5 Songs for Hard Days

I recently came across a series of videos on Revolver’s YouTube channel called “Songs for Black Days.” These videos feature short interviews with various musicians discussing their choices of “songs for black days-” in other words music that has helped them get through hard times in their lives. I found this series of videos while searching for Bad Omens interviews, by the way, as Noah Sebastian was featured in one of them. I didn’t recognize any of the songs he chose but his insights on why they were helpful to him were- as you would guess if you know anything at all about Noah- very compelling. In any case, I thought it would be fun to create my own list of “Songs for Black Days.” The first four songs are ones I’ve been coming back to over & over again over the past 8+ years, probably closer to 15 yrs on some of them. The last one is a much newer one that only came out this year but has quickly become a favorite of mine & is one I predict I’ll be returning to over & over as well.

I know a lot of people who are struggling right now- between divorce, death of loved ones, addiction, miscarriages, infertility, & more, there’s no shortage of sadness in this world. So if you’re enduring some black days yourself, consider checking out some of these songs. I hope they will be as much of a comfort to you as they have been to me.

Times Are Hard by Redlight King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IziTRWzTUo. I’ve loved this song from the moment I first heard it, which was probably almost ten years ago. But it’s one I specifically remember playing over & over during the early days of Covid. Between the endless quarantines, the social isolation, losing hours at work (as a NURSE no less!), shortages at stores, & the general panic in which the entire world was caught, 2020 in particular was a very trying time for me, as I suspect it was for most everyone. I love that this song doesn’t shy away from the fact that life is hard sometimes, yet it still offers a hopeful message that no matter how dark it gets, we can find a way through it.

How Can I Help You Say Goodbye by Patty Loveless: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBc09fKRDy0. Oh man, this one right here is a tear-jerker. If you need to have a good cry, this song will make it happen. I have listened to this song a number of times in my life when I was struggling to say goodbye to a certain person or a time/stage of my life. But one moment I will never forget is driving home from college for my grandmother’s funeral & hearing this song on the radio. It was just one of those MOMENTS. I remember exactly where I was- on 220A, the route that connects I-81 & 460 right outside of Roanoke, VA. It’s been 14 years, but every time I hear this song now, I’m transported right back to that drive & all the emotions & memories that overcame me when I heard it that day. It was the perfect healing song for me in that moment that allowed me to grieve when I wasn’t really sure how, if that makes any sense. As Patty’s stunningly clear voice sang “It’s ok to hurt & it’s ok to cry,” that’s exactly what I did. And it was so cleansing & healing in a way I don’t think anything but music could have been for me right then. And yes, just in case you were wondering, I did cry while writing this because I am listening to it right now. Never fails. But you see, I’m of the philosophy that tears can be healing, so I don’t mind that at all.

Painting Pictures of Egypt by Sara Groves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yC9cKaELnG8. I’m not sure how I first found this song. Someone at my church may have sang it when I was a teenager, but I’m really not sure. In any case, it’s one I’ve returned to over & over for over a decade now. It was especially meaningful to me when I was graduating college & was both excited for getting married & starting my nursing career but also really mourning the end of my college years which were up to that point the best years of my life. Now if the title confuses you, as I can see it might, let me explain it. Painting pictures of Egypt is a reference to the Israelites of the Old Testament who were wandering in the wilderness with Moses & starting to miss Egypt. They started remembering it as better than it really was because they were afraid for the future that was scary & unknown. The beautiful thing about this song is that you don’t need to be Christian or Jewish to relate to every word of this song. All of us have had times when we’re overwhelmed by nostalgia, when we’re scared for the future & find ourselves wanting to go back to something “easier.” The truth of course is that often what we’re thinking of as easier wasn’t necessarily easier- we’re just remembering it with rose-colored glasses. I’m going to include the lyrics for the whole song here because I think they are so incredibly profound & so incredibly well written that they deserve to be shared in full.

I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me
Either way
And the places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling out to me
Like a long lost friend

It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
And the place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
And it wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt,
I’ve been leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard,
And I wanna go back!
But the places that used to fit me,
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned!

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy
To discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
I am caught between the Promise
And the things I know

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt,
I’ve been leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard,
And I wanna go back!
But the places that used to fit me,
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned!

If it comes to quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
And if it comes to quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

The Climb by Miley Cyrus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG2zyeVRcbs. Yes, I am including a Miley Cyrus song here. No, I am not ashamed of doing so. Say what you want about Miley, the fact remains that this song is damn good. It’s so simple & yet so profound all at once. What I find particularly inspiring about this song is that it’s a reminder that we’re always going to face challenges in life & that sometimes we DO have to lose. None of us can win all the time. We have to learn to enjoy life for the journey of it more than for the destination. For a born perfectionist like me, that’s a lesson I have really struggled with at times, but this song is always a good reminder for me to keep things in perspective.

Punching Bag by Set It Off: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb5-s5qwlCQ. Like I said, this last song is a new one that only came out this year, but it has swiftly become a favorite of mine. While the other songs I’ve discussed here are more appropriate for times when you’re feeling sad, disappointed, or generally “broody,” this one is for the times you’re feeling angry or taken advantage of. I suspect the song was inspired by a toxic romantic relationship- with lines like the following:

Hanging on by the strings that you’re pulling
So you cut me down just to push me around

Like I’m your punching bag
Just another pot calling the kettle black
Take it out on someone who won’t hit you back
‘Till we’re all as broken as you

However, the beauty of this song to me is that it’s broadly written & thus can also easily be applied to a toxic relationship with a family member, a friend, or even a job. Or even just life in general. As someone who was born a natural people pleaser but has slowly learned to move beyond that the line “people pleasing’s never good for your health” really hits me hard. Word of warning though, all the other songs on here are very G rated but this one is a bit more R rated. But hey, it’s an angry song- it’s SUPPOSED to be.

Ok, I’d be totally remiss if I ended this post without including one of my new favorite bands. I can’t remember exactly when I discovered them (though it was definitely less than a year ago) but they fit squarely into the category of Band I Fell in Love With at First Listen. And Have Been Obsessed With Ever Since. Who am I talking about? None other than the German outfit Electric Callboy. These guys are exactly the kind of band I might have scoffed at a few years ago, but nowadays I find them incredibly fun. Why do I say that? Well, their music videos & lyrics are frequently over the top & full of humor & double entendres. It’s very obvious that these guys do not take themselves seriously AT ALL. And yet, they take their music & their overall career VERY seriously. And that, my friends, is why they are so damn good! No, most of their music isn’t what I want to listen to when I’m TRULY hurting. BUT it is the absolute PERFECT thing to listen to on the average stressful day when I just need something to make me laugh. Furthermore, the band actually does have some excellent, more serious songs, so they aren’t ALL about the laughs. But I’ll be the first to admit that the humorous songs are the ones that drew me in initially. I mean, if you aren’t amused by six German guys in their 30s dancing & running around in wigs, mustaches, & ridiculous outfits, I don’t know what to tell you. I guess I just can’t help you. Furthermore, where else can I find the amazing, heavy breakdowns I love paired with soaring vocal melodies AND a ton of humor thrown in for good measure? Nowhere. But Electric Callboy’s got me covered for all of that! I’m including a few of their songs/videos below for your viewing/listening pleasure because I’m cool like that.

Hypa Hypa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75Mw8r5gW8E

Tekkno Train: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFlhlZbeKgE This is the first song I ever heard by them (& the first video I saw by them). Love at first listen/sight, I tell you. If you don’t agree, we can’t be friends. Just kidding. But I do have to wonder about your sense of humor…

Pump It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnzkhQsmSag

P.S. Not only does the band make hilarious music videos, they also make fantastic vlogs about their tours & behind the scenes stuff. There is nothing better after a stressful day at work than to sit down & laugh at the antics of these guys. Yes, a lot of it is in German but trust me, the subtitles & body language are enough to ensure that the humor is not lost in translation. Do yourself a favor & check them out on YouTube. Immediately.

P.P.S. There is a German doctor at work so naturally I had to mention this band to him. He’d never heard of them, sadly, but hopefully he took my suggestion & looked them up. If so, he probably now thinks I’m a loon. Oh well. Worth it!

This Is Why People Hate Brittany Mahomes

I think it’s safe to say that Patrick Mahomes is America’s darling. At only 27 years of age he has already won the Superbowl twice, & to top it off he’s generally known as a really nice, decent human being. He is what a lot of older folks might call “clean-cut” were it not for his hair. Actually, he’s so nice & so talented that even the more racist white people might forgive him his “wild hair.” (I for one love his hair.) Basically, he’s impossible not to like, though if he turns into the next Tom Brady, which seems quite likely, it will be very interesting to see if American turns on him & he becomes a divisive character whom people either love to love or love to hate, as was (& is) the case with Brady. In any case, as well-loved & respected as Patrick is, America/the internet seems to have VERY different feelings toward his wife Brittany.

In case you aren’t familiar with their story, Patrick & Brittany have been together since high school. They got engaged in September 2020, on the day he received his first Super Bowl ring. Not long after the engagement they announced they were expecting a baby girl who was born five months later. They got married in March 2022 & had their second child, a son, in November of the same year. You might think they would be America’s sweethearts but somehow Brittany has garnered a lot of criticism & downright hatred. As someone who’s always fascinated by why people like certain things/people & dislike others, I’ve often pondered why Brittany attracts so much criticism, though I certainly never considered writing about it before now. However, this week I’ve seen an abundance of posts/articles about Brittany because of something Joe Rogan said about her during one of his recent podcasts. In short, he said her enthusiasm for Patrick would have the same level of energy but turned against him when they get divorced someday. Ouch! While I can somewhat understand the point Joe was trying to make, his comment is rank with bitterness & speaks more about his own issues than those of the Mahomes family. And that sentiment right there is exactly what I’m getting at in today’s post. Let me explain.

Every time I see people posting or speaking against Brittany, the criticisms are by & large the same: “She’s so loud! She’s obnoxious. She’s annoying! She needs to calm down. She’s not that pretty. He could do better.” Yada, yada, yada. Obviously Joe Rogan is a man, but I’d be willing to bet that at least half of Brittany’s detractors, & perhaps far more than half, are actually women. Which brings me once again to a point I’ve touched on in previous blog posts. Ladies, we are often our own worst enemy. We sit around wailing about misogyny, yet so often we bring each other down as much or more than men do. We need to do better. However, Brittany is definitely right when she says it’s pretty pathetic that grown men are bothered by her. Don’t they have anything better to do? Furthermore, if a popular female athlete had a husband or boyfriend who was super enthusiastic on the sidelines, I wonder how we would react to that? I have a feeling we’d say “Oh, how wonderful, he’s so supportive!” So maybe there IS some misogyny behind the hatred of Brittany. Just a thought.

Now, in the spirit of full transparency, have there been times when I’ve seen one of Brittany’s “loud, exuberant” posts at one of Patrick’s games & found her a bit annoying? Yes, I have. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I just keep scrolling & move on- because I realize that her exuberance is not actually hurting anyone. The fact of the matter is she would be criticized just as much, perhaps by the exact same people, if she were quieter & had more traditional “decorum.” Then she would be panned as “boring, disengaged, or snobby.” What it comes down to is you CANNOT PLEASE PEOPLE. They will ALWAYS find something to criticize. ALWAYS.

