Valentine’s Day isn’t just for people in relationships. It’s another opportunity to show yourself some love, too. Whether you’re currently entangled or free as a bird, there’s comfort in knowing that music will always hold your hand even when it’s clammy and unmanicured. As we know, listening to music can completely alter your mood and trigger certain memories. When I started this series, it was with the intention of combining two of my favorite things: music and psychology. So, what better way to study human connection than to start a dialogue about love and how it presents to different people? So I took to the streets to research– and by the streets, I mean social media.
I asked a varietal group of people what their favorite love and breakup songs were and what those songs meant to them. There were some contrasting variables to what each person claimed to value in a relationship– things that were specific to them as individuals, but at their core, their standards were very similar. In some fashion, each person expressed concerns with emotional vulnerability and sacrificing ego, understanding and practicing love languages, and healthy or insecure attachment. Even those who claimed to have never been in love understood the ethics of intimate and romantic relationships, with specifications of how they envision receiving love. I don’t have any real words of wisdom for you today, but consider what Aniah had to say about the songs she chose: “These songs put me in a magical headspace in which vulnerability not only feels reachable, but freeing.”
UK soul singer-songwriter, Celeste released her debut album, Not Your Muse just in time for Valentine’s Day. From the romantic cover art to the project’s overall themes of love and loss, Celeste and her team knew what they were doing when they released in late January. Celeste, who has been on the radar since 2018, has seen a steady and gradual career incline, with accolades building in her treasure chest by the pound. The 26-year old is bringing back sounds of old with jazz and blues influence and a one-of-a-kind voice. The artist credits the loss of her father as motivation and inspiration to further her passion for purpose and music, telling Evening Standard, “Until that point my life had been rosy to an extent. It shocked me. Then after that I had so much more drive to do something I cared about. I focused everything on doing music from that point.”
On the album’s intro, “Ideal Woman” we have Celeste’s velvety voice singing against societal standards of what embodies an ideal woman. Coincidentally, the track just so happens to be constructed just like my version of an ideal woman: unexplainably sensual and almost effortlessly commanding of attention with humility and grace. The track, produced by Josh Crocker and Charlie Hugall, is the perfect foreplay for the main event that is the rest of the album. From the slow creep of guitar and gentle, modest chimes to Celeste’s smooth-as-butter voice, “Ideal Woman” lets you think it’ll do one thing just to do something different entirely. Just as you expect a sonic or vocal swell, production slows and Celeste takes a right when you’ve anticipated a left, resulting in the unavoidable tap of the “repeat” button.
Following the intro is the project’s lead single, “Strange,” which was originally released in 2018 on the artist’s EP, Compilation 1.1. The track, which was previously featured on TGG, is what propelled Celeste into the spotlight, incurring international discussion of the artist’s future endeavors. The deluxe version of the album features the original, extended version of this track with an additional chorus and bridge. Recorded in LA during a wildfire, Celeste gives credence to the smoke in the air for the rasp heard in her voice at the time of recording. Those gravelly vocals gracefully escort us through a somber tale as old as time: the evolution of love and loss, by choice or by fate. Picking up the pace and picking our jaws up off the floor, upbeat singles, “Tonight Tonight” and “Stop This Flame” come next on the project. The video for “Stop This Flame,” a tune about keeping love alive, sees the colorful city of New Orleans painting the scene.
On Not Your Muse, Celeste brings different varieties of love– romantic, familial, self– to the forefront. The album’s title track is a slow burn that gradually grows into a raging fire. The zenith of the project, the song is placed smack dab in the middle of sequence. The record deconstructs the dated damsel-in-distress and manic-pixie-dream-girl tropes with a delicate nature and beautiful simplicity only Celeste can dispense. Tugging gently on our heartstrings, “Beloved” is a declaration of longing. On the track, Celeste croons a letter written to a love unrequited. With its almost adolescent yearning fueled by the purest of intentions, “Beloved” holds its place as my favorite track on this project.
