Song of the Year: Apollo (New Love)

“‘Cause I don’t have any answers, but I know what I think about us. When I’m driving through the city with you, it’s like they’ve got all of the lights turned up. And we’re fifty in a thirty. And you’re talking dirty in the front. It hits me like new love. It hits me like new love.”Tommy Ashby, “Apollo (New Love)”

2019 was a great year for music. I’ve always thought that people who complain that there’s no good music anymore are probably stuck in a cycle of (sometimes, not always) overproduced top 40 hits without knowing how to find the gems. This year saw stellar new albums from some of my favourite artists, including Hozier and Luke Sital-Singh, both of whom I adore and have written about before. I reverted back to being 15 again twice with the long-awaited, highly anticipated reunions of my two all-time favourite boy bands, Westlife and BBMAK, who I finally got to see after 20 years of waiting. What a year to check off 3 of my bucket list concerts (also including Hozier, whose show was so sexy I’m still recovering from it), and they did not not disappoint. If 2020 is anything like it, it will be another smashing year.

I’ve written before about having a song for every year of my life. Some years have been more difficult for others to find one that really connects with me and is also from the same year in question without repeating artists. Last year’s song was pretty easy – “Nina Cried Power” by Hozier – because sometimes songs just move you and become instant classics. However, a lot of years I tend to discover older music or rediscover songs I’ve had and neglected for ages and become a bit obsessed with them, so it’s not always easy to find a song released in the same year that feels right to define an entire year.

I did not have that problem this year, to say the least. By the end of May, I had a feeling I had found THE song but questioned whether it was possible to be so sure not even halfway through the year. By June, I was 100% certain that I would be writing this very blog about it because I couldn’t imagine any other song having the same impact… or number of listens on my iTunes. (Yes, I am old school and actually still download music far more than stream it. What a concept!)

Normally, I would have some honourable mentions, and there were some other songs from other years that I became obsessed with this year (I still love you, Lena Hall’s divine cover of David Bowie’s “As The World Falls Down!”), but none of them came close to the number of listens or love as the winner. The only one that could possibly come close is “Steady Hand” by the same artist.

I’m sure by now you’re saying, “Stop rambling! Get to it already!” First of all, patience, Grasshopper. Some people write whole books about buying and listening to over 365 albums from/in one year after having a breakdown. This won’t take nearly that long.

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I’ve always been a firm believer in watching opening acts at concerts. I’ve discovered some of my favourite artists when they opened for others, sometimes even outshining whoever I went to see. More importantly, support acts are often not as well-known as the headliners – they are opening for a reason after all – and it’s nice to just show up for them. In early April, I went to see my beloved Luke Sital-Singh who had two openers. The first one was not bad but not really to my taste. The second one was Tommy Ashby, and let’s just say that I was texting everyone I talk to most with heart eyes emojis, already recommending him as I’m known to do because it was love at first sound.

That feeling hasn’t faded. I quickly got all of his work available but was somewhat disappointed to discover that a particular song I loved wasn’t released. Finally, on the 26th of April, after what felt like years of waiting but was really only a couple of weeks, Tommy Ashby released “Apollo (New Love).” I bought it instantly and loved it even more than when I’d heard it live with just him and his guitar.

I’m sure I’ve written before about being a bit selfish with some of my music, and the same is true of this song. I’ve shared it with some people who I thought would appreciate it to some extent, but I’m always hesitant to share certain songs I love so much because music is such a personal thing and hits people differently, and I know they won’t reach others the way they reached me. I even have a playlist (of course I do!) of songs I refuse to share with others for this reason, and normally I wouldn’t share this with a lot of people, but it’s my Song of the Year, and Tommy Ashby deserves the recognition, so here we are.

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The most accurate gif to depict me with my Unshareable Songs playlist. No, I will not tell you what’s on it.

Since that initial concert, I’ve seen Tommy Ashby 3 times and have become a big fan of his in general, not just with this song. I can’t really explain why this particular song hit me the way it did and continues to, but the songs we love most tend to be the ones we can’t really explain their impact, anyway. It may not stand out to most people these days, but that’s why it’s just mine. That said, I do have a few guesses about why I love it as much as I do, apart from it just being a great song.

My main guess for my apparently undying love of the song is that “Apollo (New Love)” is sort of a love song to London, the strange and beautiful and strangely beautiful city both Tommy Ashby and I moved to from other countries. There’s even a line about “the minicabs lined up by the tube.” I moved to London in January 2019, fulfulling a dream I’ve had as long as I can remember. It’s a truly magical place if you’re “wide awake” enough to see it as that, and the scene described in the song is so easy to picture, especially if you live in London and have seen all the lights at night. It can be a weird place sometimes, but it’s also so beautiful that I often find myself taking the long way home from some places to experience the magic. Seeing some of the sights, like Tower Bridge, from the front of the top deck of the 78 bus just doesn’t get old, and “Apollo (New Love)” provides the perfect soundtrack for those moments.

There’s a line “Slow minutes, we’re losing track of time” that I think describes the song itself. I have a penchant for songs that, for lack of a better word, flow. Songs that make you lose track of time, usually with one verse going straight to the chorus and vice versa without much pause. As many times as I’ve listened to “Apollo (New Love),” I couldn’t tell you if it’s 2 minutes, 3 minutes, or 4 minutes long because I lose track of time. I often find myself slowly bopping my head a bit to it, losing myself in it completely. And when it suddenly picks up and intensifies in the bridge before slowing right back down without it feeling at all unnatural or forced… Oh, my! Where is my heart eyes emoji when I need it?!

