Certain musicians are blessed with the ability to hear, see, feel, or taste music, a variant of the neurological condition known as synesthesia.

While you don't need to have synesthesia in order to be a great musician, there seems to be a significant correlation between musicians capable of creating exceptionally impactful tunes and those who perceive sound in color. Here are some of the most noteworthy musicians with synesthesia:

Frank Ocean

Anyone who's heard Frank Ocean's Blonde knows that the album exists in more than one dimension, and this isn't an accident. Ocean sees colors associated with his music, and his album Channel Orange was inspired by the color he saw when he first fell in love (which was, obviously, orange).

Pink Matter www.youtube.com


Lorde

Extra Minutes | How Lorde sees sound as colour www.youtube.com

Lorde has described synesthesia as a driving force behind all her music, and like Ocean, she has sound-to-color synesthesia, which means all music has a color in her mind. "If a song's colors are too oppressive or ugly, sometimes I won't want to work on it," she once told MTV. "When we first started 'Tennis Court' we just had that pad playing the chords, and it was the worst textured tan colour, like really dated, and it made me feel sick, and then we figured out that prechorus and I started the lyric, and the song changed to all these incredible greens overnight!"

Lorde - Green Light www.youtube.com

Stevie Wonder

Even though he's blind, the musical legend and innovator Stevie Wonder can see the colors of his music in his head, which might explain why his music sounds so vast and rich.

Stevie Wonder - Moon Blue www.youtube.com

Billy Joel

The "Piano Man" singer can see the colors of the music that he plays, and it sounds like his perception is influenced by tempo and mood. "When I think of different types of melodies which are slower or softer, I think in terms of blues or greens," he said. "When I [see] a particularly vivid color, it is usually a strong melodic, strong rhythmic pattern which emerges at the same time," he said. "When I think of these songs, I think of vivid reds, oranges, and golds."

Billy Joel - Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (Official Audio) www.youtube.com


Kanye West

The brilliant musician and recently born-again Christian once said that all his music has a visual component. "Everything I sonically make is a painting," he said. "I see it. I see the importance and the value of everyone being able to experience a more beautiful life."

Kanye West - All Of The Lights ft. Rihanna, Kid Cudi www.youtube.com

For West, visuals need to be compatible with the colors he hears in his head. "I see music in color and shapes and all and it's very important for me when I'm performing or doing a video that the visuals match up with the music – the colors, y'know," he said. "A lot of times it's a lonely piano [that] can look like a black and white visual to fit that emotion, even though pianos are blue to me and bass and snares are white; bass lines are like dark brown, dark purple."

No Church In The Wild www.youtube.com


Pharrell Williams

The "Happy" singer (a yellow song if there ever was one) has been open about his synesthesia, and he has a very in-depth way of perceiving musical color. "There are seven basic colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet," he said. And those also correspond with musical notes…White, believe it or not, which gives you an octave is the blending of all the colors…" So that means chords would be blends of different shades, and harmonies would likely involve the blending of compatible colors. For Pharrell, synesthesia is instrumental to his creative process and to his worldview at large. "It's my only reference for understanding," he said. "I don't think I would have what some people would call talent and what I would call a gift. The ability to see and feel [this way] was a gift given to me that I did not have to have. And if it was taken from me suddenly I'm not sure that I could make music. I wouldn't be able to keep up with it. I wouldn't have a measure to understand."

Pharrell Williams - Happy (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Duke Ellington

For the jazz great, individual notes also have different colors—but their exact shades depend on who's playing them, not the note itself. "I hear a note by one of the fellows in the band and it's one color. I hear the same note played by someone else and it's a different color," he said. In addition to associating music with colors, he also sees sound as texture. "When I hear sustained musical tones, I see just about the same colors that you do, but I see them in textures," he added. "If Harry Carney is playing, D is dark blue burlap. If Johnny Hodges is playing, G becomes light blue satin."

Duke Ellington - Blue Feeling www.youtube.com

Tori Amos

From the sound of things, Tori Amos experiences music in a very dreamlike and psychedelic way. The singer-songwriter and piano prodigy has said that songwriting feels like chasing after light. "The song appears as light filament once I've cracked it. As long as I've been doing this, which is more than 35 years, I've never seen a duplicated song structure. I've never seen the same light creature in my life. Obviously, similar chord progressions follow similar light patterns…try to imagine the best kaleidoscope ever."

