Tune-Yards’ Musical and Political Journey

In the beginning…

I first met Tune-Yards (tUnE-yArDs) in May 2014. I was in Bend, Oregon seeing one of my all-time favorite bands, The National. Because there isn’t much to do in Bend, I showed up at the outdoor amphitheater hours before they opened the gates. The venue was located along the banks of the Deschutes River and the Oregon May weather couldn’t have provided a better evening for an outdoor concert. I was about the 10th person in line which led to me standing front row dead-center.

When Merrill Garbus of opening act Tune-Yards took the stage, I fell in love. Flamboyantly dressed, with an asymmetrical haircut, and paint on her face, she was so unapologetically herself that it was hard not to. Her music matched her quirky style with such uniqueness that I had never heard the likes of. On stage, she played with a loop-pedal, a ukulele, and various percussion instruments. Rounding out the band was bassist Nate Brenner, back-up singers, and another percussionist.

Hailing from New England, Tune-Yards’ music is characterized as Art-Pop, Alternative-Dance, or Lo-Fi Indie. I still remember hearing songs such as “Gangsta”, “Bizness”, and “Water Fountain” for the first time. I have now heard them hundreds of times and they’re still awesome.

The music continues

On January 19th, 2018, Tune-Yards released their fourth album I can feel you creep into my private life. While I was slightly disappointed with this album, compared to their earlier work including W H O K I L L (2011), there are still several songs that capture my attention. Opening track “Heart Attack” is solid and starts the album off strong.

Lyrically this album is very political. Garbus explores what it means to be a white woman in our society, primarily the privileges she experiences because of her race. In recent years, she has engrossed herself in an anti-racist curriculum attending workshops and joining activist groups including Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). She seems to experience a tremendous amount of white guilt which is evident through the lyrics.

In the song “Coast to Coast”, Garbus sings, “the seeds are sown in small acts of violence… we let freedom ring, but whose freedom?” In “ABC 123” the theme continues, “I want so badly to be liked…I ask myself, ‘What should I do?’ but all I know is white centrality.” Of the song “Colonizer”, Garbus said, “I cringed all the way through making that song…I cried a lot too…I heard my voice speaking to a friend about this experience that I had in Kenya. A lot of people think that I’m making fun of another white woman in ‘Colonizer.’ No. This is me.” She sings, “I comb my white woman’s hair with a comb made especially, generally for me…I smell the blood in my voice.”

What white people listen to

In our society, essentially every music genre was pioneered by black Americans or influenced by music of the same roots. Some white musicians choose to completely ignore this as they sweep over fellow musicians collecting paychecks and Grammies. Other bands, like Tune-Yards, use their platform to highlight problems in society. While dance music might not be the greatest platform for these issues, it is what white people listen to.

Tune-Yards will be coming to Salt Lake on April 25th. They are playing live at the Depot with guest Brightest Diamond. The show is 21 and up and doors open at 7. Years after first hearing them, I am excited to re-experience Tune-Yards. This time headlining and performing in my home-state.



A Whole New Gaga

lady_gaga_-_joanne_official_album_coverStefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, or as you might know her, Lady Gaga, dropped her new album Joanne. To call it “okay” would be the understatement of the year. The album was written to honor the creative spirit of her aunt Joanne. Best known for her meat suit, dance music, and love for the disco-stick, Gaga turned in the sequins for blue jeans and a guitar on this accept-yourself-and-love-yourself album.

Track 01: Diamond Heart- A tale of how to be strong, told from the point of view of a young, wild, American woman. The bombshell lyric, “Some asshole broke me in, wrecked all my innocence, I’ll just keep go-go’n, and this dance is on you” speaks directly to Gaga’s past about being raped. Gaga sings that although she’s not perfect, she’s got a Diamond Heart.

Track 02: A-YO- This track is laced with lyrics about sticking it to the man. Gaga herself defines this track as, “‘A-YO, A-YO were smokin ’em all’ is like “Hey you, let’s celebrate. We’re leaving our haters in the dust.” Essentially, this song pays tribute to the people who called Artpop a flop. (Gaga’s album from 2013, Artpop, received horrible reviews from both critics and fans)

Track 03: Joanne – A song written about Joanne, Gaga’s aunt who passed away at age 19. This song is written in the first person, referencing Gaga by her middle name, but is a tribute to her father’s sister. She sings, “take my hand, stay Joanne, heaven’s not ready for you, every part of my aching heart, needs you more than the angels do”

Track 04: John Wayne – This song captures the album best of all, as Gaga sings about, “being strung out on John Wayne.” The dance-like track has the same feel as Born This Way (Gaga’s album from 2011) but is a little more western-y and surprisingly heartfelt. She sings, “He called, I cried, we broke” most likely referencing the split from her fiance earlier this year. This is the western pop song I never knew I needed.

