Mar 14

“Chandelier”: Addiction Song by Sober Songwriter

Can’t feel anything, when will I learn…From “Chandelier”

The writing of “Chandelier,” on singer Sia‘s 2014 album 1000 Forms of Fear, was reportedly rooted in her own past addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs. By the time she co-wrote “Chandelier,” though, Sia had entered sobriety and was no longer unhealthily “swinging from the chandelier,” a popular term referring to excess partying.

Last year Hillel Aron, Rolling Stone, did a feature article on the artist, “How Sia Saved Herself.” Before she could have a career unlike any other pop star, she had to learn how to live, states the subheading. Later, this: “Her life no longer hangs in the balance. But years of therapy and medication and 12-step meetings have not entirely quieted the internal monologue that helped drive her to drink and drugs.”

According to the piece, Sia’s obsession now, however, is dieting. Unhappy with feeling bigger than the typical female pop star, she tortures herself over a perceived need to lose weight.

A huge hit, of course, “Chandelier” has been covered by many other singers in the past few years. Below are three special versions for your viewing:

  1. Sia’s own official video
  2. American Idol winner Trent Harmon performing a Sia-coached version she loved
  3. The Voice winner Jordan Smith doing his four-chair-turn audition (not the full song)

Following the videos are the lyrics in full.

I. The original, sung by Sia, performed by dancer Maddie Ziegler:

II. Trent Harmon, American Idol, 2016:

III. Jordan Smith, The Voice, 2017:

Lyrics to “Chandelier” (SongMeanings.com)

Party girls don’t get hurt
Can’t feel anything, when will I learn
I push it down, push it down

I’m the one “for a good time call”
Phone’s blowin’ up, they’re ringin’ my doorbell
I feel the love, feel the love

1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink

Throw ’em back, till I lose count

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier

And I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight

Sun is up, I’m a mess
Gotta get out now, gotta run from this
Here comes the shame, here comes the shame

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drink

Throw ’em back till I lose count

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier

And I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight, on for tonight
As I’m just holding on for tonight
No I’m I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight, on for tonight
As I’m just holding on for tonight
As I’m just holding on for tonight
No I’m I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight, on for tonight

Jun 28

Chronic Lyme, PTSD, Addiction, Etc. in “Sick”

Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour is largely about the author’s many years of struggle to get appropriate diagnosis and treatment for chronic Lyme disease, otherwise known as Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS). Nicole Clark, Vice:

Her symptoms include dizziness and fainting, severe insomnia, constant aches and headaches, limping, inability to regulate temperature, dysphagia (inability to swallow), and complete disorientation. In Sick she recounts countless doctors misdiagnosing her with depression, anxiety, diabetes, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, to name just a sampling of conditions.

But there’s also so much more than chronic Lyme. “I have been sick my whole life.I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t in some sort of physical or mental pain, but usually both.” The many and varied reasons for this she’ll try to explain.

Some info about Khakpour’s earlier life (Kirkus Reviews):

A child of the Iranian Revolution, her earliest memories were of ‘pure anxiety.’ She survived the trauma of living in a war zone and moved from Tehran to Los Angeles. As she grew into adolescence, she writes, ‘everything about my body felt wrong,’ and her feelings of dysmorphia remained one of the constants in an often chaotic life. In college, Khakpour, who had long been fascinated by the ‘altered states’ that drugs could produce, began a ‘casual [long-term] relationship’ with cocaine and cultivated the ‘heroin chic’ look fashionable during the 1990s. In addition to her experimentation with drugs, the author endured harrowing experiences with sexual assault and depression.

Eventually needing help for the developing problems of central concern to Sick, Khakpour faces further obstacles and assaults on her health. Rien Fertel, AVClub:

Internists and nurses laugh at her, call her crazy. Friends and physicians blame a nightmarish litany of diseases, from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to lupus to diabetes to Parkinson’s, Hashimoto’s, and various cancers. She’s prescribed a rainbow of pills: Ambien, Ativan, Celexa, Klonopin, Neurontin, Paxil, Remeron, Seroquel, Xanax. She tries nutritionists, acupuncturists, ayurvedics, and other new age healers, spending over $140,000 on her well-being.

