A friend of mine used to joke that she wished she had a band or small orchestra that would follow her around like in the golden age of musicals so she could just burst into song or dance and have an accompaniment uniquely attached to her life. It always made me laugh affectionately, and beg to disagree. But then I hear a song on the radio and instantly I’m back in my college dorm room dancing with roommates to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun;” or walking into my first club in Japan to the strains of “Heya;” or thinking of romances long-since fizzled out to “Crazy in Love;” or excitedly driving one of the many highways criss-crossing this country on to the next adventure accompanied by Evanescence. We do all have a soundtrack to our life, even if it doesn’t take the form of strolling minstrels or personalized orchestras.
Last week I had the privilege of revisiting one of the artists that made up my own past soundtrack when I saw Chrisette Michele live at a theater in my town. I’ll admit, I wasn’t cruising her website looking for tour dates. In fact, I only actually own her first album so far, although every now and then one of her newer songs will show up on my Pandora feed. But, I happened upon a groupon for tickets to her show and thought it was one show I’d hate to miss. The first few people I asked to join me hadn’t ever heard of her and were less-than-thrilled about the prospect (their loss), but finally I found one of my friends who shares similarly eclectic music tastes to mine and when I spur of the moment asked if she was interested she was all in. So, groupon purchased, we braved the crazy cold and latest snow storm to attend the show.
For me it was an experience that absolutely submerged me back into the sometime of my past. I happened upon Chrisette Michele’s first album after walking into a music store and asking what was currently playing – two of my favorite artists have entered my life in that same way. After purchasing “I Am”, it quickly became one of my standby favorites. I have frequently jammed out to it during solitary road trips brought on by military PCS’s and post-military moves literally from east coast to west coast, and then repeatedly cruising up and down California’s Highways between the central coast and the Sacramento area during grad school.
I fell in love with the album during my own past love story. I’d even picked out a few of the songs to be sung or played during dancing at my wedding (which hadn’t even entered the picture when the CD first arrived on scene.) The positivity and purity of her lyrics combined with the uniqueness of her voice had me hooked. The other half of my love story would sometimes tease me for not responding to texts or phone calls because he knew I’d been blasting my music and singing my heart out in the car on the way up. Chrisette Michele’s album was one of my favorites and became even more so once I did finally have that ring and the wedding became a legitimate future for me. It spoke of hope, it thrilled of love, and as my friend said tonight – the music smiled. It was the perfect soundtrack for that stage of my journey.
I stopped listening to the album a few years back.
It was becoming a hazard to my health since every time I put it in on the road, many of the songs would cloud my eyes, blinding my vision with tears and making me an unsafe driver.
You see, my perfect love story didn’t actually turn out the way we hoped, but not for lack of desire on either my part or my husband’s. We were married, we did live together and united our lives, but we never got to dance to the songs I’d picked out in my head during those long drives dreaming. Midway through our journey, brain cancer reared it’s ugly head and ravaged him, eventually taking his life after far too short a “forever.”
So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found myself crying my way through much of the concert even though I enjoyed her performance immensely. Songs like A Couple of Forevers, Be OK, and Golden just touched too many heart strings and flashed too many scenes from the past for me to not be affected emotionally.
Soundtracks do that to you; it’s part of their beauty.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the concert though, was seeing how Chrisette Michele had changed and matured as a singer and, it appeared, as a woman. Throughout the performance she shared snippets of her own journey between “I Am” and this tour; love lost then regained, fighting fear, struggling with self-doubt and so on. I hadn’t heard her new album before the show, but I could tell which pieces were a part of it. They were deeper, in some ways rawer (if that’s a word), and even possibly richer than the first.
I know growth and change is supposed to be part of every artist’s journey, and I’m sure it is. Last week’s concert however, was the first time I had the privilege of witnessing it in quite this same way. I think, and hope, that I too have exhibited some growth, maturity, and change through all of my own hurts and curveballs. The change I saw in this artist’s new album sparked my curiosity and made me wonder if her latest music and her music-yet-to-come might also contribute to the future soundtracks of my own life.
I’m not the same person I was when I first happened upon her music. I’m still growing, still hoping, still trying to find my way, and apparently still fighting the demons of grief and loss in certain moments. Chrisette Michele’s latest offering reflects that life-growth, acknowledges the life-struggle, and celebrates her coming into her own at this point in her journey. Even if the events being soundtracked and the backgrounds she and I come from are vastly different, still I left the concert feeling an almost kinship.
We are women. We have hurt.
BUT, we have also survived and we will thrive – no matter what.
Let’s see where we go from here.