16 Shades of Blue www.youtube.com


Dev Hynes

After hearing Blood Orange's saturated, vivid sonic craftsmanship, it's not hard to believe that its creator is synesthetic. However, for Dev Hynes, synesthesia isn't a walk in the park. "Imagine color streamers just bouncing around," he explained. "It's hard for me to focus at times because there's a lot of things floating around, pulling me away. Situations can become very overbearing and overwhelming."

Blood Orange - Dark & Handsome | A COLORS SHOW www.youtube.com


Charli XCX

Synesthesia helps Charli XCX curate and shape her songs, and apparently, the pop queen favors sweeter, brighter colors. "I see music in colors. I love music that's black, pink, purple or red - but I hate music that's green, yellow or brown," she said.

Charli XCX - Silver Cross [Official Audio] www.youtube.com


Mary J. Blige

"I have that condition, synesthesia. I see music in colors. That's how my synesthesia plays out," singer, rapper, actress, and legend Mary J. Blige explained succinctly.

Mary J. Blige - Be Without You (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com


Marina Diamandis

The former star of Marina and the Diamonds (who now goes by only Marina) apparently can see sound as color, but she also associates certain colors with days of the week. Her synesthesia also sometimes causes her to associate music with scents. "Mine usually only expresses itself in color association but I do smell strange scents out of the blue for no reason," she's said.

MARINA - Orange Trees [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com


Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell

In Billie Eilish's technicolor universe, every sense bleeds into everything else, and things like numbers and days of the week have their own color palettes. "I think visually first with everything I do, and also I have synesthesia, so everything that I make I'm already thinking of what color it is, and what texture it is, and what day of the week it is, and what number it is, and what shape," she said in a YouTube Music video. "We both have it [she and brother, Finneas O'Connell], so we think about everything this way."

Billie Eilish - Ocean Eyes (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara thought that synesthesia was just something everybody had, until she realized not everyone could see sounds. "I didn't know that synesthesia was something that was, I guess, only a thing for some people," she said. "I thought that everybody kind of experienced it. So for me, it was just a natural pairing to my music. Everything audible was visual to me, and it still is. And so I think when I write, it's kind of cool to listen back and say, 'Well, this song feels kind of purple' — if a certain drum sound sounds purple and the song feels purple, then I know that they kind of match. It just really helps me figure out the whole package of a song." And like Kanye West, her synesthesia influences her visual content. "Even with videos — it helps me figure out what I want to do music video-wise," she added. "So it's definitely a strong aspect of my writing."

Alessia Cara - Ready (Lyric Video) www.youtube.com


Franz Liszt

Synesthesia isn't reserved for 20th and 21st century legends. Many classical musicians possessed synesthetic abilities, such as the composer Franz Liszt, who apparently used to ask orchestra members to make their tone qualities "bluer" and would say things like, "That is a deep violet, please, depend on it! Not so rose!" While orchestra members thought he was joking, they soon realized that the musician could actually see colors in the music he created.

Franz Liszt - Liebestraum - Love Dream www.youtube.com

MUSIC

These Famous Stars Hate Their Own Music

Jimmy Page isn't the only one who found his old songs cringe-worthy.

Legendary rocker Jimmy Page has had a lot to say over the years regarding Led Zeppelin's smash hit "Stairway to Heaven."

In 1988, the rocker told The New York Times that he'd "break out in hives" if he had to perform the song. Page has calmed down since then, but still confirmed to UCR yesterday that he simply "couldn't relate to the track anymore."

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CULTURE

Jameela Jamil's Fight Against Misogyny and Loneliness

In the space of two days, Jamil has attacked Piers Morgan's blatant misogyny and launched a campaign for Bumble friendship.

Jameela Jamil, the firebrand who became famous both for her breakout role on NBC's The Good Place and for her brand of fearless, anti-diet digital activism, did not mince words when clapping back at "irrelevant sh*t stain" (her words, not ours) Piers Morgan.