The slightly surprising thing about “Apollo (New Love)” is that it really doesn’t get old. I’ve talked about my Every Day Songs playlist before, and I’m pretty sure it was an instant add to the list from the day I bought it. Still, some of the songs on the list can grow a bit old after a while. However, I’ve listened to “Apollo (New Love)” several times even as I’ve written this, and I still keep repeating it. There’s something about it that keeps it feeling new, like the first time hearing it. When I saw Tommy Ashby headline in June, I told him how obsessed I was (okay, am) with the song, and I’m not sure he understood how serious I was. He was kind enough to introduce me to the co-writer of the song, Karl Zine or Christopher Hutchings. I told him that in just over a month, I had listened to it about 100 times and wondered aloud if that was maybe a bit too much. He reassured me that you don’t always really hear a song until you’ve listened to it 100 times. Beyond that, he said, you start to notice little things you didn’t necessarily hear before. I think that’s true of “Apollo (New Love),” which sounds simple enough at first, but when you’ve listened to it 422 times and counting, you hear all the layers.

2019 was a dark year in a lot of ways for a lot of people. Politics, deaths… “Apollo (New Love)” is a nice escape from all of that. It’s a genuine feel-good song without being too poppy or sickeningly romantic, so even the hopeless romantics-emphasis-on-hopeless and single people can enjoy it. There’s sort of a whimsical, ethereal vibe to it that makes me think it would be just as appreciated and beautiful to listen to under the stars on some country road (Or even better, under the Northern Lights!) as it is in the city. Isn’t that what we all need? A song that can be heard and felt in different settings that lifts your mood for 3 minutes or 5 minutes or however long it actually is? “Do you wanna know what that feels like?” Then listen to “Apollo (New Love)” and let it hit you like new love.

What was your song of the year? Share in the comments below!

We Used To Be Friends: Thoughts on Season 4 of ‘Veronica Mars’

“A long time ago, we used to be friends, but I haven’t thought of you lately at all. If ever again, a greeting I send to you, short and sweet to the soul I intend.”The Dandy Warhols, “We Used To Be Friends”

WARNING: This post contains EPIC spoilers about season 4 of Veronica Mars. Read at your own risk! Also, a disclosure that I started writing this in August after I watched the finale and processed it a bit. However, nothing has changed.

Veronica Mars and I go way back. I started watching in the summer of 2005 during the season 1 reruns. I remember packing to move when I saw it was on and decided to check it out after hearing good things about it. The first episode I saw was “Silence of the Lamb,” one with Aaron Paul, who I loved long before Breaking Bad, so I took that as a good sign, and I instantly fell in love with the show. I got the DVDs for my birthday few months later, and the rest is history.

It would be an understatement to say that Veronica Mars changed my life in a way no other show has. I don’t mean this in a “I love this show so much it changed me” way. I mean that through a series of events, it actually changed my life and and even led me to my current career. Not only that but back in the day when IMDb still had message boards, I communicated with some absolutely amazing fans on those boards. I’m still in contact with several of them to this day and have met a couple of them in person. For someone who rarely actively participates in fandoms, despite being a fangirl, that’s saying something. I even made a video about Cassidy Casablancas (Never ‘Beaver!’) around 12 years ago. I sent Mars bars to try to save the show. When the Kickstarter campaign for the Veronica Mars movie started, I donated without a second thought. I was never very into zombies, but I started watching iZombie from the first episode – and thankfully loved it – just because it was another show by Rob Thomas (not to be confused with Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty) and Diane Ruggiero-Wright.

All this is to say that I have been a diehard Veronica Mars fan almost since the beginning, and it’s always been a very special show to me. When I heard about season 4, I had mixed feelings. Part of me said, “Noooo, I’m sick of revivals and reboots! They never live up to the original series!” The other part of me had my over-the-moon face on and was ready to see what everyone (sans Mac) in our favourite Neptune gang had been up to since the movie in 2014. Still, I remained somewhat apprehensive, hoping this show I’ve been invested in for 14 years would not get royally *cursed* up.

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Going into season 4 of Veronica Mars

I’ve never really been a binger. As tempting as it was, Veronica Mars didn’t change that, so it took me a week to get through it because I wanted time to process the episodes. As I started watching, I noticed it focused more on plot than characters and understood better why Tina Majorino turned down returning as Mac, although none of the old side characters had much of a storyline. Still, I enjoyed the usual banter between Veronica and the other characters, even though the bomber was pretty obvious from the beginning. Anyone who’s watched Veronica Mars knows that when they get a big star like Patton Oswalt, that person usually has a significant role in either the motive or the actual killing. I felt it difficult to care about the new side characters in general, but I was eating up all the familiar faces. Who doesn’t love some Dick?!

All was well and good when I first started watching. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of reading what I thought was a safe article about Tina Majorino turning it down (which I thought was a bit silly at the time but now understand her reasoning, as well as her cold wording when she referred to Rob Thomas ‘Mr Thomas’) and an even bigger mistake of reading the comments where there were major spoilers. I knew someone would die, based on headlines I’d seen, and I had my suspicions. I thought anyone would be fine, as long as they didn’t kill off Keith or Logan, especially Logan because Keith dying could still allow Veronica to grow more (or at all – something she’s the only character on the show to never really grow) but be happy with Logan. The spoilers gave away who was killed, and I think this made me prolong my watching even more because I needed to prepare myself for what was to come.

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The final episode was called “Years, Continents, Bloodshed,” which should have been a giveaway, but I’m sure no one wanted to believe the worst could happen.

The truth is that there is no preparation for a character you’ve loved for 14 years suddenly dying. I waited to write this while I processed everything, but I don’t think I will ever get over this one. I’ve basically been stuck alternating between the denial and anger stages of grief.

Despite her being the main character, Veronica has never been my favourite character. I loved Cassidy Casablancas and felt for him, even after everything he did. Keith Mars is the best TV father. But Logan… I’ve always had a soft spot for Logan. Of every character on the show, he had evolved the most. He went from the obligatory psychotic jackass to the guy you rooted for who was a sweet orphan who loved Veronica so much, even though he really kind of deserved better. (As did Jason Dohring, whose tearful thankyou video made me teary, too.) Veronica never seemed to let herself love Logan enough for somewhat understandable reasons, but even though Logan also would have had entirely valid reasons for struggling to love fully (maybe even more than Veronica), he didn’t let anything get in his way. He loved her fiercely and waited for her to get to where he was. To say I was – and still am – a frustrated LoVe shipper is an understatement. They’re probably the first major ship I had and remain in my top 5 to this day. ‘Momentary Thing’ still makes me smile because I associate it their first kiss. ‘Sway’ and ‘I Hear The Bells’ make me sigh about their epic love and how all Logan wanted to do was protect Veronica.

