Personal Response: “I Am.”

For anyone who knows me personally, you probably know that I love music; especially songs that empower individuals to do their best and accept themselves as they are. The song, “I Am.”, from pop/R&B singer JoJo’s 2016 album Mad Love., is one that really stands out to me—not just as a piece of musical notation, but as an example of remarkable writing in general. It’s one of those songs that will make the listener feel confident every time they hear it or read the lyrics.

Written by Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, Alex Dezen, Eric Rosse, and Jaden Michaels, the track stems from a difficult time in the singer’s life—one that led to depression, insecurity, and doubt—and, ultimately, a lawsuit against her former record label, the now-defunct Blackground Records. It is a piano-led ballad that is filled with tinges of heartbreak and empowerment. I could easily comment on how much I love the instrumentation, or how incredible I think JoJo’s powerhouse vocals are; however, it’s the lyrical content that stands out to me, especially in a generation where people don’t really know who they are.

Before I go on, let me elaborate on that last sentence. When I say “a generation where people don’t really know who they are,” this is what I mean: We live in a society where technology and social media is everywhere, and information (regarding virtually anything) is right at our fingertips. This can be beneficial in ways—online marketing, for instance—however; it can also cause a significant amount of damage. As a collective, we frequently see all these magazine covers that look flawless, and Instagram posts that demonstrate the so-called “perfect life.” Although I’ve noticed this trend in all forms of media, it appears to be especially prominent in magazines that are targeted towards girls and women (such as Seventeen Magazine). And it’s starting to become a problem.

With the influx of media outlets such as the ones mentioned above—which are often edited to an extreme (with filters, Photoshop, or other means of digital editing)—individuals—namely young girls—may start to feel envious or worthless because they don’t have the lifestyles promoted through these outlets, and some may even resort to drastic measures just to change their appearance and achieve that unrealistic goal of perfection. This state-of-mind is reflected in the opening lyrics, where the narrator channels her feelings of self-doubt, “Mirror, mirror on the wall / you seem to think you know it all / Why do, why do I believe?” and questioning if she is “strong enough.

Partially due to mainstream and social media, issues like eating disorders have become a rising trend over the years—though there also seems to be a more positive trend. Music artists such as JoJo are creating these inspirational and motivational pieces of writing that will surely inspire listeners to not listen to the pressures of the world; to be confident in who they are; to be resilient and rise up against any challenges they may face in their lives. Throughout the remainder of the song, she tackles her insecurities head-on (with the lyrics, “Can’t be that little girl no more / the one you cut up on the floor.”), and in the end, it’s the repetitive affirmation “I am beautiful” that really inspires listeners.

If I were to expand on that quote, I would say the following as advice to my readers: You are smart; you are talented; you have the ability to make a difference, even if it’s just a small impact on someone’s life; you are loved by so many people; and you are perfect the way you are. Never let anyone tell you any different.

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Recap: The 2016 Billboard Music Awards

The Billboard Music Awards were tonight. Let’s talk about the performances for one second. 🙂

Most of the time, the performances aren’t great at these awards shows. However, there were a select few that really stood out to me (Shawn Mendes’ emotional performance of “Stitches” being one of them). Artists such as Kesha or Rihanna, both of whom I’ve never been a fan of, shocked the entire crowd with their insane vocal skills. I never knew either artist could sing like that! Australian pop artist, and newcomer to the Billboard Awards, Troye Sivan, was also surprisingly good.
The Unofficial Kickoff To Summer:
I’ve seen her perform live (whether in concert or on various TV broadcasts) multiple times. And I still can’t believe how talented Demi Lovato is. When she began singing her 2015 hit, “Cool For The Summer,” I was mentally preparing for a not-so-great performance (as some of her live performances have been in the past). However, I was proven wrong. That girl can SINGGG! Looking forward to seeing her in concert again on August 26th as part of the Future Now Tour.

Speaking of the most anticipated concert tour of this summer… Nick Jonas, who is co-headlining the tour with Demi, also performed at the Billboard Awards; this time with up-and-coming pop star Tove Lo. They performed “Close,” the first single from Jonas’ latest album, Last Year Was Complicated. Honestly, I wasn’t impressed with their performance… but I want to know what you think! 🙂

Alternative pop-rock group DNCE made their Billboard Awards debut tonight as they performed their insanely popular song, “Cake By The Ocean.” I must admit, this song is catchy as anything, and it may end up being the unofficial song of the summer 🙂 However, from the few televised performances I’ve seen of this band, I haven’t really been that amazed. Joe Jonas is an awesome songwriter in my opinion (as proven by the two or three songs he wrote for John Legend’s 2014 album, Love In The Future), but he isn’t really my favorite singer anymore. (Although I must admit, I liked him when I was in elementary school, around the time “Camp Rock” was popular)

I think that despite their performance, DNCE stands out to me for one reason in particular: they don’t care about what others think. The band members are not afraid to just be themselves and they don’t care about being perfect (in comparison to artists such as Ariana Grande, for example). And for that reason, their music is extremely successful. 🙂

If you watched the Billboard Music Awards tonight, what was your favorite/least favorite performance?

