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Today’s Shut-In Album: 50 Words For Snow

Today’s Shut-In Album: 50 Words For Snow

It’s a day to stay in, sheltered from the cold and feeling sickly. The perfect album for this quiet afternoon is 50 Words for Snow, from Kate Bush, released in 2011 and to date her latest studio album. Like her previous release, Aerial, the album reflects the maturation of the artist’s style, which has become more contemplative, and deeper in meaning, even as her voice has lowered with age. It’s slow and calm, heavy on the piano, with long-playing songs that take their time to develop, building to gentle crescendos and expressing subtle emotion. You almost need the muffled stillness of a snowy day to truly appreciate the music, and I always look forward to listening to it when such a day comes along.

Here is an excerpt, but do yourself a favor and listen to the whole album.

 

In The Zeitgeist With Lady Gaga

In The Zeitgeist With Lady Gaga

I think Lady Gaga is a very talented singer-songwriter, and perhaps underappreciated as a musical artist because there is so much focus on her popularity, branding, and extravagant performance art. I wanted to take a look at some of the songs off of her 2016 album “Joanne” and the ways in which they reflect the Millennial zeitgeist. Lady Gaga (real name Stefani Germanotta) is a Millennial herself, born in 1986 in Manhattan, New York.

The first song to consider is “Come to Mama,” which is like a loving call for a regeneracy mood and an end to the Culture Wars partisan divide. The lyrics refer to divisions of opinion, which could line up with the left v. right split in politics. The chorus evokes the image of a mother with arms outstretched, calling to a child who is crying after a playground quarrel.

So why do we gotta fight over ideas?
We’re talkin’ the same old shit after all of these years
Come to mama
Tell me who hurt ya
There’s gonna be no future
If we don’t figure this out
Oh, come tomorrow
Who are you gonna follow?
There’s gonna be no future
If we don’t figure this out

Mama acknowledges that the child has a grievance but insists that differences must be worked out, as we have been fighting for far too long. I can just picture Lady Gaga reaching out to hug and comfort all the Trump supporters who are upset over the way the world has turned out. Then next all the social justice warriors who can’t stand any opinion that a Trump supporter might have.

The next song to look at is “Angel Down.” This is a lament about the tragedy of gun violence and our society’s inability to cope with it. The setting chosen for the act of violence is the street by a church, and the lyrics speak to the lack of engagement in our society (we used to meet at the church) and the failure of social media to substitute for more traditional institutions in providing moral grounding. We are spectators to the disintegration of society, unable to respond effectively.

I confess I am lost
In the age of the social
On our knees, take a test
To be lovin’ and grateful

Shots were fired on the street
By the church where we used to meet
Angel down, angel down
But the people just stood around

It is like a protest song, but where a Boomer protest song would have castigated the existing leadership, this Millennial song cries out for leadership that is not there.

I’m a believer, it’s chaos
Where are our leaders?
Oh, oh, oh
I’d rather save an angel down

The last song to examine is “Grigio Girls,” which is on the deluxe edition of the album. A Millennial woman sings about a Gen-X friend and mentor who supported her through her quarter-life crisis. She looked up to her friend, admiring how she was able to thrive despite the chaos of the world, and learning from her the Xer art of being still in your personal space and just chilling out.

I was twenty-three
She was thirty-five
I was spiralling out
And she was so alive
A Texas girl real strong
Taught me this strong song

On this foundation she erects her support network, gathering with her peers to share alcohol (the social drug) and have a safe space to vent. In a world of overwrought emotion, you must find a way to keep cool.

So when I’m feeling small
I toss that cork and call
All the Pinot, Pinot Grigio girls
Pour your heart out
Watch your blues turn gold
All the Pinot, Pinot Grigio girls
Keep it real cold
‘Cause it’s a fired-up world

She celebrates the camaraderie of conventional young women gathering and having a conventionally good time.

So we’ll turn on a bachelorette
Dye Ashley’s hair red
And then we’ll have our sixth
Spice girl in this bitch

This song has a deeper personal meaning for the artist, whose middle name, by the way, is Joanne. She explains her intended meaning in this interview:

Lady Gaga Discusses Sonja, from Her Song ‘Grigio Girls’