Lidija Haas, New Yorker:

When doctors disbelieve her, or when her relapses reliably ‘coincide with global turmoil,’ she wonders whether her symptoms might indeed be psychosomatic, some form of P.T.S.D.; after she becomes addicted to the pills prescribed to treat her insomnia, she seems open to the suggestion that maybe her addiction is the main source of her problems. She cheerfully lists the ways in which she damages her own health, including by smoking cigarettes every day during the writing of her book.

Sick is not told chronologically “but rather by city and the lover who was is living with her at the time, linking illness to place and person. The constant is the racism Khakpour endures because she is a brown-skinned woman in post-9/11 America” (Vice).

A widely applauded memoir without a particularly uplifting ending, “…Sick is a bruising reminder and subtle revelation,” states Kiese Laymon, “that the lines between a sick human being and a sick nation are often not lines at all. The book boldly asserts that a nation wholly disinterested in what really constitutes ‘health’ will never tend the bodily and emotional needs of its sick and vulnerable.”

To read an excerpt, titled “Does My Disease Need a Name?,” click on this HuffPost link.

Jul 10

Amy Winehouse: What Went Wrong (“Amy” Documentary)

When Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning in 2011, worldwide reaction was more weary resignation than surprise. British director Asif Kapadia’s respectful documentary portrait reminds us that the self-destructive London singer was supremely talented, explosively charismatic, but dangerously ill-equipped for the superstar fame that came with her 20-million-selling breakthrough album Back to Black. Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter

Four years ago Amy Winehouse famously became a member of the “27 Club”—joining other talented musicians who died at the same age—and Asif Kopadia‘s documentary Amy reveals much of what had gone wrong in her life.

Basically, says Ella Taylor, NPR: “Booze, drugs, Svengalis galore, rampant co-dependence…”

Adds Susan Wloszczyna, rogerebert.com: “Many of the danger signs were there even before the incendiary element of celebrityhood arrived on the scene: An addictive personality, an often-maddening passive-aggressive nature, an unhealthy appetite for drugs and alcohol, a passion for reckless partying, a weakness for manipulative men, daddy issues that dated from her parents’ break-up when she was a child, lifelong struggles with depression, bulimia and self-doubt.”

An important distinction is pointed out by Clay Cane, BET: “…(T)his is one of the first music docs to chronicle a life of a star who rose to fame during the era of blogs, social media and 24-hour news. Amy Winehouse was brutalized by the media: she was coined ‘Amy Crackhouse,’ shamed for her weight issues and mocked for her addictions. Amy is arguably the first celebrity to be bullied to death by social media.”

Ultimately, says Manohla Dargis, New York Times, everyone who participated in the above were Amy’s enablers:

…Did you laugh, as I did, when you first heard Ms. Winehouse singing ‘Rehab,’ which opens with the lyric ‘They tried to make me go to rehab but I said, ‘No, no, no’ ‘? It’s a catchy song and made her a mint, but I’ll never hear it the same way again after seeing this documentary, mostly because, scene by scene, Mr. Kapadia makes a case for just how desperately unfunny it always was. At times in ‘Amy,’ it seems as if Ms. Winehouse, by living and crashing so publicly, was intent on making the whole world her enabler, even if it’s clear she wasn’t the only addict here. Somebody, after all, buys those tabloids.

Besides the tabloid press, among those who may have failed to help Amy’s mental health issues, according to this film, are her parents, her ex-husband, and her manager Raye Cosbert.

Guy Lodge, Variety, elaborates on the negative contributions of two main enablers:

…[Her father] Mitch Winehouse is presented here as one of two key male influences who inadvertently assisted her decline, with a cavalier attitude to her long-term bulimia and initial denial of her need for addiction treatment.

The other is her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, whose toxic on-off relationship with Winehouse was the driving force behind her double-platinum 2006 sophomore set, ‘Back to Black,’ a crushingly candid breakup album that kicked her global career into touch just as her personal life began to unravel most severely. It was Fielder-Civil who introduced Winehouse — a habitual user of modest narcotics from adolescence — to crack cocaine and heroin…

The film, which is garnering many rave reviews, also features a certain continuous and essential musical thread, i.e., a reminder of the brilliance of her songwriting.