As a Logan lover, like many other fans, the finale left me feeling completely betrayed. To say I blubbered at the ending would be an understatement. It’s not because LoVe is dead now that Logan is dead. Many of my favourite characters (and ships!) on favourite shows have died, and even if I didn’t get over them – I never really do – I still managed to enjoy the shows after their deaths. If I love a character, especially in a Rob Thomas show, there’s about an 83% chance he/she will die. No matter how much I’ve loved them, though, I’ve pretty much always been able to understand the reasoning and support it. I could even understand Logan’s death if there was a good reason for it. I was sad at first, but I didn’t hate it at first either. I was sort of on the fence about everything. I didn’t like what happened, but I initially thought it was well done enough to accept – for about 5 minutes while I cried my eyes out and tried to process it.

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This meme I made accurately depicts my experience with season 4.

Then I read the interviews. The interviews with Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell turned my pain into rage. Veronica finally got over her fear of commitment and married Logan, and they didn’t even make it a day before he was killed. And why? I’ll let Rob Thomas tell it:

I tried to imagine writing Veronica Mars mysteries the way we want to tell them going forward and her still having a boyfriend or husband waiting back home. The fan service is that they actually got married. I know that sounds funny, but I feel like the fans would forgive that more than if Logan became such an asshole that they broke up, or if Veronica had cheated on Logan with Leo. The latter would have been more likely than having Logan revert to bum fights. It’s just hard to imagine a detective show with a 35-year-old woman with a boyfriend. I just don’t want to write that… I feel like for this show to work as a detective show, it has to be with Veronica as a single woman.

Basically, Logan was killed because Rob Thomas can’t think of a way for a woman to be happy with a good job and a partner. Kristen Bell essentially echoed this, saying, “A story is only interesting because there is conflict… There’s nothing interesting about perfection. You want to see someone struggle… And you want Veronica in the underdog position.”

Do we, though? I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an absolute sucker for tortured souls (again, Cassidy Casablancas), but that doesn’t mean I don’t want happy endings. You can have conflict and struggle without killing off a central character, but Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell seem to think that Veronica can’t be happy in any area of her life. You can have a strong female character who is good at what she does and happy in her life without being boring. (Leslie Knope, anyone?) To think otherwise is lazy and misogynistic. Veronica can have pain (Hasn’t she already had enough?) without losing the person she was finally ready to be with. To imply that Logan, a changed man, would be the one to turn into ‘such an asshole that they broke up’ or would revert to bum fights shows that they don’t even understand the character they’ve written.

With Veronica Mars, they’ve always run the risk of it becoming tragedy porn, and that’s exactly what it is now. You can have growth or find other ways to get Logan out of the picture without killing him off 2 minutes after their wedding. Fans have waited so many years for Veronica to get over herself and commit to Logan – or to anyone – and find some happiness, only to have it happen and instantly get ripped away. I appreciate that co-executive producer Diane Ruggiero-Wright hasn’t watched the last episode because she’s a fangirl as much as the rest of us, and I understand that she has to support it to an extent publicly, but unlike Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell, she seemed to not be fully supportive of killing Logan. She’s also the one who pushed for them to get married, but there’s no solace in them getting married if they can’t even be happy for an hour.

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Apparently Rob Thomas thinks it should be that hard.

The other major problem is that Rob Thomas wants to take Veronica out of Neptune to be a real, big girl detective who travels around the country to solve mysteries on her own. How many detective shows are on TV? I have rarely, if ever, watched a show because of the mystery or because of the plot. Yes, it helps when those things are good, but personally, I have always been drawn to characters more than anything. Even if you ignore that Neptune was a character itself, who wants to watch a show without the regulars? Sure, some people who showed up in the movie or season 4 were a bit superfluous, but a show about Veronica Mars solving mysteries on her own without others in every episode and regular interactions with them is boring. There are so many mysteries on TV already, and this idea will do nothing to set Veronica apart from any other detective. The heart of the show is gone without all of the other characters.

My other issue is that it is so stupid and out of character for someone like Veronica to not even check her car for bombs after she had a serial bomber in it. The absurdity of it all – Veronica’s lack of common sense, the explanations for Logan’s death, the idea that women can’t be strong and successful in their field and happy without being boring – is just too much. It’s not even that I don’t want to watch the last episode again. I don’t want to watch the entire series again because it’s too difficult to watch knowing what happens and how this once-great series was ruined for some cheap tragedy porn. It could have had a great ending with Veronica and Logan getting married, and I for one would have been perfectly content with it ending there forever, but they went and How I Met Your Mother‘d it up. It only reaffirmed that, like Gilmore Girls and Arrested Development and probably others before it, revivals are generally unnecessary and carry a significant risk of ruining what was once a great show.

I should say that I don’t think writers should cater to the fans. However, there is still a responsibility to satisfy your viewers or have a legitimate reason to do things, especially for a show like Veronica Mars that only came back – more than once! – because of the fans. Rob Thomas has said that he might regret killing Logan if the show doesn’t come back for a fifth season, which appeared to be contingent on the reception of season four. The fact that he has stayed off Twitter since the episodes were released – save for a single tone deaf tweet in August about music from Josh Kramon, the show’s composer, which instantly caused backlash from fans – shows that he is aware of the fan reaction and is now cowering away from it. I know some people who didn’t like Logan or didn’t like Logan and Veronica together or whatever the case may be, and they didn’t mind the ending. However, they are the minority. A large percentage of fans have said that they will not watch Veronica Mars if it comes back, and I am in this camp. I don’t want to watch a show with Logan dead, without the other characters that made Veronica Mars what it was, with Veronica outside of Neptune, especially when the explanations for all of those things are so insulting, and I know there are many others who feel the same.

