Saturday, June 23, 2012

This Love is Unbreakable

"Took my hand, touched my heart, held me close. you were always there, by my side, night and day, through it all, baby come what may. Swept away on a wave of emotion, we're caught in the eye of the storm..."

Yes, I like Westlife. Go ahead, judge me, I don’t really care. Yes, I’m a rock fan, but there’s just something about those little Irish boys that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. What, is there nothing from your childhood that you still hold dear? Perhaps a favourite teddy bear, or a comfort blanket? Well, Westlife is my comfort blanket. No matter what goes wrong in life, listening to them can make me feel like everything will be ok. Tonight, Westlife perform their last ever concert, meaning that I have to come to terms with the fact that my childhood is well and truly over. I am 21-years-old, after all, so technically I guess my childhood ended a while ago, but with the final note sung, when the curtain closes in Ireland tonight, and my four favourite lads troop off the stage, I will shed my final tear as a child, and face the world with the knowledge that nothing is as simple as a Westlife song anymore.

Damn, that was dramatic. Moving along then…

I was a huge Boyzone fan as a seven-year-old, and getting to know Westlife’s music was the next natural step. I’m not sure how old I was when ‘Swear It Again’ was tearing up the charts, but I was young enough for the song to be branded upon my mind forever more. I listened to this band so much that each of their albums defines an era in my life. Their first saw me through two years in a foreign country, and when I returned to South Africa ‘Coast To Coast’ had just come out, and this has remained my favourite Westlife album. The second half of 2001 was when I was the happiest I’d ever been: the last time that everything was simple, there was nothing to worry about, and happiness was an easy state to achieve. Yes, it may have been because I was only 10, and too young to worry about much, but I don’t think that’s the case, and when I reminisce, that’s not how I see it. The skies above my hometown were blue, the smell of the sea was in the air, and everywhere I went, Westlife’s ‘My Love’ was on the radio. And it was so appropriate: “overseas from coast to coast, to find the place I love the most, where the skies are blue…” Perhaps that’s why this song reminds me so much of home.  To this day, if I’m sad or homesick, this is the song I’ll turn to. Last weekend I visited my hometown for the first time in half a year, and ‘My Love’ was on repeat all the way to the airport. Unfortunately the song evokes some sadness in me and can make me feel even more homesick…sometimes I think I’m just a sucker for punishment.

I started grade seven in 2002, Westlife still making my little world go round. ‘Bop Bop Baby’, ‘Queen of My Heart’… I played ‘Seasons in the Sun’ as my favourite song in class. I don’t know why it reminds me of going to the library and borrowing books, but it does. “We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun…” we did. We did. The whole year was spent sitting in the car waiting for school to start, the ‘World of Our Own’ album in the car’s tape deck. The car’s still going, and it still has a tape deck. Some things never change, but others do.

2004 was grade 9, and I was slowly starting to think that liking Westlife was uncool. All my friends liked Usher, so I simply didn’t tell me that every weekend on the way home I listened to Westlife’s ‘Turnaround’ album in the new car, the car that had a CD player. Whatever. I’d rather have been in the old car. The car with the tape deck. Life would have simpler, but I still had Westlife, and nothing could touch me when I closed my eyes and sang along.

I barely remember the Westlife concert I went to in 2005. I was 14, but my friends were 16 and they sure weren’t listening to Westlife. In fact, I didn’t even tell anyone where I was going. Adolescence had obviously gotten to me, and I regret that now. Anyway, I remember standing even though I had a seat, and singing along all night. It was beautiful. A dream come true, although I’m sure I’d appreciate it more now.

My love for Westlife slowed down a bit after that, I bought most of their new albums, but hardly listened to them. The old ones, however, remained as a standby for long road trips. Eventually I got over trying to be cool, and embraced how much I love Westlife. I found out that many of my friends love them too. But it’s still difficult to explain the way their songs make me feel. I’d do anything to be in Ireland tonight, screaming my lungs out at that stadium, but more than that, I’d do anything to be 10-years-old again, strolling with my family through my local shopping centre, ‘My Love’ playing on the radio.

Monday, June 18, 2012

She's Coming To Harvest Souls! Or Not.

So Lady Gaga is coming to South Africa at the end of the year. Yay, Nay, I don't really care what you think of her music, and it doesn't matter what I think of it either - the matter I wish to address here transcends music and comes to rest in the very fabric of humanity. 

Upon announcement of the tour, many people took to social media to voice their opinions. And good for them, opinions are what social media is all about, right? Well, up to a point...

The comments from the public were a sight to see indeed. Occasionally, someone made a remark along the lines of "Ah hells yea, I'm gonna be first in line for tickets, rocking my over-the-top outfit and crazy hair-do, bring on December!" However, the general response was overwhelmingly negative. Comment such as "She's awful, she's destroying music" are fine and were to be expected, but what on Earth gives any human being, under any circumstance, the right to label another human being as a 'Satanist' without having having met said person in their life? It is simply not on. Yes, she's odd, yes, her videos are more than a little strange, but devil-worship? Really? I'd heard such things before but I had no idea of the magnitude of these stories. People seemed genuinely scared: "Please don't let her in the country" said one. Are we about to take a leaf out of Jakarta's book, and not allow the woman to perform? Have we not moved past this? 

If you are impressionable enough to be influenced into worshipping the 'devil' because of a song or music video, then you have some serious problems in your life. I like to think that most people are able to distinguish reality from fantasy, but perhaps I'm simply forgetting the uproar Harry Potter caused years ago, when it allegedly glamourised witchcraft.  

A couple of centuries ago, someone may have been sentenced to death for allegations of witchcraft of devil-worpship...would everyone still be carrying on like this if it meant putting someone to death? Have they thought about that?

"She's coming to harvest souls for the devil!" Read another online comment. Um, forgive me for my ignorance, but if the devil wanted some souls, wouldn't he just harvest his own damned souls (excuse the pun)? Does he really need a popstar to do it for him?

The Illuminati were also not left out of the storm of backlash. '"Have you never heard of the Illuminati? She's evil." Yeah, I've heard of the Illuminati, buddy, but are you sure you have? Social media users unable to string a sentence together without resorting to SMS speak - "plz guyz y u let ha cm in dis country, she evil plz she da devil" - are going to be hard-pressed to convince me that they have enough knowledge of the Illuminati to pass a valid opinion. 

Perhaps these people think that they can say whatever they want because so-called 'celebrities' are so far removed from them that they cannot be affected by their hurtful and hateful comments - trust me, these people are wrong. Perhaps they don't see celebrities as people - trust me, they are people just like you and I (excuse the pun).

Anyway, I'm a firm believer that music can save or change lives (I won't go into the story of how my becoming a fan of The Killers changed the very course of my life), and if even one person in this world's life has been improved even marginally by this woman, who are you to call her evil? If a smile has been put on one face, surely that's enough of an achievement? Think about it. 

I think it's great that everyone has opinions, but I suggest you think before you pass comments about other human beings. Before you call someone else 'evil', take a minute to consider how 'evil' it is to judge someone you don't even know.