Category Archives: Inspiration

Dissecting Abel

I don’t often dissect an artist and make a greater observation of their music — well, nowhere besides in my own head. Few care to listen to my gushing over a rare talent or my deeper musings about what makes an artist so endearing to me. I then remembered I have a blog that won’t judge me (but you might, hah).

Abel Tesfaye, or as he’s better known, The Weeknd, has been around for a little while. His hit, I Can’t Feel My Face came out in 2013, and it sparked many jokes from people who didn’t understand it’s meaning — I included. I wrote it off like everyone else as another silly pop song, but the years passed and he released new music that caught my ear. It was accompanied by dark, dreamy music videos with a strange style that spoke to my equally strange tastes, and I began to listen deeper.

I started listening to him regularly this year, although I’d had a few of his songs starred in Spotify for a while. Starboy and Secrets were fresh and addicting additions to my playlist, and I became obsessed. I watched more of his videos, which ranged from erotic to hazy and abstract. Party Monster stuck out to me because of the classic Goosebumps font used in the title.

I was into vaporwave/retrowave at the time and always have been, which is a nostalgic and often depressing aesthetic focusing on 90s and 80s themes, imagery, and cassette tape or VHS effects. Abel Tesfaye has a retrowave vibe in his later videos, and with his new album, After Hours, there’s more of that same retro vibe in the instrumentals. It’s been a comfort to me during the rough start of 2020.

Today, I watched what I’m assuming was the last video in his After Hours series. It sparked a lot of thoughts and admiration for him as an artist.

As a whole, the videos follow the journey of Abel’s new character who is a total train wreck. Although dapper and with (assumed) riches, he’s fueled by highs and strange drugs — even going as far as to lick a poisonous toad in Heartless. He proceeds to go on a reckless drive in Blinding Lights, speeding until time itself warps, although we’re pretty sure it’s just the drug’s influence at this point. It’s great cinematography to show just how gone Abel’s character is while providing an awesome, surreal visual effect.

He’s beaten by body guards at a club, but not before reflecting on a beautiful woman who beckons to him, her magic lifting his body through the air to draw them close. Again, the cinematography here is very dreamy and odd, and it adds to my love for the vibe of the series. Abel is dancing among the cars on a highway after all of this, his face bloodied with an unstable look of humor twisting his expression into something more akin to emotional pain.

In my personal order of viewing the series, he then makes his way into a party (Until I Bleed Out), although the drugs still have a strong hold on him. He’s barely bandaged and a colossal mess, crawling around on the floor as the room spins like a merry go round. Nothing is as it seems, and he doesn’t seem to know what’s real or what’s influenced by substances anymore.

To make a long story short, he makes his way into the underground after a performance, clearly in great emotional pain and trying his damndest to control it. It’s clear at this point that while the lyrics paint him as a horrible human being, a womanizer, and a heartless asshole, there is a lot more to the picture than that.

He ends up in an elevator with a couple, and as the last video in the series begins, he produces a knife that shines with malice. The man in the elevator is soon dead and the woman runs from Abel, who follows her throughout a club. They end up in a boiler room below, but the woman eventually overpowers him and cuts his head off with an axe. She proceeds to dance with his head in various environments through the rest of the video — oddly happy to do so and unnoticed by anyone else.

As I read through the comments, curious about what others thought, I began to form my own theories. These are solely my own speculations that may or may not be far off.

Abel has painted us a portrait of an awful person, a man who is on his last breath by his own choice through self-destruction. He’s been hurt by someone dear to him and is doing everything in his power to fight the melancholy inside him, and in doing so, he has become the very thing his ex-lover(s) implied he was. A womanizer. A heartless asshole. He’s completely broken and is having one last crazy night to erase the pain.