Jamil was one of the fifteen women featured on British Vogue's issue entitled "Forces for Change," guest-edited by Meghan Markle. She appeared alongside environmental activist Greta Thunberg, trans actress Laverne Cox, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and many more powerful female change-makers.

In response, Morgan published a shockingly embittered and almost unbelievably ignorant op-ed in The Daily Mail, which mostly consisted of poorly worded criticism directed at Markle and all the women of the world. "The women she's selected represent the greatest hits of virtue-signalling - with a nod to everything from 'body positivity', female empowerment, mental health, disability and race to transgender rights, climate change, diversity, and privilege," he wrote. "The last one made me laugh out loud. I'm sure the one thing we all need most in the world right now is a fabulously rich and entitled Princess lecturing us on privilege from her servant-laden royal quarters."

Morgan then turned his wrath from Markle to Jamil, criticizing the duchess's decision to post Jamil's face on the cover of the issue of British Vogue and citing some of Jamil's past mistakes. "The list of women Jamil has abused and shamed for falling short of her lofty moral standard is long," Morgan wrote, citing how Jamil has previously "hoped Cardi B and Iggy Azalea 'sh*t their pants in public,' "accused Miley Cyrus of being 'a vagina without a platform'" and "compared Beyoncé to a 'stripper.'"

Jamil was quick to respond. In her typically intelligent fashion, she didn't try to deny the problems with her past comments. Instead, she owned up to them. "My PINNED tweet is all of the mistakes I made, owning up to being problematic when I was young. I have nothing to hide," she tweeted Monday. "You are old, and still a problematic slut-shaming, fat-shaming, misogynist, irrelevant sh*t stain, smeared across our country."

Jamil's willingness to admit her own mistakes, as well as her fearlessness when confronting bigoted and dangerous ideas, has made her a beloved Internet personality and helped her gain the spot on Markle's cover. In Jamil and Markle's world, feminism is a constantly growing, expanding category, based on forward motion, learning, and change.

As for Morgan, despite his apparent desire to see more socioeconomically diverse female Vogue editors, it seems that, at heart, he's genuinely motivated by a hatred for feminism and all that it stands for, along with nostalgia for a time when being a white man meant he had an all-access pass to any space.

"We're informed the Duchess spent the past seven months creating 'an issue of inclusivity and inspiration, focusing on what connects rather than what divides us," he wrote. "How thoughtful of her! Yet of course her list excludes the planet's entire male population."

Enough said.

The exchange happened the day before Jamil launched her partnership with BumbleBFF's new campaign #AskingForaFriend, which is dedicated to ending the stigma around loneliness and making it easier for people to find friendship.

Ironically, Bumble itself has been accused of promoting a misogynistic company culture, but one would hope that Jamil has done her research—or another Twitter rant is coming quite soon.


CULTURE

Meghan Markle's Interview with Michelle Obama Is a Disappointment for Women's Media

They're two of the world's most powerful and inspiring individuals, after all.

The Cut

What can't Meghan Markle do?

She's a new mom, a royal, and fervent defender of freckles—and now, she's the first ever guest-editor of British Vogue.

Image via Daily Express

Markle lent her editorial sensibilities to the magazine's September issue, which isn't too far of a departure from her comfort zone—she used to run a lifestyle blog called The Tig before royal duties called her away from the digital sphere.

Entitled "Forces for Change," the upcoming Vogue issue focuses on strong, game-changing women. It highlights the voices of some of the world's most inspiring, powerful ladies, and includes a number of awe-inspiring features, including an interview between Markle and Michelle Obama herself.

Michelle Obama has done her time with Vogue. Image via E! News

In the interview, Markle asked Obama a variety of questions, ranging from inquiries about what motherhood means to her, what advice she would give her daughters, what inspired her to start her girls' empowerment foundation, what she would tell her 15-year-old self, and more. While Obama's answers are eloquent and full of compassion, the interview is still somewhat disappointing in that it revolves mostly around classically feminine issues—motherhood, Mother's day, daughters, advice, kindness—when it could've gone much deeper.

Markle can be forgiven for focusing on motherhood, as she just gave birth to her first child. Plus, the issue itself is incredibly inspiring, featuring a variety of extraordinary women—many being women of color—on the cover. It's an amazing achievement, one that magazine editors across the globe should be scrambling to replicate.

