weekend’s third LP. No-one really reads it. (If you want to, it’s here. I was 16, be kind).

I see them once more. It is Reading Festival in 2014. I’m crying and screaming so much that a boy asks if I want to go on his shoulders to see them. I look worried; I know what that sometimes means. He reassures me he likes boys so won’t try anything. I grin. Up in the air I float on clouds of love and joy. I feel like I know the people on stage. It’s strange but it isn’t unusual. I don’t think I have quite got to grips with how far this whole thing will go. Still happy, still judged.

As a teen, I am really one of the only people I know that loves them this much. That’s probably egotistical, but I don’t think that at this point, any of my friends have the obsessive personality that I do, and I begin to hide it. I look for comfort and community in other places. Twitter is just entering my world for the first time. I make a separate account, which doesn’t have my last name attached to it. I make friends. Girls, mostly. Girls who are like me and who cry when Ezra (that’s the lead singer of VW) comes on stage. We all in live totally different lives, in loads of different parts of the world. It is a cacophony of angst and love and passion. Again, no-one really knows it exists outside of us. And of course when we tweet a member of the band and they reply to us, nothing really feels better. It’s a rush that someone we think about on a daily basis acknowledges us.

I could intellectualise this and say we were different from the One Direction fans, because the music we listened to was better crafted, more intelligent, and unique. But that would be a betrayal. A betrayal to the fan base as a community of young women and a betrayal to all the other girls who dedicated their hearts to a different band.

By 2016, I can tell you everything and anything about this band. I can tell you that they sing about a chandelier in their third album because they feel the weight of the success of their first album which had a chandelier on it. I can tell you how many side projects the bassist has put out since 2013. I can tell you who Hannah Hunt is (a name of a track on the third album). I can tell how much they got sued for when they used a polaroid they found in their house for the second album’s cover. (They were found out when the woman in the polaroid saw her own face on her daughter’s newest CD).

When I visit New York for the first time I go on a tour of the city, guided by VWs spots and inspirations (I made the tour myself, having mapped it out weeks before). I know every word to every song and every back story so well and the city is so interwoven with their sounds and songs that it feels like home.

***

This is quite weird to write about. I don’t think it’s very interesting, but I think it is genuine and it’s a part of my life I didn’t share with many people.

I don’t think my appreciation and love of their art was any less legitimate because I was young and it was expressed in tweets and posters.

***

It’s 2017, and Vampire Weekend are maybe realising a new album, maybe not. One of the members of the band has left. My twitter account is left untouched for the most part. I’ve formed real life friendships from it. My love for music has expanded and morphed and manifested into a love for theatre.

**

I saw Father John Misty the other week, who is someone I discovered because of Vampire Weekend and I knew all the words to his songs, was quite far back, and just jumped and lost my voice and it was excellent. At the end, someone turned around and said ‘Wow you must be his biggest fan!’ I apologised because I was scared that my joy had infringed on his watching. He said ‘No it’s lovely, thank you’.

It’s a little about forming communities, a little about appreciating art, and little about sharing.

I’m quite proud of how much I loved Vampire Weekend and all those other bands back when I was 16. I’m so so happy that I waited outside venues for over seven hours. I find it hilarious and lovely that I missed the last day of NSDF in 2015 (and so missed finding out I’d won an award) to go and wait outside a concert venue on the other side of the country. I love finding fans in weird and new places (some new university friends often surprise me with similar stories of love and fandom).

As a fun side note, having moved back to my main twitter account where I talk about theatre and stuff, it doesn’t feel much different. We have created a weird little mini fan base in our twittersphere. It is so insular that I don’t think we realise it, but we are all little fangirls writing blogs and tweeting about our favourite directors. It’s good. I’ve moved into a new sphere of fangirling, one that is maybe more accepted because this fan base includes way more men, and less teenagers.

