Fast Car

Dissecting the lyrics of a song or poem and looking for meaning in it that I can relate to has always been enjoyable for me.  I’ve always loved the song Fast Car by Tracy Chapman and heard it recently while at work, so I decided to do something a little different and talk about the song and what it means to me.

It may seem simple on the surface, but it has a well thought out and relatable story. This story really is the heart of the song and what makes it so popular in my opinion.

Nowadays, you see a big focus on electronic music production and crazy vocal runs. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of today’s pop music. However, I think the most beautiful and touching songs I’ve heard are acoustic versions that are stripped down to just vocals and a piano or guitar.

First off, at the beginning, there is a subtle little cymbal sound you hear which in a way foreshadows the soft tone of the song. It has the same guitar loop throughout the song. This guitar gives me a feeling of nostalgia, a bit of sadness, yet is soothing as well. Maybe it’s because it sounds similar to the song Return to Pooh Corner by Kenny Loggins which brings me back to my childhood where I read/ watched Winnie the Pooh frequently. The nostalgia also comes from her reflecting on seemingly better times during the chorus.

Going along with the theme of simplicity, the vocals are soothing, yet not too complex. You don’t hear any attempts on Tracy’s part to do too much when she is singing. She is able to convey the same feelings of nostalgia and sadness the guitar does without “wowing” you with her vocals.

I am a big fan of songs that are able to have a narrative which evolves throughout. Fast Car does that really well. Woven into the song are tales of failed or strained relationships. A relationship between the narrator and someone who they are apparently dating is the central focus.

It begins with the narrator yearning for more out of life, something that everyone has experienced at some point.

“You got a fast car. I want a ticket to anywhere.”

When I hear those opening lyrics, I imagine a bright-eyed young kid who wants to get out of town. To the narrator of the song (the bright-eyed young kid), this fast car which is owned by someone they apparently are dating is a way to escape; the freedom they’re looking for.

It talks about driving in a fast car in the chorus and “speed so fast I felt like I was drunk.” A feeling of pure joy and bliss. Here, the narrator feels they could do anything and talks about feeling like they could be someone.

There is a struggle at the beginning where the narrator is trying to scrape together money for a better life essentially and hopes their partner will be able to pull their weight and get a job too. In the midst of that is a sad tale of her father having a drinking problem, her mom leaving him, and this main character having to take care of him.

The pre-chorus, which again is a foreshadowing of what’s to come, sings, “You got a fast car. Is it fast enough so we can fly away? We gotta make a decision. Leave tonight or live and die this way.” Here, the narrator realizes they can’t keep going the way they’re going; things have to change.

Throughout the song, the narrator seems to evolve, while the partner stays stagnant. Towards the end, they say how they have a job to pay the bills, while the partner is staying out late at the bars and getting drunk and neglecting their kids.

“I’d always hoped for better. Thought maybe together you and me would find it.”

It seems to me this fast car was a false sense of hope the narrator had placed in the owner of the fast car. Being in that car, driving with them and feeling like they could be someone tricked them into thinking they could build a life with this person. In some way, they associated the feeling they got from riding in the car with the person, when in reality, it was just the car. In other words, the car was just for show and the partner/ owner of the car apparently didn’t have much more to offer.

I like the subtle shift in the lyrics at the end. Instead of saying “we gotta make a decision” and “Is it fast enough so we can fly away?” like it did earlier, Chapman writes, “You gotta make a decision” and “Is it fast enough so you can fly away?” This is the narrator’s way of telling their partner it’s no longer about them being a team unless they’re able to hold up their end of the bargain.

In a sad yet clever way, the end of the song mirrors what the narrator’s mom went through. The narrator seems poised to leave their partner due to problems they have with alcohol and not working, just like their dad.

At the same time, I enjoy how the ending is a “cliffhanger”, one that is open to speculation. It may not seem like things will turn out too well in this relationship, but to the optimist, there is some lingering hope.


Meeting Halsey

Saturday night, I had the pleasure of meeting the singer Halsey, aka Ashley Frangipane, at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. I will tell the tale of the meeting, but I thought it would be good to give some background about how I became a fan and why I wanted to get the VIP.

As most reading this probably know, I have bipolar. Halsey has bipolar as well, and has been pretty open about it. She’s also done a great job of advocating for mental health. For this reason, aside from her artistry, I feel she is a person I can identify with and gain inspiration from.