As for the comments about her physical appearance? Those I find particularly disgusting, whether they’re coming from men or women. I for one find it refreshing that she is more naturally beautiful than some other NFL wives/girlfriends. That is to say she doesn’t look like a walking plastic surgery/Botox advertisement. She looks believable! Ladies, we should find this encouraging! We should be celebrating it!

Now, what is really at the root of all of these complaints/criticisms about Brittany? The more I ponder it, the more I’m convinced that what’s behind most of the hatred toward her is jealousy & dissatisfaction/disappointment. Honestly, I think that’s true for almost every time we find ourselves criticizing someone for something that isn’t very concrete. It’s perfectly reasonable & justified to criticize someone for actual bad behavior- e.g. murder, rape, theft, abuse, assault, racism, etc. We SHOULD be calling out those kinds of behaviors. But whenever we find ourselves bothered by someone for more trivial reasons, I think we need to ask ourselves why. What I suspect we’ll often find is jealousy: we simply want what that person has- whether it’s money, fame, physical attractiveness, athletic or musical ability, power, etc. This is perfectly natural & in my opinion there is nothing strictly wrong with feeling that way. It’s what we DO with that feeling that matters. If we allow it to eat at us & tear down others because of it, THAT’S when it becomes a problem. The second thing that I think is behind these kinds of criticisms is dissatisfaction or disappointment with our own lives, which is of course the underlying factor behind the aforementioned jealousy. Perhaps people find Patrick’s relationship with Brittany triggering because it reminds them of their own failed relationships. After all, not many people can say they married their high school sweetheart. Again, in the spirit of full transparency, perhaps one reason I DON’T find their relationship triggering is because I DID marry my high school boyfriend. So maybe that makes it easier for me not to find them annoying. Just a thought.

At the end of the day this post really isn’t about Brittany Mahomes. It’s about asking ourselves why we find other people triggering or annoying & feel the need to tear them down. I’m not saying we aren’t allowed to have our likes & dislikes or that we should never say a negative word about anyone ever. Not at all. But I AM saying that the next time we find ourselves disliking someone for very superficial or trivial reasons, we ought to ask ourselves why. Is what this is person doing actually hurting anyone? Or are we just jealous because their success reminds us of our own failures? If the latter is the case, let’s use that jealousy to work on ourselves instead of tearing others down. That’s how we make the world a better place for all of us.

From Good Girl to Legendary

Don T Mistake My Kindness For Weakness Quote Inspirational Dont Mistake My Kindness For Weakness Quotes QuotesGram

I am the proverbial good girl. I grew up going to church three times a week. I have no tattoos & no piercings (aside from basic earrings of course). I married the first man I ever dated (& we’re still married 11.5 years later). I’m a nurse- the career voted the most trusted profession countless times. I live in a safe suburban type neighborhood. I’ve voted in every major election since I turned 18- & most of the minor ones too. I’ve had one speeding ticket & one other minor traffic ticket in my whole life, & that’s the extent of my “criminal” record. I’ve never smoked a cigarette- never even touched one. The hardest “drug” I’ve ever tried is alcohol & even that has never held much interest for me. I’m a born people pleaser who genuinely loves making others happy & can get along with pretty much anyone. Though I’ve never been traditionally “popular,” I’ve generally been well liked, & the two adjectives I’ve heard most about myself have always been “nice” & “smart.” And I don’t resent that. I’m actually quite proud to be known that way.

On the other hand, you won’t find me teaching Sunday School. But you WILL find me attending as many rock shows as I can manage as a mom. I swear more than I probably “should” because I can’t wrap my mind around certain words being “bad,” & science shows it’s legitimately a great stress reliever. (There are way too many bigger issues in the world to get my panties in a twist about something so silly.) But I also donate blood regularly & give to charities as often as I can. As a nurse I make a concerted effort to emotionally validate my patients when they are nervous, anxious, or scared. I make sure to advocate for them, even when that means questioning doctors or others in authority. (After all, I never view doctors as my boss- I view the patients as my boss). I’m politically moderate which makes me more of a Libertarian than anything, & boy, is that a good way to irritate the hell out of a lot of folks! The point is you could argue that I’m a walking contradiction- I think I’m very logical but a lot of folks disagree- & as much as I hate being misunderstood & sometimes lumped in with the far right or the far left- there is a part of me that genuinely enjoys screwing with people’s heads by being supposedly “unpredictable.” Even now, people often tell me how shocked they are that I like the music I like. I’ve heard “You’re too nice to listen to that!” more times than I can count. To which I always want to respond “So only MEAN people like heavy music?” Maybe next time, I’ll actually say that instead of just laughing.

Anyway, the truth is the older I’ve gotten the less I enjoy being cast as the proverbial good girl. And why is that? Well, it’s because I’ve realized that being a good girl comes with a cost. That cost is not questioning authority, not speaking your mind- just generally going with the flow of society’s accepted norms. And while in many ways I’m as much of a “normie” as they come, I just can’t accept that kind of mindset. I’ve been forced to realize that a lot of people I thought really liked me when I was younger only liked me because I was compliant, because I didn’t ask questions (not out loud anyway). And I’ve realized that that kind of being liked is worthless. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized that my very existence ruffles some people’s feathers, & the less I find myself bothered by that. Five- certainly ten- years ago, I would have been horrified that certain folks have deleted or even blocked me on social media because of some of my views. Now? Well, now I just find it amusing. No adult in their right mind is likely to ever find me physically intimidating but it seems that both men & women on both ends of the political/religious spectrum sometimes find me threatening. Why else would they respond so vehemently to me?

But it’s also true that coming to terms with this change hasn’t been easy. There are a couple of Halestorm songs that have been extra dear to my heart over the past year as I’ve come to understand that always being liked or viewed as “nice” is no longer one of my main goals in life. The first one is a B side from their latest album Back From the Dead. It’s called Legendary & contains the line “I bet you even money when I walk away, you say, ‘damn, that bitch is legendary.'” (Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPRtxy1erhQ.) The first time I heard that I wanted to cry because I remembered what might have been the first time in my life that I truly stood up for myself & risked no longer being viewed as “nice.” The summer between my sophomore & junior years of college I worked as a server at a restaurant, & while there I encountered this one assistant manager who was a bit grumpy & genuinely unpleasant most of the time. Well, one night, one of the male servers took me aside & said “Look, that manager is making sexual remarks & gestures about you behind your back.” This server was a super nice guy & I was so appreciative of him telling me that even though what he told me made me want to curl up in a ball & die. Naturally, that manager was the one closing the restaurant that night, so at the end of the night I had to go to him to cash out my tips. I was so damn nervous walking into that office at the back of the building. My heart is beating a little faster just thinking about it now, & that was 14 years ago, because I still remember how awful he made me feel. Anyway, I walked into the office to find him sitting at the desk smoking (you could still smoke in restaurants back then) & chatting with one of the dishwashers. The dishwasher looked at the manager & said “Man, you look like some kind of Italian don back here smoking at that desk.” And the manager looked as me & said “Yeah, & I’ve got this bitch paying me money.” And that did it. Even at 20 years old & scared to death I knew I was not going to let some asshole talk to me like that, much less someone who was effectively my boss & who was consistently rude to me, both to my face & behind my back. I told him right then & there, in no uncertain terms, that I couldn’t control how he talked to or about the other girls in that restaurant but as for me I expected to be respected at work. He looked at me like I had three heads, then handed me my money, & I ran out of that restaurant as fast as my legs could carry me. I cried all the way home, certain that this man was going to find a way to get me fired, or at the very least to make everyone else working there hate me.

Looking back on it, I realize now that he probably had more to be worried about than I did. After all, I could have told the general managers that he was sexually harassing me & HE could have been fired. It took everything in me to show up to work the next day, & I was terrified when one of the general managers called me to the office to talk. She about blew me away when she told me that the assistant manager had mentioned an incident between us & she wanted to hear my side of the story. I was so embarrassed but I told her what had happened, & she assured me that I would have no future issues with this man. As it turned out, she was 100% correct. To my absolute amazement, he & I actually got along very well after that, & I was genuinely sorry when he left to go to another restaurant. As frustrating as it was at the time, I’m actually glad that happened because it taught me a very important lesson about standing up for myself, & I’d like to think maybe I taught HIM an important lesson too. I’ve thought back on that incident so many times in my life because I think it was a true watershed moment for me. It was when I realized that being nice didn’t necessarily mean that others would respond in kind, yet standing up for yourself can sometimes be all that’s necessary to get someone to respect you. And now perhaps you can see why that line “when I walk away you’ll say ‘damn, that bitch is legendary” resonates so strongly with me.

That was a digression but it felt necessary. Now don’t get me wrong- I still very much want to BE a nice person. I genuinely value kindness & compassion. I will always hold those as two of my most important values in life, along with empathy- which is actually a prerequisite for true kindness & compassion, if you ask me. Furthermore, for better or worse, I think there will always be a part of me that wants to be liked by everyone. (The fact that I’m writing this is probably proof of that.) But I’m no longer willing to sacrifice my own self-worth or ideals in order to make that happen. At the end of the day, yes, I still want to be remembered as nice, but more importantly I want to be remembered as legendary- that is to say, as someone who stood up for herself & for others in need of advocacy & as someone who never compromised her beliefs or values to please others, no matter who they may be. And if that makes me unlikeable to some folks? Well, that’s ok. The truth is you can never please everyone anyway.

To end this, I’d like to include two other Halestorm songs whose lyrics have been a great comfort to me on this subject.

Bombshell (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDcKfwQRQfc):

Be a good girl, play along
Wear your short skirt, sing your song

And zip it up, zip it up
Cause we don’t like when you speak up, you speak up
Just bite your tongue & give it up, give it up
Well, I got news for all of you fools

You better suck it up, suck it up
You’re never gonna shut me up, shut me up

Baby, I’m a bombshell, (bombshell)
I’ll light you up
Like a bombshell, (bombshell)

Girl behave & know your place
Paint a smile upon your face

And zip it up, zip it up
‘Cause we don’t like it when you’re tough, when you’re tough
Just shut your mouth & give it up, give it up
Well, I got plans for all of you man

You better suck it up, suck it up
You’re never gonna shut me up, shut me up
Baby, I’m a bombshell, (bombshell)
I’ll light you up
Like a bombshell, (bombshell)

Strange Girl (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKqPIpVT_FY)

Would you call me daughter?
Would you love me when
My halo’s bent & crooked? When you call me malcontent?
Sad, sicker than usual
Can’t you be more like the Girl Next Door
Instead of Little Miss Misfit?

So you can damn me straight to hell
You can crucify my name
You can throw me to the wolves
You can burn me in the flame
And say, “She’s such a strange girl
Such a strange girl”
The world needs strange girls
Just like me

10 Reasons Why Ronnie Radke is a Genius

It’s only in the past year or so that I’ve fallen in love with the musical genius of Ronnie Radke. I have to thank a friend, who actually doesn’t much care for Ronnie, for introducing me to him when he referenced one of Ronnie’s oldest songs with the timeless line “Why do good girls like bad guys?” When he said that, I realized I didn’t actually know that song- though I certainly recognized the sentiment- nor who Ronnie really was. Cue quick Wikipedia read-through, & I swiftly filed Ronnie away under the category of rock stars who are very much not my type (musically or personally). Why was I so quick to reject him? Well, his Wikipedia page discusses his imprisonment, drug use, accusations of domestic violence (never proven), & a myriad of other less than flattering situations, so can you really blame me for saying “No thanks, not someone I’m interested in learning more about or whose music I care to know”?

