Down to my core

classyclumsy

I’ve got pretty good balance. In yoga classes, my tree pose is perfectly passable. And that’s on one foot. So you would think I should have no trouble standing in a crowded bus, two feet planted firmly on the ground, leaning nonchalantly on the handrail, headphones in, phone in hand. Right?

Oh. So. Wrong.

It’s all going so well. I even remember to look up from my phone as we cross the Harbour Bridge – a stunning view no matter how many times you look at it. Once we are across, I scroll through my playlists looking for something to follow Post Malone’s ‘I Fall Apart’, a beautifully raw and soulful song about heartbreak. And then I enter a parallel universe where his song unwittingly becomes the soundtrack to a tragic fall from grace.  Continue reading

Dance like everyone’s watching

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I hadn’t been to a dance class in a while. So I was really excited to walk into the dance studio again for JFH (Jazz, Funk & Hip-hop).

The class starts off with the usual 30 minute warm-up of dynamic stretches, dance moves and a (hard-) core workout that lasts an entire song. Hello, abs! We also do some walking. Yes, walking. But not the regular, right-foot in front of left-foot kind. No, my friends. This is a dance class. So we Strut. We Swagger. We channel our inner Chanel model and prance like we mean it.

The instructor (who is, by the way, amazingly talented and very JFH) tells us to imagine we have just spotted ‘a hottie’ in a club and are striding towards him. Hmm. I quickly come up with a more suitable analogy in my head. Imagine…….[insert your own fantasy].

Then it is time to learn the routine.

“This one is old-school,” the instructor says. Ooh, yay, I think, I wonder what it’s going to be. Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’, maybe? That’s old-school. Perhaps too old-school. Nelly’s ‘Hot in Here’? That would be a good one to dance to. 

She plays the song. It’s Timbaland’s ‘The Way I Are’. From 2007. “It’s really old-school,” she says again. “Don’t worry if you don’t recognise it.” I look around at my fellow dancers. How old are they to not know a song from 2007, which doesn’t feel like that long ago? A quick mental calculation reveals if they were 10 in 2007 and not yet privy to the delights of hip hop music, that would make them 21. Fair enough. And yikes.

I can just about keep up with the choreography. It is not easy to:
1. shake it like a polaroid picture
2. whilst simultaneously wondering if anyone is truly ready for this jelly, and
3. keep a hip hop face on.

I love the routine and almost feel like a back-up dancer in a Beyoncé video, or better yet, like Beyoncé. I have a slight issue with the lyrics, specifically the ungrammatical title and chorus but I do believe in artistic licence so tell myself that this is no time for the Grammar Police and can you stop analysing the bloody lyrics and just try to be a little more hip hop please?

The class runs over by a few minutes so there isn’t time for an official ‘cool-down’. As the instructor presses Pause on Timbaland, she says, “We’ll finish here, but please stay if you need to stretch.” And looks straight at me whilst all the 21-year-old dancers pick up their tote bags and stroll out of the studio. (It’s 9.30pm so I suppose the night is still young for them, whereas I am thinking about a nice hot shower and a mug of green tea.)

I could take offence. I could begin a downward spiral into a pit of  paranoia and despair. But instead, I call on my inner swagger and tell myself I need to stretch because I killed those moves.

So I plonk my 40-year-old leg up on the ballet barre and stretch it like I mean it. My hamstrings will thank me in the morning.

#40isthenew21

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Honky Tonk Emotion

When my cousin mentioned a song she likes called Blue Ain’t Your Colour, I desperately wanted to listen to the lyrics. This Keith Urban song took me down a musical path I hadn’t been on in a while – the path of cowboy boots, checked shirts, the open road and unconcealed emotion, also known as Country & Western music.

Growing up, I was familiar with the music of Billy Ray Cyrus (Achy Breaky Heart), George Strait (I Just Want To Dance With You) and of course, Shania Twain. It impressed me much. I loved how the lyrics had humour, irony, wordplay and honesty all rolled into one foot-stompin’ tune.

Country music is unapologetically direct. Pop music delivers emotion in an understated, sometimes cryptic way that is often open to interpretation. Country music just tells it like it is. Like that one friend we all have who just blurts out whatever is in her head, the one with no filter, the brutally honest, what-you-see-is-what-you-get character who the rest of us secretly want to be sometimes.