My passion for her as an artist all started when I saw a girl do a cover of Halsey’s song “Colors” on YouTube in September of 2015. A song about a complicated love story that is filled with passion and heartache, it immediately caught my ear. I looked up the song and fell in love with the way Halsey sang it. Her voice was so beautiful and filled with emotion. I began to look up her other songs and became a fan pretty quickly.

Fast forward to October 2015, when it was announced Halsey would be playing at Madison Square Garden as part of her Badlands album tour in August 2016. Since I had loved Badlands, her debut album that came out August of that year, it was a no brainer for me to want to go. The day the tickets went on sale, I hopped on Ticketmaster and got a good seat. It was quite a thrilling feeling, as the show sold out rather fast.

The night of the show, as I detailed in another blog post, was one I was very depressed, and had been for quite some time. Without going into too many details of the concert, it really lifted me up and made me feel alive again. I think my connection with Halsey as a fan definitely grew stronger that night, as I was captivated by how she connected with the audience and gave different speeches throughout the show, one being about how she got her name Halsey during a train ride home from MSG after seeing the Halsey train stop. I was so impressed with her energy and the feeling she gave the crowd. I could tell not only that all the fans there loved her very much, but that she loved all of them back and fed off their energy.

Back on May 8 of this year, the VIP tickets went on sale for Halsey’s current Hopeless Fountain Kingdom tour. I really wanted to meet her and get the VIP, but they went on sale at 10 AM on a Monday. Knowing I would be at work, I was a little nervous. However, I was able to take my morning break at that time. When I got onto the Ticketmaster site, I saw there was a VIP ticket left, which may have been the last one.

My heart pounded rapidly as I clicked on it. It was a little bit of a gamble to buy the VIP because Hopeless Fountain Kingdom wouldn’t be coming out until June, but deep down I knew it would be a great album. Knowing it was not cheap at all yet thinking I had to seize the moment, I went through and paid for it. It was sort of a surreal feeling knowing I was going to meet her. Not only that, but the VIP tickets actually included a viewing platform on the stage itself.

Months passed and I gave some thought to meeting her from time to time, but it never really hit me until two days before the concert when I got an e-mail regarding the VIP check in instructions. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of excitement, as if I was watching a Red Sox playoff game. That is saying a lot, as I am a pretty passionate sports fan. Driving home from work that night, I could only think about that.

The day finally arrived and I hopped on the bus to NYC where I would then catch the train to Newark. I was excited, yet had a good amount of nerves too. What would I say to her? Will I make a fool of myself?

At last, the time to check in arrived. After being checked in and brought upstairs, the clock was ticking as I waited in line to meet her and get the pictures. I again had a surreal feeling, half-joking to myself that maybe she wasn’t really there and it was all a joke. I did talk with others who were going to meet her a bit, and luckily I wasn’t the only one who was nervous or unsure of what to do for the pictures. One by one, the fans who had met her ahead of me came out, each with looks of pure joy upon having just met her.

It eventually got to the point where I saw her tour manager Sheppard standing right outside the photo booth and there was only one person left before me. After he was done, Sheppard gave me the signal to go into the booth. I almost hesitated for a moment, somewhat not believing he was actually gesturing for me to go in and meet her.

Upon entering the booth, my nerves went away when I was greeted with the smiling face of Halsey with her arms outstretched for a hug. It was such a great and comforting feeling. She then said she liked my shirt and asked what poses I wanted to do. I didn’t come up with the final four until moments before, but I told her the ones I had in mind. She was so great and cheerful throughout. She then asked if I had come alone and told me not to worry, as I would make friends anyways. The security wanted to make each meet and greet pretty quick as there were a decent amount of people in line, but she gave me another hug as we parted and said “bye sweetie.”

One of the VIP pictures

I heard many others saying how kind and thoughtful she was with them as well. She really seemed to appreciate the fans for showing her support and making their way to the concert.

The concert went great, as I was literally close enough to touch the stage with about fifteen other people in the standing room VIP viewing area. Seeing Charli XCX, another singer I also like, open for her was a great experience, although her set was quite short. I’d seen Halsey before, but up close was a whole different experience. She came right up to the VIP section several times.

At one point, Halsey talked about going from playing a show of a little over a thousand people to selling out Madison Square Garden in just 9 months. “I didn’t do this, you guys did. You need to get fans like mine and then you can do it too,” she told the crowd.