In any case, over the next few weeks for some reason I kept running into Ronnie’s name & decided to check out some of his music as well as some of his interviews. I soon came to realize that I had judged him far too quickly- & far too harshly. I still remember the first time I listened to The Drug in Me is Reimagined & asking myself “How is this the same guy I read about on Wikipedia & dismissed so quickly?” The gorgeous piano ballad that builds up into a serious rock opera is absolutely brilliant, & suddenly I knew I couldn’t ignore Ronnie anymore. Someone who could take one of his old pop-punk type songs & transform it- with the exact same lyrics- into a rock opera just HAD to be someone worth knowing more about. Then came the interviews Ronnie has done with Ryan J Downey over the years, & those REALLY changed my mind about him. These are not your typical rock star interviews- they’re more akin to therapy sessions than traditional interviews. Some date back as far as 2013- not long before his daughter was born- & others are as recent as 2021. You can find them all on YouTube, & I strongly encourage you to check them out if you want to have a better understanding of who Ronnie is. Or if you just want to hear the story of someone who has overcome some pretty insane obstacles in his life- some of which I will discuss below.

So, on that note, here are 10 reasons why I- a proverbial good girl- like Ronnie Radke- a proverbial bad guy- though I like to think these reasons are far less superficial than one usually assumes when someone uses that phrase.

  1. He can make almost any kind of music. I think the only thing I haven’t heard Ronnie do is a straight-up country song (though the closing song on Fashionably Late definitely has some country vibes). From the insanely fast rapping on his brand new song Watch the World Burn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMXESlny4-I) to the piano ballad/rock opera of the aforementioned The Drug in Me is Reimagined (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2cbhYihBWY) & I’m Not a Vampire Revamped (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nWmBJxW9q0), the man is a true musical genius. You want pop punk? Check out Fashionably Late (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPoaKxm4wDg). You want more traditional rock/metal? Check out Zombified (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDDz1Er2IXA). You want rap + metal breakdowns with operatic vocals sprinkled in? Check out the aforementioned new song Watch the World Burn or Voices in My Head (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7_e_NY-f3g). I could go on & on, but if it weren’t for his distinctive voice, it would at times be hard to believe that the same man is writing & performing all these songs- but he is. How many other bands can lay claim to a singer with such versatile abilities? Not many. That’s not a diss on anyone else. But whatever you say about Ronnie, you cannot objectively say he isn’t talented.
  2. He has overcome an incredibly painful childhood. As is referenced often in his lyrics, Ronnie’s mother left him, his brother, & their dad when Ronnie was just a toddler, largely because of her drug addiction. He has had essentially no relationship with her from there on out. Obviously, this led to some major issues in his life- & probably still does. But he’s the first to admit that. In Just Like You he sings “You don’t wanna be too close to me ’cause you might see my broken heartI’m just a boy who’s angry at his mom.” In interviews & in his recently released autobiography (cowritten by Ryan J Downey, the interviewer I mentioned earlier), Ronnie has talked about how it took him a long time to learn how to have healthy relationships with women because of his relationship- or lack thereof- with his mother. It’s this kind of insight & willingness to examine his own past that has led to the more mature version of Ronnie we see today. Which leads me right into the next point.
  3. Despite a litany of toxic relationships– which no doubt inspired Bad Girls Club (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzLZN1K-PUE– side note: Ronnie now calls this song “cringey” but I must confess I have a soft spot for it- it’s a brilliant way to show that women can be toxic too)- Ronnie has now managed to establish & maintain what by all reports is a very healthy long term relationship. Since at least 2019 he has been in a serious relationship with Saraya Bevis- aka Paige of WWE. I gained a whole new respect for Ronnie when I watched an interview Saraya did in which she discussed their relationship & how he helped her achieve sobriety, took care of her after her neck surgery, & generally encouraged her to be the healthiest version of herself (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-wQ7hwGZ_M). Perhaps most impressive was the fact that after years of being good friends, she finally confessed to Ronnie her true feelings for him, but because of a recent breakup she had experienced, Ronnie encouraged her to wait a while before beginning a relationship with him because he didn’t want to hurt her, nor did he want to risk their relationship not working out because he wanted it as much as she did. Especially considering how absolutely gorgeous Saraya is, the fact that Ronnie had that kind of foresight & self control is impressive. And it paid off! Because after she took some time to heal, as he had suggested, they did end up together & have been together ever since. Maybe some people preferred the wilder, womanizing Ronnie, but I much prefer this version.
  4. As I’ve already referenced, Ronnie is not afraid to admit his past mistakes. Whether it’s confessing that he now finds songs like Bad Girls Club & Alone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcbOfVKSMkA) “cringey,” calling himself an idiot for throwing a mic stand into a crowd, expressing extreme regret over the fight that eventually led to his imprisonment (see below), or admitting embarrassment about his past Tweets, this is a guy who is not afraid to say he’s made some major mistakes. Considering some of the things he’s done, I couldn’t admire him the way I do if he weren’t capable of such honesty.
  5. He overcame imprisonment. Yes, Ronnie went to prison. No, he isn’t a murderer as the internet loves to claim. He was involved in a fight in the desert outside Vegas in which someone else fired a weapon that killed another man. Because Ronnie was involved in setting up the fight & because he had brass knuckles in his pocket (that incidentally were never used), he was arrested for various charges. But what actually sent him to prison for 2.5 years was violating his probation related to the previous charges. This happened largely because of his drug use & the fact that he was touring with his band & inevitably missed parole check-ins. As you might expect, while he was in prison, Ronnie’s original band Escape the Fate fired him. I can’t say I truly blame them in light of the circumstances- after all Ronnie was an addict when he went to prison, so he was a mess all around. In any case, Ronnie used his time in prison to form a new band (Falling in Reverse) & write what would become their debut album The Drug in Me is You. Obviously that was no small feat & most people in his situation would have just given up on their dreams. Not Ronnie. He just used it as fuel to light the fire under his own feet. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that Falling in Reverse ended up being a way bigger band than Escape the Fate? Yep.
  6. Speaking of drugs, Ronnie has overcome opiate addiction. He used, or at least tried, other drugs too, but opiates, including heroin, were his drug of choice. Experiencing opiate withdrawal in prison was no picnic but Ronnie did it, & furthermore while in prison he realized that drugs weren’t making him more creative or fueling his artistic dreams. In fact, they were only having a deleterious effect on his life & career. Despite the many temptations I’m sure he has faced since his release, he has remained sober ever since. In fact, he cut out alcohol entirely a few years ago too, even though he had never had the same struggles with that as with opiates. But again, he realized it was an unhealthy distraction from greater things. I suppose some people like their rock stars to have crazy tales of drunkenness & debauchery- but not me. I prefer mine smart & sober. They make better music that way, & they’re a lot less likely to suffer an early death.
  7. He says whatever he wants & doesn’t bow to political correctness. Just check out the lyrics to Zombified if you want Ronnie’s feelings on cancel culture. He is someone who even the rock world has tried to cancel at times. After all, with his past he is very easy to vilify. It’s sad to see how even after being sober for years, the media has often continued to refer to him as a drug user- as if that’s all he’s ever been or ever will be! Are there times when I don’t agree with everything Ronnie says or does? Of course. But I don’t even agree with my own HUSBAND all the time. I can’t expect rock stars to always think the same as I do! That would be boring. I’ll give you a very timely example. On the recent Shiprocked cruise, Ronnie called out Atilla frontman Chris Fronzak. I’m not going to go into detail, but I found most of the “beef” between these two to be quite childish & silly. Having said that, I also don’t put it past Ronnie (or Chris) to have ignited this “beef” just to get their names in the headlines right before the release of the band’s newest song. I mean, it’s free publicity. I might not necessarily approve of the tactic- but I can’t deny the genius there because it certainly worked!
  8. Despite the original tension between the bands- very understandable of course- Ronnie has actually made up with his former band Escape the Fate. They have actually toured together many times. In fact, they’re on tour together right now. I’m seeing them both this weekend, & I can’t wait! (That is, if I can get over this miserable strep throat that has made me far, far sicker than I was with Covid last year. Sighhhh…)
  9. Ronnie is proof that we CAN escape our fate (yes, that’s a reference to his original band’s name). Here’s a man from a broken family- whose MOTHER abandoned him- who ended up addicted to opiates & in prison by the age of 25. And yet, here he is- at almost 40- more successful than he’s ever been! He’s co-headlining a tour with Papa Roach for the second time in the past few months & they’re selling out arenas left & right. His last 3 singles have all hit #1 on rock radio, despite being very much outside of the typical rock radio format. His latest music video hit 1 million views in 24 hrs (maybe less). He’s published his autobiography. He has stayed sober for over a decade, & despite the fact that their relationship ended poorly, he has maintained a healthy, working relationship with his daughter’s mother & has always been a part of his daughter’s life, regardless of any issues between him & her mother. Whether you like Ronnie or his music or not, you can’t deny that he has truly turned his life around. There are so many points in his life when Ronnie could have just given up & consigned himself to his natural “fate,” but he never has. And THAT is inspiring!
  10. As a natural follow up to the last point, Ronnie is proof that people CAN change, that we can in fact evolve into better versions of ourselves, regardless of our past or the obstacles we face. I think it’s fair to say that the Ronnie of the past decade or so is not the same Ronnie the world knew in his Escape the Fate days, or even his early Falling in Reverse days. (I wouldn’t even like him if he hadn’t evolved.) He has changed so much about himself- everything from his hair/fashion to his on-stage persona to his musical style. Watching his old videos, it’s hard to believe that the Ronnie of the 2020s is the same man as the 2006 Ronnie with Nikki Sixx style hair & eyeliner. It wasn’t a bad look, especially at the time, but I much prefer the more natural look he’s going with these days. The long black hair- that isn’t teased up like the 80s- the much plainer clothes, & the blacked out tattoos all serve to showcase his Native American features that make him naturally gorgeous (e.g. the shape of his eyes, his high cheekbones, his elegant skin tone- he is part Blackfoot Native American). Ronnie will be the first to admit that his older appearance & even some of his older songs make him cringe. But hey, who among us doesn’t have parts of our past that make us cringe? On a more serious note, while Ronnie has incorporated various music styles for most of his career, it’s in the past decade that he has really perfected the ability to blend everything from rap to metal to rock opera. He is equal parts Eminem, Corey Taylor, & Freddie Mercury. I realize some people find that disconcerting or confusing, but I find it inspiring. Most importantly, Ronnie has learned how to apologize for his past mistakes, how to analyze his own behavior, & how to better control his temper. No doubt all of these things have contributed to the greater & greater success he is now seeing. He still makes mistakes, as we all do. But at the end of the day, he is continually learning, growing, & trying to be better. Combine his messy past with his current success, & it’s safe to say that Ronnie is one of the most relatable rock stars of the day. It’s so easy at times to condemn him, but when you really think about it, most of the time he’s likely no worse than the average person- he just gets a lot more media attention for his mistakes than most of us do! After all, as his own song says, “I am aware that I am an asshole/I really don’t care about all of that though/I’m living my life the way that I want to/And you can’t deny/That honestly I’m just like you.”

