The New Zealand singer Ella Yelich-O’Connor, who goes by the name of Lorde, is a 16 year old with the wisdom of an octogenarian, who, as The New Yorker’sSasha Frere-Jones put it in magazine’s October 21st, 2013 issue, is “a teen-ager from Auckland, with an unnatural gift” who “has entered the suit-infested ruins of the music business with the confidence of a veteran and the skills of a prodigy. She is less a flashy new mansion in the suburbs, Frere Jones writes, “than an architectural gem in a tony neighborhood.”
Last night on American Idol, Candice Glover gave what I called on Twitter “one of the most astounding performances I have seen in a lifetime.” When she took to the stage to sing The Cure’s “Lovesong,” she brought me to tears, and she brought me to my knees. My husband came home while I was watching it for the fourth time. Tears were streaming down my face. He asked why I was crying. I answered, using words that were clearly inadequate to the occasion, “It’s just so moving.” He laughed. I have to admit it was funny, the childlike wonder with which I tried to explain what cannot be explained. I didn’t try again. I just sat him down and rolled tape.
I wouldn’t know a Nicki Minaj song if you tied me down, played it on constant loop and told me you wouldn’t let me up until I named that tune. Nevertheless, I am a fan. Not of the music, which I suppose I should go listen to now, but of the freak flag flying soul who makes that music tick. Before this season’s American Idol, I knew almost nothing about Minaj aside from her penchant for wearing theatrical clothes. I didn’t get it really. Still, I have a special place reserved in my heart for all those who walk there own way, whatever the world may so. And so, o sound unseen, when she popped up on Idol, I resolved to give her a try, and what I found surprised.
As the weeks passed by, Nicki the act receded, and Nicki the woman stepped forth. That’s when I noticed how pretty she is, outside and in. What I love about Nicki, by far my favorite this year, is (1) the way she always speaks her mind even if what she’s saying kind of makes no sense (though, if you listen closely, she usually brings it home in the end) and (2) her heartfelt passion for the inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys. It’s a beautiful thing, this compulsion to make sure everyone knows they’re okay, exactly as they are. One of my favorite moments of the Idol season was when Minaj told a contestant who’d been blessed with extremely short height that it was time to retire the story of how short he was and how much all this hurt. She said something like (cue her signature wine, which I’ve secretly come to love), “Stop it. Because when you sing, we don’t see your height.”
I awoke Sunday night like Rip Van Wrinkle to the Marvin Gaye-esque, Prince-like magic that is Miguel. He killed it last night at the Grammys, performing his Grammy winning “Adorn” with Wiz Khalifa, who appeared on a remix of Adorn on Miguel’s album Kaleidoscope Dream.
The Lumineers killed it too, taking to the stage with their joyous, infectious, Grammy nominated “Ho Hey,” as did Mumford & Sons, the down-home looking British Band whose Babel won Album of the Year.
One of my favorite Grammy moments was when Gotye and Kimbra took to the stage to accept their Record of the Year Grammy for “Somebody That I Used To Know” from none other than Prince (and, yes, they were as geeked up as you would imagine, and Prince was eternally cool). When Adele took to the stage to accept her Grammy (for Best Pop Solo Performance), her signature, game-dame, over the top charm reminded us all why she’s not only one of the best singers in the world, as more than one observer has noted, but a bonafide superstar who, like so many of the artists coming out of England these days, arrived at stardom the old fashioned way: by making great music that comes from the soul.
Lately I’ve been listening to Rihanna’s “Diamonds” while on my spin bike. It’s an anthem, a soul-stirring pop song with the power to remind you who you are — and that you live in a beautiful world. The chorus, “We’re beautiful, like diamonds in the sky,” is the kind of sentiment pop music is made for. When done well, when done from the heart, this kind of pop anthem has the power to bypass the mind, and fill the mind, heart, body and soul with the light that is our birthright.
We have come here to be luminous beings, to light this world up with the beauty that we are. And not just some of us; all of us. Rihanna lyrics, “We’re beautiful, like diamonds in the sky,” may have been written for a love, and at face value her song tells the story of one person speaking to another, but when I hear her lyrics, I hear her speaking to all of us. As Seal sings, “every single one of us is beautiful.” Rihanna continues that sentiment. Listening to her music while I spin in a dark, candlelit room in my house, I feel my deep kinship, to all who walk this beautiful Earth, and to this beautiful Earth itself. If a pop song can do that, then I bow down to the kings and queens of pop, and the work they’ve come here to do.