If Rob Thomas made a bet with himself about that ending, I think it’s fair to say he’s lost the bet. I think a lot of people could have gotten over it if Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell didn’t do such a terrible job of defending it or if there had been a legitimate reason. As it stands, if nothing else, he has forever tarnished the series and made me – and I imagine many other fans – lose faith in him and not want to watch any future projects he may have. For my part, I will have to live in denial and pretend like season 4 doesn’t exist, and the whole series ended when it should have with the movie while remembering when ‘we used to be friends.’

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I can’t decide if this was a message from Rob Thomas to fans or if it’s a message fans now want to send to him – short and sweet to the soul, we intend.

 

Little Victories: Songs For When Life Isn’t Going Your Way

“And I’ll be awful sometimes. Weakened to my knees. But I’ll learn to get by on the little victories.”Matt Nathanson, “Little Victories”

The past year or so has been difficult for many of us. The last 14 months or so have tested my own patience, determination, and resilience in many ways. I will always remember these challenging months and how they’ve shaped me, and the changes I’ve made and experiences I’ve had – both good and bad – will impact the rest of my life.

The same is true for many people closest to me. We’ve leaned on each other more than ever to get through the dark times. As many of them love music about as much as I do, we’ve traded songs to help each other through the heartbreaks, losses, and whatever else we were facing. Music has the power to unite, heal, and communicate like nothing else. Even when you can’t always put into words how you feel or know what to say to someone else, there is always a song that can.

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I’ve never understood how people can live without liking music. For my entire life, music has been the first thing I’ve turned to during the hardest times, and it’s the only thing that has never failed me. While everything else eventually fades away, it is the one constant. I remember the music I’ve listened to during the best and worst moments of my life. Certain songs can trigger good or bad memories. I’ve said many times that I have a playlist for everything, and that includes my Depression Collection – a playlist of 400+ sad songs. I’ve even shared some favourites for a good cry. I’ve never been one of those people who can listen to happy songs when I’m really down, though, because they only make me more sad.

Sometimes, though, you need something in between happy and sad or just some hope. Sort of an “Everybody Hurts,” if you will, which is often considered a sad song (as seen in This Will End in Tears: Miserabilist Guide to Music – a list with some great songs but also many that I would not consider the saddest songs ever), but I’ve never interpreted it that way. I see “Everybody Hurts” as telling someone that yes, things are hard right now, but they’re not alone because we’ve all been there. Bearing this in mind, during a particularly difficult time about a year ago, I created another playlist of slightly more uplifting songs to remind myself that everything will be fine, that I’m not alone, that I am strong, and that I will overcome whatever I’m facing. Life is about the little victories, which also happens to be the title of a song I’ve always listened to when I needed that reminder. Life is hard and complicated, but the little victories are what get us through the day sometimes.

I’ve shared several songs from this playlist with friends as they went through heartache in the last year. There are so many others that could go on it, but some of these are ones I’ve turned to most – in no particular order and without my usual rules – when I’ve needed a pick-me-up. Yes, some are cheesy (I refrained from including “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” partly because it’s an obvious choice), and most are pretty mellow, but sometimes that’s what you need in this situation. I am linking YouTube videos to each song, and I recommend not only listening to ones by artists you already know because there are some great ones here. I hope you will be able to find some peace and refuge in them, just as I have, and are able to sit with your feelings more easily, knowing you are never alone.

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“Hammers and Strings (A Lullaby),” a favourite by Jack’s Mannequin, which actually is not on this list.

  1. “Little Victories” by Matt Nathanson
  2. “Everything Will Change” by Gavin DeGraw
  3. “Keep Your Head Up” by Ben Howard
  4. “Just Keep Breathing” by We The Kings
  5. “This World Will Turn Your Way” by Tyler Hilton
  6. “On Your Feet Again” by Tonic
  7. “We All Need Saving” by Jon McLaughlin
  8. “3 Things” by Jason Mraz
  9. “Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog)” by Brett Dennen
  10. “Iridescent” by Linkin Park
  11. “Swim” by Jack’s Mannequin (I absolutely love the meaningful connections in this video!)
  12. “Forget and Not Slow Down” by Relient K
  13. “Better In Time” by Leona Lewis
  14. “I Will Get There” by Boyz II Men
  15. “I Still Believe” by BBMak
  16. “Just Give It Time” by Jon McLaughlin
  17. “Quasimodo” by Lifehouse (For some reason, I’ve listened to this song for years whenever I’ve made it through something that made me nervous or bothered me, and I can physically feel the weight come off my shoulders.)
  18. “For the Lonely” by Sweetbox
  19. “Crash & Burn” by Savage Garden (This is one of all-time my favourite videos, but that’s a whole different blog!)
  20. “Let It Be” by The Beatles
  21. “Alibi” by Thirty Seconds to Mars
  22. “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” by Jason Mraz (Random fact: This song also cures hiccups!)
  23. “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree
  24. “Keep Rising” by Jack’s Mannequin
  25. “Keep Holding On” by Glee Cast (Originally Avril Lavigne)
  26. “Wish ‘Em All Away” by Embrace
  27. “Something Wild” by Lindsey Stirling featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
  28. “Brand New Day” by Joshua Radin
  29. “Take On The World” by Sabrina Carpenter and Rowan Blanchard
  30. “Details in the Fabric” by Jason Mraz featuring James Morrison
  31. “Stay the Same” by Joey McIntyre
  32. “Autumn” by Maria Forgotten
  33. “Something to Believe In” by Parachute
  34. “I Ain’t Movin'” by Des’ree
  35. “Looking Forward to Looking Back” by Mandy Moore
  36. “Pressing On” by Relient K
  37. “Can’t Take That Away” by Mariah Carey
  38. “This Time Tomorrow” by Trent Dabbs
  39. “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
  40. “Titanium” by David Guetta featuring Sia
  41. “Life Is Beautiful” by Vega4
  42. “A Little Longer” by Armon Jay
  43. “Keeping Your Head Up” by Birdy
  44. “Try It On My Own” by Whitney Houston
  45. “Fix You” by Coldplay
  46. “Over and Over” by Puff Johnson
  47. “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips (If you haven’t had a sing-along in the car to this with a friend, like in the movies, are you really even friends?)
  48. “Airfield” by Enter Shikari
  49. “Wild Horses” by Birdy
  50. “Shake It Off” by Florence + The Machine
  51. “Not Alone” by Trenton
  52. “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” by Whitney Houston
  53. “Alive” by Sia
  54. “Wait Til You See My Smile” by Alicia Keys
  55. “In Time” by Robbie Robb (This song was also in the best Mr. Robot scene ever, which was very powerful.)
  56. “Move Along” by The All-American Rejects
  57. “You Will Be Found” by Dear Evan Hansen Original Broadway Cast
  58. “Watch The Sky” by Something Corporate
  59. “Don’t Give In” by Snow Patrol
  60. “Let It Flow” by Toni Braxton

