Monday, January 24

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Songwriting and Separating Art From the Artist

I write songs.
I used to write into a diary.
Yes, I am, in fact, that type.
The diary type.

The habit of putting my thoughts into words evolved somewhere along the line into the bittersweet skill that is now my songwriting. As an Indian girl with almost close to no cultural background (that is a whole other story), you’d be surprised at the type of dilemmas I face daily. If you are one too, maybe it’ll help to know you’re not alone.

You see, I grew up in a house where the only spoken language was English. I spent too many hours of the day with my eyes glued to the Disney channel. At an early point in my life, I even believed there were magical mini people behind that screen that naturally broke into song and dance. So it was understandable that when I got older, I found it more easier than most to sing and sound like every non-Indian Disney princess out there. That was my normal.

So, I write songs.
Why I’m writing about why I write songs is perhaps stemming from my absolute wonder of how thoughts become things, my thoughts become songs.

If you have to visualize it, think of yourself, sitting at your piano. You’re glowing red, blue, green (depending on what mood you’re in). Then, you begin to play and sing. Suddenly all that color that’s clouding up your senses begins to escape your body, begins wafting through the air, unaffected by those around, and carrying a melody that holds its own. It’s magical. The mere fact that humans have managed to evolve to the point where we create the kind of art we do is a wonder, one I will always ponder over and be grateful for.

And then there’s the other reason, the need to feel like you’re not alone. Perhaps that is why a lot of musicians do what they do, create music that people connect to, that they connect to. Think about it. Someone that is far out in some other part of the world, created something that resonated with you. That, right there, is actual magic.
So I create, I pour my heart and soul into a song and put it out there in hopes that somebody, anybody will feel what I felt while creating this song. This entire aspect of artistry, this is the part that is almost always taken for granted.

We see fans scrambling to get their tickets for the Katy Perry concert that’s coming up, but we don’t realize how powerful that is. How many people connected with Perry’s music enough to want to see her do it all over again, live.

Songs in the past have been ways to tell stories; grand tales through history. This concept of storytelling, forward a couple thousand years, is almost the biggest industry (oh, how the word industry tightens all the wrong screws in my head).

It is painful to see what the art of singing and songwriting has become. Humans do what humans do: they measure, map and market, making everything a commodity. Making an individual, with thoughts and feelings, a product. Everybody talks about the importance of separating the art from the artist, but I don’t see it implemented anywhere. Artists are, on the contrary, marketed to be a visual representation of their art.

Take Miley Cyrus, for example. The girl was subjected to a Disney career that blossomed everywhere except where it matters. She was made to look like the person she was marketed to be. Then she rebelled, which in my opinion, is a very justifiable reaction for the years of conforming to the identity that had become ‘Miley Cyrus‘.

However, what did we see once she no longer represented Disney’s Hannah Montana? Miley’s ‘We Can’t Stop’ music video – and that arguably painful ‘Wrecking Ball music video. Once again though, she was marketed for the message she was trying to put out. To break the stigmas that were metaphoric constraints on society etc… you know the rest.

We say “learn how to separate the art from the artist” but we really don’t apply that logic to current day, now do we? Taylor Swift releases a new single — oh well, it must be about some more celebrity beef we don’t have the time in our lives to care for. Justin Bieber’s new single? All paying homage to his recent marriage with Hailey Baldwin.

In a way, artists are playing up to this as well. Writing about your life is all well and good until it puts certain deeply personal parts under spotlights, and then that gets marketed.

That is perhaps why I write songs — maybe I’m a masochist who longs for the day I have to face some private part of my life being placed on a pedestal, open to public opinions. Because that is, unfortunately, a reality of being an artist in 2020.

So let’s keep saying “Separate the art from the artist”.
Let me keep writing about everything I believe in, completely ignoring that phrase.
Let me keep dreaming of that spotlight, completely aware of the weight that comes with it.

I write songs. That is a talent that I both adore and detest. Perhaps someday I’ll be on television, being interviewed about something I poured my heart into. Being an artist is painful, from start to finish. But like I said, the only consolation is that little bit of magic.

You felt what I felt. And just for those few minutes, it was all okay.




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Writer, musician and always covered in stray fur. When I'm not tapping away at a keyboard, you'll find me attending to meows and woofs.


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