This blog post could also be appropriately titled:
I Just Ate A Chicken Patty By Itself While I Was Crying at YouTube Comments and It May Have Been A Little Bit Frozen: Tales from Lonely Los Angeles
I’m in L.A. again! I’m here working on my record with the best humans in the music industry. Best, meaning music-wise, and also people-y-wise.
I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with Eric Rosse, Benny Cassette, and Mozella while we’re working on my upcoming album. I love them. I love them and writing music with them has never been more fun or important.
I was so scared to co-write; for a long time I believed the only way I could write music was if I was on a manic binge without sleep, chain-smoking in the kitchen and crying into children’s books at 3am. Jokes on me! And on Dr. Seuss! You can be healthy and write music!
Good news, tortured artists of the world!
This album is making me think a lot about my motivations and what I want to put out into the world.
When I started the record I was like, cool, Mary. We have goals for this album! For my goals, I enter third person for absolutely no reason at all:
First things first- Buy all the stickers from all the craft stores so you can make cool christmas cards and send love letters with buttons on them that say, “you’re as cute as a button”. I recognize this is irrelevant. But it’s kind of relevant because you need to:
1. Make money! Buy your mom a house! Start a charity! Tip brunch waitresses hundred dollar bills!
2. Stay true to yourself, boo-boo. That means don’t slack on your lyrics. Then you’re just being lazy.
3. Make sure you’re laughing! Music is fun!
4. Make something you want to hear on the radio so you can hear a DJ say, “Damn, that Mary Lambert, she’s even cooler than in third grade when she beat the older kids at tetherball.
5. Be 100% aware of your output on the world. Quasi-stardom is a tricky friend. It can make you think that your actions only matter when you want them to, that your lyrics don’t have gravity, or that your platform is a throwaway.
All actions, but especially actions made within the media and pop culture, have an inherent responsibility, no matter how seemingly miniscule.
The idea is that we are all in charge of our own output and our energy into the world.
I just finished writing a song called ‘Chasing the Moon’ (as a poet, it is an unwritten rule to have at least one piece pay tribute to the moon) (I think) (I just made that up, but it sounds like a really cool life lesson to give new poets now), and the song is surrounding high school nostalgia. In my last year of high school, I was drinking and partying and had become an all around obnoxious delinquent. If I’m writing a song about my experience in high school, do I leave out the parts of the story that might offend other people? Am I unintentionally glorifying high school partying? Do I leave it out because I don’t want to condone underage drinking? But isn’t censorship, itself, offensive? Haven’t I fought tooth and nail to unflinchingly tell my story?
I came to terms with the new song we recorded. I have to believe that intention is as important as I think it is. I am attempting to catch a glimpse in time of my own life with this song. This song is my experience and I am relaying my story through art. It’s not a party song. It’s not a song about not drinking, either. It’s just a story.
The Body Love music video is also a story; it has multiple threads. I have so, so many thoughts on this piece of work and the reception it’s garnered the last week. I wrote Body Love when I was 19. At the time, I was self harming, felt worthless, and I was struggling to find any beauty in my reflection. All I could see was FAT GROSS UNLOVABLE written all over me. After I wrote the poem, I saw a ton of ways the video could go. To be completely honest, this is not the video I originally intended to make, and towards the end, I gave up my need for control and let go of trying to make it exactly what I wanted it to be, and let the amazing director and the crew do what they do best: Make this music video, with a vision and a specific artistic hand. Here, I’ve collected some of the thoughts I have had about the filming and some criticism I received as well.
1. The writing of this poem is my story. I can only write from my experience. I am a white, plus-size bi-polar lesbian that struggles with body issues and used to self harm. I don’t know what it’s like to be tall, or thin, to be a man, a person of color, or to be trans*. I do my best with acknowledging my privilege and the point of view I have. It’s the only one I’ve got.
2. I love this poem and it’s message. It’s one of my proudest moments as an artist. However, I don’t actually think this is my finest poetry. The subject changes too much, it’s metaphors are callous, and it doesn’t look great on the page, though it is a poem meant to be spoken. In the same way, I don’t think that ‘She Keeps Me Warm’ is my best song. I do know that Body Love is an important poem and SKMW is an important song and I get a ton of valuable feedback about their impact. Both LGBT* rights and self-worth are issues I care deeply about and affect me on a daily level. I can’t believe I get to sing every night about things that mean so much to me. But anyone who is a writer can understand the (hopeful) growth in craft and all the critiques that you give yourself retrospectively (“wish I would have said, can’t believe I rhymed ___ with ___, etc.).