What songs pick you up when you’re down? Share in the comments below.

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I’ve Got a Theory: A Bullshirt Theory About “The Good Place”

“I’ve got a theory that it’s a demon. A dancing demon! No, something isn’t right there…” Buffy the Vampire Slayer Original Cast, “I’ve Got a Theory”

SPOILER WARNING!!!! Major spoilers ahead! Do NOT read if you haven’t seen the first two seasons of The Good Place. There is also one very minor spoiler at the end for season 3 with a spoiler warning before it, based on an interview with Michael Schur. Read at your own risk. This is a theory for entertainment purposes only. I take no responsibility if any of it is correct (highly unlikely) or spoils anything. Much like Jon Snow (and Jason), I know nothing…

For years I’ve been coming up with all kinds of crazy theories about various TV series. The theories range from the plausible, such as a certain character eventually killing him/herself on Veronica Mars, to ones that could have been true but were never proven because the show was cancelled {insert shameless plug for Damien here} to completely outrageous theories that are just for fun, like 80% of my Mr. Robot theories. (Is anything really too crazy for Mr. Robot, though?) I’ve actually been right a few times, even with some crazier ones. This theory about Michael Schur‘s forking brilliant show, The Good Place, probably falls somewhere between “I could see that” and “This crazy bench is going to the Bad Place just for this theory.” It’s not perfect, but it’s not completely without merit, especially on a show with many twists.

So what is it? It all boils down to one thing: Chidi (William Jackson Harper) is not who he says he is. There’s much more than that, though. I’ve come to believe that Chidi is/was a demon or even (far less likely) some sort of god…

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This is undoubtedly your reaction to this.

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking I’ve completely lost it, but stay with me. Let’s start with something basic that isn’t a point for or against this theory but would make it interesting. Chidi was a Moral Philosophy professor. How crazy would it be if the anxious one who was supposed to be the most ethical one was actually the one deceiving everyone? Moral philosophy professor is a pretty good front if you want people to follow and trust you.

That bit doesn’t hold much water beyond me thinking it’d be funny, so let’s move on to something slightly more sound. Characters are rarely given random names. Buffy, for example, got her name because Joss Whedon liked the juxtaposition of a silly, insignificant name with someone as fierce and strong as the vampire slayer. The Good Place has shown that at least one name also has some meaning behind it. Tahani (Jameela Jamil) mentioned in “Tahani Al-Jamil” that her full name means “Congratulations, Beautiful,” which checks out and isn’t just something the show made up because it fits Tahani.

Sexy skyscraper Tahani obviously lives up to her name, but what about the others? Eleanor (Kristen Bell) means “shining light” or “bright one.” Michael (Ted Danson), the architect who created the neighbourhood, means “who is like God?”. Janet (D’Arcy Carden) means something along the lines of “God’s gracious gift.” Jason (Manny Jacinto) means “to heal,” and while he might not be very bright, he has shown some unexpected emotional intelligence, helping Michael and Tahani feel better when they were upset. His silent monk name Jianyu can mean “prison,” which is kind of what not being able to talk was for him. Finally, Chidi means “God exists.” God exists… in the form of Chidi? Hmm…

Obviously several names (Michael, Janet, Chidi) have religious meanings, which makes the case stronger, but they all fit the characters well. Even some minor characters, like Tahani’s sister Kamilah, have names that represent them. In “Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent,” the humans adopted aliases when they went to The Bad Place Headquarters. Their alias names also sort of fit them. (My favourite is Jake Jortles, which Jason picked to rhyme with Blake Bortles, but Jake as a word/name means “a sexually immature male wild turkey under two years old” or “supplanter.” If that doesn’t describe Jason, what does?!) The other humans picked their aliases, but Chidi said he couldn’t lie and got his in The Bad Place when a demon called Chet (Dax Shepard) mistook him for a demon called Trent, which means “trespasser.” Technically all of them were trespassers, but it’s interesting that Chidi was the one who got the alias name assigned to him that means “trespasser.” Perhaps being in the Bad Place Headquarters isn’t the only place/way he’s a trespasser. I may be ascribing too much meaning to everything, but the names were clearly chosen for a reason.

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The sexy giraffe herself: Congratulations, Beautiful!

“Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent” had several bits that supported this theory. Chidi and the others all trespassed while trying to get to the real Good Place, but it’s interesting that Chidi was the one who was mistaken for a demon. Chet saw him and said, “Trent! Is that you?” Chidi nervously laughed, “Who else could it be?” Chet told Jason Jake that Trent was his “top dog,” and they’d worked together for 100 years in Partial Decapitations. 100 years! Maybe the Bad Place doesn’t calculate years the same way we do, but that is still a long time to work with someone, even if it was 800 years ago. You’re not likely to forget someone you worked with for 100 years who made enough of an impression on you to be your top dog.

