2016: The year everyone wanted to end. A year that saw countless celebrity deaths fail to let up until the last second. As 2016 began, I remember hearing the news that David Bowie had passed away, and I thought it was a hoax. It had to be. He had never spoken of being ill, and he was always so prolific and immortal it seemed impossible. I was deeply troubled for weeks, to the point of having to come to terms with understanding why someone I didn’t know personally had such an impact on me emotionally. After a lot of reflection I realized that growing up and coming of age with someone’s direct musical and artistic influence brings them close to our hearts as if we do know them. As if they’re a part of us somehow. The heart doesn’t know any different. That is why mourners flock when a beloved celebrity dies. They are usually strangers, yet they are affected as loved ones. There IS a connection there. Bowie for one helped shape my own music and artistry since I first saw his space-aged androgynous bones move across the stage. He was one of the most important icons I looked to for inspiration time and time again. It left a deep void in my heart to lose him. He left behind a mysterious and brilliant album in Blackstar which was his final statement to the world. “Look up here, I’m in heaven” he sings on the single “Lazarus” from his new album. “Ain’t that just like me.” “I’m going to be free, just like that bluebird.” Yes David, and we’re going to miss you.
Thinking the worst was over would hardly end up being a reality. Prince’s death was also a shock as it revealed that no one, no matter how iconic and revolutionary, was safe from the fragility of life itself. (Side note: don’t do drugs kids). It was hard to picture him lying dead alone in an elevator after growing up with his untouchably too-cool-for-school presence permeating radio, television, and movies. Images of him crawling across the floor like a cat bursting in high-pitched sexual calls to his lovers made it difficult to process that he had just simply overdosed. That he was human, after all. It was Prince who taught me that it was okay to push boundaries in pop music and lyricism. As a six year old child I was studying piano at the local conservatory under the strict direction of nuns. When asked to bring in a “Popular” piece of music (as opposed to the mainly classical music we studied there) I decided on Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” My teacher was appalled by the choice and angrily told me to “bring in something more appropriate next time!” Her stern demeanour and lack of tolerance for others types of music made me question so much. Wasn’t music, music? Chords, a melody, a string of words. Did it matter what the subject was if it was beautiful? And even still, isn’t it the artist’s artistic integrity to tell the story they want, using the words they want? How can you label art? It seemed silly (even at six years old!) to think a grown woman who’s soul purpose was to teach music itself would be so adversely opposed to such a great work. That lesson stuck with me. I quite the school soon after and never went back.
Worse still for me was George Michael’s death this past christmas day. I have often been asked what my favourite song of all time is, and though it’s difficult to choose just one, I have known it from my youth. The song is “One More Try” by the man himself. As a seven year old I was obsessed with the song. It was the first track that really taught me about emotion in music – there was something about the melody line and the way he sang the notes that hit my spine in such a way. I used to write the lyrics out on paper and sing along, rewinding the tape over and over until I wore it thin. As an adult it still resonates with me as being a remarkably beautiful song which has greatly inspired a lot of my own work, and my kinship with ballads. It’s also safe to say that his image seemed to have an impact on me at an impressionable age. I was taken with it. Tall, dark and handsome with a great haircut, trimmed beard, and cross earring adorned in a leather jacket – as on the cover for the album “Faith.” That image burned in my memory must have seeped into my own imagery. And I take pride in giving him credit for that. His voice was golden and well-rounded, and his first two solo albums were an obsession for me. I have sighted him as one of my main influences since day one, and it was so difficult to process losing his spirit on this earth. We’ll all miss him dearly.
New music in 2016 wasn’t overly notable in any respect. I had many discussions with my fellow Loveless Radio DJ’s and friends about our favourite tracks throughout the year, and until fall, no one had heard anything that could claim their top spot. Save for a few surprises, there was nothing historically altering, and I feel it is fitting for the year’s downtrodden path anyway. Let’s consider it to be a transition year, something to get out of the way as we move to a better road ahead.
As usual, I spent a lot of time digging for anything that would remotely affect my hungry musical palate, and though the list was short this year, here is what I did enjoy and the songs that were in heavy rotation on my playlist. In a year of turmoil, death, protests, shootings, fear, and president Trump – these were the bright lights that shone through and made things better, if not wonderful.