Thursday, March 30, 2017

Video Spotlight: Shape of You / No Diggity mashup by VoicePlay featuring Matthew Darren

As I write this, Middle Tennessee is expecting what could be a terrible storm in a few hours. I'm not a fan of terrible storms, but that's okay. It'll be okay. I mention this because VoicePlay has just released a brand new video. What can that possibly have to do with storms? Well, if you know your Norse mythology you know that Thor is considered the god of thunder. What does VoicePlay have to do with Norse mythology? Well, their new video is a mashup of Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" and Blackstreet's "No Diggity". It features our fabulous foursome with special guest Matthew Darren. Otherwise known as Harmony Thor.

No, I did not come up with that myself. It won't take too long to figure out how he got that name. Just watch the video. Hopefully he doesn't mind it because I'm pretty sure he's stuck with it now. In any event, I have Thor on the brain. So this impending storm seems rather appropriate. 

As for the mashup? Meh, it's all right. And by all right, what I really mean is wonderful and I absolutely love it. I might even be a little obsessed. This is one of those videos that I watch and wonder why they aren't more popular. I don't think they get the credit they deserve. Don't get me wrong. They have a lot of fans who love them and get more all the time. But if you ask me, they deserve more. They really do. 

My last post, the sixth installment of my Music Therapy series (in which Layne gets a mention), was one that I felt like I needed to write, but this one? I decided to write it for two reasons. The first is because it's really flippin' good. The second? Because I really, really wanted to. I started planning out this post after watching it for the first time. I couldn't get to writing it fast enough. This is not typical for me. Not at all. 

Meanwhile, 2017 has been a bit of a roller coaster for us VoicePlay fans and probably especially so for them. If you're already a VoicePlay fan, you know what's been up. But here's a quick rundown for rest of you. This year started with an announcement that their baritone of five years, Tony, was leaving. This news, while not surprising, was met with sadness and concern. What would this mean for the rest of the group?

Well, our guys didn't let us worry about that for too long. They were quick to put up a video reassuring fans that they were staying together and launching a search for a new official member. Their shows have gone on as scheduled with the help of their wonderful fill-ins. We've gotten new music/videos. In fact, these last two mashups (the other being "Scars To Your Beautiful & All Time Low") are quite possibly their best mashups to date. If you know me, you know how much I love their mashups. So that should tell you something. 

What we, their loyal VoicePlayas, have been reminded of during this time is how lucky we are to be supporting these guys. Other artists could learn so much from these four. Namely, how to treat their fans. They are so great to us and they have never let us forget how much they care about their fans. I have a lot of respect for these guys. As musicians and performers, yes, but also as men. 

Now they've gone and introduced us to Harmony Thor, er, Matthew. I had no idea what to expect from him, but my goodness. I think you're gonna like him. I think you're gonna like him a lot. Take a few minutes to watch the video and then we'll talk about it. Well...I guess I'll talk about it and you'll read about it, but you know what I mean. Check it out. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Arthritis Awareness: Music Therapy, Part 6

I figured out pretty early on that the only way I could make this series work is if I was completely honest about what I struggle with myself. So before I get to the songs that I've chosen to feature in this installment, I'm going to tell you a little about what's been going on with me this year. As some of you know, I have rheumatoid arthritis and was first inspired to start this series during arthritis awareness month (May) last year. The first post wouldn't end up going up until June. The best laid plans and all that. I decided to keep it tied to arthritis awareness, but really, the goal behind this series is to use music to try to encourage anyone going through a tough time. Whether they also have rheumatoid arthritis or not.

It's been over a month since I last posted. 2017 has been a tough year in regards to my health. My rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has spun completely out of control and I was without a rheumatologist for a few months. My pain levels have been so far above what I can handle a good part of the time and it's taken a toll. The depression that so often accompanies chronic illness has gotten worse. My anxiety has been through the roof. A couple of months ago, I started having panic attacks after years of not having them. Some of them have been the worst I've ever had. Where's Jack Pearson when you need him? Seriously.

If you don't know who that is, Jack is the patriarch of the Pearson family on NBC's hit shot This is Us. I only just got into it in the past six weeks or so, but I'm completely hooked. Jack, played by Milo Ventimiglia, has quickly become one of my favorite fictional fellas. The reason I bring this up is because some of my favorite scenes from the first season are the ones between Jack and his adopted son Randall. I love their relationship and I find myself relating to Randall because we see him struggling with anxiety. We also see Jack calming him down.. Anxiety is such an awful thing on its own. Throw the depression and RA and everything else in there and things can get out of hand very easily. They all feed off of each other. We could all use a Jack Pearson to help out us in those awful moments. 

In any event, pain - chronic pain, especially - is a tricky thing. It can be a dangerous thing, especially when it's unrelenting. It doesn't just affect you physically; it messes with your mind. It can cause you to lose your grip. To lose yourself as a person. It impacts everything. I have not been in a good head space for most of this year. I've been sad and scared, angry and frustrated. I've been bitter and resentful. I've isolated myself from friends. I have felt useless and worthless and my self-esteem has pretty much been in the toilet. It felt like I had lost my voice. That I had lost my hope. I've been tempted to give up. I had turned into someone I barely recognized and I hated it. I needed a change and I needed it badly. 

The first step was to get a new rheumatologist and come up with a treatment plan to get the RA back under control. Find better ways to deal with the anxiety. Make an effort to stop isolating myself. I decided that I also needed to reclaim my voice and get back to writing again. This was hard at first as I couldn't bring myself to start working on anything. Then something happened. A somewhat new friend of mine inadvertently gave me the inspiration that I needed. 

See, pain has a way of causing a kind of spiritual amnesia. I'm a Christian. I believe in God and yet I struggle with my faith. It's not that I start questioning if He exists; I know He does. It's that I focus on the pain and find myself forgetting things about Him. Like His faithfulness, for example. I forget that as big as my problems sometimes feel, my God is bigger than all of them. I forget that God is still God, no matter what happens. I forget that my God is a healer. I forget that He still has a plan for my life, even when it doesn't seem like it. I forget that God can turn our biggest messes into something beautiful. I forget that there is comfort to be found in the middle of even the most horrific storms. There is still hope. Even when you can't feel it. There is always hope.

I was reminded of all of that. I was also reminded that you need to gain control over your emotions. It's not that you try to suppress your emotions; in my experience, you can only do that for so long. It's not about trying not to feel anything at all. That's not good either. It's about accepting them as they come and then choosing to let them go. You can choose not to be resentful. You can choose not to be bitter. You can choose to be hopeful instead. You can choose to be joyful. It may not be easy at first, but you can do it. 

In choosing the songs for this installment of this series, I decided that I needed to go with the songs that speak the most to me in this time in my life. I'm still not in what you'd call a great place mentally. But I'm getting there. One moment at a time. It is my sincere hope and prayer that these songs may speak to you as well. 

Let's get started.