When I first heard "Cosmic Love" I knew I was in love with the song. It was back around 2010-2011. I have very diverse music taste. I can listen to Nicki Minaj and also Celine Dion.
I got to listen to Florence Welch, the singer of the Indie Rock Band called Florence + the Machine, because of a site called 8 tracks. 8 tracks is semi-operational now in Bangladesh and one can listen to the playlists via Youtube availability.
There is a playlist composer there, who calls themselves Pandora aquarium and it is in their playlists I discovered Florence + the Machine. The playlist was called "Fallen off the Edge into a Fantasy" I believe and the song was just like that.
"A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyesI screamed aloud, as it tore through them, and now it's left me blind/The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out/You left me in the dark/No dawn, no day, I'm always in this twilight/In the shadow of your heart."
These are the beginning of the lyrics of "Cosmic Love" and they are so deep and meaningful, heightened by the incredible vocals of Florence, that I knew I would be a fan of her music.
Fast forward to 7-8 years later and I see Eva Wiseman writing an interview about her in the Guardian titled:"Florence Welch: 'I wonder sometimes, did I dream too big?" And, I find out she is a person who is recovering from a partying lifestyle.
I never knew Florence Welch loved to party; in my own ignorance I thought she was a reserved person. She has large feelings - I think I can connect with her on that - and she performs in a visceral, bodily way.
However, partying wasn't necessarily a negative thing in its own way but Florence opened up on how it became negative. Her debut album, Lungs, came out in 2009 and "Cosmic Love" is part of that album. I loved many songs from that album including "Swimming" and "Drumming Song."
All of them are etched with long and loud vocals from Welch and deeply meaningful lyrics. She even sang the new rendition of Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" For Final Fantasy XV (2016). She confesses that she got fame and success early and perhaps it overwhelmed her.
Wiseman says, the director of Lady Bird (2017) Greta Gerwig, calls Welch's music as "the deepest, darkest well of pain, and then you just throw a big party in there and invite everybody." I felt the same way - when I heard the song "Remain Nameless" in 2013 from her album Ceremonials (2011).
I was hooked from the very first lines: "I was born in a big gray cloud/ Screaming out a love song/All the broken chords and unnamed cries/What a place to come from/I wish to remain nameless/And live without shame/'Cause what's in a name, Oh /I still remain the same." The song is haunting; the music always plays deeply into you and reverberates on your soul. The music is not necessarily "feminine" as in timid but it has feminine strokes.
You can feel the woman behind the songs but you can also see the desperation, the rage, both loud bells and the quiet fury, and you just feel the aching of something. Welch calls it "that well of longing" and I do hear it in all of her songs. The album, Lungs, I realize the name has significance: the song "Swimming" brings it out how someone can make you drown or even keep you alive, afloat on the surface.
Her new album, High as Hope (2018), starts with a song called "Hunger." Welch has become quieter now and is finding solace, clarity and a new moment in her music, as she is 31. As quoted in her interview with Guardian: "When I realized I could perform without the booze it was a revelation.
There's discomfort and rage, and the moment when they meet is when you break open. You're free... Before, I thought I ran on a chaos engine, but the more peaceful I am, the more I can give to the work.
I can address things I wasn't capable of doing before." She likes the almost magical essence in the mundane moments. Hunger is the first time she addressed her eating disorder and I must put trigger warnings here as the song explicitly addresses those issues.
Her song starts with "At seventeen, I started to starve myself/I thought that love was a kind of emptiness" continuing with "We all have a hunger" as the chorus.
The music video is filled with classical art aesthetics and also psychedelic colors fusing and swirling as Florence, like the art and colors, dances both eloquently and in frenzy. Through her performance I can feel somewhat of what she felt; I can empathize with her.
The ending as haunting as ever, her signature of something both subtle yet intense at the same time, stating "And I can't dress,/ they're gonna crucify me/Oh, but…" It really captures what she feels, and the way any young girl or woman may feel at any age when they are battling hard issues.
When asked about by Wiseman if she has faced anything at 17 that had led her to this she answers: ""I know how to deal with it in a song, but a lot of stuff I'm… still figuring out? I can say things in a song I don't understand yet, like: 'I thought love was a kind of emptiness' - that feels important.
You think love is unreachable, empty, hungry, then there's a kind of sadness when something more stable comes towards you. You don't recognize it as love because it's not desperate enough. And I've never tied the two together until now." This is a statement I think any person of any gender can associate with.
It was a powerful statement - the way media and culture seems to feed to you that love is a kind of intoxication. It is blind and it can be deadly but Welch and all of us can realize it doesn't have to be. Love can be stable, nurturing and warm; it doesn't have to drain you and make you feel powerless or inert.
Welch also revealed in the interview that her mother feels her not attending university as a waste of intellect.Welch has a great memory and can remember every outfit she has ever worn. However, as she gets older, she feels she can relate to her mother, A Renaissance Studies Professor.
Wiseman writes "As Florence navigates this quiet life, their similarities are becoming more clear to her. Watching Evelyn lecture about a pair of renaissance gloves she saw, suddenly, where her performance gene came from." I believe many women and men can connect with this as well.
We love to think we are as distinct and different from our parents as summer and winter when we are younger. However, as we grow older we see what similarities we have with our mothers and fathers even if we also have our differences.
Florence believes the well of longing is also in her mother but she must have put it away somewhere. Haven't we also looked at our parents and thought; they are like me at times, where is the rest of it, those feelings? I am glad Florence talked about it. It is something we need reminding of from time to time.
Welch is in a better place now mentally and physically. She has a poetry book coming out, Useless Magic (2018), on the 5th of July this year. Wiseman reports: "These undrinking days she still enjoys parties, but uses them to dance rather than get high - if someone starts making small talk with her and there's music playing she will literally spin away towards the speakers." I can feel this energy in Florence when she sings her songs.
The immersion to the music and the words is always very much in sync with her work. Sometimes, she still grapples with insecurity and being overwhelmed and as she spoke in the interview, ""It's still there. This, 'What if I could take a day off, a break from this magical energy?' But," she grins, "it passes.""
I am glad it passes. I am glad Florence + the Machine is here to stay. The songs, the lyrics and the way they are presented is the visceral feminine meeting with new mediums and a blend of various genres.
You can see UK's highlands, cold waters, swift wings and lush landscape in her work and you can incorporate it in your own South Asian heritage or any other ancestry. It is because the music is not just popular it is emotive.
It's like she says in her song "Call me when you need me" and if you want psychedelic imagery mixed with a haunting, gothic like melancholy or atmosphere, that claws at you with longing, you listen to Florence + the machine.
The writer is a copy editor at The Asian Age
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