You don’t need to analyse a country song or put too much effort into guessing what it could be about. It’s all laid bare right there, often in the title. Forget about being concise. Just lay it all on the table. The lyrics are literal to the point of occasional banality, but with no beating around the bush.

When Shania Twain asks Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under, there’s no getting away from it. You answer the damn question. In contrast, Beyonce’s Irreplaceable, also about a cheating partner, requires much more work to understand the premise of the song. That is, you have to listen to it to realise that she is actually saying ‘You’ve been replaced’. Very misleading, that title. Also listening to the first few lines might make you think she was supervising a painting being hung on the wall (‘To the left, to the left’).

With country music there is no such ambiguity. When left for another woman, Shania puts her heart on her sleeve and sings Poor Me. When John Denver faces unrequited love he sings ‘You dun stomped on my heart and you mashed that sucker flat.’ No interpretation needed.

Another quirky feature of country music titles is the use of parentheses (brackets!) to give you the full story. To explain further. To remove all possible doubt. My favourites:

Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You) – Shania Twain

She Got The Ring (I Got The Finger) – Chuck Mead

She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles) – Gary Stewart

Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy) – Big and Rich

If we applied this rule to non-country songs, we would provide sufficient information and relevant details to an otherwise vague title. I propose we add brackets to this Jay-Z song:

(I Got) 99 Problems (But A Bitch Ain’t One). Would be so much clearer.

But the prize for the best country song title ever has to go to this one by Deana Carter. To disappointed women everywhere – she sings:

Did I Shave My Legs For This? So good it needs to be shared.

©2017 Seetha Dodd

All the world’s a music video

Music

The other day I heard a radio presenter say it’s a shame that life doesn’t come with a soundtrack. This perplexed me on so many levels. Especially as it came from someone who chooses and plays music for an audience every day.

What on earth were they talking about? Had they never made a mix tape or had one made for them? Had they never heard a song that transported them back to one sweet memory of their yesteryear? Had they never created a playlist for a single moment of bliss, a week of indulgence, a month of anguish or a year of loneliness? Had they never memorised the lyrics to Girl You Know It’s True because they believed in Milli Vanilli despite those distressing lip-syncing allegations?

Surely everyone has a soundtrack?! Even if you haven’t officially started compiling it, it is there. It exists somewhere in your memory bank. For me, a soundtrack would be made up of 2 types of songs:

  1. The songs of my past – the ones that make me feel nostalgic (these songs don’t change)
  2. The songs of today – the ones I have on repeat now (these songs change regularly until they are worthy of nostalgia and are then elevated to ‘songs of the past’).

The nostalgic ones can be happy or sad. Songs that attach themselves to a memory and hold on so tight that they eventually fuse into one, and you can no longer listen to that song without recalling the memory. Songs that make you stop in your tracks (ooh!) and smile wistfully or wretchedly, depending on whether it is Tone Loc or Sinead O’ Connor and how many tears were shed.

These songs link me back to the girl I was at 8, singing along with my sisters to Bob Marley and Tom Jones on long car journeys with my dad.

They remind me of a 10 year old’s obsession with the ‘American Top 100 Year End Countdown’ on the radio, when I recorded George Michael’s Faith (#1 in 1988) onto a cassette tape to play-pause-play to ensure accurate lyrics for singing into a hairbrush.

These songs are a nod to the romance-angst combo of the teenage years with so much Hootie and the Blowfish and a big, angry dose of Alanis Morrissette.

If Chris Martin wasn’t singing about Gwyneth, perhaps he was singing about music itself, and its power to comfort in Everglow: ‘And you’re with me wherever I go/ And you give me this feeling, this everglow.’ The beauty of recollection is that it allows me to relive the moment whenever I choose. Whilst the memory remains in the past, the song is here in the present moment to serve as a portal through which I can, at anytime, delve into the far recesses of my mind, my soul, and my ‘80s boombox.

I close my eyes, play What’s New, Pussycat and it is 1990. I am in my dad’s car, looking out of the window, thinking about what awaits me when I get home: homework, my grandma’s chicken curry and my mother’s smile. And then in an instant, it is 1998. I am at university, dancing to No Diggity and drinking Snakebite & Blacks.  Blink again and it is 2007. I am on holiday in Australia, hearing Ben Lee’s Catch My Disease for the first time with the summer breeze messing up my hair, ‘and that’s the way I like it.’

