Love Simon and the Love Simon Soundtrack

Between the ages of 12 and 18, I watched Pretty in Pink, the John Hughes-penned rom com starring Molly Ringwald, several times each month. I leaned on that movie and its exploration of forbidden love (in this case, due to economic class), feeling like an outsider, and standing up for yourself and your individuality in the face of adversity. In hindsight, I realize I connected with these themes because of my closeted homosexuality, and Ringwald's character, Andie, embodied the perseverance I hoped I'd one day live up to. Pretty in Pink moved me in an essential way, and I was moved in a very similar way at an advanced screening on Love, Simon  this past weekend.

Love, Simon is the movie I always wanted as a teenager--the kind of movie that could have even eclipsed my deep love for Pretty in Pink, had such a film existed when I was coming of age in the early 2000s. Based on a novel by Becky Albertalli, it follows Simon through his first love and coming out.

Yes: it's much easier for a lot teens to come out in 2018 that it was for my peers over a decade ago. (Not to mention how difficult it would have been for a teen in 1986, the year of Pretty in Pink, to come out. Check out Dave Morton's underappreciated, sweet, and harrowing Edge of Seventeen  for an authentic take on being a gay teen in the 80s.) However, despite the progress that has been made, it's still very difficult for teens (and adults) to acknowledge their sexual orientation because we still live in a world where straight is seen as the default and gay the exception.

Love, Simon explores this delicate time. It's also a sweet romance and captures the breeziness of adolescence. Director Greg Berlanti has a light, skillful touch bringing gay romance to the screen (as he has already proven with The Broken Hearts Club).

The film also features a wonderful soundtrack. The music in Pretty in Pink helped make that film a teen classic, and Love, Simon (I hope) will have the same fate. Featuring an abundance of tunes by The Bleachers, as well as Troye Sivan, The 1975, and Amy Shark (among others), the album balances contemporary sounds and nostalgia. Like Andie, Simon is a music fan, and the character's cool taste shows on this well-curated selection of tunes from the film. The album helps you connect with Simon, and because of that, it's a great success.

There's a lot we could talk about with Love, Simon: the importance of gay representation on the big screen, how the film casually but beautifully deals with diversity, or that the films we watch as teenagers--often about other teenagers finding their way--can be some of the most important movies of our lifetime. For a simple, sweet, and funny romance, Love, Simon accomplishes a lot, and I am happy it is in the world. Go watch it (and read the book and listen to the soundtrack too). It will warm your heart.

Happy 2018: A Decade Blogging, Nostalgia, Troye Sivan, and LGBT Pop Culture

Hello, dear reader. It's been a while! I've been away from the blog for almost three months. After making my way through the holidays,  I spent the new year hibernating and writing.

I am currently juggling two big writing projects: a new poetry collection, as well as a prose-poem project. The latter has been a lot of fun--full of experimentation and excitement.

The poetry collection has been more of a challenge, in part because the news cycle in 2017 shifted what themes I wanted to explore in my follow-up to Men and Music. While I initially planned on writing another book about romance, I've decided to shift my focus to nostalgia. I'm playing with an interesting mix of new poems, and I am looking forward to seeing how this pans out--not to mention if I end up with a chapbook or full length collection. We'll see! I feel a very creative year ahead.


February 2018 marks a decade of blogging at From Yes. I initially started this project to explore poetry and publishing. In 2008, I finished my last semester of undergrad, wrote lots of poems, and moved to the Midwest for graduate school--all while posting reviews and essays on this blog.

As time passed, I retooled the blog, and it has became an outlet to explore pop music and its intersection with poetry. I have also explored tangents like mystery novels, Angela Lansbury, and "feel good" popular culture. In 2011, I revamped From Yes and deleted the back catalog, marking a rebirth for this site.

So where do we go from here? In 2018, I plan to integrate more poetry with the pop music material. Like the poems I'm working on, I want this year's blog theme to be "Nostalgia"--recalling great popular culture of the past--especially the 90s--and discussing its relationship to the present. I also want to focus on queer art, including gay icons. More and more, I feel the importance of using art to extend LGBTQ visibility, and I want to blog to celebrate queer and queer-ally voices.


More good news: 2018 already has a great gay love song. Troye Sivan's "My My My!" captures the excitement and gratitude of being in love, and the tune is full of sensual details, like: "Spark up. Buzz cut. I've got my tongue between your teeth / Go slow. Go fast. You like it just as much as me." What I like is the balance of the feminine and masculine in these lines--the joy of going hard and taking your time.

Sivan is open about his sexuality, taking up the mantle of other great gay pop singers--George Michael, Patrick Wolf, Elton, John, and Rufus Wainwright not least among them. It's interesting that Sivan does not play coy, and his transparency is key to his success. Is it a coincidence that the same year he is on the cusp of major pop break-through with his sophomore record, a gay romance, Call Me By Your Name, is collecting statues on the awards circuit? Probably not.

