The Gospel of Lizzo

My taste in music has changed a lot recently as I moved away from the heavier, moodier music of my teens years and move onto music that a younger me would scoff at. I like a lot more pop than I ever have but since I don’t listen to the radio, the ways I find new music is limited. I mostly pick up songs from pop culture like commercials or movies and as recommendations from artists I already like. 

But I titled this post with the artist already in question, so let’s skip the foreplay: let’s talk about Lizzo. 

Lizzo is not an artist that I think I would normally like. She’s in a weird mix of pop and hip-hop that normally wouldn’t appeal to me but fortunately, Lizzo is an incredibly talented musician and she doesn’t care about my feelings towards genre. Lizzo is an immortal goddess and I just want to gush about her for a little while; so sit down, get some juice and let’s talk. 

I don’t really remember how I started to like Lizzo’s music. I think I heard one of her songs on a commercial and just sort of accepted her into my life. I mostly fell in love with her Twitter first. As a personality, Lizzo seems to be everything I’m not in real life: proud, confident and beautiful. She famously stated that big girls are not brave for just existing and her humor feels like it was a mood board created just for me. Her whole compilation of just her saying “Bye, bitch” and leaving various scenarios reminds me of Carlos and I hiring a bike rickshaw to take us back to the car during A-Kon. 

Lizzo being a giant mood board may sound a little cliche but as a fuller figure black woman who has fat in most of the wrong places, zero thigh gap and a body I’ve been ashamed at since I was probably about 14; seeing a woman who really does look like me live radically free and happy is frankly inspiring. She doesn’t claim that she’s big and beautiful, she doesn’t quantify it; she’s just beautiful.

There’s also something wonderful about being unapologetically herself because especially as a black woman, there is a lot of policing from the community and others about one’s “blackness” and yet there’s Lizzo, letting Meg Thee Stallion twerk to flute music. That’s just who she is. She’s proudly nerdy, quirky and fantastic and as a very chocolate sister in the woodwinds section: she has my adoration and respect. 

Lizzo’s music is also just fun. I mentioned earlier that pop wasn’t my thing but Lizzo is just a good musician. Truth Hurts  is so much more than just a bop, it’s a breakup anthem that actually has some soul to it. Most post-relationship songs are pretty hard to listen to unless you are recently at the end of a relationship but Truth Hurts is just good even outside of being memetic. Good as Hell is a beautiful ballad to self-love and self-care done by a woman who seems to actually practice what she preaches. Again, from any other artist most of those “take care of yourself, you got it” songs seem very hollow. As a person who struggles with depression and anxiety, I think from literally anyone else telling me that I should be feeling good as hell; I’d probably complain. 

Juice did get a little overplayed for me but it’s good music and its popularity makes sense to me. Besides, if you’ve seen me shopping for the pod over at Total Wine right at opening, I’m probably singing this as I’m looking for wine or whatever materials needs for the weekend’s drink. 

Lizzo’s message is just so authentic and that’s the word I keep coming back to. When she brings out a truly diverse group of backup dancers showing off that talent and beauty are not a market corned by thin white women or thin black women with relaxed hair. When Lizzo is on stage she just looks like she wants to be there and that’s amazing. She’s been working towards this for years and it’s fantastic seeing her get everything she deserves and more.

Now with her being human, I do have to admit some of the places where she’s made mistakes. The fussing over food delivery app orders was a thing but she quickly apologized and was better. She even gave credit to the Twitter user who created the now famous line from Truth Hurts. Most artists wouldn’t have done that organically; hell, it took Pharrell and Robin Thicke a goddamn lawsuit to make them realize they stole music.

Overall, I don’t think there are many artists today who are such genuinely kind and are themselves without being monstrous or hurting others is exactly what we need in these trying times. Lizzo isn’t asking anything of anyone by twerking and playing the flute. She is educated, eloquent even though neither of those things should be judges of character. She likes what she likes, does what she does, speaks when she wants to and empowers others around her. She is a 100% the icon we need now in these trying times. So before we go, I want to talk about what I think goes into The Gospel of Lizzo and why it’s worth following. 