 

(also if you were wondering the gif at the top is VW winning their first grammy in 2013)

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Only Heartbroken Women are True Artists

‘women in music are allowed to be singer songwriters singing about their boyfriends . if they change the subject matter to atoms , galaxies , activism , nerdy math beat editing or anything else than being performers singing about their loved ones they get criticized’

Björk recently wrote a powerful Facebook status welcoming the winter solstice and damning the misogynistic music industry. In her post she talks about how her recent DJ set was reviewed compared to how her male peers were reviewed. A large majority of the reviewers said she ‘hid behind the desk’ and was not really ‘performing’, a criticism that, yes you’ve guessed it, her male counterparts did not receive. I don’t think she was surprised by this. No working female artist is surprised by misogyny anymore, it’s kind of a given, and at first I sadly kind of saw it as non-news. But after I read her status, I started to think about it differently. She was saying that women are often not legitimised in their art form until they are heartbroken.  As women, ‘if we dont cut our chest open and bleed about the men and children in our lives we are cheating our audience .’ And I think this is actually a really pertinent issue which we don’t think about enough.

It took me less than two minutes to think of recent examples in theatre. It took me another thirty seconds to think of some examples in art. This is something I haven’t thought about properly until right now and it’s now all I can think about. Because it’s not just about sexist reviewers. It’s about how we (or don’t, in fact) legitimise female performance.

To start – Yerma. I kind of feel like I can’t really pass judgement on this one because I didn’t see it but I read a lot of reviews on it and also I know the play. Billie Piper is one of the hottest picks of 2016 for all the ‘Best Female Performance’ awards. It’s widely agreed she gave a stunning performance as a woman heartbroken for her non-existent child, her lost lover, her neglectful husband. So many of the press photos surrounding the show were of Piper sprawled on the floor, broken and maddened with grief. I have no doubt she gave a wonderful performance, but I think it’s worth asking, as Björk does, whether we gave it more thought, more visibility, because she was so brutally torn apart by love and by men. Or perhaps this was not the reason why we legitimised it more, but it was a certainly a factor in why the performance was so well-received. There was a small backlash about the sexism of the play but widely it was dismissed because it was a good show, right? And that’s what the original story was, so it’s not like someone’s written something new and sexist, they’re just reviving an old sexist thing. Anyway, not the point, the point is we put, are putting, Piper on a pedestal because of her performance of heartbreak. It’s the same problem with the Medea’s, the Ophelia’s, the Blanche DuBois’s – according to our view of the great roles for women, we are only really performing when we’re broken.

It’s not just theatre. It’s in music, art, poetry – nearly every art form has this problem when it comes to legitimising female voices. In art, take Marina Abramović, one of the artworld’s strongest, most controversial figures and yet her most watched Youtube video is when she breaks down in tears in front of her ex-partner – Ulay. It has 14 million views where her other videos, where she talks about her art, have at most 500,000 views. She is one of the artists I respect most and yet that was how I first heard about her. When I was in sixth form I ran a workshop based on her practices in class for about an hour. I would say one of the only times everyone was really moved and engaged was when I talked about that video and her release of emotion. It really saddens me because her art is above everything about control and her most infamous moment is a loss of control.

This obsession with heartbroken women rears it head again in the poetry we read. Sylvia Plath is one of our most celebrated female poets, and one of our most infamous. Again I knew about her relationship with Ted Hughes and the nature of her death and heartbreak before I knew about Tulips, now one of my favourite poems. She is recognised because of her tragedy, not only her illness but the relationship with the men in her life, she was broken hearted because of Ted and because of her father. And, if you think this is exaggerated at all – I googled ‘great female poets’ and one of the first names to appear was Plath, and alongside it were her main ideas and themes – ‘Death, motherhood etc’. Whereas when I googled ‘great (male) poets’ the first to appear was Wordsworth whose main themes couldn’t wait to announce themselves – ‘Nature, the self, the body’. Notice a difference?

I could honestly go on about this for pages and pages, there are countless examples in all the art forms. I do think a lot of people will disagree with this but it’s just what I’ve been thinking about. Do we legitimise the performance of female heartbreak, of the broken and grieving woman, over other kinds of female performance? Do women need to bleeding and crying to be considered worth hearing, watching, or reading?

I want you to prove me wrong, I really do. But just before you jump on this, I think it’s worth asking whether these were just coincidences or whether this is something we need to think about.

Björk certainly thinks we do but she also wants us to move forward into a more positive and inclusive 2017. I want that too.