I think 2018 is going to be a great year for queer artists, and I'm looking forward to discussing them with you. Come back soon!

Two Holiday Recommendations and Signing Off for 2017

Well, dear reader, it's becoming a holiday tradition for me sign off from the blog in November. Much like 2016, this year presented a lot of social and political challenges. I am looking forward to holiday celebrations with family and friends. I also want to break from the blog to focus on some writing projects that need my love and attention as I look forward to 2018.

Before I sleigh away for the season, I wanted to make two holiday music recommendations. As you know, holiday music brings me a lot of joy and these are the projects on my mind this year.

Whitney Houston's One Wish: The Holiday Album

Surprisingly, One Wish is Houston's only holiday release. Though she often took long gaps between records, Houston's voice is such a good fit for the seasonal fair I am always curious why her label never encouraged more Christmas recordings from the singer. Perhaps Houston had limited interest in the material. Regardless, her holiday album is a pleasant throwback record that capitalizes on the  sound of her synthesizer-based 80s records. She delivers the material with enthusiasm, selling even the melodramatic and gaudy tracks--especially the title track, which was a modest hit.

Looking at the record in the context of her personal and professional life also enriches the album. One year prior (2002), Houston released the least successful album of her career--the abrasive Just Whitney--and struggled through its disastrous "crack is whack" press junket. Following those debacles, Houston took a step back, traveling to Israel on a holy pilgrimage. After that journey, she recorded and released One Wish, and it marks the dawn of a spiritual and creative reawakening for the singer.  Though I Look to You (2006) wouldn't arrive for another three years, One Wish and I Look are sister records, focusing on Houston's strengths as a soul singer whose gospel background allowed  her to breathe personality into Adult Contemporary fair.

Houston is still in great voice on One Wish. Her belting has some ragged edges, but all in all her delivery is energetic and flexible. Some tracks are playful and fun, like her funky take on "Deck the Halls," but the best material is her interpretation of hymns, including a lovely "O Holy Night" and tour-de-force "O Come O Come Emanuel."  Many listeners forget about One Wish, but check it out if you want a traditional holiday record. It's an album about returning home to heal--a sensibility many listeners may find comforting this season.

"Santa's Coming for Us" by Sia

Now that I've recommended a classic, I want to praise something new. The lead single from Sia's upcoming Everyday is Christmas, "Santa's Coming for Us" has already snatched the crown for the best new holiday pop tune. It's quintessential Sia--melodramatic, playful, a little off kilter. The track is mix of Cyndi Lauper's quirky Merry Christmas... Have a Nice Life and Mariah Carey's high-octane classic, "All I Want for Christmas." I am excited for her album's release on November 17th. How often do we get a record of ten holiday originals? Merry Christmas, indeed.

And with that, I wish you a beautiful holiday season, dear reader. I hope to see you back here, happy and healthy in the new year. May we all find some joy and hope this season.

My Top 10 Songs of 2017

This year has been especially good for pop singles. To curate this list, I reviewed what tracks from the past year received the most plays via iTunes on my devices. Interestingly, I think the "most played" metric works as a fair representation of not only my favorite songs this year, but also the scope of tracks 2017 offered.

As you'll notice, many of the tracks on my list are not the biggest hits of the year, but more and more I find the most interesting pop tunes (for me) do not conquer the Top 40 (though several of these songs were hits, some charting in high positions).

Also, I am going to use these songs to discuss what I found interesting about pop music this year, rather than my usual "Favorite Album of the Year" review. While I liked a lot of albums this year (especially Shania Twain's Now and Kesha's Rainbow), none stuck with me enough to call a "favorite." Albums came and went, while I had these singles on repeat. In that spirit, these tracks are what I can muster for a "Best of 2017" list.

10. "She's Like the Wind" by Calum Scott
Though the Dirty Dancing remake fell flat, Calum Scott's cover of Patrick Swayze's hit faired much better. The tune speaks to 2017's preoccupation with nostalgia--longing for a simpler, happier time--mixed with some dance melodrama.

9. "Cut to the Feeling" by Carly Rae Jepsen
Unlike some of the moodier and low-key fair on this list, this tune is a sugar rush of optimism and romance. Jepsen is at her best--youthful, hopeful, and looking for a happy ending. Aren't we all?

8. "The Cure" by Lady Gaga
Gaga hasn't been this good in ages. Many artists went back to basics in 2017, and for the Queen Monster that meant sturdy dance pop. "The Cure" has a combined simplicity and energy missing from her two previous albums. Hopefully, this song marks a return to form for her next record.

7.  "Green Light" by Lorde
Speaking of melodrama, Lorde best captured complicated love with this moody tune about night life and heartbreak. When this single dropped, it took me by surprise--perhaps more so than anything else this year.

6. "It Ain't Me" by Kygo ft. Selena Gomez
Another pop song about complicated love set against an evening cityscape, "It Ain't Me" captures both Gomez and Kygo's strengths--her approachable voice and his knack for clean, catchy production.