Lizzo’s chief commandments are easy to follow. Lizzo wants us to love ourselves. Now, that’s hard to do but it does help seeing women who look like you actually living free and beautifully helps a lot. Next is to handle business. Lizzo is not coy about making money moves but rather than those being mostly just vague bragging from rappers it’s rooted in a real desire to ensure that we all get what we deserve in this life. Next commandment is to take care of each other. Sisterhood has always been important to the black community but we have lost our way in more ways than one: Lizzo wants each of us to see each other as sisters and to support each other. So if your girl is going through it, it may mean taking off your satin cap but you should be there for her. Last but not least is being joyful and having fun. Life is short, we all die, enjoy what you enjoy. If you’re a fan of musicals, be a fan. If you like twerking to your favorite song, do it. If you wanna play hip-hop classics on the flue, just go for it.

That’s it, that’s the Gospel of Lizzo, as written by one of her loyal disciples. 

My Top 20 Songs from Anime

We’ve done a few lists now, haven’t we? I think they’re a fun exploration of a genre or form. And in the spirit of Lists: let’s try one that’s a little bit different: we’re going to be discussing in no particular order, the music of various different anime! This includes opening themes, background songs, ending themes and more. I’ll give you the series and a brief reason why that song means the world to me.

Let’s jam.

Oh, and you’ll likely see plenty of overlap between the music I like and the anime I like: reading over that list may give you a vision of the future. You’ll likely also see some repeats from a few core series: that’s likely for a reason.

Funny Bunny, The Pillows

FLCL

FLCL is one of my favorite series of all time and it has one of the best soundtracks I can think of. Don’t be surprised to see this series on the list more than once. Funny Bunny is sweet, sentimental and emotional: The Pillows as a band are good about using puns, wordplay and most importantly: heart. This song has made me cry too many times and one of my favorite moments of all is driving down the highway with Carlos singing this little song during A-Kon. It’s a love song for the ages.

Hybrid Rainbow, The Pillows

FLCL

I told you FLCL would appear on this list more than once. Even though this was just a background song, this was my anthem in college. A song about disillusionment, overcoming the sameness over the world and how what appears is not always as it is was the perfect song for the angsty college kid that I was.

Anti-Nostalgic, Kotani Kinya

Gravitation

Who knew an anime about music would have great music? This song still makes me super emotional and as a ballad to a lover, it doesn’t get much better. I always really related to how Yuki Eiri felt about love, time and relationships and how trauma colors your perception of all of those things: because of that, this was one of the first songs I remember committing to memory as a young fan.

Shining Collection, Iceman

Gravitation

Now, this is the real song from Gravitation that sold me. In the OVA, this song is the last thing Shuichi has to sing and he has the privilege to sing it with his idol, Ryuichi. Now, traditionally, the OVA says that this is a song that Yuki wrote for Shuichi. But that’s when my fangirl senses began to tingle. Yuki wrote a song with Ryuichi Sakuma and it made Shining Collection: one of the least romantic love songs possible. Here’s my theory, and this for all of us who still know this old anime: this song is about Yuki’s former lover and tormentor: Kitazawa. The tone, the feverish pace and all seems to add up more to this being a song about Kitazawa rather than the somewhat useless Shuichi: but that’s just an Amanda Theory. I love this song and it’s frantic pace keeps me typing away: you’ll often hear it while I work on my blog posts, my fiction projects or my panels.

Sleepless Beauty, The Seeker

Gravitation

Last one from this series, I promise. The confidence that Ryuichi Sakuma has when performing this song is a strong motivator for me. I’ve used this song to get me through some of the toughest patches in my life and the fact that it has an almost lullabye-like acoustic version that ramps up into an electrifying dance track only ensured that this song stayed in my heart for over a decade.

Fukai Mori, Do As Infinity

InuYasha

I’ve gone on record saying that this anime is the one that made me sell my soul to fandom and this beautiful ending theme is part of the reason I was ready to make that leap. I listened to this song on repeat before going to bed as a teen and I was so happy when I learned even a part of it in Japanese. I picked up a CD copy of InuYasha’s OST and Amber and I sang along the entire time. This song is a part of my childhood and a part of who I am as a fan.

My Will, Dream

InuYasha

Not to be outdone by Fukai Mori, My Will is beautiful, amazing, haunting and more. It had a stunning key visual, too that cemented to many Americans into anime. What more can be said about one of the most iconic songs in all of fandom?

