I like music, really I do, but it’s not something I need around me all the time. In fact, being a little noise intolerant it can get on my nerves if it plays constantly in the background. Which doesn’t mean I don’t have a have a perfectly curated playlist that inspires me, motivates me and informs my writing style and character development. I wouldn’t envy anyone trying to figure me out on the basis of this soundtrack, it’s eclectic to say the least, from Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” to to the Sugar Babes “Too Lost in You”, rubbing shoulders with Depeche Mode to JJ Cale. My oldest daughter calls my playlist “lyrical angst”, she may be onto something.
One song on my playlist is an upbeat little number you may be familiar with – Creep, by Radiohead. I am not particularly Radiohead fan, but I appreciate the sentiment of that era. (Lyrical angst at its finest). Grunge rock was all about not fitting in, not falling in line, floating in some kind of undefined space where you were unreachable to many others, but at the same time, being pretty much OK with that. It’s a fascinating perspective on life because it’s an impossible one to fake. In the 60’s you could become a flower child by growing out your hair and acquiring a suede vest, in the 80’s the right clothes and car could get you most places where you wanted to be – but disenchantment and alienation are hard to feign. A song like Creep is a prime example of that. While in decades past recording artists may have been singing about their unrequited love for a boy or girl or laying out their seduction plans, or how to carry out a particular dance move, these songs are about the tense relationship we have with ourselves. Creep shows you a way to meet up with your insecurities and fears, albeit in a dimly lit, shabby room, and shake hands with them, maybe hang out if everyone’s schedule is open for a bit.
If you aren’t familiar with the song, here’s the YouTube clip. Really listen to the lyrics and then tell me some little part of you doesn’t relate to this.
These words reflect a common misconception many of us labor under, that other people have things figured out and their life is pleasant, fun, effortless. Meanwhile, we view ourselves as inherently lacking in the ability to tap into that life, as if we are inhabitants of an entirely different world. The lyric “what the hell am I doing here” always strikes me as extremely poignant. Where else would he be? In what scenario would he feel like he “belonged’? If we ask these questions either in the context of the song, or to ourselves, we would get some very thought-provoking answers.
But truthfully, we’ve all felt this way at some point in our lives. We look at something from the outside and determine it’s somehow better, superior to, above us. We’ve all felt like that creep who feels utterly out of place among those he admires. What’s amazing is that the listener is made to feel special by that song, by being understood and accepted. I want my readers to have that same experience, to recognize themselves in my book and to make that emotional connection. The real, raw nature of grunge let a generation of young people truly be themselves, warts and all. The legacy of that genre, and a song like Creep, is that we are all a little more interested in meeting those warty parts of ourselves, and seeing them in others. I am a very big advocate of that, and I hope that readers relate to my characters, see themselves in the pages of my books, and they all enjoy hanging out together for a little while.