Photo credit: Erin Patrice O'Brien Photography
My debut book is a collection of personal stories and advice about communication on the Internet. More specifically, the downfall of communication because
of the Internet. The thought of representing that through audio was... daunting to say the least. I mean, who wants to listen to a playlist inspired by their aunt’s endless collection of “libtard” Facebook memes and Twitter arguments with cartoon frogs about gun control? Instead, I opted to pull songs inspired by the other part of my story — the story of how, though a series of mistakes, surprises, and humbling moments, the Internet helped me find my voice and create an incredible career I never knew existed.
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I wish I was a normal girl, oh my
How do I be? How do I be a lady?
Normal girl, oh
I wish I was a normal girl
What I love most about SZA’s music is her unflinching vulnerability. She’s clearly super talented, accomplished, and gorgeous, but she doesn’t shy away from exposing her insecurities, which makes her music incredibly relatable. You would not believe the amount of tears I shed in high school over my lopsided titties, burnt hairline, and my mother’s refusal to let me leave the house with visible bra straps. The 2000s were truly a dark time. Point being, everyone has felt out of place at some time in their life. It took me years to realize that “normal” is actually super boring and that being myself was harder, but infinitely more rewarding.
"Same Ol’ Mistakes"
Finally taking flight
I know you don't think it's right
I know that you think it's fake
Maybe fake's what I like
Point is I have the right
I'm thinking in black and white....
Feel like a brand new person....
So, how will I know that it's right?
In a new direction
So, how will I know I've gone too far?
Stop thinking you're the only option (feel like a brand new person)....
(But you make the same old mistakes)
While “Same Ol’ Mistakes” is technically a cover, this song (and the entire ANTI album) is about Rihanna taking control of her sound and breaking out of the safe pop princess mold her record label had constructed for her. While I don’t have a musical catalog filled with club bangers that have kept me from exploring my darker, more ambient side, I can empathize with the fears that come along with taking risks in your career. When I first went viral in 2012, I wrestled with the decision to quit my job to pursue a career in entertainment. Ultimately, I made the wise but difficult decision to give up my Ann Taylor discount for good and follow my dreams, and I’m so glad I did.
by Solange (Feat. Lil Wayne)
I ran into this girl, she said, "Why you always blaming?"
"Why you can't just face it?" (Be mad, be mad, be mad)
"Why you always gotta be so mad?" (Be mad, be mad, be mad)
"Why you always talking shit, always be complaining?"
"Why you always gotta be, why you always gotta be so mad?" (Be mad, be mad, be mad)
I got a lot to be mad about (Be mad, be mad, be mad)
If you’re brave enough to search “Franchesca Ramsey” on YouTube, you’ll find a sea of ranting white dudes pinning the “angry black woman” stereotype onto my smiling face. Sure, I’m passionate, but I don’t yell or curse in my videos. That hasn’t stopped anyone from calling me angry, which... just makes me angry. So, what’s a girl to do? Get angry and risk making people uncomfortable? Or worse, stifle your anger and teach people they can walk all over you? The whole thing feels like an exhausting riddle at the entrance to a winding labyrinth of respectability politics. The thing is, there’s nothing inherently bad about expressing anger! Especially when it’s in response to injustice. Anger is a valid emotion, one that is often the catalyst for education, reform, and progress! Plus, there’s a lot to be mad about! Kudos to Solange for breaking it down so eloquently and managing to make such an unpleasant experience into such a pleasant bop.
by Jordan Rakei
"Guess we're sworn enemies," you said
So let me leave you dead
Don't get complacent
You're no longer the way I'm facing
I've lost my patience
You're saving face, you're saving face
I said I wasn’t going to include any songs about Facebook, but... I lied. Sadly, today’s political climate has many of us going toe-to-toe online with people from all parts of our lives. It sucks. One minute you’re swooning over Beychella, and the next some girl you haven’t spoken to since sophomore year chemistry class is in your comments whining, “Why does Coachella have to be about raaaace?” In that moment someone you barely even remember is now officially dead to you. And I can’t say I blame you. But is there a better way? Is it even possible to have productive conversations about race and identity online? At what point do you throw in the towel and hit unfriend? Is it obvious that I’m holding back from plugging a specific chapter of my book that explores these very questions?
by The Internet
I woke up impatient and anxious
Chasin’ dreams in my sleep
Got me feeling like I made it
Then I wake up and see
Frustration, tracing for payment
Thankfully they know me
Can’t get enough of the paper (get enough of the paper)....