Wind, Akeboshi

Naruto

This song makes me cry. This song comforts me when I am sad. This song helps lift me up. Naruto’s themes of not always fitting in, finding your family and your worth and being more than a painful past always hit home with me and a song as reassuring as Wind was vital to helping me cope as an angsty teen and even now as a sometimes melancholic adult.

Blue, Mai Yamane

Cowboy Bebop

Now is where things get serious. Bebop is probably a close attempt at number one for me as far as anime go. And this song, wow. It is in my actual will that this will be played during my funeral service. It is that serious to me. This song is haunting, emotional, raw and just…so powerful. I had a moment while driving to visit my mother’s grave and this song came on thanks to my phone’s cursed shuffle. I sobbed. I cried just over and over again repeating: “I’m so free.”

I cried, I put the flowers I got for my mom on her headstone, I spoke to her and visited my grandparents. And all the while I just kept repeating: “I’m so free.”

Space Lion, The Seatbelts

Cowboy Bebop

Didn’t think a song with almost no lyrics could bring me to tears but it did. Space Lion is a beautiful song that so perfectly bookends season 1 of one of the most perfect anime to ever exist. The song pulls elements from another part of the OST, Goodnight Julia, a song attached to Gren (who we meet during the last two episodes of season 1). Space Lion is the song we see Gren  die to. It’s the song that closes this part of a chapter and it’s just stunning.

Shiki no Uta, Minmi

Samurai Champloo

Champloo has an energetic opening that deserves an honorable mention but as soon as I heard the first bars of the jazzy closing, Shiki no Uta I was in love. The vocals are top notch and the whole vibe is calmer, more collected and more mellow than the high energy of the anime.

Who’s Theme, Minmi

Samurai Champloo

Watanabe-sensei can do no wrong when it comes to picking music and this mid-season finale song for Samurai Champloo is a stunning piece of music that I simply cannot skip if it starts playing.

Viva Namida, Okamura Yasuyuki

Space Dandy

Okay, Dandy is another Watanabe-sensei special and honestly, this song sold me on this weird anime about a dandy guy in space. The lyrics are deeper than you’d think, so be sure to pull up the English lyrics and simply enjoy.

Life Goes On ~Side K~, Chemistry

Antique Bakery

Have I told you lately how much I love this anime. Within moments of this opening song I was sold. It’s an anime about cake, pretty boys, emotional drama and had an amazing art style and the music, god this song did it for me immediately. It’s upbeat and fun and matches the energy of the series just right in places.

Life Goes On ~Side D~, Chemistry

Antique Bakery

If I ever get married, I want this to be my first dance with my new life partner. This is true and has been true about me for years now. ~Side D~ is the slower ending to Antique Bakery and while the lyrics are the same, the beat is way slowed down and turns an upbeat J-Pop song into a loving ballad. It stole my heart immediately.

Ranbu no Melody, SID

Bleach

I don’t think I can impress upon you all how much I love Bleach as a concept and show but am disappointed by its narrative choices. I fell in love with the characters almost immediately (Famously, I watched a fair amount when the show was first released and then fell out of it when the show started to bloat in the middle. I fell back in love during the Espada Arc because it’s some of the best writing the series has ever done and some of the best character design and arcs given in shonen anime.) and the music has always been top-notch. Even when the music isn’t firing all on cylinders, it’s some of the best in the shonen genre. So when I had to pick just a handful to represent this series on this list, it was difficult but only so. Ranbu no Melody is a stunningly beautiful song, it’s easy to see this as maybe a movie theme or something rather than just one of maybe 30 openings for the series. And it happens to be one of my favorites because of its unique feel: I’m also a little biased by the fact that the animation that goes with it may be some of the most stunning in the series’ history.

Life is Like a Boat, Rie Fu

Bleach

Of course I like this song. Of course I like this melancholic song with a little twinge at the end that even the heaviest of burdens can be shared with the right people. The vocals on this one alone are some of the best in anime and even though, yes, this song does feel melodramatic and sappy for those who haven’t felt the cold embrace of a tough life, for someone like me, it was and still is exactly what I need to hear after a difficult day.

The World, Nightmare

Death Note

In the theme of melodramatic, I happen to love Death Note and in this week’s entry in the category of: Someone really should have listened to young Amanda when she said she related to Light Yagami. The whole season one soundtrack is powerful and brooding and made my young vampire heart sing.

