Music. It’s awesome.
I listen to all kinds of music across the spectrum. No genre is safe from me (with the exception of polka maybe) and in general I choose the songs I listen to based on whether or not it fits into one or more of the following four categories.
1) Can I write to it? (Caveat: do I find the theme or mood conducive to a certain story I’m writing or potential future story I might write?)
2) Can I dance to it?
3) Can I (attempt to) sing along to it?
4) Can I stare out the window of a moving vehicle and imagine myself parkouring across buildings and kung-fuing my way through hordes of bad guys to it?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then I will probably dig it. I considered mentioning a fifth category, into which I prefer my music not to fit, “Does it suck?” but the fact is that sometimes, if the song falls really well into one of the four, I might like it even if it does suck. Especially that last category.
One of my pre-writing rituals (other than banging my head against the wall and mumbling out-loud to myself in the shower) is to create a playlist of songs that fit the story I’m about to write. This serves the dual purpose of helping me access the mood/atmosphere/general emotion I’m looking to convey in my story, and drowning out distractions (the buzz of traffic, my cat’s lion-like mrowls [jk she sounds like a mouse with laryngitis], the sound of my boyfriend shrieking because he was just sitting there, minding his own business and building a tree-house-fortress-of-doom when a creeper snuck up behind him and exploded….)
And since I can’t be the only playlist ritual maniac out here (I’m not, right?) I thought it might be fun to occasionally “review” some of the music I listen to (new, old, whatever I’ve just accidentally stumbled across on youtube) from a writer’s perspective.
Disclaimer: I’m not a musician. I am in no way an expert on music. And all of this is like the exact opposite of a science, you are in no way expected to agree with me.
Just know that if you don’t, you’re probably wrong.
This past August (2015) Halsey’s debut album, Badlands, came out. You might not even know who she is yet, or, you might suddenly be seeing her name all over social media and wondering who the hell is this Halsey person?
Halsey is the soundtrack to your next anti-heroine. Her sound is electric-noir (I-tunes classifies her as “alternative” but that sounds fucking boring, so I’m making her a new genre out of foggy mirrors, cigarette smoke, and femme fatales.) She’s got a husky voice and some hella evocative lyrics (NSFW in some cases, you have been warned.) Her music is reckless and self-conscious at the same time. Her songs are standing on the edge of an overpass, looking down, ready to jump onto a moving train.
These songs are fodder for the kind of protagonist who doesn’t give a fuck what you think. Who makes big, disastrous, complicated mistakes, and then shoplifts the liquor she needs in order to deal with all the shit she just started. She’s dark and a little cliché, and sometimes she goes out looking for a fight.
Current and past characters that come to mind are Faith, of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and the brand new iteration of the Marvel protagonist, “Jessica Jones” that hit Netflix last month. (That show is kick-ass by the way, go check it out. Like right now. Go on! I’ll wait.)
“Castle”, “Hold Me Down”, and “Young Gods” are my favorites off the album so far. Although “New Americana” is doing the best on I-tunes.
Since I’m a fiction writer, one of the big things I’m guilty of with songs like this is taking the metaphors (“They want to make me their queen,” Castle) and re-interpreting them like they’re literal, (“They want to make me their literal queen and it is now my job to behead usurpers and rule over all the land.”) Halsey’s album is great for this.
Now to sum up, some pros and cons.
Catchy as fuck.
Badass as fuck.
Excellent use of swears and cusses.
Because it’s catchy sometimes I find myself singing along instead of writing.
Because it’s badass I sometimes find myself choreographing dance-fights in my head instead of writing.
*drops youtube video embed for your listening pleasure*