The Unexpected Genius of Miley Cyrus

Ahh, Flowers by Miley Cyrus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7KNmW9a75Y). It’s all the rage these days, filling up my social media timeline & sparking new memes galore. And for once I’m actually in the know about a pop song! Shocking, I know. Usually I am either blissfully unaware of pop music or I intentionally ignore it like the plague. In fact I told my therapist the other week that I almost pathologically ignore anything that is overly popular in society, whether that’s movies, music, TV shows, or books. It’s something that may or may not be healthy. Anyway, THIS time my curiosity got the better of me & I’m glad it did. Last week the song showed up on my YouTube recommendations- which is a bit odd because I still only know a grand total of three Miley Cyrus songs, the other two being five to ten years old at this point. And I certainly don’t listen to enough other pop music to trigger the pop algorithm. But in any case, it showed up & I was intrigued- but not enough to truly check it out. HOWEVER, after seeing so much about the song on social media, I couldn’t help doing a quick Google search on it to try to better understand the popularity of the song. That was enough to get me curious again & THEN I noticed that one of my favorite YouTube channels did a reaction video to the song. Considering I have a lot in common with the musical tastes of the guys who run the channel, I decided to watch their reaction video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6fkvQEEGds) & thus check out the song that way. As it turns out, I was just as enthralled by the genius of the song as they were. But I’m not sure that I love it for the same reasons everyone else does (or seems to).

I see a lot of people comparing this song to Goodbye Earl by the Dixie Chicks (yeah, yeah, I know they go by simply The Chicks now but they’ll always be the Dixie Chicks to me), & while I can certainly see why that’s a tempting comparison, I’m not sure it’s actually as fitting as a lot of folks think. Now there are internet rumors that Miley filmed the Flowers video at a house where her ex-husband (Liam Hemsworth- I couldn’t have told you who her ex-husband was before last week) cheated on her with some 14 other women. While I haven’t done a deep dive, a cursory Google search tells me that Miley has explicitly stated that infidelity was NOT the reason for her & Liam’s divorce, so I’m inclined to say there’s nothing much to substantiate such rumors. Plus, if you really look at the lyrics, this to me is not actually a revenge song- & that’s why it’s so brilliant.

You see, the reason I love this song is that it encourages people (especially women) to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship with themselves first. As trite as it may sound, I truly believe that’s the only foundation for a stable, mature, fulfilling relationship with anyone else anyway. So if you don’t have that, all of your other relationships will suffer & perhaps fail altogether. I’ve never been a fan of Miley- in fact I struggle to think of her as anything other than the scantily clad girl who twerked with Robin Thicke a decade ago- but this song has made me read up on her a bit more & give her a lot more respect. For example, I think it was very insightful how she talked about her & Liam clinging to each other & jumping into marriage in the aftermath of the fire that burned down their house & realizing later that, while that may have seemed logical at the time, it didn’t actually erase all their prior issues or magically make their relationship healthy. Furthermore, I love that she acknowledges that even though their relationship wasn’t perfect, she still misses it at times. Now, isn’t that true for all of us? Whether it’s an ex-partner, a town where we used to live, or even a job, there are so many things & people in our lives that are ultimately toxic or hurtful, yet we still find ourselves missing them at times. That’s just human nature. And I think acknowledging that is incredibly important. Furthermore, Miley never tears down her ex in the song- in fact she says she forgives him for everything. Thus, I see this as a very mature way to heal from a relationship that was clearly imperfect but also very important in her life.

Now is it possible- as internet rumors tell us- that she chose the suit she wears towards the end of the video because it was Liam’s & he wore it at a movie premier where he rather cheekily told her to “behave for once”? Yes, that’s possible, & I can’t say I blame her (though, having watched the brief clip from that movie premier, I can’t totally blame him for what he said either). Is it also possible that she shows off her incredibly well toned body in the video in a sort of “Ha! See what you’re missing!” manner? Yes, that’s entirely possible also, & again, I can’t say I blame her.

While Flowers was clearly based on a romantic relationship, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the other reason I love it so much. The beauty of art- especially music- is that it can be interpreted in multiple ways, even ways that might not have been intended by the artist. So, while I cannot relate to this song in the sense of a failed marriage, I can relate to it in other ways. When I listen to it (& inevitably sing along), I’m not thinking about an ex-husband or partner who did me wrong. Instead I’m thinking about society in general (as well as certain people in particular) who have rejected me, ignored me, or generally told me I’m not good enough, disappointing, or otherwise not up to par. As much as I sometimes long for greater acceptance by certain groups or people or society in general, at the end of the day I have to remind myself that it’s MY conscience I have to sleep with at night. And if that means that in some areas of life I will always be a bit of an outsider, well- that’s ok.

After all, “I can buy myself flowers/Write my name in the sand/Talk to myself for hours/Say things you don’t understand/I can take myself dancing/And I can hold my own hand/Yeah, I can love me better than you can.

Now, don’t y’all worry- I haven’t gone totally soft. I’m still listening to plenty of the heavy stuff. In fact, just last night I discovered a new (to me) German metal band that I’m geeking out about. AND I’m counting down the days till I get to see Papa Roach & Falling in Reverse in a few weeks.

Best Albums of 2022

It that’s time of year again- time for my annual album hall of fame post. As usual, these albums are almost entirely rock/metal because that’s the majority of what I listen to. Also, I’d like to add that I am by no means a professional music reviewer. I do not have access to every album that is put out- I don’t even have Spotify or Apple Music! All I have are a TON of CDs & YouTube. And Octane/Liquid Metal when I’m riding in my husband’s vehicle. I’m old school & that’s just all there is to it. Plus, I feel like musicians get ripped off by streaming services so I’d rather support them by buying their physical albums as well as their merch, & of course concert tickets when I can. Be prepared- this is a long list because there were SO many good albums this year. I tried to cut it off at 20, which is more than I usually do, but I just couldn’t. And I’m sure I still forgot some worthy albums! As usual, other than the first few, these are in no particular order. So, without further ado, here are MY choices for the best (e.g. my favorite) albums of 2022.

Fever Dream by Palaye Royale: Oh man, there is so much I could say about this amazing album. It is a true opus for the Palaye brothers. The title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6sMdysAYNk) is arguably the most epic song they’ve ever created, which is saying a lot considering their incredible catalog of music. Between the touching lyrics, the stunning guitar solos, & the brilliant music video, it’s the culmination of everything Palaye have ever done. Line It Up (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5ZxO2YnFOE) is a gorgeous duet with LP in which her voice & Remington’s blend absolutely perfectly. Lyrically it’s a song I think almost everyone can relate to in the sense of wanting to escape the drudgeries of everyday life & wanting something different than our parents. Then there’s Oblivion (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FgGWmKg49A) with its haunting lyrics & video, not to mention the stunning Punching Bag (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WzprXZGoLs). And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the more upbeat, almost pop-sounding No Love in LA (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qePhiiz7dtc)- which also has a fantastic music video & lays bare the superficiality of Hollywood & the whole LA scene. Lastly be sure to check out the gorgeous Broken (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrUM4tVpmRc) & the accompanying video which, along with Oblivion, was filmed in Prague. I could go on & on about this album but suffice it to say that it is most deserving of the title Album of the Year.

Scoring the End of the World by Motionless in White: I fell in love with MIW the first time I heard Reincarnate & I’ve been a diehard fan ever since. With every record the band has matured & progressed in new ways & this album is no exception. From the “softer” songs like Masterpiece (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbFaVDfkI00) & Porcelain (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19_OhhHXWdk) to the crushing heaviness of Slaughterhouse (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbVXWcB5xAg), this album proves that the MIW boys can do it all. Furthermore, the lyrics on this album are some of Chris’s best ever. From more introspective songs like Masterpiece to more social commentary songs like Slaughterhouse & Red, White, & Boom (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bowj8NkSX4Q) Chris held nothing back this time. I also can’t fail to mention the 80’s inspired Werewolf which even my kindergartener loves. It has a terrific video too (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzojuv9zMGA). Lastly, I must mention Cyberhex (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmjQVRtxS4E) with its soaring vocals & touching lyrics which Chris described as a love letter to the fans.

Holy Fvck by Demi Lovato: I actually already wrote a whole post inspired by one of the songs on this album, but yet again I must say that if you had told me earlier this year that I’d have Demi Lovato on this list, I’d have laughed. But the joke’s on me because this album is truly amazing, & I’m so glad that I was willing to overcome my own biases & check it out. It’s not the heaviest rock album of the year by any means, but it’s no pop album either. Regardless, it rocks. Lyrically Demi has blown me away with the raw outpourings of her heart in tracks like 29 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bEQv1uf5v0) & Happy Ending (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usKh7fLTjj4). The former is written about a relationship she had with a 29 yr old when she was just 17. It’s not one I can personally relate to but I know quite a few women who can. In fact I probably know more women who can relate to it than I even realize because this is a subject people often don’t speak on. The latter, Happy Ending, contains what might be my favorite lyrics of the entire year: “Sure I’m sober now & everybody’s proud, but I miss my vices/And I tried to be your hero/I lent you my voice/ I was your poster child, it was working for a while/But it didn’t fill the void/Am I gonna die trying to find my happy ending?/And will I ever know what it’s like to be fine without pretending/That my skin isn’t crawling/My demons aren’t calling & tearing me to shreds?/Am I gonna die trying to find my happy ending?” Whew, if that doesn’t touch your heart, I don’t know what will. Yet on some level I think we’ve all felt this way at times, even if we haven’t experienced the vagaries of celebrity & fame like Demi has. Another favorite of mine & the one I wrote about recently, is Eat Me ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSmvW2sZ3ZU) which is an incredibly fun song that is all about claiming your own identity instead of conforming to the whims of those around you. Lastly, I want to mention Skin of My Teeth (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgrC_h8-2FM) & Substance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzUKeGZiEl0), both of which touch on Demi’s substance abuse struggles in the past. It’s so easy to dismiss celebrities with drug problems as spoiled brats who don’t know how good they have it, but tracks like these make you realize how similar these people are to everyday folks who struggle with the exact same issues. This album has made realize even more than ever that there is nothing about celebrities’ lives that I envy. Even if you’re a hardcore rock/metal fan who never listens to anything else, I implore you to at least check out a few of the tracks from this album. Demi doesn’t have to be your new heroine (she isn’t mine either), but I think you’d be short sighted not to give this album at least one spin.

Back from the Dead by Halestorm: Considering Lzzy Hale is one of my all-time favorite rock stars it should come as no surprise to see this album here. From the soaring title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srT0pgC_yto) that speaks about defeating the demons of depression to the incredibly fun Wicked Ways (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaV7WY3_6Hk&list=RDzaV7WY3_6Hk&start_radio=1), this album starts off with a real bang. This is a fantastic album for any woman (or man) who has ever felt suppressed, ridiculed, belittled, or generally “othered.” Take Strange Girl (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKqPIpVT_FY) which was written about Lzzy’s bisexuality- yet it’s done in such a way that anyone who has ever been viewed as “strange” for any reason can relate. The self-empowerment of tracks like My Redemption (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjHwC3Kg8DE) is also a joy to behold.

Of Kingdom & Crown by Machinehead: I’ve been listening to rock & metal for my entire adult life & yet somehow I never got into Machinehead until this year. Oops! Anyway, this year I found myself listening to vocalist Rob Flynn’s podcast on YouTube because he has interviewed many of my favorite artists like Andy Black, Spencer Charnas, & Brent Smith. Because of this, YouTube recommended the song No Gods, No Masters (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgSHazBbDNU) from this album. From the very first listen I was blown away by Robb’s voice & the guitar & vocal melodies & harmonies. I had to hear more. Next, I found Choke on the Ashes of Your Hate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxyxGqLm8fU), which is considerably heavier, & I knew this was an album I needed to hear from top to bottom. As it turns out, it really is best listened to that way because it’s a concept album that was actually loosely inspired by the anime Attack on Titan that Robb watched with his sons over quarantine. He was inspired by the anime to write a record where there’s no clear protagonist or antagonist. Both of the main characters do really bad things but in their minds feel that they are heroes because they feel justified in their wrongdoing. If that’s not a summary of human existence, I don’t know what is! Needless to say, it makes for a brilliant album. From the epic 10 minute opener Slaughter the Martyr (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc0s9Q9WROI) to the ending track Arrows in Words From the Sky (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-g_QIia-50), this album does not disappoint. I’m particularly impressed with the harmonies between Robb & bassist Jared McEachern. Needless to say, I’m now making my way through Machinehead’s back catalog, but I daresay this is their best album yet.