Immediately following the gentle plucky instrumentation on “Beloved” comes horn-infused ear-candy “Love Is Back.” The impenetrable swagger heard on this track is succeeded by the haunting, drifting mystique found in “A Kiss.” Continuing the trend of romance, the next track, “The Promise,” is a pledge of recommitment to an old flame. The transition from one track to the next here is an example of what I like to call “peaks and valleys” in a body of work. Where there is a rise, there’s sure to be a fall. It’s almost as if Not Your Muse is its own breed of love story, with a prologue of self-love and self-acceptance, love coming and going throughout until finally, bittersweet acceptance with the project’s outro, “Some Goodbyes Come With Hellos.” With a damn near perfect debut, Celeste has managed to bust down the doors of 2021 with lyrical finesse and a natural talent that’s yet to be matched. Not Your Muse will remain in my personal rotation until further notice. If you’ve got time to sit down with the album, without distraction, I would highly recommend doing so.
Hello and welcome to the first installment of TGG’s Valentine series. Although Valentine’s Day may be a cash cow for the capitalist regime, the now-contorted sentiment behind the holiday called to me. Combining psychology and music, I’ll be writing about all things regarding love and relationships leading up to the holiday.
Today’s musical inspiration is brought to you by Philly native Santigold in the form of “Can’t Get Enough of Myself,” the first track on 2015’s 99 Cents. Consider the song’s chorus and remember to always invest in yourself.
If we’re gonna be discussing the mechanics of love and healthy relationships, there’s really no better place to start than with the self. If you’re alive and breathing, you have probably heard some variation of the phrase, “You can’t love someone else without loving yourself first” once or twice in your lifetime. The validity of this statement is debatable, mostly because love is not black and white. Similar to any other complex emotion or frame of mind, love can ebb and flow based on varying circumstance, environment and other things beyond our personal control. Compassion for self, although ultimately fulfilling in practice, proves to be exceptionally difficult to execute at times. We are often our own worst critics because, for some reason or another, we may hold ourselves to higher standards than those we love. We may forgive someone we love for making a mistake without granting ourselves the same forgiveness. Expressing the same tenderness for ourselves that we show for others can enhance our self-esteem and change the game altogether.
Unfortunately, there’s no rulebook for self-love, but an article written by Dr. Deborah Khoshaba in Psychology Today suggests a “7-step prescription” for executing self-love. This 7-step prescription consists of the following: 1. Be mindful of your own feelings and thoughts. Being consciously aware of your own desires and concerns breeds emotional maturity and intelligence. Acknowledge that what you feel is valid– don’t let your emotional welfare take a backseat. 2. Act on what you need rather than what you want. Avoid impulsive desires for instant gratification, which sometimes manifests as self-sabotage. Instead, commit to personal necessity. Take a step back and look at tempting situations from the perspective of “Will this help or hurt me?” 3. Practice good self-care. “Self-care” is a term that gained recent popularity which, in turn, has distorted its true definition. Self-care is defined as providing yourself with the basic needs to function day-to-day. This includes getting enough rest, proper nourishment and exercise. 4. Set boundaries. A lack of boundaries is a betrayal of self; without clearly stated boundaries, we allow room for others to take advantage and rob ourselves of the right to object the infringement. Setting boundaries for ourselves is just as important as setting boundaries for others. 5. Protect yourself. It is no one’s responsibility but your own to ensure your safety and well-being is preserved. Sever ties, if possible, with people who intentionally or unintentionally bring harm or discomfort. Never forget that you are your first and last line of defense against harm. 6. Forgive yourself. This one is definitely easier said than done, but as stated previously, we must grant ourselves permission to make mistakes and to learn from them. Would you scold your loved one for making an honest mistake the same way you scold yourself? Take your lumps like everyone else, acknowledge but don’t dwell, and do better next time. 7. Live intentionally. Life is simply more enjoyable when living with purpose. Being 100% intentional in how we operate, interact and move in our day-to-day lives can create magnetic energy, and attract others with similar purpose.
I can tell you from personal experience that practicing self-love isn’t always easy but I can guarantee that it’s rewarding. You start walking different, talking different– a palpable, gradual energy shift takes place over time. When you love yourself the way you want others to love you, an exciting, dangerous thing happens. You realize that you lack nothing needed to be enough and that you are indeed plenty all on your own. Everything else is an added bonus, a reward for your hard work. The key word here is Time; when you plant a seed, you have to nurture, water and care for it diligently and patiently in order for it to grow.