Still, Markle and Obama's interview could've been so much more. These women are a lot more than wives and mothers: They're some of the world's most powerful and intelligent people.

To her credit, Markle offered a self-aware disclaimer in the introduction. "Had I known Michelle would be so generous in making this a comprehensive interview, my questions would have been lengthier, more probing, more engaging," she wrote.

Admittedly, criticizing women for talking about motherhood does the same kind of disservice to feminism as criticizing women for wearing pink. Obama and Markle had the right to focus on motherhood and women's issues, not on politics or more rigorous or personal ideas. Additionally, the two women clearly have a tremendous amount of mutual admiration for each other, and that fact alone makes the interview worth reading.

For her part, Obama seemed to want to push the conversation beyond the boundaries of gender. "My parents, particularly my father, taught my brother and me at an early age to treat boys and girls exactly the same," she responded when Markle asked if she would give different advice to sons than daughters.

In spite of its limited topical scope, the interview between Obama and Markle is important representation, and the British Vogue issue—from its cover design to its emphasis on diverse voices—is a wonderful achievement by Markle. Hopefully, we'll see more content like this issue from here on out. Soon enough, we'll be reading conversations between other female world leaders, such as Beyoncé and the next female U.S. president, that traverse more substantial territories. Perhaps, in the near future, women's voices won't be relegated to fashion magazines, and we'll see covers like this issue's on newsstands across the country. Markle's issue is a huge step in the right direction, but when can we see her guest-edit Time Magazine or take over the BBC?

On the whole, Markle's issue, which features a variety of incredible people, including Chimamanda Adichie, Greta Thunberg, and Laverne Cox, is a simply extraordinary achievement for humankind.

Now, it's time for women's media to move past gendered, women-only spaces and into positions of even greater power.

The fact that Obama and Markle spoke at all is still a gift and a blessing. Regardless of its content, the conversation reveals two extremely intelligent, sensitive, and inspiring women who have already given so much to the world—and who have only just begun.



CULTURE

World Leaders Beyoncé and Meghan Markle Broker for World Peace

Beyoncé and Meghan Markle finally met on the red carpet of The Lion King UK, and we have the video evidence.

At long last, the US and the UK have finally overcome their bloody 243-year-old rivalry, thanks to the brief but powerful embrace of two of their most powerful leaders: Meghan Markle and Beyoncé.

Image via etonline


Image via Hollywood Reporter

The historic moment happened at the premier of The Lion King UK. Luckily, some observers caught the whole exchange on video., so we now have evidence that at long last, England and the USA are officially joining forces.

Apparently, Beyoncé began the exchange with an expression of love, causing the Internet's collective heart to swell when she called Meghan "my princess."

From there on out, the main topic of discussion was their kids. Beyoncé said that Meghan's baby "is so beautiful," and Prince Harry added that Archie had just started lifting his head up. He also informed Beyoncé, "You've been very busy." Jay-Z also jumped in with some helpful parenting advice for the royals, saying, "The best advice I can give you, always find time for yourself."

In case anyone's forgotten, these two couples consist of some of the world's most influential people. Jay-Z is the first billionaire rapper and Beyoncé's legacy speaks for itself. Meghan Markle, for her part, is the first mixed-race member of the Royal Family; and Prince Harry is sixth in line for the throne of England. Each of these people has become a powerful symbol—of pride, of culture, of success, and now, of diplomacy. They're of the sort that requires no explanation or introduction, and to see them humbled in each others' presences is to catch a glimpse into an echelon of power, wealth, and fame that most of us could never begin to comprehend. Like suns, their light powers our universe and our humble lives merely orbit theirs, and their union was a brief and potent supernova the witness was blessed to have captured.

While it's unclear when they'll meet again, we can all content ourselves by imagining a world where the USA and the UK are actually ruled by Beyoncé and Meghan Markle. Until then, we can just keep basking in the light of the sacred knowledge that the real queens of America and Britain love each other just as much as we love them.

MUSIC

Remembering 'Melodrama,' Two Years Later

If you know, you know: 'Melodrama' changed everything.