Spirits by Nothing More: Arguably their heaviest album to date, Spirits does not disappoint. From the stirring opener Stand in the Fire (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbWr515vhkw) to the rousing closer Spirits, this album is musically high energy & yet lyrically incredibly introspective & philosophical, as one expects from the brilliant Jonny Hawkins. Perhaps my favorite track is Valhalla (Too Young to See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awRxMSs1vRc). Lyrically I can relate to it so much, which is often true with this band, perhaps because of the similar background Jonny & I have, having grown up in conservative religious households in the South. Also be sure to check out You Don’t Know What Love Means (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ll8aJ5IiEP4) which Jonny has stated was inspired partly by his father saying those exact words to his sister years ago when their mother was dying of cancer & his sister was struggling with drug addiction. It’s an excellent treatise on how we often abuse the word & concept of love because we don’t understand what love actually is. Lastly, I must mention The Other F Word (Call Out the Fake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpIXbUVGyL4). In a world where social media & political correctness rule, this is exactly the kind of wakeup call we all need from time to time.

Love, Drugs, & Misery by Eva Under Fire: If you love strong female vocalists like Lzzy Hale or Taylor Momsen, then Eva Under Fire is for you. The album starts off with a bang with Blow (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7A5XMG5fUo) which features Spencer Charnas from INK. Other highlights include Another Shot Through the Heart & Misery, both of which- like most of the album- have incredible 80s rock vibes. Also be sure to check out the powerful ballads The Strong (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjfFOnvAl3Y) & Heroin(e), the latter of which is extremely personal to vocalist Amanda Lyberg as both of her parents were opioid addicts (her mother has recovered but unfortunately her father did not survive his addiction). Heroin(e) was also featured in the movie Sno Babies which is about the opioid crisis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smnkcKe52Ic). Overall, this is one of those albums that is truly great from start to finish.

True Power by I Prevail: I remember when I Prevail first burst onto the scene with their epic cover of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space, & it’s been a lot of fun to watch their rise to fame from such humble beginnings. Despite loving their initial EP & LP, I actually wasn’t a big fan of their second album Trauma. However, this year’s album is another story. Both lyrically & musically it is an incredibly well written album. My favorite track is the hard-hitting Body Bag (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEzYKLLUAI4) which is a fantastic song for getting your mind out of the excuse zone & into the “let’s get it DONE” zone. Other stand-out tracks include FWYTYK (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASr-WjLZs7U), There’s Fear in Letting Go (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2PYtvIYDHE), & Visceral (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1t9h-bugGrU).

AfterLife by Five Finger Death Punch: FFDP are one of those bands that metal elitists love to hate but I couldn’t care less. I’ve loved them for over a decade now & I’m not about to stop. Lyrically there is no doubt that this is Ivan’s best work, which is clearly influenced by his sobriety & overall improved mental health. It would probably be fair to say that musically this is the band’s “softest” work to date, but the subject matter of the lyrics is anything from light. Opening track Welcome to the Circus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD0E_Gj9xMk) is probably the most “traditional” FFDP song on the album & it doesn’t disappoint. Judgment Day is arguably the most experimental song the band has ever done & was inspired by Ivan’s near-death experience that preceded his final trip to rehab when he finally achieved long term sobriety. Thanks for Asking (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tfTLvsXQmQ) is another favorite of mine. This is one of those records where I glean something new every time I listen to it.

Planet Zero by Shinedown: If we had to suffer through a worldwide pandemic, at least we got some amazing albums out of it, one of those being this album. Shinedown have been very open about the fact that the pandemic & all the things that happened as a result of it were a direct influence on this record. The title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IipnUpoW-58) is one of my all-time favorite Shinedown songs, & it’s definitely my favorite song inspired by the pandemic. Lyrically & musically it is simply perfect. The emotionally charged Daylight (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oE5qvvhvORQ) is another great one you don’t want to miss. Back to the heavier side, check out the snarky Saints of Violence & Innuendo (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghrrjUz0qNw) & America Burning (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrLguoBRj9k).

Ego Trip by Papa Roach: Could Papa Roach make a bad album if they tried? Probably not- they’re just that good. Anyway, the album starts off with the heavy-hitting Kill the Noise (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_90GB5T73XI) & continues for a total of 14 songs which cover the entire realm of the band’s diverse capabilities. Don’t miss the emotional ballad Leave a Light On or the title track with its incredibly fun music video that was shot in Mexico City (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtHNtA2Fn90). Dying to Believe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0s_xIEDnAw) & Cut the Line are my other favorites here.

Impera by Ghost: I guess I’m late to the party, but I was never into Ghost before this album. Frankly, I just thought they were kind of- well- boring. But earlier this year I read an article about this album in Revolver magazine & I knew I had to give it try. I immediately fell in love with the epic opening track Kaiserion (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gu32wkmix9k) & even more so with the 80s-sounding Spillways (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9DV1eHQpcA) which remains my favorite on this album. Other highlights include Hunter’s Moon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtkaUZvMaG8) & Griftwood (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6WA06fNscc&list=RDd6WA06fNscc&start_radio=1), both of which have some insanely catchy guitar riffs. I’m also happy to report that I’ve gone back & listened to some of Ghost’s older music & now appreciate it a lot more (especially Rats- how had I missed that one?), but I still maintain that this is their best work yet.

Gifts From the Holy Ghost by Dorothy: I saw Dorothy open for Halestorm back in 2016, & I’ve been in love with her incredible voice ever since. However, her second album just didn’t really stir me the way her first one did. This year’s album though feels like a return to her original style & is incredible. From the rousing Black Sheep (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRs8olywhS4) to A Beautiful Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SqPWW7cr18), this is an album that never fails to pump me up & make me smile. Close to Me Always (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gu32wkmix9k) & the title track are also ones you don’t want to miss.

The Death of Peace of Mind by Bad Omens: Considering this band is originally from my home state of VA, I must confess I am late to the party here also. The title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouW_RCAI0sg) caught my attention on Octane this Spring, but when I really fell in love with it was when I heard it played between sets at the Trinity of Terror tour in late April. Not sure why but hearing it then just cemented to me how truly epic the track is. Once I got the album, I realized how incredibly talented Noah & his bandmates are. From heavier tracks like Artificial Suicide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBcUkTXAwbw) to more melodic pieces like Nowhere to Go (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a8CogWA3-Y) & Just Pretend (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekU1dQjMsOQ), there isn’t a wrong note in this whole album. Considering how young Noah is, I am especially impressed with his lyrical & musical maturity & can’t wait to see what else he creates for us in the future.

Welcome to the Chaos by Fame on Fire: I know of this band thanks entirely to seeing them open for the Trinity of Terror tour. They really grabbed my attention live with Plastic Smile (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3Te8RLeL98), & thus I looked them up on YouTube not long after the concert. I soon realized this is a very talented band who can cover a large variety of musical territory. They remind me a bit of fellow Floridians A Day to Remember, in that regard. Anyhow, other favorites include the title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGj5HdQruQE), which features Spencer Charnas from INK, Emo Shit (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ub8rixwLuSw), & Lost in Doubt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTJjQ3QX3Y8), but there seriously isn’t a bad song on this entire album. Well worth a listen from top to bottom.

How To Let Go by Sigrid: Yes, I do in fact have a pop record on here. And this is it! I know of Sigrid, who hails from Sweden, entirely thanks to the duet Bad Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4552tadeuM) she did with Bring Me the Horizon. I came across it & figured it was worth a listen since BMTH were involved. Immediately I fell in love with Sigrid’s gorgeous voice & the inspiring message of the song. Thankfully I decided to explore this album a bit further because I found the absolute gems of Burning Bridges (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udRAIF6MOm8) & It Gets Dark (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4j7LGMc9ZGU). Everything about Sigrid is exactly what I wish had been popular when I was a teenage girl. Here is a young female pop star with a phenomenal voice who also plays piano, dresses fairly conservatively- a far cry from the Britney Spears of my youth, that’s for sure- & writes lyrics that have actual substance & aren’t just about being a sex toy for much older men. How refreshing! Consider these lyrics from Mirror (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7lr7pU9fYA): “It took me walking away to really know/I love who I see looking at me/In the mirror, in the mirror/Nothing compares to the feeling right there/In the mirror, in the mirror/I needed loneliness to know there’s nothing I can’t turn into confidence.” Pop songs I can listen to with my 6 year-old daughter & know that she’s getting an uplifting message? Say what? Yes, I love it!

Rakshak by Bloodywood: If you know me in real life or have been following this blog for a while, you may know that I have a bit of an obsession with Indian culture- everything from food to Bollywood- so it should come as no surprise that I was thrilled to discover Bloodywood, an Indian folk-metal band. These men have found a way to combine traditional Indian music with metal & rap- bloody genius! My favorite track is Dana Dan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a65A626Ed20) which became even more powerful for me once I realized the song is a stand against sexual assault & rape. Listen to the song & Google the lyrical translation (some of the words are English but some are Hindi &/or Punjabi) to grasp the full weight of the message. Gaddaar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a65A626Ed20) is another highlight, but really the whole album is a journey that shouldn’t be missed.

Dark Sun by Dayseeker: Apparently this is Dayseeker’s fifth album but this year is the first they’ve come across my radar. I’m so glad they finally did because this record is a real treat. From the heaviness of the opening track Dreamstate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7abxfS42lqs) to the acoustic Paper Heart (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x63lP7wK5Ic), this is a band that knows how to convey powerful emotions across a wide variety of musical landscapes. Furthermore, much like Noah of Bad Wolves, vocalist Rory Rodriguez has one of those perfectly smooth voices that can make just about anything sound good. Crying While You’re Dancing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x63lP7wK5Ic) might be my favorite on this record, with its touching lyrics about the superficiality of life as well as the lovely guitar solo near the end. It’s either that or Neon Grave (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg7SUe8nOik) which Rory wrote (along with much of this record) about the death of his father. Anyone who has ever lost someone they love will be able to relate to this touching song, which feels especially relevant at this time of the year when family means so much.

Pain Remains by Lorna Shore: Ah, Lorna Shore, a band I’d probably never heard of prior to the past few months. But here lately their name is everywhere- & rightly so. Most bands don’t survive having a lead singer leave once. Yet here is a band that is now on their THIRD lead singer & is now bigger than ever. With the captivating & energetic Will Ramos at the helm, it seems this ship is finally on course. The album ends with the Pain Remains trilogy, the first of which (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIw4vAXikgg) is probably my favorite as it’s the one that initially caught my attention & made me say “Holy crap- what is this? I like deathcore?!” As so many other reviews have said, this is deathcore that is so much more than “just” deathcore- it’s deathcore that deserves to be played in an opera house.