What about the songs of today? These are the ones that enhance the present. They make you smile, laugh, cry, dance, unwind. They pump you up before a big moment or just keep you company with a glass of Red Red Wine.

I have many, many playlists on Google Play. They range from ‘Mellow’ and ‘Zen’ to ‘Dance’ and ‘Dance!’ A subtle difference for the level of body rolls required. There is one for my kids’ favourite tunes including Gangnam Style (the 3 year old randomly shouts out ‘Hey sexy lay-deh!’ in public), and one called ‘Karaoke’ for the hairbrush/ in-shower rehearsals which end in rapturous applause and certainly no booing from the entranced audience of…myself.

There are songs for the drive in to work, songs for a bus ride, songs before a dance class, songs for dancing in the kitchen with a wooden spoon. There are even songs to strut down the street to in the style of a Coldplay music video.

So if life doesn’t come with a soundtrack, perhaps it’s because you are the DJ, the curator, the director and the lead singer.

What’s on your soundtrack?

©2017 Seetha Dodd

Drops of Jupiter at the State Theatre

Train

A (not-at-all star struck) fan’s review of Train’s Play That Song tour in Sydney this August.                                                                                                     

Train appeared on stage to the background noise of…….a train chugging and whistling. And for me, that set the tone for the night: this is a band that has fun. With lyrics, with their audience and with their performance.

The setting was the State Theatre. Stunning as it was, it seemed to warrant an air of restraint in the audience. With his tongue in his cheek, Pat Monahan thanked us for sitting down, as it ‘took the pressure off’. The beauty of this band, however, is the very real connection that its frontman made with his audience. A slow and steady surrender to his energy, wit and general likeability meant that by the end of the night the entire main floor was on its feet. And not just for the free t-shirts.

They opened with Drink Up, a seize the moment song from the new album to get the party started. And from then on, they barely stopped to take a breath. Bruises, a duet, was sung as a solo, so we tried to join in to ‘pick up the slack’. Pat Monahan and his incredible voice didn’t need any help.

And then some of the favourites: Hey Soul Sister, Drive By, Save Me San Francisco. Also some older ones like Meet Virginia, and the very cute Get to Me, about the many ways you can travel to get to someone who is waiting: “hitch a ride on the back of a butterfly,” echoed – in quirky Train fashion – an older Brenda Russell song, Get Here: “You can make it in a big balloon, but you better make it soon.”

The question on everyone lips: Will they Play That Song? They sure did. But only when Sydney was standing up and ready for it. If nothing else, to be worthy of those smooth dance moves from the music video.

My wait for Drops of Jupiter was not in vain and I found myself ‘tracing my way through the constellation (hey hey)’ with the best of them. This was the song that first captured my interest in this American band because it spoke to me just like the poetry I dissected for fun. I loved the imagery of freeze-dried romance and the bizarre connections in a world where love, pride and deep-fried chicken could hang out in the same line.

I only found out later that the song was written after Pat’s mother passed away and the song came to him in a dream: his mother came back after traveling the universe to tell him that heaven was overrated and to love this life. I didn’t think I could love this song more.

Whilst you can enjoy a Train song without going too deep, some of their lyrics are so clever that you don’t have a choice: “I stopped believin’/ Although Journey told me don’t..” See??! So clever.

The themes – love lost, unrequited love, true love, old loves, broken hearts, seizing the day, friendship, moments that matter – may be common ones but their songs are anything but. The lyrics combine the deep and meaningful (“You are the greatest thing about me”) with the whimsical and flippant (“I wanna buy you everything except cologne/ ’Cause it’s poison”) so that what you get in the end are words that touch your soul as well as your funny bone.

To break up the set, we were treated to a couple of guitar solos and a medley of popular songs, old and new, including Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. Then a performance of Queen’s Under Pressure that presented the frontman’s vocal range in all its amazing glory.

But the stand-out moment of the night was when Pat Monahan put down his microphone and sang, only with his heart, the beautiful Always Midnight. A song I’d never heard before tonight and now want to hear forever. The words, about someone that is always just out of reach, something that is just not meant to be, about disappointment: “The sound of a train that I should have been on/ Reminding me that the last one’s gone/ With you it’s always midnight.”

After that, they could have played chugga-choo-choo noises all night, I don’t think anyone would have complained.

A lively yet soulful performance by a charismatic, funny guy and his very cool band.

©2017 Seetha Dodd