Moody pop singer-songwriter readies her first new album in nearly six years, the aptly-titled Aquatic.
You pretend you aren't trapped, suppressed by your own vicious cycles. But that fantasy is shattered. You lash out with the hope of breaking those ties which have bound you to yourself, and what you don't know: that's how it all started to begin with. Singer-songwriter Adaline magnifies those patterns, determining her own journey within that web, with her new song "Nostalgia," which gleams with angst and a downcast spirit. "[This song] is about repeating destructive patterns. Going back for more even though you know the outcome won't change. Feeling addicted to the uncertainty and even the pain. Being slightly masochistic," she tells Popdust about the song, premiering today.
The song, stuck together with thick, moody percussion and a haunting vocal, was the last addition to her forthcoming new album, Aquatic (out June 2). "Sorting through the rubble for a bit of nostalgia, keep myself in denial," she weaves in the song. "[It] was a bastard song. The album was nine songs up until probably a month ago. 'Nostalgia' snuck on, and the main reason is I had the opportunity to do a music video with my friend Giacomo Gianniotti. He's one of the new doctors on 'Grey's Anatomy.' We shot a video for the song 'Nostalgia' because I went to the Canadian Film Centre with him, and as part of the residency, I got to film a project piece. And that was 'Nostalgia.'"
"When we were getting ready to release this record, we thought 'you know what, maybe we should really look at 'Nostalgia.' So, we went in, and we reproduced the entire thing and threw it on the record," she says. "It happened so fast; it was maybe three weeks ago that I went into the studio and reworked the entire song. Within a day, it was mixed and mastered and on the record."
"I still really love albums – I know they don't [mean much] anymore, but I love a record. When my favorite artists would come out with new records I would sit with it and listen to it for like a week. I just love going into the world of the record, so I took a long time placing 'Nostalgia' in different spots, for where it felt best," she explains. "Nostalgia" sits between the junkyard brashness of "Entertainer" and the glittery groove of "Criminal" in the first half of the record. As of this writing, Adaline is pop music's best-kept secret.
Take a listen to "Nostalgia" below:
Why release an album now?
It's been a long time [since my last album] but I've done a lot of music in the meantime. I composed at the Canadian Film Centre, so I started working on different films, programs, television shows. There's quite a few songs and projects that I've worked on, but I just haven't put together a collection of music in a more official way in a really long time. I've still been really busy, but it seems like I disappeared, I suppose. I wanted to focus on other areas of music, not just being a specific artist, but working in compositions, writing songs for other people, doing sessions with other artists that are up-and-coming--just dabbling in all the different areas of music. I feel like you have to do that to have a career. Financially, it's just how it works. I love being an artist, but I also love being a composer and a songwriter. It's me spreading my wings in a couple of different areas.
How was this album inspired by water?
Well, I wrote it on a boat! I have a bit of an addiction problem with water. I feel really inspired by water; I think everybody has their own thing. When you're a songwriter, you learn to write and adhere to a discipline and you can write anywhere. But when you wanna go and write that really personal music, I just find getting away and being alone and looking at a body of water just does it for me. I There's so many parallels between the way that water works and the way that life works. It's very inspiring to see those parallels and draw upon them. I just write stream of consciousness before I write lyrics and get a notebook. I don't necessarily have rules with what I write. I just write whatever I can for three or four days and then go back and try to make it work into phrases and have it work with melodies.
On what body of water was the boat?
It was on the ocean. I can be inspired by a lake, but there's something about the ocean and the way that the ecosystem works. It's just so fascinating and so massive; the ocean has the power to sustain a whole ecosystem but it also has the power to destroy everything. It can kill people. This beautiful thing that's deadly. Lakes don't really have that same capacity, but they're still really pretty to look at. It's the danger of the ocean that gets me.
Digging into the simple physical depths of water is fascinating.
There's a lake in Kelowna, Canada, in British Columbia. It's called Okanagan Lake, and there's a story of a sea monster there called Ogopogo. They've never really found the bottom of that lake, and I found that really inspiring because there's this mystical story of how there's all these caves and trichomes go underneath the ground and no-one's ever found the bottom to the point where there could be a sea animal living there. Things like that I find inspiring.
In terms of lyrics and production, does the physical nature of water inform the decisions you made?
Definitely, lyrically. Then, once I was producing the record, I took a really hands-on approach with the way things sounded, as well. I noticed that that was happening, and we definitely started playing with having certain sounds, certain arpeggiated synths. Things like that that have a watery, mimic-y sort of energy to it. We started adding those in. You don't wanna hit the nail on the head too hard, for it to become too obvious, but little subtle things here and there to make it feel really fluid. I think it does have this very washy, ambient fluid feel to it.
How does water help you examine the stages of your life?