Explosions by Three Days Grace: This album starts off with a banger with So Called Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ViIny2YZH0), a song that perfectly encapsulates the angst of living through a worldwide pandemic. On a much softer token, check out Lifetime (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IToGQoIKgr8) which is another great song that anyone who has ever lost a loved one will strongly relate to. The touching music video was filmed in Mayfield, Kentucky, the site of a horrific tornado in December 2021. Guitarist Barry Stock lives not too far from there & the band wanted to dedicate this to the community & those who were lost. Also be sure to check out Neurotic (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7e-k9oJn-kI) which includes a great feature from Lukas Rossi.

The End, So Far by Slipknot: No compendium of albums of the year for 2022 would be complete without mentioning the latest effort by Slipknot. From the eerie The Dying Song (Time to Sing) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INi3qP1oWlY) to Yen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FnG9lGLyEM) to Hivemind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIw4vAXikgg) & many others, this album proves once again that Corey Taylor & his crew always have a lot to say, &- like aways- they say it well.

The Mourning by Black Veil Brides (EP): I don’t usually include EPs but BVB are one of my favorite bands, & these 4 songs are excellent examples of their brilliant musicianship, so I felt compelled to include this. Savior II (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXPvviSqFYk) is a follow up to one of their much earlier songs, & really showcases Andy’s voice. Lyrically it speaks on trying to live up to being the role model that he has inevitably become for so many. Also be sure to check out Devil (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0cRT1ehiSM) which is heavier & has a fun music video shot in Mexico City. Also, can we talk about how perfect the album artwork is?

I Rise by Cory Marks (EP): Canadian Cory Mark is flying the flag for country rock & he’s doing a hell of a job of it. He just wrapped up a tour with rock titans Five Finger Death Punch & he’s on Better Noise Music which is a label that’s almost entirely dedicated to rock/metal. This man has found a perfect way to blend the two genres, & as someone who enjoys aspects of both, I love it. An excellent example of this is In Me I Trust (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nGcOc19kz4) which is a fantastic ode to self-empowerment. Burn It Up (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-09GAXe1Mc) is also lots of fun.

Rotoscope by Spiritbox (EP): I’m once again a bit late to the party with Spiritbox but none of their previous music really grabbed me the way this EP did. Obviously Courtney has an excellent voice, but for some reason it wasn’t till this EP that the band really made me stop & give them my full attention. The title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpl28kp5WVA) is borderline danceable & a true pleasure to listen to over & over.

I’ve never done this before with one of these posts, but I’d also like to give a shout out to a handful of singles that will appear on forthcoming albums or EPs that really spoke to me this year.

First, I must mention Zombified & Voices in My Head by Falling in Reverse. Prior to this year I had only a vague idea who Ronne Radkie was, & what little I knew about him didn’t endear him to me. However, after watching many interviews with him (especially the very insightful ones with Ryan J Downey), watching some of his Twitch, & really delving into his lyrics, I must admit that he’s won me over. Do I agree with everything he says or does? No, but I could say the same for almost every rock star (or human being in general) that I like (or actually know in real life). At the end of the day, he’s found a way to completely turn his life around & has written some incredibly brilliant music in the process. I could write a whole blog post about him- & likely will once I read his book (which should be shipping out soon). Anyway, all that to say that Zombified is one of the best songs written about cancel culture & the dangerous groupthink that seems to have taken hold of society these days. It also has a fantastic music video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDDz1Er2IXA). Voices in My Head, which also has a phenomenal music video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7_e_NY-f3g), was written about Ronnie’s struggle with hypochondria but can be applied to many different scenarios in life. It’s also a great song for showcasing the wide variety of musical styles that he & his bandmates are capable of covering.

Lastly, we need to discuss 1984 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7OTUNqAIwY) by Russian deathcore heavyweights Slaughter to Prevail. This song was written in opposition to the war with Ukraine. I believe the video was actually filmed in Russia which was an extremely gutsy thing to do considering the circumstances in the country right now. Vocalist Alex Terrible has been very open about the fact that he & his bandmates are open to fines or even jailtime due to their vocal opposition to the war. Thankfully the band has been able to make their way to the US recently, but they still don’t know how long they’ll be able to stay here & if they will eventually face serious repercussions in their home country for their stance against the war. Lyrically of course the song is very important, but I must also congratulate the guys on their incredible guitar work in this piece. It’s absolutely stunning & makes me very anxious to hear what else they create for us in the future.

I’m sure I’m forgetting someone but I have now provided you with literally HOURS of excellent music to explore, so I hope you will check out at least a few of these, even if they aren’t your typical style. I for one am already excited for some of the new music coming for us in 2023. Speaking of which, my most anticipated albums for next year include Avatar’s Dance Devil Dance (coming in February), Godsmack’s Lighting Up the Sky (also coming in February), & hopefully the already completed but not yet released album from the guys in From Ashes to New (a new favorite band of mine this year).

Is Marriage Overrated?

I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot the past few months but two things spurred me on to finally actually write about this. First, I came across the below graphic that quite succinctly sums up everything I will try to say here. Second, Tom Brady & Giselle’s divorce has been all over the news lately which means the subject of marriage & divorce has been ubiquitous.

Part of the reason I’ve been hesitant to write about this is because I know people from my family & hometown will read this & it will be very tempting for them to assume that I must be having my own marital problems. While I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve definitely had our moments, the truth is my husband & I are still very happily married. Certainly we have disagreements & say things we don’t really mean from time to time. Sure we take each other for granted occasionally & have to find ways to acknowledge that & fix it. But no, we are not getting divorced or separated or even remotely considering doing so. Sorry to disappoint on the gossip front but that’s genuinely the truth. Just had to put that out there before any rumors got started…

Also, I don’t want anyone to read this as an indictment of my parents or anyone in particular. This is more an indictment of SOCIETY, rather than any particular person or group.

Having said all that, my husband & I are at the age now (mid 30s) where we are seeing a fair amount of our friends/colleagues getting divorced, or even remarried after a previous divorce. Probably because of my own naivete & because of how rare divorce is in my own family, I always had this silly idea that our generation would have a lower divorce rate. I think I assumed that because so many of us grew up with divorced parents that we would somehow find a way to avoid repeating the pattern. Deep down I suppose I knew there was nothing special about us & we were likely to make all the same mistakes every other generation has made, but hey, a girl can hope, right?

There’s a lot I want to say here but I want to get this part out of the way first. Despite how much I was taught that marriage is for life & when you say I do that means forever, I actually DON’T think that divorce is the end of the world. Is it ideal? Well, probably not, but LIFE isn’t ideal. What it comes down to is that a lot of marriages were never healthy relationships to begin with, & when you look at it that way, you realize that divorce isn’t always such a tragedy after all. Sometimes it is by far the best option. In other cases, relationships do start out healthy but become “diseased” over time- sometimes simply because people grow & change- & sometimes that means growing apart. Is that ideal? Well, maybe not, but it’s LIFE. In the end I think it does more harm to children, individuals, & society in general for people to stay in unhappy, unhealthy marriages for years on end than to just be rational, end things, & move on. I know multiple people who swear their lives would have been better as kids/teens if their parents had just gotten divorced rather than being miserable together, which sometimes meant taking out their own problems on the child. And I’m sure there are tons of others out there who feel the same way. If you’re reading this & you’re in an unhealthy marriage, that’s something to strongly consider.

I for one find it very interesting that religion (& society in general) places such a strong value on marriage & yet so often does almost nothing to teach people what a healthy relationship actually looks like. All we’re told is “get married, have kids, be faithful, go to church, pray together, make it work.” That all sounds well & good but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, it’s not actually very helpful. Not to mention that because of the religious association with marriage & the fact that divorce is usually viewed as a sin, many people are encouraged to stay in unhealthy- or even downright abusive- relationships. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard older people (& sometimes younger people too) say “Marriages just aren’t the same these days. Not like the good old days. Marriages just don’t last anymore.” What I always want to point out to them- but rarely do for fear of seeming rude- is that there never actually were any good old days. You’re incredibly naive if you think that your grandparents & great grandparents & their parents & grandparents before them all had happy, healthy marriages. I’m sure some did but I’m also sure plenty didn’t. A lot of these people stayed married because they HAD to– they didn’t have any other choice! There was either no legal way to get divorced or else the societal stigma around it would have been so great as to make it effectively impossible. (Not to mention that a lot of women wouldn’t have had a way, outside of marriage, to support themselves or their children. That’s a whole other can of worms.)

What I’m getting is this- the real issue is not so simple as “Oh, people just can’t (or won’t) stay faithful anymore.” The real issue is that society puts so much pressure on us, especially in more rural areas, to get married & have kids but provides us with very little practical advice on how to do so in a healthy manner. (I’m speaking mainly of American culture here, though I suspect this is a problem worldwide, but of course I can only really speak to the culture in which I live.) And why is it that we are given so little direction on building & maintaining healthy relationships? Well, the reasons are myriad of course but I think a significant issue is that a lot of people, even older people, have NEVER experienced a truly healthy relationship themselves, so how could they possibly teach others how to have one? (As an aside, I also think there is a certain amount of resentment among older folks who have experienced their own unhappy marriages who are essentially jealous when they see younger people realizing they don’t have to live in misery forever.)

Seeing as we have now been married over a decade, my husband & I have definitely had our own challenges. We have had to contend with varying communication styles, different love languages, & other such challenges, but because of our genuine connection/friendship & understanding of each other, we have found ways to make it work, ways that actually aren’t even that hard. Do I sincerely hope that we will live up to our marriage vows of “till death do us part?” Of course. But I’m also willing to admit that if we ever get to a point where we are genuinely unhappy & unhealthy together for a long period of time & we cannot find a way to repair things, that I hope we will have the presence of mind to move on before we cause further damage to ourselves, our daughter, or others. I genuinely hope that never happens & I like to think that because of how we have learned to communicate & work together that our chances of avoiding such a fate are quite good. But I also know that life isn’t a fairytale & sometimes things happen that we can’t foresee. That’s just how life is.

To be clear, I am not in any way trying to say that I’m some kind of marriage or relationship guru, but I will say that I do think the relationship my husband & I have is fairly rare & somewhat unique. And for that I am very grateful. But I don’t think such relationships should be as rare as they are. While I am not even going to attempt to write up some kind of “blueprint for a healthy relationship,” I do think the following questions are good things to consider very early in a relationship- or maybe even before the relationship really takes off at all. Some of these are things I/we were taught to consider & some are things we’ve just learned along the way. Remember, everyone is different & there are really no right or wrong answers here.

  • What is your love language? Remember you may have more than one, depending on the circumstances. What is your partner’s? Are you comfortable discussing this with each other?
  • What role will or does sex play in the relationship? In my opinion, it should never be used manipulatively, & furthermore (in my opinion), you can’t have a truly adult relationship without sex. Thus waiting till marriage is illogical to me. BUT to each their own. Regardless, know your thoughts here & be willing to communicate them.
  • What is your communication style? Can you be direct about your wants/needs (including sexually)? What is your partner’s style?
  • When you have a disagreement, how do you handle it?
  • Do you want kids? Does your partner want kids? Who will play various roles if you do have them? (E.g. Will one of you be a stay at home parent? If so, who?)
  • How will you discipline said children? Can you communicate your own childhood experiences & why you want to repeat them or avoid them?
  • Can you discuss politics, even if you disagree about something, while maintaining respect?
  • Do you want to spend time together, even if it’s just doing really mundane things like grocery shopping?
  • How do you expect to split household chores? This is a big one. I see a lot of women unhappily married because their husbands are basically adult children who expect their wives to be their mothers. That would be a huge turn off for me, as it seems to be for most women. Men, keep this in mind!
  • Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Which is your partner? If you’re not the same, will this become something you resent about the other person?
  • What are your views on finances?
  • Last- but perhaps MOST important: How comfortable does this person make you feel? Would you want to spend time with them or get to know them even if you weren’t dating (or planning to date)? Forget the whole “makes your heart skip a beat” nonsense. Real love makes you feel COMFORTABLE & safe, not nervous & unsure of yourself.