Alumnina, Nightmare

Death Note

Okay, it may be cheating to put an opening and a closing from the same season but come the math on! This song is moody, misanthropic and really helps to put you in Light’s headspace: he has a terrible but great responsibility to be the god of a new world and Alumina perfectly illustrates the miserable yet tantalizing burden that being a human shinigami carried with it.


Okay, it may be cheating to put an opening and a closing from the same season but come the math on! This song is moody, misanthropic and really helps to put you in Light’s headspace: he has a terrible but great responsibility to be the god of a new world and Alumina perfectly illustrates the miserable yet tantalizing burden that being a human shinigami carried with it.

Honorable Mentions:

Honestly, I could dedicated an entire blog to writing about anime music and its influence on me as a writer, human person and I found that this list changed depending on what day I wrote it. This list as it is now is far from the one it started as. But here’s where I want to give a shout out to the albums that you have probably heard me talk about but did not end up on this list. Namely the soundtrack for Axis Powers: Hetalia should have and needs to be mentioned.  You learn so much about the characters in these songs and I am still shameless in my ability to sing The Delicious Tomato Song or Paris is Indeed Splendid.

I’d also like to talk about the rest of the soundtracks to a lot of the animes I mention. Just because I picked one or two songs from each series does not mean the rest of the soundtrack is garbage. Bleach has amazing music, Naruto has amazing music: these series have fantastic soundtracks and you’re welcome to ask me more about it in the comments below. Additionally, there are songs particularly that are special to me despite not fitting neatly on this list that I’ll speed round here a little.

  • Haru no KatamiAyakashi Samurai Horror Tales
  • Genesis of NextCyborg 009
  • Most of the soundtrack to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and the original Fullmetal Alchemist
  • A good portion of the soundtrack of Naruto: Shippuden
  • Cruel Angel’s Thesis and Fly Me to the Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • The entire OST to Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt
  • The rest of the FLCL soundtrack
  • Most of the Code Geass soundtrack
  • The OST to Air Gear
  • Is it cheating to mention how much I love the music of nearly every Miyazaki movie?

Now, onto the main event.

Ready, Steady, Go!,  L’Arc-En-Ciel

FullMetal Alchemist

You know this was going to be the official, unofficial number one, right? You knew I had to do this. You knew that there was no way I could get through this list without mentioning the anime theme song to end all anime theme songs. This song gets me so hype and it ignites something in me that I’ve felt for damn near twenty years now. The opening animation only continues to sell the song as uplifting, emotional and powerful. There are so many memories of me and my friends singing this song on road trips, during conventions, on stage and more. It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. The vocals sell the song and lifts me to greater heights. I could dedicate more to this song but I’m sure it doesn’t do this song justice. If you’ve somehow never heard it before, just give it a listen.


Thanks for sticking with me through this post! I like doing these Top 10s! What’s the next thing I should rank?

The Musical Sins of High School Amanda

 

questioning-anything-and-everything-to-me-is-punk-rock-henry-rollin

Many of you who don’t know me outside of this humble blog may not realize a very interesting aspect of my personality and childhood: I’m a former emo kid. Ah, yes. The 2000s. So many questionable style choices. I loved everything the post-punk, punk and pop-emo crowd had to offer because again, some of you may know this, I do like my coffee black; just like my metal (I’m sorry, I’m just kidding. I really just wanted to use this lyric line. I take my coffee with lots of cream and sugar.)

But as a former emo kid, a lot of the music I listened to 10 or so years ago (shudders) has seemed to lose some of its punch. But let’s back up. Let’s talk about my musical history, shall we?

I was raised by a mother who loved R&B and soul. My father was a jack of all trades. He loved rock, pop, and just about anything but country: NO COUNTRY MUSIC. But he especially loved classic rock and some punk. So I grew up listening to Motown and Queen almost equally. Green Day and Tupac. Pink Floyd and Outkast. I lived in that cultural duality in music for years until my father died.