Lorde released her sophomore album, Melodrama, in the midst of a blazing June in 2017. With its vibrating synths and searing lyrics, it quickly cemented itself in the hearts of millions of young people (and the young-at-heart), giving voice to the extreme highs and lows of fast-burning summer love.

Yesterday, June 16, marked two years since Melodrama tattooed its neon insignia onto the face of pop music (and onto my freshly broken and wide-open heart). In celebration, Lorde teased a third album via an Instagram post of a screenshotted text. "Feels like I've grown a lot since then," she wrote, reflecting back on her experiences since dropping her second album. "i've been to antarctica, i have a dog now and a cat and i can bake bread and cook dinner and keep plants alive etc. It's a good life you've given me. Thankyou thankyou. Third one in the oven."

The message, with its array of quotidian details, sounds similar to the last statement Lorde released regarding her third album, back in November 2018. In the midst of a social media cleanse following two years of touring and promotion, she posted a newsletter for fans that read, "I haven't started properly on the next record yet, and I'm not sure how long it'll be. But I've been teaching myself how to play piano, and here and there little bits come out. I think this next one will probably be born around the piano in my house, me and my friends, keeping it simple…But know that for now I'm happy here at home, living quietly and simply, eating toast, going for walks, swimming. And you'll hear all about it soon enough."

Based on both of these statements, Lorde seems to be spending time enjoying the pleasures of an ordinary, grounded existence—cooking, hanging out, growing plants. Perhaps, then, her new album will be an ode to relaxing in one's hometown, full of lush, high-drama tributes to sleeping late, making coffee and lounging by the pool. If anyone could make those experiences glitter more brightly than the paparazzi section at the Met Gala, it's Lorde, who's always been an expert at spinning relatable, universal human experiences into dramatic, vivid, and breathtaking compositions.

After all, this is the girl who made an anthem out of her torn-up town on her first album and who turned a single party into a transcendent eleven-song journey on her second, always making common narratives feel fresh and vital. That was the true magic of Melodrama: it cut through cliche, zeroing in on the heady rush and steep plunge at the beginning and end of a night on the town, elevating these experiences to the height of how they truly feel when they're being lived. From "Green Light," which thrillingly celebrated the beginning of a wild night out after a breakup, to the shattering "Liability," which reached straight to the core of everyone who's ever felt like too much, Melodrama gave voice to the simple violence that comes with just being alive in the world, interacting with other volatile beings and dealing with experiences as they come. It's an album that legitimizes all the heightened experiences that come with being extremely sensitive—from the unexplainably perfect moments of euphoria to the tearstained rides home when it feels like the world is ending.

Lorde - Green Light www.youtube.com

Melodrama came out when I was nineteen, and I listened to it for the first time on a subway speeding beneath Manhattan. Maybe that's why, in addition to the knowledge that it was recorded in Jack Antonoff's Brooklyn studio, Melodrama feels like a fundamentally New York City album to me. It feels handmade for everyone stupid enough to come to this city with a bag full of dreams and an open heart. It's a celebration of all those crazy enough to put their souls on the line for love, love of creativity or love of experiences, despite how they might leave you with scraped knees and bloody palms, drained and wasted and waiting for a delayed subway at the end of the night.

All this is to say that anyone who experienced Melodrama when it dropped—who really experienced it, listened to it as they cried and danced and drove on the highway as the sun set with the top down—truly wouldn't mind if Lorde decided to spontaneously re-release the album. On the other hand, I was a teenager when it came out, and now I'm embarking on adulthood, writing this article on my first day working a full-time job. Though I'm still overly sensitive, full of stupid dreams, and living in New York City, a third album about the importance of watering plants and paying rent could be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Though of course, I'm sure Lorde knows what all of us need better than we know ourselves, because that's what she's best at—along with peeling back every layer of bullshit and tapping into the marrow of the melodrama that is just being alive and feeling every little thing, from the rhythm of the city to the flicker of a quickening pulse—and owning it, spinning those feelings into modern hymns lit by pristine piano and electrifying beats.

If you know, you know: Melodrama changed everything. It's anyone's guess as to what the future, and album number three, will bring, but at least we know that our eternal Lorde and savior will be with us every step of the way.

Image via Billboard