Again, I by no means think I’ve “got it all figured out” or have a “perfect relationship.” Absolutely not. But these are things that I’ve learned over the years from my own relationship, as well as from studying other marriages/relationships around me. And I truly believe a lot of pain could be avoided if more people addressed the above issues before getting married (preferably LONG before getting married). I know that as our daughter gets older, we will be actively teaching her these things, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may be. I don’t want her to think that she HAS to get married & that if she does, it HAS to last forever, even if she’s miserable. More than anything I want to her to know what a happy, healthy relationship looks like. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that marriage has to be boring or a “trap” or anything negative like that (not that I grew up thinking that, but I think a lot people do). After all, that’s the best way to ensure that someday she has a happy, healthy marriage of her own (if she wants one).

So- to answer the title of this post: Is marriage overrated? Drumroll…

Well, like just about everything in life it’s not a simple yes or no answer. If it’s a truly healthy relationship, then no, marriage is most definitely NOT overrated. However, I will say I think there are plenty of people who have healthy, committed relationships who aren’t actually legally married, & I don’t consider those relationship as any less worthy of respect. Marriage is great- IF it’s with the right person (keep in mind there is no truly PERFECT person), but if it’s an unhealthy marriage then, it IS in fact overrated. Thus as a society we need to focus more on healthy relationships rather than just marriage for the sake of marriage.

You’ll Have to Eat Me As I Am

Today’s post is something that even a few months ago I would have scoffed at the very suggestion that I might write it. Well, not the MESSAGE of the post itself but the INSPIRATION behind it. You see, today’s post is inspired by none other than Demi Lovato. Yes, you read that right. Thanks to my favorite YouTube channel I have fallen head over heels in love with Demi’s latest album. I NEVER thought I’d say that, seeing as prior to this album I didn’t know a single one of her songs & generally regarded her as just another silly pop star. While I still wouldn’t call her my hero, there is no doubt that she is talented, & with this album she has really spoken to me in ways I would never have imagined possible. And for that I am very grateful.

I could write a whole post devoted to this album, & may yet do that someday, but today’s post will be focused on the fourth song on the album, Eat Me. I’m including the lyrics below & I strongly encourage you to read them & go listen to the song, at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSmvW2sZ3ZU. Yes, the song includes some “choice” words. No, I don’t care.

Be more predictable
Be less political
Not too original
Keep to tradition, but stay individual

Dirty but washable
Winning but stoppable
All that I’m hearing is
You wanna make the impossible possible

Is this what you’d all prefer?
Would you like me better if I was still her?
Did she make your mouths water? Ugh

I know the part I’ve played before
I know the shit that I’ve ignored
I know the girl that you adored
She’s dead, it’s time to fucking mourn
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
Dinner’s served, it’s on the floor
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
You’ll have to eat me as I am
You’ll have to eat me as I am

Clean and digestible (clean and digestible)
Less of a spectacle (less of a spectacle)
More one-dimensional
Try to be sexy, but don’t be too sexual (don’t be too sexual)

Please be presentable (be presentable)
Bit more accessible (bit more accessible)
Get up on your pedestal
Everyone’s watching, so don’t be forgettable

Longer hair and tighter clothes
Would you like me better if I didn’t oppose?
Silver platters, pretty bows

I know the part I’ve played before
I know the shit that I’ve ignored
I know the girl that you adored
She’s dead, it’s time to fucking mourn
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
Dinner’s served, it’s on the floor
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
You’ll have to eat me as I am
You’ll have to eat me as I am

Choke on it
Choke on it

I know the part I’ve played before
I know the shit that I’ve ignored
I know the girl that you adored
She’s dead, it’s time to fucking mourn
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
Dinner’s served, it’s on the floor
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
You’ll have to eat me as I am
You’ll have to eat me as I am

With this song, Demi has written an anthem for women everywhere because it so often feels like no matter what we do, we can’t live up to the world’s expectations for us. As someone who has lived almost her entire life in the limelight of celebrity, I can only imagine how much more intense things must feel for Demi. (Read about her past as a Disney star & you’ll really understand why these lyrics are perfect for her life.) I actually think men can probably relate to this song too because they too have plenty of societal expectations that are often contradictory or competing against each other in such a way that they feel like they can’t possibly fulfill every demand. In fact, I’d LOVE to see a male rock star (or any male musician, for that matter) write a similar song from a man’s perspective. I think it could be very therapeutic for men. And perhaps help some women better understand that men struggle too.

Having said that, this song is clearly written from a woman’s perspective & that’s probably why it resounds so strongly with me as a woman. After all, while I can empathize greatly with men, I have only experienced life as a woman, so that’s all I actually KNOW. I am so grateful for a husband who loves me exactly as I am & appreciates all the growth & change I’ve experienced with him over the years, just as I do for him. But even with a really supportive spouse, it can still often feel like I’m not living up to the world’s expectations for me. I’m trying not to make this post about ME so much as just about women in general, but I did want to give my husband the credit he deserves.

In any case, here’s a list of some of the things that women nowadays constantly struggle with. Some of these I strongly identify with, others not so much, but I observe them in other women. Many of these are likely not unique to my generation, though some are:

  • Am I thin enough? But not too thin- I don’t want to look like I’m on meth or heroin!
  • Am I showing too much skin? But I don’t want to look like a prude either.
  • Is it my fault that someone harassed or abused me? Was I asking for it?
  • Am I being too assertive & thus “bitchy?” But I don’t want to be a doormat!
  • Do I swear too much? Is that “un-ladylike?” Then again who really gives a damn about being a lady? What did being a lady ever accomplish?
  • Am I eating healthily enough? Am I giving my kid(s) enough vegetables? Are they going to be obese & diabetic at a young age because I’ve allowed them too many carbs or too much sugar? Am I setting them up for a lifetime of health problems?
  • Am I recycling enough? Generally doing enough to help the environment?
  • Am I keeping up with politics & current world events? Nevermind that doing so often feels impossible & incredibly anxiety-provoking…
  • If I say what I really think, I may alienate family & friends. But if I keep my thoughts to myself, I hate myself for being “fake” or repressing my beliefs.
  • Do I post too much on social media? Or not enough?
  • Am I being too strict with my kid(s)? Or not strict enough? Are they going to be in therapy as adults because of me?

This is just a brief list, & I’m sure a lot of men can relate to many of these points too. But I bet the women reading this are REALLY nodding along. And probably thinking of things I should have included but didn’t!

I am a born people-pleaser, as I think many women are. I’m not NEARLY as extreme about it as I used to be, but at the same time I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow the distaste I have for disappointing people who love me or have expectations for me for whatever reason. There is a part of me that just yearns to make people proud. And yet I also know that I can’t live my life in ways that are untrue to who I actually am or what I actually believe. So I’m always caught between those two desires, & it’s a strange line to walk sometimes. Thus when Demi snarls “I can’t spoon-feed you anymore, you’ll have to eat me as I am,” that speaks to my very soul. After all, the WORLD doesn’t have to sleep with my conscience at night- I do. And the same is true for each of us! The world- maybe even your family- is never going to give you the validation you seek, even if you did everything exactly as they’d prefer. Only you can do that. That’s just not how life works. People- & thus life- are more complicated than that.

I don’t know about y’all, but I definitely feel like I’ve turned out differently than predicted or expected, but I like who I am, & I am trying to learn to care less about whether other folks do or not. But it’s definitely a daily struggle. Now we do need to be careful not to use this mindset to justify true selfishness or truly bad behavior. But that’s a post for another day. So for now I’ll just be jamming out to Eat Me & telling the world “I can’t spoon-feed you anymore, YOU’LL HAVE TO EAT ME AS I AM!!!”

Prozac Makes Me a Better Person

I had a whole other blog post typed up & ready to go, just a few minor edits needed, but I decided it was going to have to wait because this is more important. As some of you know, I started this blog almost a decade ago largely as a way to manage my own anxiety & also just because I’ve always loved writing. Writing has been a therapeutic exercise for me for almost as long as I can remember. Anyway, maybe a year or two after I started the blog, I ended up starting medication for my anxiety. I had tried therapy, music, writing, exercise, etc, but I had just gotten to the point that I knew I needed more. My therapist at the time was the one who encouraged me to start medication because she realized that I had exhausted my other resources. It was very difficult for me to admit that I needed medical help for something as “silly” as anxiety, but once I started Prozac I found myself asking “Why the hell didn’t I try this sooner?” I’ve remained on Prozac (actually the generic form fluoxetine, but I’ll just refer it to as Prozac here for simplicity’s sake) for the majority of the past eight years or so. I’ve been able to get off of it for a few months here & there, but I always come back to it sooner or later. It’s always a very low dose & it’s entirely possible that the positive effects I see from it are all a placebo effect, but at this point I don’t care. Results are results, right?

To be clear, I am not necessarily your “typical” anxious person. My anxiety is not the stereotypical kind where you sit around imagining horrible scenarios like car crashes or cancer or things like that. Interestingly, I am in many ways NOT a “worry wart.” For example, when I got married, multiple people told me “You are the most chill bride I’ve ever met!” Furthermore, public speaking has never much bothered me, which is odd for an anxious person, nor have I ever had real testing anxiety. My anxiety, as I’ve written about before, manifests in different ways. It’s more of a heightened sense of awareness, a tendency toward OCD behaviors (or at least OCD thinking), a brain that just NEVER SHUTS UP (people have often told me I think too much- but I don’t know how not to!), a tendency to go “from zero to 60” in just a few seconds. By the latter I mean that when something goes wrong, I often get stuck in a flight/freeze response, rather than being able to actually address the situation productively. Honestly, I struggle to really explain my issues, but an incident happened last night that may serve as a good example. My daughter got her ears pierced this past weekend. As I was putting her to bed last night, I realized that one of the earrings had fallen out. I immediately freaked out. I went running to my husband more or less screaming “She’s lost an earring! I have no idea where it is! We’re going to have to have it redone! This was expensive! HELP ME!”

Now my husband & I have been together for our entire adult lives so he knows me VERY well, but even he was a bit surprised by my outburst. He basically had to tell me to sit down & be quiet while he took care of the situation. He found the missing earring in the bathtub & was able to reinsert it in our daughter’s ear while I sat in the living room more or less hyperventilating & borderline sobbing. Needless to say, I was very grateful to him for handling the situation like he did, & furthermore I apologized to our daughter this morning for my behavior. But that situation made me realize that stopping my Prozac a few weeks ago was probably a crappy idea. I actually hadn’t told my husband I’d stopped it because I wanted him to be as impartial/objective as possible. After we got her to bed, I told him I’d stopped the medication & asked him to be brutally honest with me: Had he noticed a difference in my overall behavior the past few weeks? Did I seem more anxious or irritable or generally “off”? It came as no surprise to me when he said yes because I am self-aware enough to know that I HAVE been more anxious & irritable since stopping the medication- even something as “simple” as the dogs barking has been setting off my anxiety lately. So, needless to say, I restarted the Prozac.