Feminists Are Annoying

Article written for controversial school pamphlet:

FEMINISTS ARE ANNOYING

From personal experience I can tell all women it is essential that you do not proudly proclaim yourself a ‘Feminist’. You must remember to never try to assert your authority – this will be only detrimental to your cause. Make sure that, if by some horrible coincidence you are labelled a feminist, everyone knows you don’t hate men.  Most likely you will be outed, stereotyped or disagreed with on most accounts. Of course, if I were in fact to give out instructions on ‘How to be a Feminist’ it would inevitably be completely hypocritical of the point of this article and also would be ‘annoying’.

Yes, I could make this an angry, rampant article about feminism and how women are treated unfairly because it is an extremely relevant issue but I don’t think it’s interesting anymore. I agree that we should shut up about feminism, we’ve heard it all before and it’s boring. Honestly, I’m bored too. I am bored of having to continually assert my right to speak, be heard and be respected. I’m also bored of the fact that mentioning the word will get you nowhere except eye-rolling and heavy sighing. Because feminists are bitchy, and loud, and annoying – right? Someone has got to shut them up.

I’m being satirical, by the way. I’m being funny. Feminism is funny – isn’t it? Irritating feminists is really funny. It’s hilarious that I am still compelled to write an article in a private, liberal boarding school about how women are not treated equally to men. Humanity has walked on the moon but girls are still having to prove their right to equality. I get it – talking about feminism makes us uncomfortable. But actually, it should be uncomfortable, and awkward. I want you to feel a little ashamed, annoyed and bored by this article – I want you to feel something. Get annoyed and get angry. Feminism is now so far removed from its original purpose that it has become a demonised and largely rejected concept for most people. The intended impact of feminism has become lost amongst the ‘white feminists’ and ‘menimist’ movements of Twitter and the media. For those who don’t know, mainstream ‘white feminism’ does not only disregard intersectionality but sometimes even attempts at diversifying their feminism actually contribute to the dilution of intersectional feminism by speaking over the voices which talk about the wage gap and exploitation of WOC. Be proud of standing up for equality and associating yourself with a ‘feminine’ concept.

It’s ironic because most of you have probably stopped reading by this point – the only ones left are the people who want to disagree and the bra-burners. What I’m trying to say is that yes, I agree with you, feminists are annoying. Sometimes you think we need to shut up. The reality is, feminists are annoying because they have to repeat themselves over and over again. Feminists are annoying because they get wound up by stupid little boys (and girls) who believe it is their god given right to be in on an inside joke against women, when in fact they are perpetuating the sexism which has been alive for hundreds of years and ridiculing a cause which women have literally died for. Why did no one teach them to shut up?

Has Sia Gone Too Far?

Sia’s Elastic Heart music video is the latest controversy to hit the music world. Recieving over 5 million views in the first 24 hours, this latest single is classy pop magic, filled with head flicks, passion and electronic key changes. Classic Sia. The music video features Maddie Ziegler, the same extraordinary girl from Chandelier. However, it also has a guest appearance from Shia LaBeouf. Both are clad in nude coloured skin tight leotards and dance around a large cage, similarly to the aforementioned Chandelier. People saw this and they immediately assumed a promotion of pedophilia.

In my opinion, Sia, a world renowned and critically acclaimed pop queen, would not intentionally promote anything of this nature. Her new hidden identity has allowed her to express herself in her music in a far better, and far freer way. You can practically hear her heart pounding out of her chest in every beat, and she clearly carries out her work with the up most passion and conviction, and in turn I would imagine she expects some respect, as an artist if not as a person. As for this music video, it is not about a relationship, not a sexual one anyway. Sia predicted, wisely as always, that there would be a backlash towards the video. She hasn’t been controversial for the sake of controversy, she has employed two extremely talented individuals to express her music. There’s a number of people who have interpreted this video as a presentation of Sia’s relationship with her father, which is valid from an artistic perspective, but she has stated specifically that it is not about her father, and these interpretations do somewhat perpetuate the abuse element of the piece.