Finally succumbing to everything tearing him apart inside, he snaps and goes after the first couple he sees, rather it be the person who hurt him or a reminder of the situation itself. When the woman finally cuts his head off at the end, we see a different side to the story. It seems that, metaphorically speaking, the woman celebrated his pain and made the deepest cut. She toyed with him and killed him inside. Cheating is heavily implied in more than a few of Abel’s songs, so it could be assumed that was the message here as well.

Throughout a lot of The Weeknd’s videos and music, we see a similar theme of sex and drugs among different characters — or rather, the evolution of one character. It would be extremely interesting if that were the case. If it was one guy going down a steep slope into self-destructive territory because of heartbreak and substance abuse. It could also be three separate caricatures that connect with a central set of themes.

With a creative soul and a unique style such as Abel’s, he’s an amazing artist with a beautiful voice who deserves the fame he’s earned. His lyrics may be unsettling for some and even a bit offensive, but underneath it all there is a story that means so much more than what’s on the surface. I learned this years ago when I joined in on the jokes about I Can’t Feel My Face. Sometimes you have to look deeper and not judge a book by it’s cover.

Check out The Weeknd’s new album:
Buy a copy
Listen on Spotify

 

Featured image and videos belong to The Weeknd
Article ©2020 Shane Blackheart, a hopeless Abel fanboy

NaNoWriMo; November 2018!

Another absence on this blog, and another reason. Although, it’s an amazing reason this time (I promise)!

I’ve made the decision to do NaNoWriMo this year. If you aren’t aware of what that is, in short, it’s a challenge to write an entire 50,000 word — or more — novel in 30 days. On the more descriptive end of things, NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization that raises money for all kinds of good causes related to writing. One, in particular, is to fund kits to send to schools that need them and to encourage younger writers. Besides that, it is an event every year in November that has been going since 1999, and millions of writers join in on the chaos every year. This year is my first.

The idea is to start with a brand new manuscript; a clean slate. You may also begin with an outline, or a part of an outline and nothing else to go on other than your imagination. Either way, after you’ve created your own profile and filled in your novel’s basic details, you’re ready to begin.

Every day, ideally, you’ll log your word count in one of two ways. There are stats you can watch to see where you are at compared to the average person, and you can also see a projected completion date determined by your average daily word count, and how many words you have left to write to complete the 50k dash (or more!). Below are my latest stats, taken as of today.

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You write your novel outside of the website, and as you log your word count and interact with the site, as well as donate if you so choose, you will earn badges. There are also badges you can choose to give yourself based on an honor system, as they are achievements that can’t actually be measured in any way. For example, I gave myself the ‘Something in my eye’ badge for wringing my heart out over a few scenes or more. Sometimes writing really can be an emotional roller coaster, but that makes for some of the best writing out there.

From November 20th onward, you can claim your win by pasting the entirety of your first draft in their official word counter. They also give you the option to scramble your words if you wish, although no one is actually going to read your novel. Nothing gets uploaded to the website and your words are deleted as soon as they are counted. Once that process is complete, I imagine you’ll feel pretty good about yourself for your successes.

There are prizes, but there are no limits to winners, so be honest! They are small things like coupons to writing programs and online courses, and other little things that really aren’t a huge deal, but a help to writers to keep them going strong long after they’ve finished their NaNoWriMo novel. Personally, the feeling of accomplishment from completing an entire first draft of a novel in a month is the biggest win of being a participant. Even if you don’t complete your novel, you’ve still accomplished something great, and you still have words there that you didn’t have before. It’s even more incentive to keep going for yourself, and for the story you have to tell.

I’m well into 27k words on the eighth day, which isn’t something I thought I would be capable of. I passed NaNoWriMo by for a few years after hearing about it, mostly because I didn’t think I could do it. I sold myself short due to my own insecurities, and I was doing the very thing some people in my life have done to me in the past — I was putting myself down because of a lack of faith in myself. I believed my anxiety disorder and other mental illnesses left me unable to do much of anything, and I was destined to fail. I would become too stressed and spiral down into a mess of a human being.

