Issue #27: Moving Art and Sweetener

"You know what? I love myself. Even though I look like a burnt chicken nugget, I still love myself."

Hola to my mamacitas, my papacitas, and my nonbinarycitas!

Publishing six days late is better than never, right? JK, there is no such thing as “late” in the HB/LB Cinematic Universe. Here, I am boss. In nearly every other space in my life, I am little-b-bitch. But here, here I get to be Big-B-Bitch.

Big-B-Bitch brings “throw that ass in a circle” energy with her everywhere she goes. little-b-bitch likes to spend her nights and weekends having panic attacks. But I love them both equally. It’s just that sometimes, little-b-bitch needs a little extra attention. So today’s newsletter is dedicated to all the anxious, self-conscious, socially-inept, borderline-agoraphobic little-b-bitches in our hearts, whether she lives deep inside you or right on the surface.

HIGHBROW

I used to be the kind of person who needed to watch 5 hours of YouTube a day just to feel normal. But that’s the old me. And who can even remember last week anyways? 

And sure, a YouTube addiction sounds really cool and glamorous and enviable, even. But eventually, it got to the point where the only words I knew were “like and subscribe” and “Claire Saffitz,” so I had to retrain my brain to consume media at a socially-acceptable pace.

Did I cut myself off from media entirely? No, because that’s not safe to do without the supervision of a medical professional. Instead, I embarked on a search for the most soothing, most peaceful, most non-verbal media I could find. And then my boyfriend told me that shit already exists on Netflix, which was great news for me, a person who’s mortal enemy is “everything outside of my apartment.”

The show is called Moving Art and it’s literally just a series of GORGEOUS shots of GORGEOUS things set to what I’m assuming is GORGEOUS royalty-free music. And no one talks. Ever. Not even David Attenborough.

It is the perfect thing to behold (because you don’t just watch it, you behold it) when your brain feels like it’s going to explode with work deadlines, a growing to-do list, and that one time your landlady made you cry. When that brain noise starts to overwhelm you, my advice is to lie down and watch flowers orgasm for 25 minutes straight.

I really hope these gifs speak for themselves because I have nothing more to say other than:

1) this shit rocks

2) my socks off.

You can watch Moving Art on Netflix (yes, the same folks that brought us Cyrano de Bergerac but make it Barb). And if you don’t have Netflix, congratulations on living your life.

LOWBROW

When I go through stressful periods in my life, I tend to latch on to certain albums. ABBA’s Greatest Hits got me through elementary school, a time during which I insisted on being best friends with a casually racist little girl (turns out Slave Play can be a Broadway show and a game you play at recess). Avril Lavigne’s Let Go helped me through a rocky move to the US, where I learned expressions like “ghetto,” “don’t make me snap my fingers in a Z-formation,” and “nappy-headed hos.” Fearless, by Miss Americana herself, got me through the SATs and the state-sanctioned trauma machine that is the college admissions process (the day Taylor pivoted to dubstep was the worst day of my life). I mainlined Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die and Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel during my first earth-shattering heartbreak. And Cardi B’s Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 2 helped me digest the realities of “entering the workforce,” a state that still feels wholly unnatural to me. I have to sit down for eight hours? Five days a week? For the next four decades? Seems like an inefficient and inherently painful way to structure a society but go off, sis.

My most recent bout of anxiety has been caused by… I’m not really sure, but probably by [Insert link to any news source. Literally any article. Even the Buzzfeed ones about which pizza slay is my spirit animal]. But I am happy to announce that 2020 anxiety is being scored exclusively by a gorgeous album from a gorgeous woman with a gorgeous voice. I’m talking about Ariana Grande’s Sweetener.

Fine, this week’s LOWBROW is by no means a secret. When Sweetener dropped back in 2018, the music world exploded. Ari, this cute little pop princess with the sparkly doe-eyes and bouncy ponytail, came through with a thoughtful, cogent, deeply personal and beautifully composed album. And all without sacrificing the ever-important booty-popping factor. Not that we doubted she could do it! But you know how the patriarchy be sometimes.

First of all, let me tell you a little bit about my girl Ariana GrandEE. I rocked with her way back in the 13 the musical days when she was a cute little curly-haired tween with a single dimple (just like another music queen). And from the beginning, it was clear that Ari could sing sing. Me being the little theater freak I was, adored watching her belt along with Colleen Ballinger (as her YouTube persona Miranda Sings). Fast forward a few years and I fell in love with her all over again when she dropped the flirty little bop that is “The Way ft. Mac Miller.” And she seemed to just keep soaring after that (with perhaps a few minor bumps along the way that I could not care any less about to be truly honest). 

And then the unimaginable happened

She rose to the occasion gracefully, with strength and vulnerability. She then wisely stepped away from the public eye for a while and did the very hard work of healing.

When Ari felt ready to return, she did not hold back. She charged her ass back into our ears. With Sweetener, we witnessed that precious moment when an artist’s talent and experience finally intersect. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that Sweetener is a masterpiece. I mean, she collaborates with the greats of the greats. Like, Shablow! Shaboom! Shablam! And a self-affirmation anthem? And a horny feminist bop? And the literal cure for anxiety?? Like… she didn’t have to go this hard?????????

I’ll say it EXTRA loud for y’all in the back:

Sweetener. Has. No. Skips.

Now, to address something that bugs me a lot. And that is why I’m having to put Ms. Ari in the LOWBROW section of this newsletter. Remember, HIGHBROW and LOWBROW are of equal value to me. But to the amorphous “establishment,” there tends to be a preference for less accessible, coughelitistcough works. And I get it. People want to feel special. And sometimes that means setting arbitrary rules to make yourself feel cooler and therefore somehow that much safer from… the vulnerability of being your truest self? Okay, yes, I have been watching a lot of Brené Brown lately but I don’t know how that’s relevant here??

I just hate that Ariana is sometimes written off. And why? Just because she looks like a Bratz Doll? Um, I love Bratz dolls. They’re girls with a passion for fashion and ultimate Big-B-Bitch energy.

And another thing: you don’t get invited to sing at the legendary Ms. Aretha Franklin’s Homegoing just because your ponytail looks cute. Ari is a VO-CA-LIST. Dzzzon’t get it twisted!

Let us please give Ari her flowers* now, while her instrument only continues to flourish.

Go listen to Sweetener literally anywhere. But Spotify is a good start, I suppose. And as a bonus, here is an awesome episode of an awesome podcast hosted by some awesome women all about how awesome Ari is. Girls can have a little podcast as a treat.

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Thanks for reading, readers. Hope your little-b-bitch feels soothed and your Big-B-Bitch feels fed.

xoxo,

Simone

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*Ari has absolutely massive EGOT energy. Massive. Do you hear me, universe?