The video is about Sia. It is about her mentality and ‘two warring Sia states’. Whether it is a present and past Sia, a disturbed and sane Sia, or an uncontrollable and stable Sia we may never know, she may never reveal this to us, but what she has told should be respected. I just can’t help but feel a little disappointed in these comments. From watching the video you can see that this beautiful piece of dance, theatre, art has a deep rooted emotional centre and the elegant, modern choreography pushes all the right boundaries. Judging this video as sexual and abusive is crude and is a discredit to Sia, Maddie and Shia. They have all worked incredibly hard on this, especially Maddie, a girl of only twelve and the flawless accuracy and passion which seeps through the screen is what people should pay attention to. If you see this video as supporting pedophilia then you need to check yourself and realise that it’s probably you that needs to reassert their view of music, people and society, not Sia.

Have Alt-J Become Too Commercial?

Yesterday, Alt-J released their second music video for their upcoming album. ‘Left Hand Free’ already had controversy surrounding it after claims that the band wrote the song in 15 minutes after their record label told them they needed to write a more catchy song which could be played on the radio. Alt-J have of course denied this claim, but it was not hard to convince people of the rumour, when the song was so different and mainstream to anything Alt-J have ever done before. Therefore, when the video was released, it seemed that it might help some of the fans understand the reasoning behind the single.

 

However, many fans have been saying that Alt-J have lost their creativity and innovation after this video was released. The music video depicts a typical summer day in southern USA, with young people having fun and presenting the perfect summer. It undoubtedly looks like a vapid advertisement for beer or a holiday and disappointed a lot of people. It also undeniable however, that it fits exactly with the song and sparks the same discussions. This video clearly reflects how the song is typical and fairly meaningless, mirroring popular culture. Alt-J haven’t lost their creativity, they are making a comment about the music business and also just having a bit of fun. Interestingly, Alt-J placed a ‘1’ after the title of this video. It may have just been a mistake, but it could also mean this video is the first of many.

This band were clever to not lose their fan base by first releasing ‘Hunger of the Pine’ which was still a new direction, but it stuck to their old methods and sound. The video for ‘Hunger of the Pine’ is again an accurate reflection of the song.

 

It is simple, and puts across a clear image to it’s audience. The complexity of the song and video is obvious, but it is presented in an intelligent and enjoyable way. ‘Hunger of the Pine’ proves that Alt-J still deeply care about their music, purpose and the meaning behind these tracks. Of course Alt-J haven’t become too commercial. They are doing things how the want, the way they want and yes, they may lose fans, but they will also gain new ones as well.

Why We Should Still Buy CDs

It is very rare that I would think to buy a friend their favourite band’s new CD, I would rather give them an iTunes voucher, wouldn’t you? Despite having a music library of nearly 4000 songs, I own very few CDs, and the ones I do own consist of Miley Cyrus, Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson. (Please excuse my clearly exquisite music taste at age 12). This is the case with most of my friends as well, as far as I know. I’m only sixteen and it doesn’t feel that long ago that I spent pocket money browsing hmv, and treasured my handheld CD player.

We all own an MP3, or an iPod, and everyone downloads music straight to their device without a second thought. Even iTunes is being out done by the likes of Spotify and Napster, offering free subscriptions and unlimited music. Don’t get me wrong, these services are great, so useful, and make music extremely accessible. But, sometimes I think it would be nice if we all still bought CDs, even if not to listen to on an old stereo. My dad for instance, will often buy CDs from amazon if the band is significant or he wants the collection. For example, he bought ‘Ghost Stories’, Coldplay’s newest LP and although it isn’t one of his favourite albums and he doesn’t listen to it all the time, we have every other Coldplay CD and I think it is almost like a memento of the band.

Most people, including myself, don’t buy CDs anymore of course, because technology has moved on, and we don’t feel the need to buy them. I personally feel it is a great shame, and CDs are cheap, easy to acquire and often beautiful reminders of a time, place or person, or if you’re like me, your (slightly embarrassing) tween years. Having discovered that my parents actually do have quite good music taste, I scoured their vast CD collection for my GCSE revision accompanying music. While doing this, I realised that the sleeves of the albums, and the accompanying lyric booklets were quite interesting and an insight into the aesthetic of the band. Here are a couple of my favourites:

I hope you agree that we should buy CDs, and that you also enjoy the look and feel of a brand new album in your hands, only a few days after it’s release.