As an aside, in my opinion, being a fan of an artist is a more personal and individualized experience than being a sports fan. I just think it’s interesting to discuss a little since I was really a fan of sports first growing up. Rather than liking a sports team because of geography in most cases, you like a musical artist because you feel you can relate to their music in some way. Therefore, you probably have more in common with other fans because it says more about who you are as a person.

During a concert, the artist gets a chance to thank the fans or give a speech or do whatever they want to do, which you don’t see during a game. It’s also unique in the fact that they rely more on fans to get them to where they are. Without fan interest and streams and concert ticket sales, the artist wouldn’t be able to make a sustainable career. Athletes obviously need fans, yes, but they’re more reliant on teams and scouts and coaches to get drafted or get to the pros. For those reasons, I think being a fan of a musician is different and more special than anything else, but that is really another topic.

I could talk about the concert for another whole post really, but basically it was a special one because it was her “hometown” show as she had grown up in New Jersey. A highlight of the show came when she talked about growing up in NJ, stating that she has a deep and special connection with it.

With all the emotions I experienced in the last couple days, I feel somewhat tired still as I write this. However, I am very glad and grateful to have had the experience. It’s not every day you get to meet an artist you really love. Also not every day that I find a singer who I truly enjoy as much as Halsey. The meet and greet/ concert experience only made me more of a fan, and I am excited to see where she goes with her music next.

There’s A Song For That

Anytime you’re feeling blue

Here’s something I’ll say to you

Just turn on some music and soon you’ll say

I found a ditty to make my day

And anytime feelings of euphoria you exude

A multitude of tunes will mirror your mood

If you’re feeling peaceful like a dove

And want to talk to the man above

You know what to do

Yes, there’s a song for that too

When you’re feeling hopeless or lost

You’ll be surprised there is no cost

To listen to a song to carry you along

There is no right, there is no wrong

And do you know how many concerts there are?

There are a plethora near and far

All you have to do is hop in your car

Or a plane or train no matter where you are

When you get there, you will see

You don’t have to simply take it from me

Going to a concert can uplift anybody

And produce feelings of ecstasy

When the lights go out

There’s not a doubt

You think to yourself, “This is what life is all about.”

You feel connected with the crowd

You’re singing along nice and loud

Your favorite artist is standing there

Not one soul has a care

The connection is magic

To miss out would be tragic

There’s no better feeling in the world I swear

So come one come all, and follow my lead

For the advice I mentioned, I want you to heed

On a journey you will be taken

With the power of song, your soul will awaken

Artist Spotlight: Handsome Ghost

Today, I have implemented a new feature into the blog called “Artist Spotlight”, where I feature a musical artist that catches my eye. The featured artist for this one is Handsome Ghost, an indie/ alternative band with Photo Finish Records. I have had the pleasure of seeing them a few times over the last couple years. The music chronicles some dark times, yet always has a sense of optimism, that there is a light to be seen in all negative experiences.

Handsome Ghost originated as Tim Noyes’ solo project. While he was teaching in New York after college, Noyes (who provides the lead vocals and guitar for the band) would work on songs and do open mics in his free time. Eventually, he decided to take music on as a full-time gig, beginning to collaborate with Eddie Byun, who does some producing as well as keyboard and vocals. Both from Boston, they became friends and released their first EP, Steps, in 2015. The band has evolved since then, with Caitlin Marie Bell (keyboard and vocals) also touring with them now.

Listening to the band gives me a certain nostalgic feeling, as I look back fondly on the first time I saw them. In September of 2015, they opened for Melanie Martinez at the College Street Music Hall in New Haven, CT. It was a special night already, as I was filled with anticipation to see Melanie, who is one of my favorite artists. I remember being drawn in right away by the keypad effect that created a loud bass sound during the opening to “Steps”, one of my favorite songs by them. I was a big fan of the soothing, mellow feel I got while watching the performance.

What strikes me the most about Handsome Ghost’s music is the vivid imagery it produces. One lyric in particular off their Steps EP in the song “Steps” I am particularly fond of is “If oceans are deep enough to drown in/ And lightning may shoot me down.” Those lines bring to my mind the vastness of the world, in the sense that it is amazing how dangerous yet beautiful it can be. Another song I love is “Promises” off their most recent EP, The Brilliant Glow, which was released last year. A line that catches my ear is when Noyes sings about shouting from the Northern Lights how he will keep his promises to be a better man. Although an exaggeration, it nonetheless conjures up a powerful image of Noyes shouting from the top of the world, and is a way to express just how far he will go.