After my father’s death and a not so grand departure from living with my mom to living with my more conservative aunts I found and fell in love with punk music. And I mean pop punk, Blink 182, Green Day, Simple Plan, Linkin Park, Good Charlotte and Panic! At the Disco were bands I listened to daily. I used to fall asleep to the Blink 182 self-titled album, starting with Feeling This and ending with I’m Lost Without You (which is still a beautiful song if you haven’t heard it or it’s just been a while). What attracted me to this kind of music? Message. I was an angry kid with a family that didn’t understand me and I couldn’t force the happiness me peers seemed to languish in. So lyrics like “I’m talking to the ceiling, my life’s just lost all meaning” struck me and I carried those songs in my heart, in my clothes and in my attitude. I hung out with the goth kids despite being the bright pink spot in a sea of black and returned home to a mix of anime soundtracks and emo music. 

So much of my musical history has come from being an anime fan. Some of the earliest anime I ever watched struck me because the music was damn amazing. I was just re-watching InuYasha and while I have very few positive things to say about the first episodes of that bloated series, My Will is still one of the best animated musical themes in my opinion. I learned some Japanese pretty quickly just from picking up and parroting the songs that I had to listen to muted while I watched anime as my aunts slept (shhhh, don’t tell them). And if you get Real Folk Blues playing in the car, I will stop and sing.

So what was the allure to the dark side of music? Well, it’s two-fold as far as I see it. Comfort and community. Let’s tackle comfort first, because I want to.

As I mentioned before, my childhood and teen years were less than ideal. I had just lost a parent, my aunts were somewhat strict and mostly disapproving of their niece that had a pension for violent backwards-reading comic books and I was a well-performing but stressed out honors student with a bright future but a bleak attitude. I found comfort from Tom Delonge, who seemed to understand my anger and frustration with the world. I felt at ease hearing Benji Madden talk about issues with his father and mother and his worries about death, life and abandonment. It was wonderful hearing Billie Joe Armstrong talk about substance abuse, misery and even thinking about why we’re even here and to have those idols as an emotional, confused and vocal young lady.

The second is community, so let’s dive into that.

When I was in junior high, I went to a private Catholic school. I had uniforms and aunts that kept a close eye on my clothing choices. I got to rebel every so slightly through bracelets and my Converse. In high school, I got to go to public school and that finally meant some self-expression through clothing: just kidding, my aunt is Catholic and I was an honors student and president of many extracurricular activities, I had a reputation to maintain. But I was happy being the bright pink dot in a sea of goth kids who would all sing Helena if prompted. We all felt the same. We all knew what it felt like to be misunderstood. To be bullied. To be the bully. Many of us faced similarly dissatisfied and disappointed parents and felt crushed near to death by the expectations placed upon by us ourselves, our families and society. We found community within our shared angst and made families out of our mutual concerns, fears and tainted hopes and dreams. We were each other’s family and listening to the same music, feeling the same way, all made us feel a little less alone.

We’ve gone from my angsty teen years to the Amanda many of you know now. What am I listening to nowadays? Well, a lot of EDM. I’ve always been a bit of a trance kid and for sure a bass bunny. I’m a former rave girl, too (did I not mention that earlier?). Lots of Madeon and Calvin Harris. But at the same time, I’m also listening to tons of alternative like Fitz and the Tantrums. And like still lots of anime music. C’mon guys, I’m a lifelong otaku. So what changed? How did I go from a emo prince of darkness to a indie hipster with musical choices so underground that Facebook and Google can’t always recognize them? Well, the short answer out of the many longs ones is this: I grew up. So despite my glowing praise of some of the emo hits of the early 2000s, not all of this music aged well. I’m closer to 30 than ever now and I have a hard time going back and listening to all of the music Younger Amanda used to hold dear. Some songs didn’t hold up because once you move out, once you leave the disapproving guardians, once you accept a job and make money and realize that the biggest enemy in your life is often yourself, it’s difficult to find anything else to rebel to.  And once you take off the eyeliner and remove the fishnets from your hands, sometimes, just sometimes, it’s a little difficult to think about a group of other 30+ individuals ranting about how rude Mommy and Daddy are while complaining and glorifying self-mutilation and mental illness (we’re gonna talk about that next time, I promise.).

But sometimes, every once in awhile, after a long day. Or after a particularly heated conversation with my friends or aunts it’s nice to be able to vent by cranking up the bass and thrash out to St. Jimmy or Shut Me Up. In an upcoming post, we will talk about the pains of listening to echo chamber music and the misleading nature of just sitting in misery and the complex portrait of the tortured youth.