The truth is that even after all these years I still hate being “dependent” on a medication to manage my own brain, but, damn it, it’s also true that Prozac makes me a better mom/wife/person. The problem is that I am really good at managing my anxiety when I’m at work, even without medication, but then I come home & all that pent up anxiety gets let out on my husband & child. And that isn’t fair to them- or really even to me. That’s just the way it is. And it’s not like Prozac is some “miracle pill” that suddenly makes me happy & carefree all the time. It’s definitely not. But it’s still pretty damn good. If I envision my brain as a roiling ocean, Prozac has the effect of changing those roiling, crashing waves into more of a gentle, bobbing current. Instead of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s more like the gentle waves you get at the Gulf of Mexico or Lake Michigan. That probably isn’t the best metaphor but hopefully you get the point.

Having said all of that, one of my greatest gripes with modern society is that we tend to want an easy solution to everything. Whether it’s obesity, high BP, diabetes, anxiety, depression, or any other number of issues, so much of the time we just want to pop a pill & hope it cures us. And frankly that just isn’t realistic. One of my biggest complaints about healthcare is that too many doctors don’t provide truly holistic care & too many patients frankly don’t want it. So often we all just want the easy way out! HOWEVER, what I’ve realized over & over again is that Prozac calms me down just enough that I can actually focus more on my other coping strategies– whether that be writing, music, or doing the really difficult work of analyzing my own life experiences & trying to figure WHY my brain works like it does, what my triggers are, & how to overcome those triggers when they happen- because inevitably they will. But all of that stuff is really hard, & frankly many people never do that kind of inner work ever, so if taking a low dose of a medication makes it easier for me to actually do those things & work on myself as a human being- well, maybe that isn’t such a terrible thing, right?

One of the things I learned in therapy is that sometimes we just have to accept that certain things are out of our control. I keep coming back to an old(er) Five Finger Death Punch song called Will the Sun Ever Rise (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUWHQGXELGo). It’s all about Ivan’s struggles with his own mental health issues & alcoholism. Anyway, there’s a line that says “Why am I like that? I’m trying to understand myself, Trying to fight through this hell.” That line of “Why am I like that?” runs through my mind a lot. And I do think it’s worth unpacking my past to try to understand WHY my brain functions the way it does, as mentioned above, but I also think sometimes I just have to accept that my brain is the way it is, & that’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. It just IS. The good news is my OCD tendencies & general hyper-alertness/awareness make me a really good nurse. The bad news is too often I drive myself crazy & I can’t relax. Therefore the secret seems to be in finding the balance. And Prozac helps me do that. Maybe someday I will get to the point where I can manage my anxiety without it. But for right now, I think it’s just another tool in my “anti-anxiety shed,” & if it helps me use the other tools in that shed a bit better- well, why the hell not use it?

Lastly- & this is a whole other blog post right here- but I continually have to remind myself that our brains were not meant to handle even HALF of what we have to handle as modern human beings. For most of human history people had no clue what was happening 100 miles from their house, much less what was going on quite literally on the other side of the world. Our brains simply have not evolved fast enough to be able to absorb all of the information we are constantly inundated with these days. Do you think the average parent for most of human history was constantly besought with thoughts of “Am I making healthy enough meals? Are the chemicals in this food going to give my child cancer someday? Is my kid getting too much screen time? Am I doing enough to help the environment? Am I saving enough money for my child’s college fund? Am I being actively anti-racist?” And the list goes on & on. I am not saying any of these concerns are illegitimate or should be ignored. Not at all. But the fact remains that parents, & just humans in general, are processing more information than we ever have at any point in history & are being asked to think more long-term/big picture than ever before. At the same time many people are isolated & have less real human connection than ever before, especially with Covid the past two years. Is it any wonder so many of us struggle with anxiety &/or depression? No, it’s not- not at all. Because our brains simply haven’t had time to evolve to handle all of this!

Just to be clear, this post is not an endorsement of Prozac. I am in no way saying it’s a magic pill or that it’s the solution for everyone. Or even that medication in general is the solution for everyone. All I can say is that it works for me- but again, in combination with other strategies- not as a panacea or as an excuse not to do the inner work I still need to do. But I figure there is probably someone out there who needs to hear someone else say that it’s ok to take medication if you need to. It doesn’t make you weak. One of the greatest strengths we can have is knowing our own limitations & using whatever tools we can find to address them. And for me, at least for now, that means taking my Prozac, whether I like the fact that I need it or not, because it’s important that I be the best version of me for myself, my husband, & our daughter. And if that best version is obtained partly through Prozac- well- so be it.

5 Traits of Successful People

As some of you know, I am an avid reader & have been for basically my entire life. Here lately though, in addition to reading, I have also gotten into podcasts a bit. Because I’m old school & don’t have Spotify or Apple Music, or whatever other platforms people use for podcasts, I just find them on YouTube- you know, the “old fashioned” way. Ha! Anyhow, as far as books, I do love fiction & still read more of that than anything. But I also really enjoy autobiographies & memoirs, particularly from rock stars I admire. So it should come as no surprise that a lot of the podcasts I enjoy are also essentially interviews with my favorite rockstars.

Obviously I enjoy reading/hearing about the lives & backgrounds of musicians whose work I enjoy, but beyond that I also really enjoy hearing about their struggles to find success & how they managed to do so, particularly at a time in history when being a rock star is nothing like it was back in the 70s or 80s. The people living the old school “rock star” lifestyle aren’t actually rock stars now- they’re rappers, pop stars, or even country singers. Rock & metal are arguably more “alternative” & outside of the mainstream now in the 21st century than they were in the 20th century. The point of this is that anyone who finds a way to make a living doing this kind of music nowadays (really any music, but especially rock/metal), whether you like the music or not, is worth a second look. Because, believe me, they haven’t gotten there by pure chance or luck.

Having said all that, between the various books, interviews, & podcasts I’ve consumed about a variety of bands, as well as a handful of athletes that I find interesting (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Gronk, Baker Mayfield, Arian Foster, to name a few), there are certain trends I’ve noticed in these people. Just about all of them will acknowledge that some of their success is due to luck or genetic factors over which they have no control, but lots of other people have those same factors or experience the same type of luck & don’t achieve the same kind of success. So- what sets these people apart? Let’s take a look.

(Keep in mind that most of my examples here will be musicians but that doesn’t mean these traits aren’t applicable to other fields- even those of us “regular Joes” with normal jobs.)

  1. Successful people have unwavering, unshakeable self-confidence. This kind of confidence may even come across as arrogance sometimes, but the fact of the matter is, if YOU don’t believe in you, why should anyone else? It might not be fair but that’s just the way the world works. In a recent podcast Aaron Rodgers talked about how he envisioned being an NFL quarterback long before it actually happened. That might sound ridiculous, but as the host of the podcast (Marcus Aubrey) stated, Rodgers would never have made it there if he hadn’t first believed he could.
  2. Successful people do not embrace a victimhood mentality, even when at times it might be justified. Instead, they embrace a “no excuses mentality.” Look at Lzzy Hale. She could have said “You know what? Female rock stars rarely make it. Screw this.” But she didn’t. Diamond from Tetrarch could have said “I don’t see any other black female guitarists in metal bands. This is going to be too difficult. Forget it.” But she didn’t. Ronnie Radke could have said “I’m stuck in prison & my band fired me. I’ll never make it now.” Instead, he formed a new band & wrote an entire album while in prison. And he was performing on the main stage of Warped Tour within a few months of his release (& it’s only been up from there)! From Ashes to New could have said “Man, we lost our singer. No one cares about nu-metal anymore. Forget it.” But they didn’t. And they’re doing better than ever now! Leland Melvin could have said “I don’t know any other black guys who are astronauts or scientists. Forget this.” But he didn’t. Tom Brady could have said “Damn, I was a 6th round draft pick. I’ll never be a star.” But he didn’t- & now he is arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game. Zoltan Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch came to the US knowing almost zero English. His first guitar was made out of a wooden coffee table. No excuses- he made his dreams come true. And the list goes on & on . . .
  3. Successful people are willing to suffer & take risks to achieve their goals. They know that the route to the top doesn’t come easy & they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there. If that means touring in a crappy van & barely making enough money to buy Ramen or food from the McDonald’s dollar menu (hello, Motionless in White), they’ll do it. Palaye Royale used to tour the country in their mom’s SUV with guitarist Sebastian doing the vast majority of the driving. How he survived, I’ll never understand because there is no way he was getting more than a few hours of sleep each day. Andy Biersack/Black of Black Veil Brides dropped out of high school as soon as he turned 18 & moved from Ohio to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams. At times that meant living in his crappy, old car that barely even worked. But he did it. The guys in Lamb of God used to come off tour & go straight back to being dishwashers & construction workers. It wasn’t glamorous, but that’s how they could pay the bills & continue to pursue their musical dreams. Asking Alexandria moved from England to the US & lived in an RV in a Wal-Mart parking lot in their early days. It wasn’t glamorous either, but it’s how they eventually got the success they have today.
  4. Successful people work harder than anyone else in the room. They don’t count on talent alone to make them successful because they understand that “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Ice Nine Kills just opened up for Metallica- the biggest metal band in the world- but one of their guitarists (Ricky Armellino) went straight back to work on his other band’s music after the show. Could he have basked in the glory of his accomplishments? Absolutely. But he knows that the constant grinding is a large reason why he’s achieved what he has so far, so why stop now? Long before their current success, Ice Nine Kills frontman Spencer Charnas used to sell his CDs at Warped Tour. His band wasn’t even playing the show! He was just wandering around talking to people & somehow convincing them to buy his music. And he set an insane goal- I think it was 1,000 CDs a day or something like that. And as one of his bandmates recounted in an interview, he never left until he met his goal. Talk about dedication! And talk about an insane belief in yourself to even attempt such a thing! Hats off to you, Spencer.
  5. Successful people are willing to adapt & admit to their own mistakes. A lot of the musicians I’ve listed here have struggled with drug &/or alcohol addiction at some point in their lives. Yet all but maybe one of them are now sober & thriving. Why? They realized their addictions were ruining not just their careers but their lives. And they were willing to do the hard work of addressing why they were using those addictions as coping mechanisms in the first place so they could come out on the other side bigger & better than ever. On a less serious but still important level, think about the bands (or even TV shows) that have really stood the test of time. Most of them don’t sound the same now as they did on their first record. Why? Because they grew & evolved & experimented with new ideas over the years. And people appreciate that because that’s what we as human beings should do- we should grow & evolve & experiment with new ideas over time. And even if we never have to overcome something as crippling as heroin addiction or alcoholism & the gamut of problems that accompany such substance abuse, we should all be “big enough” to admit to our own mistakes & constantly strive to do better.

I talked about this in a previous blog post, but it seems like nowadays people feel like they have to tip toe around their successes for fear of making others feel bad. There is also a lot of focus on self-help books & prayer but not a lot of focus on getting out there & doing the real dirty work that actually leads to success. As I also discussed in the same previous post, we all have a different vision of what success looks like to us, & there is nothing wrong with that. For example, as much as I love rock music & reading/hearing about the artists behind the music, I have absolutely zero desire to live that kind of lifestyle. I’m very happy to be a “regular Joe” (or perhaps I should say Jane?). But I still find a lot of utility & inspiration in hearing about the struggles my favorite artists have faced. My challenges in life may be very different but the mindset I need to overcome those challenges needn’t be so different. And the same is true for you.