Chet said another demon was having trouble torturing a guy and needed some ideas from Chidi Trent. Chidi was hesitant but – book lover that he is – said to torture the guy by giving him books because he once tortured a chick who hated reading (Eleanor) by giving her “mad books to read around the clock.” Such a Chidi way to torture people, right? At first the guy didn’t think it was a good idea, but Chidi convinced him. Torturing people by making them read? Who else would even think to do that? “Naughty bitch” Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), Michael’s superior. In the very next episode, Shawn tried to do exactly that – torture Michael by locking him in a room with a stack of The New Yorker magazines that would keep coming. Clearly books are an approved method of torture in the Bad Place!

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Even Chidi doesn’t really want books to be his soulmate.

Trent was hardly the only time Chidi’s identity was questioned. In “Category 55 Doomsday Crisis,” a Bad Place torturer called Bart (John Hartmann) claimed to be an identity theft expert. He suspected that Chidi was hiding something. Chidi said it was just about his soulmate, but it’s very interesting that an identity theft expert suspected Chidi of all people of hiding something. Did I mention he was playing an identity theft expert?!

In “The Burrito,” Team Cockroach, as they called themselves, were given tests by the judge (who was not a burrito) to determine if they got to go to the Good Place. They decided to be judged together, so either everyone got into the Good Place or no one did if anyone failed. The judge told Eleanor and Chidi that they got in, and Eleanor and Chidi then had to decide if they really would go without the others or stay in the Bad Place since Tahani and Jason failed their tests. Eleanor paced through magic doors, and they debated what to do. Chidi tried to convince her to leave the others behind because they deserved their places in the Good Place and to be happy. Eleanor figured out the twist – this decision was her test and that wasn’t the real Chidi! The real(?) Chidi’s test was in another room, deciding between two hats because it was so difficult for him to make a choice. Demons can look like humans, but it’s telling that Chidi was the one who was essentially cloned.

Speaking of cloning, in “Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent,” Team Cockroach attended a ceremony in the Bad Place that turned out to be an exhibit about them. It was complete with robot-like mock-ups that looked, sounded, and talked just like them, describing their characteristics. Chidi’s mock-up was obviously mocking Chidi’s indecisiveness, saying, “I’m Chidi Anagonye. Or maybe I’m not.” Maybe the real Chidi Anagonye isn’t even Chidi Anagonye! Maybe he’s Trent!

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Well…

Chidi was sent to the Bad Place because he caused pain to everyone around him by being so indecisive. That hardly puts him in the same category as a selfish ashhole who’s mean to everyone, an idiot who tries to rob places and sells fake drugs, or a vain woman who does good things only for praise, fame, and spite. Those are all things they somewhat knew were wrong, but Chidi genuinely thought he was a good person. Lacking self-awareness, it never even occurred to him he wouldn’t be in the Good Place. When he found out he was in the Bad Place, he always assumed it was because he drank almond milk, knowing it was bad for the environment. He never even thought it could be anything else, and if anything, his inability to make decisions tortured Chidi more than anyone.

They went through hundreds of attempts and were rebooted hundreds of times, and every time, one of them figured out that they were actually in the Bad Place. Chidi was the only one who never figured it out. Maybe he was too busy getting stomach aches from all the anxiety or was too focused on helping Eleanor to figure it out. He’s hardly stupid, after all. He figured out that all the bad things that happened early on – flying shrimp, giraffes everywhere, Eleanor having different PJs than everyone else – were because Eleanor didn’t belong there. How could the smartest one be the only one who never figured out they were in the Bad Place? Even Jason figured it out once! With the exception of maybe Eleanor, who knew she wasn’t a good person before, they all lacked self-awareness but all still figured it out, except Chidi. What if, for one reason or another, he was never meant to figure out they were in the Bad Place?

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There could be a good reason he never figured it out. This theory, as I said, is not without its weaknesses, just like any other theory. Sure, Chidi could have been there as a demon to help torture the humans or keep an eye on Michael or even torture Michael by making sure his neighbourhood failed (or by making Micheal read his manuscript). It could be an evil twin thing, but that’s so done. I don’t believe those, but there are a lot of ways the show could work around Chidi being a (former?) demon.

You may say, “But we’ve seen his time on Earth as a human, even as a kid! We saw his death!” Yes, we did. There’s also a chance he was a demon but was not in on it. How would that work? Perhaps Chidi really was Trent and was a demon. We’ve seen that even demons can be tortured. Perhaps Chidi did something wrong and was sent to Earth as a human as punishment and is continuing to be tortured. From Partial Decapitations to professor? We know that their minds can easily be wiped, so Chidi may not even remember his past as a demon. This would also make it easier for the audience and Team Cockroach to accept Chidi not being who they thought he was. It’s less of a betrayal but still an interesting twist, even though Michael was already forgiven after deceiving everyone. Michael wouldn’t necessarily even have to know about Chidi’s demonic past. I would love to see a different side of Chidi if there were flashbacks to his past as a demon. I would also love to see Chidi’s reaction to finding out about his true identity as Trent, especially if there’s a struggle between who he was and who he is now.

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What an epic freakout Chidi would have if he found out he was a demon!

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens in season 3 when the humans are back on Earth. Eleanor has already found Chidi (who still didn’t speak French or have a Nigerian or Senegalese accent when Eleanor found him in Australia, though – spoilers! – this will apparently be explained in season 3) on Earth, but this is a series of many twists and turns. Anything could happen. My theory is probably far off and if it’s at all correct, probably wouldn’t happen until closer to the end of the series, but it will be exciting to see what other “Holy motherforking shirtballs!” revelations the characters and viewers have in season 3.

Season 3 of The Good Place premieres on NBC on September 27th and Netflix UK and other international markets on September 28th. Watch the first two seasons on Netflix UK now and on Netflix US starting August 28th.

 

Washing of the Water: Songs To Make You Cry

“River, oh river, river running deep. Bring me something that will let me get to sleep. In the washing of the water, will you take it all away? Bring me something to take this pain away…” -Peter Gabriel, “Washing of the Water”

There are three kinds of people in the world: 1) People who cry about their own lives, 2) people who cry at music and other entertainment, and 3) people who refuse to cry. I generally fall into the second category. I tend to cry more over songs and TV series than I do about my own life and have already written about TV scenes that make me cry. Music, especially, can make me cry when I need it most. Sometimes when I want to cry about things in my life, I can’t do it until a song triggers it. We’ve all been there, right? Some people like to listen to happy music when they’re sad, but I’ve always been the opposite. Happy music when I’m sad just makes me more aware of what I’m missing out on; sad songs make me feel better because I feel less alone, and they can give me that release I need.