Watch the trailer below:

David Edelstein, New York Magazine: “Amy is alternately thrilling and devastating, throwing you back and forth until the devastation takes over and you spend the last hour watching the most supernaturally gifted vocalist of her generation chase and find oblivion.”

Jan 13

“August: Osage County”–A Strong Film Adaptation

Tracy Letts won a Pulitzer Prize for the semi-autobiographical Broadway play he’s now adapted for the screen. As described on IMDB, the film August: Osage County, directed by John Wells, is “(a) look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.”

Although the movie is the only version I’ve seen, it’s easy to envision how the play would also have powerfully and rivetingly revealed the various layers of family stuff involved. One who actually can make the comparison to the original, Scott FoundasVariety, concludes, “…(T)his two-ton prestige pic won’t win the hearts of highbrow critics or those averse to door-slamming, plate-smashing, top-of-the-lungs histrionics, but as a faithful filmed record of Letts’ play, one could have scarcely hoped for better.”

When alcoholic poet Beverly (Sam Shepard) goes missing just days after he hires young Johnna (Misty Upham) to help take care of the house and his pill-popping cancer-stricken wife Violet (Meryl Streep), the latter turns to her adult kids. There’s the middle daughter, Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), the one who’s stayed nearby; the eldest, Barbara (Julia Roberts), who brings her estranged husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and their teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin) from Colorado; and the flighty, self-involved Karen (Juliette Lewis), who lives in Florida and is recently engaged to slick and sleazy Steve (Dermot Mulroney).

Also on the scene are Violet’s sister (Margo Martindale) and her husband (Chris Cooper) and their adult though seemingly emotionally stunted son (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Very little is seen of Beverly, by the way, who early on is found to have drowned himself. It’s the intensely dramatic interactions among different constellations of family members following the funeral that comprise the meat of the movie. Fortunately, there are sufficient doses of intermittent humor as well.

Watch the trailer for August: Osage County below:

More About Matriarch Violet

Claudia Puig, USA Today: “It’s both ironic and tragic that she’s suffering from mouth cancer. Her mouth burns and her tongue feels as if it’s on fire, she insists, but that doesn’t stop her from spewing verbal venom.”

Owen Gleiberman, ew.com: “…(S)he’s so drugged up on pharmaceuticals that it’s hard to say where the medicine leaves off and the self-medicating begins.”

Some Family Dynamics

Ian BuckwalterNPR: “Everyone here has pain, everyone has secrets, and while we join these characters for a short time, it’s easy to see that the cycles of lies, distrust, and abuse go back for generations, clinging to this family like the hot summer dust of the empty plains that surround them.”

Rex ReedNew York Observer: “This is a story about people bonded by blood but doing what they must to destroy each other—partly out of fear and panic, but also out of twisted love. The more they reveal about themselves, and each other, the more they come to realize how they don’t know each other at all. In the stifling angst of an unbearable Oklahoma August, they merely occupy the same space in a house of strangers.”

Overview of August: Osage County

Owen Gleibermanew.com: “The fights, insults, and sadistic parent-child mind games, the powerhouse acting that shades into overacting (though I’ll be damned if you could say exactly when)…the movie is red meat for anyone who thrives on a certain brand of punchy, in-your-face emotional shock value.”

The Writer, Tracy Letts, Speaks

Letts, interviewed on NPR, believes the material asks these ultimate questions: “Do you have a choice? Are you your brother’s keeper? When does your responsibility to your family end, and when should your responsibility to yourself take over?”

In an article in Slant, Letts states the following about another key element:

…I’ve been sober for over 20 years, and I’m a subscriber of AA and its philosophies. So there probably is something in there about my belief that a certain giving up of control is good for the soul. I certainly think that, in August: Osage County, that moment in the play when Barbara insists she’s ‘running things now’ was always a choice moment for the audience, and it’s in the film as well. And I think it taps into something that people feel, particularly in regard to their families: ‘Oh my god, if you would just do what I want you to do we’d be so much better off. If you’d just behave the way I feel you should behave.’ As opposed to allowing people to make their own choices, for good or ill.