Yet, it’s November 8th and I have come a long way from that mindset. On the first, I’d sat in front of my computer mulling it over. A friend from a Facebook writing group brought it to my attention again, claiming that she was doing it herself. She needed a writing buddy. I’d told her I wasn’t participating before, but on a whim, I signed up for the site and I locked myself in. I haven’t looked back.

It’s like something lit a fire under me (usually, that’s Byleth, but this time I did it myself. He and Lestan have been the best cheerleaders). Having a deadline with the goal of having fun and just letting loose on the page, not caring about editing as I went like I usually did, was freeing. The goal was to just go until it was time to stop, as editing during NaNoWriMo is heavily discouraged. All of that would come in the months to pass after ‘winning’, and the site also has a section for just that. My goal is to be able to open up that part of the site after my victory.

At 27k in after only the first week, I am certain I can ‘win’. I can safely say that if you go into this as a lover of words, stories, and a passion for the art of writing, you’ll win too. Just keep at it and don’t worry about the numbers while you’re writing. Focus on the amazing story you have to tell, and the rest will come in time.

The best of luck to anyone who is participating this year. I hope to be able to make another blog entry when I’ve finally reached the ultimate goal.

A positive absence, for once!

When I am absent, it’s usually due to a multitude of emotions destroying me from the inside out. I can’t manage more than the videos I barely take in on my favorite Youtube channels, and my creative drive has taken a vacation abroad for an indeterminable amount of time. Things have been different this time around, though.

My mind has been more stable since trying the injectable form of testosterone over the gel to get my transition going again. It had been hell during my first try with the injections, and since I’ve covered all of that elsewhere on this blog, I won’t get into it here. Long story short, it seems like a different mixture is what was needed. My mood swings, while still there in the background, have dimmed significantly. I didn’t expect this to cure my bipolar episodes or the interpersonal problems I have with my borderline personality disorder, but it has been much easier to calm myself as well as stand up for myself when I need to. I’ve had this fire within me that refuses to let me take shit from anyone. This isn’t a bad thing for someone like me, who was more likely to sit by silently while verbal abuse or any other kind of bad thing would happen. To be able to speak up when I need to has been a great change for me.

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Along with all of this, I’ve pulled my creativity back from its extended vacation. My writing is important to me again and I’ve made it my job, or at least, I’m treating it like one until I can officially call it that. I’ve become more involved in writing communities online and am getting braver about asking for critiques, and I am learning to give them. I have learned so much within the last week about publishing, editing, and I’ve gotten great advice from editors and published authors alike on how to navigate all of this. It was something I desperately needed, but I couldn’t possibly accomplish it while I remained in my little bubble of self-hatred.

Yesterday, I finished editing and looking over the fifth draft of a novella. I had finished writing it during the summer of 2015 during a manic episode while I was homeless, and it was the first book I’d written that I saw to completion. Although it was riddled with poor grammar and my sentence structure was just as poor at best, I was proud of it. Over the past few days, I went and I fixed the earlier chapters that had been started years ago. It was something I began and left to sit, unable to finish like I’d done with so many. I fixed the wording, added new things and explained others, and poured more emotion into the original draft than was originally there. After all of this and splitting it into chapters, I feel like I have a second book ready to send out.

I’m in contact with an editor or two, one of which I am certain I want to do the job for my longer book that I’d like to publish first. Hopefully I can build up a working relationship with them for my future projects. Having that thought alone makes my nerves jump in all of the best ways.

I’m no stranger to anxiety. I’ve seen it in its worst form and it’s left me sickly and bedridden. (I wrote about that here: From My Memoir – Two Years that Changed the Rest of My Life and I recorded it with Byleth and the others here.) To finally understand that there is good anxiety and be able to feel it is freeing for me. It feels the same in all of the physical sensations, but there is a different emotion attached. It’s not fear, but anticipation.

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If you want something bad enough, it will happen. I’ve been wanting the title ‘author’ officially for many years. I can only hope that my want and need for this is bad enough to make it all happen.