A Year in Music: Naomi Zeichner

December 19, 2012

Summing up a year listening to music is kind of like trying to talk about all the times you tied your shoelaces. Still, six editors at the FADER tried. Read what associate editor Naomi Zeichner had to say about 2011 here and 2012 below.

This year I got around to making a number of long delayed doctors appointments. For the first time, I have a budget, a tub of eye cream and a half-baked household that's got furniture to move around and someone to cook dinner with. My boyfriend is a writer, and most nights we go through a little “What did you cover today?” routine. The answers to this prompt vary widely, some days more interesting than others, but there’s always something. The internet is filled past the brim with “somethings” to consider, even the small corner of it that’s still designated for music. There is so much to listen to, and, during the day, I listen to most of it. But recently, when clocked out, I’ve found myself drawn to laughably tame, smoothed-out songs. Ones that tell simple, pleasant stories, where the feelings being shared are big and emphatic. Like Disclosure’s “Latch,” the squealed dance ballad about two people locking each other down, and “M.O.N.E.Y.” from February’s Everybody Eat Bread, where Rich Kidz celebrate the adrenaline boost of getting paid over schmaltzy digital violins, proudly claiming they’re healthy as a string bean. The part of Korean boy band BIGBANG's "Bad Boy" where T.O.P. enters with his cool, bass timbre, rasping something like bappeudaneun tinggyero is as relieving as a joint and a Gatorade.

I frustrate easily, but I can calm myself down with the spurting, ecstatic organs on freaky courtship track “773 Love,” where Jeremih reassuringly whispers Feel so right when I’m right with you, or “Die in Your Arms,” where producer Rodney Jerkins has Justin Bieber sing gently about a girl he adores (still his strength) over a slightly-altered Michael Jackson instrumental, taken from an album Jackson recorded when he was just 13.

At the nail salon this fall, I read a short essay in New York magazine about a new genre of commercial fiction dubbed “New Adult,” created to target the young women who buy books intended for younger teens, like Twilight. (Union Street, an archetypical New Adult series to be published next year, follows a group of underemployed female college grads figuring out what to do with their degrees and sounds like a neutered take on HBO’s Girls.) Emily Witt, the author of the magazine piece, wonders if twenty-somethings really want to unwind with more stories about the self-promotion and murky OkCupid dates they already know well, though. She argues that to counteract a diet of subtweets and bragging Instagrams, “new” adults may just want to read children’s books that end with true love.

Re-playing so many euphoric monogamy (or, at least, happy hook-up) jams, I'm tempted to think Witt's right. The clarity present in my go-to music offers a nice balance to all of work’s decision-making. But while saccharine optimism was a comfort to me this year, so were the artists who managed to be heroically arrogant and emotionally messy at the same time. Loving someone in real life is not as tidy as a Bieber album makes it seem. Healthy relationships are fucked up. Making them work entails changing your mind, idealizing, dressing down, maintaining calm, brutal honesty, maybe lying. I identify most with unapologetic flip-floppers, people who broadcast pride one minute, openly fall apart the next and don’t worry that one display will negate the other.

I’m happy Katie Got Bandz and Sasha GoHard, two Chicago upstarts who embodied these contradictions, were so acknowledged this year. Katie and Sasha purposefully eschew polish in favor of candidness, their voices appealing not in spite but because of their complicated inconsistency. They toted guns in regionally popular YouTube videos, then forswore violence in the name of their young fans. Katie is confident but not always easy going or happy, projecting this via unguarded all-caps Twitter communiques like “I GOT THE POWER TO DO ANY AND EVERYTHING”, “HE SAY HE DON’T EAT PUSSY BITCH WE GONE SEE”, “I HURT BITCHES FEELINGS” and “I’M TRYIN MY HARDEST NOT TO CRY.” Sasha’s tweets are pretty sunny, but she opens up on tracks. Flaunting an affair on “No Feelings,” she boasts she’s better at sex than the dude’s girlfriend and promises she’ll keep their infidelity a secret, until halfway through the song, when she decides she doesn’t care who knows. On “Dreaming,” rap-singing, I pray forever never mean whatever, she lets herself hope for a steady love. Then she trades mush for steel on boy/girl sparring match “I Don’t Love Her,” repeating the refrain I don’t trust him.

I'm glad they're comfortable with being confused. People are often championed for the opposite, being exclusively self-assured and decisive, but it’s the voices that are both confident and unsure that resonate with me the most. As I keep getting older, I hope that my willingness to sometimes be audaciously wrong, or to waver in my feelings, will be recognized as strength.

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Read more:

  • Matthew Schnipper on accessible rock and romantic comedies.

  • Amber Bravo on female musicians, emphasis on the musicians.

  • Emilie Friedlander on falling in love, again.

  • Duncan Cooper on Taylor Swift, Lil B and loving Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

  • Alex Frank calls Rihanna his woman of the year, for better or worse

  • A Year in Music: Naomi Zeichner