In September of 2016, I again saw Handsome Ghost open for Melanie Martinez, this time in New York. After the show, I met Tim and Eddie when I bought  The Brilliant Glow. We made a connection as they saw my Red Sox debit card, telling me they were Boston guys. They expressed their gratitude for me buying the EP and coming to the show.

Handsome Ghost has had a couple of headlining tours of their own, the most recent coming this past spring with Frances Cone, another great band, opening for them. In early May, I went to the Brighton Music Hall to see them. The show had a very positive and optimistic feel, with the band playing favorites of old as well as their most recent releases. In a highlight of the show, Noyes took it back to his roots, stripping it down to just guitar and treating the audience to one of the first songs he wrote. Again, I chatted with Tim and Eddie a bit after the show. Both of them seem to genuinely appreciate their fans who support their music. They remain humble throughout the process, even as they continue to grow. I heard from Noyes they plan to release their debut album sometime in the fall.

Not only will they be releasing the album in the fall, but they will be performing on the “Emerging Artist” stage at the Billboard Hot 100 Festival this August, a great honor. They recently performed at the Firefly Music Festival. I for one am very happy to see them getting well deserved recognition, and am sure they will continue to have success.

A Concert For Free With Timeflies and Bea

Last night, Hollister hosted a unique concert in Boston at Artists for Humanity with performances by Timeflies and Bea Miller. I found out about the event through Twitter and was able to snag a free ticket on the Hollister website the day before. There were many highlights of the day and event, with the most unexpected coming after the show.

I arrived to the city around 12 and headed to the Boston Common area. There, I passed by some locations that reminded me of key times in my journey of bipolar.

I saw the Wilbur Theatre, a place I had visited to see Melissa Etheridge with my dad and a cousin almost a year ago today. It was a show that for my dad was a real treat, as he was thrilled to see how close we were to the stage. However, I remember during that period being so bogged down by depression that I couldn’t fully appreciate the show. Looking back, it is cool I was able to see her. I’m sure it was meaningful for my dad also to have me there while he was seeing one of his favorite artists, whether I was depressed or not.

I also saw the Orpheum Theatre where I saw the singer Alessia Cara just a few short months later this past October. In a turn of events I described in an earlier post, I was now in a manic phase. I broke down crying at one point during the show, overwhelmed by emotions of missing my mom and feeling caught in the middle between growing up but in some ways wanting to hold onto the past. During that phase, my emotions were on overdrive, with everything seeming extremely emotional to me.

I didn’t think about these two places much more than when I passed them, but thinking about those phases more, I have an odd feeling. It’s not necessarily nostalgia or a longing to go back to them, but rather a feeling that they are part of who I am. Therefore, they do carry a special meaning to me, even if I wasn’t in the best state of mind at either point, if that makes any sense.

Back to the concert. I got there to wait in line around 4:15, with doors scheduled to open around 6. A relatively experienced concert waiter, I have the motto of better safe than sorry when it comes to shows.

Jumping forward, I was able to get into the show and get a great spot near the stage. Hollister went all out for the event, providing plenty of free food, drinks, and other gifts such as a t-shirt and drawstring bag.

One of the highlights for me was the performance of Bea Miller. A singer who is 18 and was on the X Factor at just 13, coming in ninth place, Bea is short but has a very powerful voice. She recently released her second of 3 “chapters” of 3 songs, and is certainly an artist worth checking out if you are into pop music.

Another highlight transpired when Cal of Timeflies ran down into the crowd, coming right up to me. I gave him a pat on the back as he was recording the crowd for a YouTube video, singing their well-known hit “I Choose U.”

To cap off the night, while riding back from the show on the T, I noticed a picture of Bea and Cal I posted on Twitter (the one featured here) was getting more traction than usual. At first not knowing what it was about, I hopped over to Bea Miller’s page to find she had retweeted it, the equivalent of sharing a photo on Facebook. The likes were coming in quite quickly, with Timeflies soon retweeting it as well about an hour later. The combination of retweets resulted in nearly 50,000 people seeing the picture so far. I didn’t want to make this the whole focus of the post, but it was pretty cool I was able to capture a picture they both recognized and shared.

In a new “Coming Soon” feature of this blog, I decided to give a sneak peek of the next post, which may come tomorrow or Saturday:

Coming Soon: The AL East is heating up, with new life being breathed into the Red Sox/ Yankees rivalry.