5. "Up All Night" by David Archuleta
I have a night theme running! Another tune about late night romance! What I like best about Archuleta's "Up All Night" is how it balances his usual boy-next-door sweetness with the excitement, lust, and hope of new possibilities. It's the best track he's released--less sanitized and more dynamic.

4. "Praying" by Kesha
Kesha came back in a big way. If 2017 has a classic record, it's her Rainbow. "Praying" was a watershed moment for 2017 because it was a cultural intersection for the reinvigoration of US feminism, longing for rebirth and strength after the presidential election, and, of course, Kesha's return to music after a protracted and painful hiatus. Post Harvey Weinstein revelations, its themes are even more prescient.

3. "Love is Love is Love" by LeAnn Rimes
Speaking of politics, LeAnn Rimes' "Love is Love is Love" is the most triumphant pro-LGBTQIA anthem of the year. It's hopeful message of equality helped the song become a dance hit, as well as a theme for the Human Rights Campaign. No wonder Rimes headlined NYC Pride 2017! The old school but still important message of "Love is Love is Love" helped lighten my year.

2. "Chained to the Rhythm" by Katy Perry
Perry's Witness was an interesting transition in her career--a hiatus from her bubble-gum confections for personal and political reflection. "Chained to the Rhythm" was the perfect first single for her album because it highlights some of Perry's social concerns while leaning on her pop brilliance. "Chained" works as satire because its light disco setting keeps the track afloat. It's one of Perry's best singles and earned its peak spot at  No. 4 on the Hot 100.

1. "Your Song" by Rita Ora
Rita Ora has never received a fair shake in the US. Similar to Kesha, her career has also been plagued by label issues, though of a different nature. It's too bad, because Ora has released consistent and catchy singles. Written by Ed Sheeran (and featuring him on backing vocals), "Your Song" has the best chorus of anything on this list. Ora sings "Don't wanna hear sad songs/I only wanna hear love songs," and perhaps the reason this tune was my most played of the year is because it spoke to my hunger for art about hope and love.  This year, I needed songs to lift me up, and, even more than her peers, Rita Ora delivered.

Men and Music B-Side Project Conclusion

To celebrate the 1st birthday of my poetry collection, Men and Music, this series will share "b-sides" not included in the collection but written during the same period, as well as the stories behind the poems. 

Welcome to the end of my Men and Music B-Side Project. It's been a pleasure sharing these poems with you and revisiting some work that had flown under the radar.  For my last piece, I wanted to share "October," which was published in A Quiet Courage last year. 

I think this poem represents the haphazard way creativity works."October" is not like the poems in Men and Music--it's softer, quieter, and written from a more anonymous perspective. While working on the book, I occasionally grew tired of the confessional, personal "I." When that happened, I would set the book aside and work on more hushed poems like this one.

Having finished Men and Music and shared so much "personal" work through this project, I feel drawn back to writing pieces like "October." On this chilly fall day in New York City, I close my B-Side series with this piece about autumn, the nostalgia of memory, and the stories we tell about the people we love. I wish you a joyous season filled with warm drinks and poetry. Take care.

Men and Music B-Side Project 4

To celebrate the 1st birthday of my poetry collection, Men and Music, this series will share "b-sides" not included in the collection but written during the same period, as well as the stories behind the poems. Check back each Monday for a new poem!

While I was working on Men and Music, I spent three summers hanging around Ithaca, NY. My boyfriend worked summer stock at the local theater, and I spent the season cooking meals for theater techies and stage managers, going to plays, drinking a bit more than I should, enjoying the natural landscape, and writing poems. There are a few poems written about and during that time in Ithaca (namely "'Teenage Dream' Karaoke" and "Crime") in the book. Like those pieces, "The Stars" brings me right back to Ithaca whenever I read it, and it brims with an optimism and wonder that filled those summers of waterfalls, beer, and musicals. Honestly, I am not entirely sure why I cut the piece from the final draft of the book, except that the rhyme in the last three lines felt a bit heavy, and the piece slowed the collection down. Upon revisiting "The Stars," I think I'm happier with it now, especially as a snapshot of a happy time in my life.

Men and Music B-Side Project 3

To celebrate the 1st birthday of my poetry collection, Men and Music, this series will share "b-sides" not included in the collection but written during the same period, as well as the stories behind the poems. Check back each Monday for a new poem!

This week's b-side poem is cozier than the last. "The Buddha Says Joy is a Choice" was written as a conclusion for Men and Music, and it was one of the first poems to test out what would become the collection's title. In fact, this poem helped me move from a draft of the book simply titled, "Joy," to the draft that would eventually be published. I ended up pulling the phrase "men and music" from this poem because it worked so well as the title for another piece in the collection. I also dropped "The Buddha Says" from the final draft of the book because I wanted a less conceptual poem to end the collection--one less focused on the speaker. However, I would have never arrived at the book's title without this poem, and though I think "The Buddha Says Joy is a Choice" doesn't completely work on its own merits, I find its sentiments comforting.