3. I think it’s important to constantly challenge the marginalization of minorities. Whether it’s deliberate or not. It’s important to question privilege, motives, intention in the media, in pop culture, and in our daily lives. Dissection of art and pop culture is valued, but equally, so should celebration. It is an exciting time to be alive and to be an activist- the little victories deserve to be reveled in! When a baby is first walking, you don’t yell at her when she attempts and then falls; you cheer on her fearlessness, and encourage her to move forward with insight and advice. I welcome criticism to be a better artist and a better human. I’m hungry to grow! To spread positive light! To hug everyone all the time!
4. I use the metaphor of a mosque in the poem. The line is, “I know girls who are fleeing bombs from the mosques of their skin”. The intention of the metaphor is to paint our skin, our bodies as holy as a mosque, as a temple of worship. In 2006 and 2007, when I wrote this poem, there were a slew of mosques that had been bombed in the Middle East. I was emotionally shaken by these holy places completely demolished. At the same time thousands of miles away, friends of mine were shooting heroin, forcing themselves to throw up in the bathroom, and exhibiting severe destructive behavior. I use the parallel of war language in the poem throughout: “Our bodies deserve more than to be collateral”. In this specific metaphor, the bombs represent media pressures to be a certain kind of woman. As I see my poem now, I recognize that I am a woman that does not know the visceral impact that a bombing has. There might have been a better way to say what I intended, perhaps using the metaphor of a church, since my experience is that of a Christian. My sincerest apologies to anyone that was offended by this metaphor. I will try to be more conscious of my use of language and events in the future.
5. Jon Jon Augustavo directed this music video. He did an incredible job shooting intimate portraits of vulnerable human beings. This is a stunning piece and I’m so proud to call him a friend.
6. There were a ton of people involved in making this video happen. Their time, energy, and passion was so generous. The energy around the making of the video was electric. It was sacred and safe and involved a lot of crying for both the subjects and the crew.
7. We had an open casting call to any of my fans that wanted to take part in this project. The people who submitted photos and stories were a direct correlation to who we cast. This video is truly only successful because of the vulnerability of every single human that bared their soul and body. It was inspiring watching them from behind the camera. They were all so brave.
8. I wanted to include men (cis and trans), because everyone has body issues. Self harm and body image struggles are not exclusive to gender. Men also submitted to the casting call, which I was really impressed with, and it felt important to reflect that in the piece.
12. After we filmed, I became increasingly anxious. I realized afterward that we neglected to cast some demographics, and casted multiples of other demographics. Not on purpose, of course. We just had a certain amount of submissions of people who had incredible stories and backgrounds and chose to focus on them. In the video, there are no subjects with a physical disability, no trans women, no women over 50, no middle-aged men, no one who identifies as gender queer, and plenty of other demographics the video lacks. The omission of any demographic was not intentional. As a child who was always left out, I am obsessed with inclusivity. The lack of certain demographics weighed heavily on my mind post shoot, and I’ve had anxiety about the lack of certain bodies since then. I had to come to a place of peace. I didn’t want the casting call to be me yelling “we need one asian! we need an anorexic!” I see casting calls and I know that’s how hollywood does it, but I wanted this video to be different. To be inclusive organically. I wanted to hear people’s stories, not base casting solely on their demographic.
13. All of that being said, I really wish we would have searched harder to cast a trans woman in the video. That is my biggest regret of this experience. Especially with the poem being directed towards all women, written by me, a cis woman, it would have been such an incredible statement to have a trans woman play an active role. As someone that dated a two-spirit soul, gender identity is something I think about a lot.
I don’t intend this information to be likened to the sentiment of “I can’t be racist! I have a black friend!”– what I mean to convey here, is that trans* issues are really important to me and being in a relationship with someone that was constantly discriminated against for their gender identity affected me and changed my 19 year old doe-eyed view of the world. My heart hurts for any trans women that felt deliberately excluded. It was so far from my intention. I had a good cry about it today, and the only thing I could think to do is to offer an apology to the trans* community. I still have a lot to learn, and I am grateful for all of the teachers in my life, including my beautiful audience. I want to honor all of you. With my art, my media, my stories, and my existence- both publicly and privately.
I can’t wait to make another music video! I really can’t. There are so many things I want to accomplish and I’m learning the most effective, kindest way to do them all. I appreciate all of your love and positive light and kind criticism and even the militant criticism of the video. I am also going to try super hard to not read YouTube comments anymore. Cyber bullying is alive and well, y’all. I have so much to learn, and am really excited to have complete world domination. Did that sneak in there? Oh. Yes. Did I mention my world domination is rampant with kittens and little girls in sailor hats singing christmas carols and gluten-free baguettes? But also, inclusivity and safe spaces and locally grown food and free higher education and funding for the arts and a lot of glitter?
Welcome to the age of SPACE KITTENS Y’ALL.
forever and ever,