Tlady-gaga-t-magazine-nyt-1476724790-640x434rack 05: Dancin’ In Circles – This track provides the closest resemblance to the 2008 chart topping album, The Fame. The gritty lyrics, ska beat, and message between the lines hugs close to songs like “Alejandro” (Born This Way) and “Love Game” (The Fame). I’m not going to leave any of the lyrics here, but the ode to loving yourself comes in a literal sense from this track, and it’s bound to be a dancefloor anthem.

Track 06: Perfect Illusion – Released as a single to announce the album, this track is an ode to someone specifically created by Gaga and the media. She got the idea from the pressure she feels to live up to the ‘illusion’ she’s created for herself. Between her cigarette sunglasses, black firebolt eye makeup, and neon animal print jackets, she feels as though she’s created a certain outlook for herself, and she wanted to reference how that02-lady-gaga-press-photo-cr-collier-schorr-2016-billboard-1548 feels for her. The lyrics also dissect how euphoric the feeling of fame can be, while at the same time, feeling incredibly fake.

Track 07: Million Reasons – This acoustic track is a heartfelt, simple song representing a turning point in Stefani’s career in which she has, “cut through all his worn out leather” and given herself reasons to continue with a music career even though it’s headed in a different direction. Most chill-inducing lyric: “Every heartbreak makes it hard to keep the faith.”

Track 08: Sinner’s Prayer – This western, empathetic, track is a hard hitting song that focuses on embracing yourself for who you are. Best bone chilling lyric: “The man’s got a gift for getting what he wants, He’s thirsty when he drinks, Gets on the brink, and throws her off.”

Track 09: Come To Mama – A track that can be summed up in the first line, “Everybody’s gotta love each other” This song is the farthest from a typical Lady Gaga track. It has a gospel feel, an inspiring message, and a heartfelt plea, begging the world to love each other.

Track 10: Hey Girl – Gather up every girl you’ve ever met and blast this at your next get-together. This song is going to be your new favorite ode to friendship. Featuring Florence Welch from Florence + The Machine, this song is full of empowering, lift-you-up lyrics such as, “Help me hold my hair back, walk me home ’cause I can’t find a cab, and we dance down the bowery, held hands like we were 17 again”. It’s catchy, it’s beautiful, and it’s fun.  Girl lady-gaga-joanne-jpg-c83925511999fcc49fd859aabc799988-678x381power forever.

Track 11: Angel Down – This song is a powerful tribute to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen who was shot to death. While Gaga fears that she will get negative feedback about the song, she feels that she needs to make music with a purpose because of the platform she works within. Best lyric: ” Doesn’t everyone belong, In the arms of the sacred, Why do we pretend we’re wrong?”

Track 12: Grigio Girls – A catchy tune that pays homage to Gaga’s longtime friendship with Sonja Dunham, who was revealed last year to be suffering from breast cancer. This is my personal favorite on the album, for it’s ode to girl groups. Gaga references The Spice Girls, and calling your sisters to drink some wine after a 01-lady-gaga-press-photo-cr-collier-schorr-2016-billboard-1548hard day. Stand aside boys, tough girls on the mend are going to come out of the woodwork to sing along to the anthem ending of this song. My favorite lyric: “Pour your heart out, watch your blues turn gold”

Track 13: Just Another Day – The inspired-by David Bowie track reeks of the Electroclash movement. It’s a catchy, uplifting tune about keeping your head up in the clouds, even when people try to pull you down. Most playful lyric:  “I’ll lay back in my chair and find a way, and when you say that thing that you say, that makes me mad, I’ll turn away.”

This raw album is a new side of Lady Gaga that has never been seen on shelves before. Mother Monster opens up in every song, and even in the album artwork itself- she has taken off the wigs, glasses, and makeup to show us a more simplistic side of herself. The promo pictures for the album’s release are beautiful black and white portraits that show Stefani as she is in real life . This female empowerment album is something I never knew I needed.