Of course, there are some happy songs that can make you cry, too. But 99% of the time, it’s the sad one that make us cry. As someone with a playlist for everything, I have certain go-to songs whenever I need a good cry and the playlist to match, appropriately titled Cry Your Eyes Out. While I could just tell you to read This Will End in Tears: The Miserablist Guide to Music, an actual book about tearjerkers, what fun would that be? Do you really expect me to let you find your own suffering, stuck in a world with cliché Adele songs? Don’t be silly…

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The classic ‘chicken or egg’ question… I’d be remiss to not have a High Fidelity gif in here.

This is far from an exhaustive list, even though I narrowed it down to 20, and I left some off specifically because I intend to use them in future lists. However, it is essentially the ones that pretty much always make me cry, without fail. Some are ones everyone knows; others you’ve likely never heard unless you’ve had a Who Can Make The Other Person Cry First Using Only A Song? contest with me. (It’s a thing.) Some are easy to understand; others I can’t really describe why they have the effect they do. Because of the mood of the playlist, these are mostly all pretty sad. This is your warning. I’m not guaranteeing any or all of these songs will make you cry, just that they work for me.

The usual rule applies: One per artist, even if they’ve had more than one band. This is mainly so I won’t just have 20 Luke Sital-Singh songs to leave you crying forever. I may live to make you cry, but I’m not that cruel. That’s more than I can say for Luke ‘Magical Misery Tour’ (his words, not mine) Sital-Singh, who makes a living making me cry.

They are also, of course, (mostly) in no particular order because you can’t exactly rate the number of tears a song causes you cry. Get your tissues ready…

Honourable mentions: “Overcome By Happiness” by Pernice Brothers; “Hangman” by Paloalto; “Here Comes the Flood” by Peter Gabriel; “Almost Lover” by A Fine Frenzy; “Hallelujah” by Imogen Heap (only this version); “Somehow” by Evan and Jaron; “Not As We” by Alanis Morissette; “Quicksand” by David Bowie… Okay, there are so many, and this is getting long already, so I’ll just add ‘almost every Luke Sital-Singh song.’

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Luke Sital Singh: *breathes* Me: *cries* It’s so beautiful.

20. “Bullet Proof… I Wish I Was” by Radiohead

What list of depressing songs would be complete without the crushing music of Thom Yorke? As any Radiohead fan knows, there are many songs that could have made this list, but this is one of my favourite Radiohead songs. Everyone knows it, so I don’t think I need to say any more.

19. “Dying” by Five For Fighting

Say what you will about Five For Fighting, but this song helped me through heartache in my early university years and continues to help. “I’m dying, dying to wake up without you, without you in my head again. I’m dying, dying to forget about you, that you ever lived.” Been there, experienced that. What’s worse than being so heartbroken over someone that you wish you could just forget them completely? Still clinging to that tiny bit of hope ‘as long as there’s a breath.’

18. “Lalena” by Donovan

There’s so much despair in his voice. It makes the song and breaks me. I’d absolutely name a future daughter Lalena if I didn’t feel like I’d be dooming her to a tragic life.

17. “Mr. Golden Deal” by Tonic

I’ve said for many years that Emerson Hart writes my soul. I don’t know how he does it, but he creeps in there and writes what I can never say or think but feel completely. I’ve always felt like he gets me, probably more than any other artist. This song is for when you feel like someone else has who/what you want or like you are always “holding your tongue when they call another winner” because it’s never you.

16. “Walking By” by Something Corporate

Andrew McMahon is a poet, and there are so many songs that could also be in this spot, but the desperation of this one gets me every time. “And what did I do that you can’t seem to want me? And why do we lie here and whisper goodbyes? Where can I go that your pictures won’t haunt me? What makes it so easy for you to be walking by?” All those questions are so relatable. Kind of like “Dying,” you just want to forget someone and do all you can to avoid them, but you know it’s impossible because you see them everywhere, in everything.

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“Walking By”

15. “See-Saw” by Youth Group

“Maybe one day she will just say that she’s happy enough…” How sad does someone have to be to just want happy enough? So sad.

14. “She Has No Time” by Keane

“Think about the lonely people and think about the day she found you. Or lie to yourself and see it all dissolve around you.” The falsetto just kills me. This is easily my favourite Keane song, but it’s so sad and beautiful that I can’t cope.

13. “Breathtaking” by Jessica Riddle

This song is so simple with just a piano and vocals, but it’s, well… breathtaking. How many songs are there about someone feeling bad for someone else who lost a loved one?

12.”Come Home” by Elevaters

I have a special history with this song. I first heard it in 2007 when my sister and I met these lovely guys after one of their shows in LA, and they invited us to an intimate jam session a few days later where they played this. It was so raw and real. I remember fighting back the tears as they played it for us because it was so beautiful, and I related to it a bit too much. (Still do.) It’s both sad and encouraging. I never forgot the song or that moment and always wished they’d release it… Flash forward to 2011. They put this up on SoundCloud, and I was ecstatic. It was everything I remembered it to be, and it made me cry all over again. Most of their music is more upbeat, positive, and empowering soul/hip-hop, so this song is a bit unique for them. Though they released a different version with more instruments on their Come Alive album in 2014, I prefer this one because it’s stripped down, just like it was when they played it at that jam session years ago…

11. “Can’t Do This On My Own” by Gangs of Ballet

My friend and I swap (usually sad) music, and he got me into Gangs of Ballet. I will forever blame/thank him for all the tears resulting from this beautiful, heartbreaking song. I love the buildup and the emotion in it. “My love is undivided… My love can’t go to somebody else.”

