Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fierce, Flawless

A few songs unafraid to face reality with unwavering beauty and depth:
An elaborate songstress, poet, and lyrical superwoman, Ani Difranco is a master at making the ugliest of human experiences intrinsically beautiful and accessible. One of my favorite tracks, Fierce and Flawless, encompasses the courage that lies within expressing unspeakable truths.

She was cuffed to the truth

Like the truth was a chair
Bright interrogation light in her eyes
And her conscious lit a cigarette and just stood there
Waiting for her to crack
And his face scampered through her mind
Like a roach across a wall
And it made her soar
It made her skin crawl
They said: we got this confession, we just need you to sign
Why don't you just cooperate
And make this easier on us all?

There was light and there was darkness
But there was no line in between
And asking my heart for guidance
Was like pleading with a machine
You see joy has its own justice
And my dreams are languid and lawless
And everything bows to beauty;
When it is fierce, it is flawless

On the table were two zip-loc baggies
Containing her eyes and her smile
They said we're keeping these as evidence
Until this thing goes to trial
Meanwhile anguish was fingering solace
In another room down the hall
Both were love's accomplices but solace took the fall
Now look at her book of days
It's the same on every page
She's got a little tin cup with her heart in it
To bang along the bars of her rib cage

Similarly, looking at the lyrics to "Fistful of Love" by Anthony and the Johnsons is a bit like looking at an abject* piece of art from the 1970s. You can't explain it immediately, if at all, and it may initially make you uncomfortable but curious. It is certainly not clean, it is not pure, it is not a pretty little piece of work. But it is nothing if not beautiful. And that, in its most simplistic form, deserves the kind of recognition overlooked by mainstream art/music critics. In what way do glossed-over declarations of beauty and love represent sincere human experiences? Nothing is perfect, and without including what I personally attribute to its significance, I think everyone has a unique reaction to this piece. Listening to the song in its entirety is a better way to experience it, and the vocals are nothing if not haunting in their delivery.

We live together in a photograph of time
I look into your eyes
And the seas open up to me
I tell you I love you
And I always will
And I know you can't tell me
I know you can't tell me

So I'm left to pick up
The hints, the little symbols of your devotion
So I'm left to pick up
The hints, the little symbols of your devotion

And I feel your burning eyes burning holes
Straight through my heart
It's out of love

I accept and I collect upon my body
The memories of your devotion
I accept and I collect upon my body
The memories of your devotion

*To be abject in terms of artwork often means to be graphic or illicit a knee-jerk reaction in order to posit something larger about society; (i.e: domestic violence, crime, etc). Abject art in all forms tends to make people instantly uncomfortable but curious.

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