A Night With Betty Who

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of seeing the singer Betty Who perform at Royale in Boston. Inconspicuously settled near the Boston Common, Royale is a relatively small venue that makes for an intimate concert experience. A place I had visited a few times before, I looked forward to returning for the first time in several months. Also familiar to me was the opener Vérité, who I had seen open for Marian Hill the last time I went. Vérité did not disappoint yet again, but it was Betty Who who made more of an impression on me.

It was an ideal spring day in Boston and I arrived early to take advantage of it. I always enjoy walking around Boston, this time spending most of my time strolling around the Boston Common. It was filled to the brim with others soaking in the beautiful day as well. Some interesting sights were had, including a parade of costume wearing runners. The dinosaur really stole the show amongst onlookers. The energy in Boston was palpable. Several Boston Marathon runners and spectators were walking around, the Bruins had a playoff game in Ottawa, and the Red Sox were hosting a game, making for a packed T ride into the city.

Once I made my way to Royale, the concert began with Vérité taking the stage by storm, opening with her hard hitting new single “When You’re Gone.” I am a big fan of artists who really make you feel strong emotions with their lyrics and the way they deliver them. Vérité is definitely one who does just that. A twenty-something (I think) singer from New York, Vérité has powerful vocals and songs that are usually somewhat angst filled/ angry, yet beautiful all in the same. She is able to sing with such emotion that you are really taken into the song, and almost makes you feel the same way. Vérité referenced how New York crowds at concerts seem bitter compared to the Boston crowds, and admitted “I’m somewhat bitter too, but it’s OK” in a nonchalant way. With her debut album coming out in June, she is certainly an artist to watch.

The anticipation was soon in the air for the singer everyone came to see, Betty Who. A 25 year old Australian singer whose real name is Jessica Newham, she went to Berklee College of Music in Boston and started out as an acoustic songwriter before evolving her music into the more colorful pop sound she is now known for. Right from the start, the crowd really took to her and was loud. One of the things that impressed me most about her was her stage presence. I hadn’t really seen an artist who dances as much as her, especially not with backup dancers and choreography for most of the songs. This made for a fun and playful environment, with Ms. Who really acknowledging her band and dancers and having fun with all of them. Her talents went beyond her singing and dancing, however.

Who knew how to work a crowd, saying in a playful manner early on in the show, “The only rule is that you have to sing the words if you know them. If I see you mumbling the words and I know you know them, we will lock eyes and I will tell you to really sing them.” The playful tone she set at the beginning continued throughout, with her calling out several members of the audience at different points. At one point, she acknowledged a girl who was singing all the lyrics in the balcony, saying she made her heart explode. Other times, she cracked jokes or pointed out people wearing interesting apparel, from asking a boy wearing a Def Leppard shirt if he knew any songs by them (he didn’t) to getting excited when she saw a fan donning a “Who Crew” hat.

In one of the more intimate points of the show, she went back to her roots and played a couple acoustic songs. A powerful moment took place when she asked the crowd to sing back the chorus of one of her more popular songs “Wanna Be.” A tale about wanting to be with a guy who is already taken, Who croons “I know she’s sweet, but she isn’t me/ Where she lies in your eyes/ That’s where I wanna be.” Another great moment of the show took place during her empowering song “Beautiful” where she posed a question to the crowd by singing “Do you feel beautiful?” to which the crowd yelled “Hell yeah!” Of course, the show also included her hit songs, including “Mama Say”, “Some Kind of Wonderful”, and “Human Touch” from her album The Valley which came out at the end of March.

Betty Who certainly has a bright future ahead of her. Referencing Beyoncé as someone she looks up to, she definitely possesses some of her charisma on stage and dancing skills, although she most likely won’t reach quite that level of fame, but who really can?Nonetheless, her tour promoting The Valley should be a great boost to her. I am certain she will continue to produce more uplifting songs that speak to her fans.

Going to a concert is such an uplifting experience, and one that everyone should experience at one time or another. I feel fortunate to have seen so many great shows over the last few years. This one was probably more of a treat for me since I hadn’t been to one since December. Perhaps this blog will take on more of a musical direction, as it is something I have a great passion for. Maybe introducing up and coming artists I have my eye on, or reviewing concerts I go to like this one, who knows. The beauty of the blog that I love is I can take it in any direction. So far, it has been an enjoyable experience I look forward to continuing.