music, stories worth repeating, trends, writing

When I’m twenty-two…

I’m late to the Taylor Swift party. And I may not stay long.

At the 2012 Grammys, she sang her hit single, Mean, and needless-to-say, I connected. Me, and the millions of others who had already made her platinum selling album, Speak Now, a hit. Let’s face it, is there any person on the planet who can’t turn to someone and say, “Why you gotta be so mean?”

But a beautiful exclamation point on the universal story of wanting to get to the metaphorical “big city” came at Grammys. I had to reverse engineer the story, because I only listened to the original song after seeing her perform, but it was no less powerful in the remembering.

Taylor’s got two things in the story of being picked on, oppressed, and maligned that she’s aspiring to in the chorus. Living in, “a big old city” is my favorite. The quintessential get-out-of-your small-town-living-well-is-the-best-revenge-move-on dream. She’s also got, “big enough so you can’t hit me.” All you’re ever gonna be is mean, she sings.

It’s a nice when the heroine of the story looks and sounds like Taylor, and by age of twenty-two is a mega star. But that’s what makes us want to imagine that we’re her. That our little sad story ends so well; in a golden dress with a Grammy in each hand.

At one point in the song, the music stops and the beat is maintained by clapping. When that happened at the Grammys, Taylor swapped out the lyrics, “living in a big old city” for, “singing at the Grammys.”

That’s got to be a great moment to live through. Then she won a Grammy for the song, and one for best country performance.

And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.

art, music, thoughts

the hands that wind the clock of fate

It makes sense to have a plan B. Good, practical, common sense, especially if your plan A involves making it as a painter, actor, writer, or singer. It’s what your parents want for you. It what you have to do, just in case.

But, in watching The Voice (TV) an oh-so-guilty pleasure, I’ve started to think about what it means to have a plan B. Most singers on TV are working, somewhere, somehow; they are all dreaming, and mostly they are really good.

It got me thinking, though, some people have a plan for when they fail and some people don’t. I don’t know if that’s more a function of stuff behind the scenes, like how much money they have in savings, if they have families that can support them or if it’s really about how much they believe in their own talent (and then, if they are delusional or not).

Of course, talent as we know, is just a small percentage of what you need to go the distance. Hard work, luck, good timing, these are the hands that wind the clock of fate. So having a plan B makes sense and yet a part of me has this feeling like if you really want it, don’t bother.

Maybe it’s a function of youth and how much time you think you have, and where you are before other responsibilities alter your priorities. I haven’t settled on an answer to which is the best way, but I do love to watch them reach.

Mathai on The Voice

Advertising, music, thoughts

In medias res please

In medias res is one of my favorite narrative ideas. Who wants to start at the beginning of things? I want to come in seconds before things get really interesting. Say, like this…

There’s so many things I like about this, it’s hard to know where to start.

I could say a lot about it, but let me just mention a few things. The music. You can listen to this piece (without watching, although I don’t recommend it) and get the whole story. It’s amazing. I love the low point of the narrative (yodeling, trailer park, mud) and the emotional highs and lows that run throughout. It’s the longest and most engaging three minutes I’ve spent on digital media in a while (and I know it’s not new, but I keep going back to it). It articulates how each moment creates a different future, and is therefore everything. Just the current moment. It’s moving, it’s exciting, it’s life and death.

Also, it showcases the intersections of culture, media with celebrity and fan beautifully. And I think the placement of the product is brilliant. When you really get a long look at the shoe, you can feel it in your chest.

I can’t seem to get enough of this. I watch it repeatedly. Every time I do, I notice another tiny, careful, interesting detail that feeds the whole.

Plus, it starts in the middle and ends at the beginning.