My “Stay Strong” Playlist

As I have mentioned several times on this blog, music has always been a huge part of my life! Certain songs always make me feel empowered, put me in a good mood, and inspire me to do great things! Here’s a list of some of my favorite self-empowerment anthems– a combination of Christian and secular; music that helps me keep feeling positive and reminds me to, as the title says, Stay Strong!

Unbreakable Smile” by Tori Kelly

I love this song! Tori Kelly has such a powerful voice, and the lyrics encourage me to keep smiling no matter what life throws my way!

Live Like We’re Dying” by Kris Allen

This song, like “Unbreakable Smile“, is really fun and reminds me to live each day to the fullest!

Life of the Party” by Shawn Mendes

The first time I saw Shawn Mendes sing at We Day 2014, he performed this song. I fell in love with the “don’t be afraid to stand out and be yourself” message in the song, and listen to it everyday for that reason!

It’ll Only Get Better” by Tayler Buono

Although I’m a fairly positive person, there are some times when I start to feel discouraged. When that happens, I listen to this song… it has lyrics that I can relate to, and reassures me that things will get better!

“To the Dreamers” by For KING & COUNTRY

One of my favorite Christian songs! This song motivates me to “go for it”, and to “keep on, keeping on…

Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson

This song encourages me to spread my wings and take chances because you never know what’s going to happen!

Life is Worth Living” by Justin Bieber

A Christian-pop crossover song, this reminds me that there is so much opportunity in life, and it really is worth living.

Strong Enough” by Stacie Orrico

Another song I listen to everyday, this song reminds me that I have a purpose in life. God really is strong enough. ❤

Beautiful” by Bethany Dillon

The lyrics to this song remind me that I am beautiful, because God made me in His perfect image.

I hope these songs encourage you and impact you somehow, as much as they have impacted me. Remember, wherever you are in your life right now, you are not alone ❤

God Bless,

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My thoughts about TobyMac’s new music

For years, tobyMac has been recognized as a Christian music icon. From when he was in DCTalk in the 1990’s, to his debut solo album, Momentum, in 2001; and now his latest recording effort, This Is Not A Test, which was released earlier this month. But some of the new tracks (including his latest single, “Feel It“) are making me wonder about the direction his music is going in… as well as the direction of Contemporary Christian Music in general.

Upon first listen, I must admit “Feel It” is a catchy song. It’s very upbeat, and one of the few songs that I actually like from tobyMac’s new album. It doesn’t rely heavily on auto-tune (which is actually a good thing, for the most part… unless there’s too much of it used; in that case, it makes the singer sound like a robot :P). But I listened to it closer, and realized, “Hey, this sounds like something I’ve heard on the radio!”

Yes, I’m alluding to songs such as: Better To Be Loved” by Francesco Yates, Teacher” by Nick Jonas, Want To Want Me” (is that the right song title?) by Jason Derulo… and even Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. What do all these songs have in common? They are all new songs that you probably hear all the time on secular radio. And I’ve noticed that many Christian artists, in the past few years, are going mainstream.

From what I personally remember, it started in 2003 with Switchfoot. Their songs were featured in a movie, and they turned into a mainstream band shortly after. But in the past few years, I’ve seen artists like Britt Nicole and for KING & COUNTRY become more mainstream… and, as a result, their music has changed drastically… sometimes for the better (like For KING & COUNTRY), but sometimes the new songs can also be disappointing. (Now, I can’t say this is true for Britt Nicole, as her new music has yet to be released. But this is just an example)

Heck, even tobyMac– an artist whose music hasn’t been played on secular radio stations, but has reached a wider demographic than just a Christian audience– is starting to sound more like a mainstream artist. Auto-tune aside, there are many traits that secular and current Christian songs both appear to have: the repetitive lyrics… the occasional feeling of not knowing whether the singer is talking about Jesus or a more secular topic with their lyrics… I must admit, Christian music just isn’t the same anymore.

What happened to the days where Christian artists created music for one purpose– to praise God? In the early 2000’s, this was what CCM was all about. Sure, Bethany Dillon may have released a few innocent love songs (“For My Love“, “When You Love Someone“, and “The Way I See You“)… and even American Idol contestant Moriah Peters released a cute and innocent song entitled “Haven’t Even Kissed” on her debut album, about how she was waiting to save her first kiss for marriage! But most of the music was truly about serving Jesus and telling people about Him (as Bethany Dillon said in her 2009 hit single, “Everyone To Know“).

There are still some artists who write and perform music for God (examples include Shane and Shane, Josh Wilson, and Nichole Nordeman, among others), but, in my honest opinion, it’s a lot like Top 40 music now… it all sounds the same.