I can’t help but feel like I'm wastin’ precious time in my life
Worrying about my behaviors, sometimes I think I’m too nice
I know I’m destined for greatness, fuck a critic’s advice
They hatin’ ‘cause I’m a player (they hatin’ ‘cause I’m a player)
There are layers to my love for this song. First, there’s something hilariously perfect about naming your band "The Internet." If only because it forces people to say things like, “Do you like The Internet?” and “OMG, I love The Internet” in complete earnest. Second, this is just a good-ass song. I’m admittedly a sucker for funky, alternative R&B coupled with moody mumbly vocals, but you can’t deny The Internet’s lead singer Syd has a great voice. My husband Patrick calls this “shy girl music,” because so many of the artists I like sound as if they’re afraid of the microphone. He’s not wrong, but dammit I love it. All that aside, once you dig into the lyrics it becomes pretty obvious why “Under Control” fits perfectly into my playlist theme. Anxiety? Dream Chasing? Money Woes? Haters? Look, I don’t wanna jump the gun here but I think
I just found the title of my next book.
"Gotta Get Up (Another Day)" (Minnie Version)
by Jill Scott
I don't want to go to work today, I'd rather
Stay home and play video games
I'd rather chill for real, I don't know how you feel
But sometimes I feel like I'm workin' for nuthin'
Tryin' to get sumthin'
Everywhere I turn there's a bill standing out
Swim the river, climb the hill, complacency
You ain't gone get me, no, no, no, no
Yes, Jill Scott’s voice is magical, but you also can’t go wrong with complaining about work over jazzy drum and bass and the multipart harmonies of “gotta gotta gotta gotta gotta gotta gotta get up.” This is, of course, the eternal self-employed struggle. Without a place to clock in to every day it can be really difficult to stay motivated, especially when business is slow or you have a project you’re not quite in love with. Add the Internet into the mix and things get even more complicated, because it’s incredibly easy to slack off and get distracted. Imagine trying to work surrounded by your friends, family, Pokémon Go, trolls, celebrity gossip, Twitter, YouTube, Janelle Monáe's new emotion picture, Michael B. Jordan... wait, what was I talking about?
"I Like That"
by Janelle Monáe
I don't care what I look like but I feel good
Better than amazing, and better than I could
Told the whole world, I'm the venom and the antidote
Take a different type of girl to keep the whole world afloat
'Cause I'm crazy and I'm sexy then I'm cool
Little rough around the edges, but I keep it smooth
I'm always left of center and that's right where I belong
I'm the random minor note you hear in major songs
And I like that
I don't really give a fuck if I was just the only one
Who likes that
I never like to follow, follow all around, the chase is on
I’ve been a Janelle Monáe fan for what feels like eternity. The thing I’ve always been impressed by (and a little envious of) is her incredibly strong sense of self. From her sound to her wardrobe, Janelle knows exactly who she is. If you don’t like it or don’t get it, that’s YOUR problem. This is, admittedly, something I’m still working on, but as I’m quickly approaching “mid-thirties” I’m happy to say I really fucking like myself. This song is all about embracing who you are despite what anyone else thinks and I really like, nay, LOVE that.
by Miguel (Feat. Travis Scott)
I’m Luke Skywalkin' on these haters
Celebrate every day like a birthday
Good things come to those that wait up (splish)
But don’t wait to jump in too long
Don’t sleep, you gotta stay up (splish)
Don’t, don’t sleep, you gotta stay up
This is one of my ultimate feel-good songs. Play it cool, I’m not really a Star Wars fan, but I still appreciate and enjoy the reference here. Stormtroopers... the Force... Yoda... you see where I’m going with this. Luke is a big deal and brushing off the haters is pretty sound life advice. That said, I don’t advise you to skip out on sleep, but dream chasing requires patience and persistence. Or maybe “don’t sleep” is an allusion to stay woke? Either way, it’s still a great song.
by KAYTRANADA (Feat. Anderson .Paak)
Lately I've been glowed up (Glowed up!)....
Feelin' like the only one out here
Lately I've been glowed up (Glowed up!)
Paper finally showed up
Childhood got me goin' buck (Goin' up!)
I'm feelin' like the only one out here
Even if I slowed up
Got enough work to last the whole damn night, yeah
Lately I've been glowed up
Feelin' like the only one out here
From making YouTube videos in my living room and struggling to pay rent, to writing for TV and now writing a book? I mean, if that’s not a glow-up, I dunno what is.
÷ ÷ ÷
is a social justice advocate, comedian, actress, writer, video blogger, sought-after speaker, and the host of the award-winning web series Decoded
on MTV. With videos topping 12 million views, she has been featured on NPR, Anderson Cooper,
BBC, and in The New York Times
. A former writer and correspondent for The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore
, she now has a major late-night television show in development with Comedy Central. She lives in New York City and Well, That Escalated Quickly
is her first book.