Check-in: How are we doing, on a scale of 1 to John Cusack In The Rain? Hanging in there?

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John Cusack In The Rain could be a scale itself. Are you ‘Say Anything’ Sad or ‘High Fidelity’ Sad? Very scientific.

10. “In The Morning” by Darcie Miner

I promise we’re getting to songs you know, but right now we’re mostly in the Songs You Should Know bit. Remember all those teen artists singing songs about their crushes or whatever? Who didn’t write like that as a teenager? Darcie Miner. I think she was about 14 when she wrote one of my favourite songs ever (“My Angel”), inspired in part by those Philadelphia cream cheese commercials years ago. I’m not sure how old she was when she wrote this one but certainly a teenager. You can tell from her music that she experienced a lot as a child, and thankfully for us, she turned her pain into art. She has many songs that could easily go on this list, but this is one of my favourites.

9. “Every Little Thing” by Dishwalla

It’s truly a shame people don’t know Dishwalla for more than a couple songs from the ’90s. This album is absolutely gorgeous (one of my favourites), and this is one of my all-time favourite songs. It’s simply perfection. It makes me cry because it’s just so emotional, desperate, and obviously incredibly heartbreaking. I always say I’m a sucker for those builds in songs, and that’s true of this one, too. “Will you find out who you are too late to change? I wish I could be every little thing you wanted all the time…” Breaks. My. Heart.

8. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt

Remember when I said there would be no cliché Adele songs, like “Someone Like You,” on this list? Someone explain to me how that song made the list of 100 saddest songs ever in This Will End In Tears: The Miserablist Guide to Music and this song didn’t. (Then again, “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. also made that list, but it’s not actually that sad when you listen to it. Lyrics, people!) But I digress… This song is a classic with so many covers – Bon Iver, George Michael, and Darren Hayes, to name a few favourites – and it is so sad that I actually had it higher up on the list but moved it down to a more appropriate spot because that’s what it deserves.

7. “The Real Thing” by Kenny Loggins

When I listened to my playlist to make this list, this is the one that made me ugly cry the most for many reasons. I don’t think people whose parents are still together or parents who are still together can fully appreciate this song. However, I think divorced parents and children of divorce will absolutely understand its place on this list.

6. “Without Love” by Endochine

I’ve written before about how much I love this whole album that no one else seems to know.  Kind of like Gangs of Ballet and Dishwalla, I love the build and the desperation. “I could love you with a broken heart…” So hauntingly beautiful.

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There’s also a distinct possibility that I am a masochist.

5. “Washing of the Water” by Peter Gabriel

Sometimes you can know a song, but it takes the right moment in the right place or time to make you really hear it. That’s how it was with this song. I had it on a playlist for months, but I didn’t really listen closely enough affect me until the moment I needed it. I remember the day it hit me as I was on a bus, and the moment inspired me to buy two journals – a personal one and a music one. I wrote about this song in the music one and wrote about the situation that inspired me in the other one. Within a couple weeks of that moment, possibly even the same day, I decided to make this blog instead. I hate and thank whoever hurt Peter Gabriel enough to make him write this incredibly perfect song. If you listen to it (and I should never have to tell you to listen to a legend like Peter freakin’ Gabriel), I really don’t think I need to explain why it’s on this list and made the title.

4. “Forever and Always” by Parachute

If you read the comments on this video, 99.9% are about how much this song makes them cry – with good reason. It’s a sweet song, but whenever I listen to this album, I always skip it, unless I’m actively trying to make myself cry. It starts with a woman sitting alone, waiting for her partner, who’s late coming home. I won’t spoil it, but you can probably figure it out or just listen to it for yourself and see. Warning: The ending will crush you. I saw Parachute perform this in 2016, and I swear there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

3. “I’ll Find a Way” by Rachael Yamagata

I mentioned this one in the list of TV scenes that make me cry when it was on Nip/Tuck, and that’s a big part of the reason it makes me cry. I don’t think it’s actually a very straightforward song. I think it’s about that inner turmoil when you want someone but you know you shouldn’t, maybe because you’re with someone else (Reminds me a bit of “Please Help Me, I’m Falling” in that case) or you just know it won’t work but remain conflicted. Either way, I love the lyrics and the way she sings it.

2. “Your Letter” by 112

Aww, he finds a love letter, and all his dreams have come true! How sweet! When the second bridge hits, followed by the one-word change in the chorus… Let’s just say this song has made me cry for nearly 20 years. I don’t imagine it’ll stop anytime soon.

1. “Nearly Morning” by Luke Sital-Singh

If you read the introduction, you knew this was coming, but the song choice itself might be a bit surprising. Considering Luke Sital-Singh’s other work, you may have been expecting something more along the lines of “Benediction,” “Lilywhite,” “Fail For You,” “Killing Me” or any other sad Luke Sital-Singh song. But that’s the thing about this one – it’s not like the others in the kind of sadness it offers. When I was upset about something a few months ago, I listened to Luke, and this was (unexpectedly) the song that made me cry. Kind of like “Everybody Hurts,” this song is like that friend who is there when you’re at your worst, reassuring you that you’re not alone and to hang on because it’s not the end, and tomorrow is a new day. And all of that just makes you cry even more than you already were. There’s a sad hope in it. I think this was actually the song that inspired the Cry Your Eyes Out playlist (though the playlist is named for Luke’s “Nothing Stays The Same”) in a low moment, and it’s the first song on the list. There’s a live version with Gabrielle Aplin that will take your breath away – a common side effect of Luke Sital-Singh’s gorgeous music. I wouldn’t change one millisecond of it because everything about it is just perfect.

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end! Still holding up okay? Crying? Laughing at me? Just thinking I’m the world’s biggest sap/nutter? Not to worry, I won’t just leave you in a pit of despair forever. These songs are for when you’re going through heartache or just a bad time, but I may eventually share more positive songs that I listen to when I need a little pick-me-up. In the meantime, I’m always looking for some new tearjerkers. What are some songs that make you cry? Share in the comments below.

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Go ahead… Make me cry.