If you have been reading this blog with any regularity since last spring, you should be aware that I am a big fan of EMA. She was probably my favorite new artist last year and definitely released my favorite album. In brief, her music masterfully channels the twin streams of power and vulnerability into a swirling vortex I am powerless to escape – or want to escape. Her latest release is a song called "Take One Two," and it continues her insane hot streak.
It may be her most personal work yet, which is saying something. More spare and unadorned than most of the songs on Past Life Martyred Saints, this is an ode to the friendships of youth driven by acoustic guitar, EMA's trademark impassioned vocals, and some simple electronic ambience. The song is plenty evocative, but the video is even more poignant. She used footage of her and her friends' teenage years in South Dakota, shots of them goofing off and having fun. The innocent and freeing vibes resonate strongly. For example, even if it may not have been easy for a boy to wear a dress at that age, time, and place, he clearly has no problem being comfortable and happy among his best friends. As EMA herself states, "This one's for all the weirdos out there: cherish your friends, fuck the haters and let your freak flag fly." That perfectly and succinctly distills the core essence of the song and video. Click here to buy it from iTunes, here from Amazon. The proceeds from sales of "Take One Two" will go to the Jamie Isaacs Foundation for Anti-Bullying.
A song like this is so important because no matter who you are, negotiating self-identity throughout the turbulence of adolescence can be tough. I was fortunate to never be bullied or really ever feel threatened growing up, but this video was nevertheless stunningly familiar in a way that floored me. I grew up with a great group of friends and our fondest pastime was to make movies. Movies that would probably shock outsiders for a variety of reasons, ranging from the eccentric humor to the profuse profanity. We would make up wacky names, don bizarre costumes, and only keep to the most basic of plotting. Acting and directing were done loosely.
This happened in the mid-90s, just like the video, and we must have had a similar camera, because the footage looks almost exactly the same. The clincher was the Pulp Fiction poster. In the basement at our friend Hank's house where we made most of the films (the same basement that gave us our name: Guys Downstairs Productions), hung the exact same poster; Uma Thurman watching over us like some patron saint of the weirdest indulgences of youthful creativity. Looks like she wasn't watching over just us. I consider these experiences ridiculous, sure, but also absolutely essential to the person I became. I can't totally appreciate the value of having a circle of friends that always had my back and allowed me to discover the person I was because I was lucky enough to always have that. And I know everyone else in the group felt the same way. Still does, in fact.
I hope this video helps other kids find the outlets I had in a basement in Erie, PA and EMA had in a trailer in South Dakota. I hope too that it helps anyone different feel ok with themselves, and anyone who doesn't understand difference to not feel the need to hurt anyone else because of it. I think it will.
I want to also mention that EMA embark on a spring headlining tour tomorrow, plus she'll be at some of the big festivals later on. You can find the tour dates here. Or visit her website. I'll be at the March 16th show in Brooklyn for sure and will probably preview that in more detail later. I've seen her before and she's not to be missed.