From a young age--I think a lot of people have this experience--I grew up in a really religious home. Not just Christianity but in a lot of spiritual practices, water is extremely symbolic. In religious environments, whether you're a baby and you're sprinkled with water, or whether you're an adult and you're submerged into water, there's this idea of it being cleansing and being a force of rebirth. Obviously, I took this time between records and coming back with this album is a bit of a rebirth for me in some ways. I just think from an early age water has had that ability to make you feel like you're starting over.
How did this album start?
When I write records I tend to go in and write a record. I do, obviously, write songs all the time, and I have songs scattered in there over the years that I've written, but this specific project I really did go into the studio and we spent about a month writing the record. So, really there weren't any songs written ahead of time. It wasn't like "oh, this song is four years old, let's add it on." Other people do that all the time, but this was very intentional, like "okay, I've got these couple journals full of lyrics, let's just start chipping away and put something together that feels cohesive." I wanted to make something that felt pretty timeless, so it's not too trendy in production. It's songs that are really supported by production that feels authentic and real, lots of real instruments. It still has a groove to it. There's just so many tricks now in pop music, like that vocal sample thing that everyone does now. Just wanted to avoid anything that felt really…like that Justin Bieber sample thing. I understand that putting that in a song that guarantees you some hits, but I just feel really strongly that you have to be thinking about what's going to be the next thing that's exciting and trying to keep it about the song as opposed to being about the bells and whistles.
Have you always approached making an album that way?
Yes, I mostly have. I mean I have a collection coming out in June. Then, I'm planning on putting together something else after that in fall, because I've been writing so much over the last couple years. I do have some songs that I didn't sit down specifically to write for a project that I'd really love to release. So, making my next record an EP like, "here's a song I wrote six months ago, here's a song I wrote yesterday…" It might be more like that for the next one. But in general, I tend to just sit down and write them all. I just kinda get in that zone and don't come up for air until it's done.
How did the song "Criminal" come together?
I wrote that song basically after having – not abusive, that's not the right word – I think "Criminal" was me writing about this addictive nature of love that isn't right for us. Somebody that's not abusive, not physically or even necessarily emotionally abusive, but just not good. Not kind, not supportive, and not all the things that you should be looking for, and yet, that's such a seductive kind of love because you have to change someone's mind, you wanna prove that you can help them. If you're a helper or you're a person who's a caregiver, you're drawn to this dark brooding character who'll take and not give. They steal from you, without giving back. I wanted to write a song, an anthem for people who have gone through that or who are currently involved in that. The writing and music for that was really easy, actually, as far as playing around with a sample and reversed it and twisted it around, and then I started singing over the top of it and blended it together.
How did you know how you wanted to build the story of the record?
Well, the main thing of putting together a record all at one time is that you can kind of know a couple weeks in, what does this body of work mean? You have these upbeat songs; you have these B-side tracks; you have a ballad. So, the beautiful thing about a record, which is why I'm so sad that it feels like it's dying, is you're writing – not just "here's this great song I wrote, here's this other great song," you're listening to a body of work and thinking "what more of the story do I need to tell?" For an artist, it forces you to try something else. Whereas now, with this singles mentality, it's all just bangers. "Okay, now we need another big hit." We don't have this trying to make anything other than a pop single, which is too bad because you're not going to spend time writing ballads or writing a B-side that means a lot to you but doesn't have this catchy chorus. So, a record allows you to try out something new and tell a different part of the story and take people on more of a journey as opposed to hitting them over the head with a single.
Another standout song is "Stronger," with smoldering piano underneath. Where did that story come from?
I studied piano up until university, and I hardly ever play because pop music piano is so simple. A lot of the music I was doing was electronic and piano just didn't really fit. This was a prime opportunity to actually get to play. I mean, the playing is still really simple, but it's nice to hear an actual piano in the recording. I love that song. It's a very personal one for me about perseverance and overcoming, having natural things in life kick you down and finding out what you're made of. A lot of these songs are pretty anthemic and are a statement of "people can try to take me down but I find greater strength every time it happens."
"Commotion," which features marimba, is (stylistically) very different than the rest of the record.
We got to play around with that one a little bit. It's the most playful song on the record. That is me just being a little sassy and playful; I'm not taking myself too seriously on that one. 'Cause I do write a lot of pop music for other people, really pop music, so it was kinda fun to put something on the record that was more in that vein.
Do you plan to tour behind this record?
I really want to. We have some shows coming up in LA, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. We're looking now at booking something in New York. So, we have got a few dates. I'd love to tour more; I've very much been more of a studio artist as far as doing a lot of music and things for TV. That's definitely been more my world. I would totally tour if it made sense to tour. I'm gonna be strategic with the touring and not just go play fifty shows, but if a city is responding to my music then I'll absolutely go there.
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Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.