My very purist, arty friend sat on my porch and said matter-of-factly, "Kellee, you are gonna need to address why you do pop culture stuff."
She was referring to this Game of Throne's video below, for which I was asking her to make a dragon, that was cool, and cheap:
"Explain please," I asked
"Cause maybe some people will not think it's original."
In a mildly defensive tone I said, "Even with 20 other videos and 50 other songs that are totally original."
"Well you did do Mad Men, too, and a few covers," she noted.
She was right as usual. How might I describe why I made these choices? The truth is, I didn't even think about them as a Pop Culture "play." Most of the time they were ideas that came straight from my partner, online marketing guru and love Joey, and he has a million of them. He is always seeking ways to get me out there without the budget and radio connections a signed artist would have. But for me, these were songs and shows that really meant something to me in both positive and negative ways, as well as a vast number of Americans. It often felt more like art to me than my usual channeling/writing something original that had no direct inspiration or interpretation.
If you know my work, or me, Mad Men is an obvious muse. The show's theme song is amazing and produced by RJD2, who I LOVE. I am also one of the owners of a non-traditional marketing company in Pittsburgh called Nakturnal that is all female owned and operated. As a company we have turned down LOTS of money in the name of only working on what we believe in, a sentiment the Mad Men would scoff at. I was immediately sucked into their mad world that was set only 60 years ago, where women's only place was at home, answering phones, typing and using their sexual energy to help the Mad Men close, or not lose a client. Not to mention, my interest in the spiritual and emotional empowerment of women, LGBT communities and humans in general were major motivators in the writing and philosophy behind the song and video. Furthermore, there are still many Mad Men in power all over the world; this was almost like my letter to this patriarchy. You can be the judge of how well that translates:
So there are clearly parallels with Mad Men to my life that made it make sense for me to address, but why Game of Thrones? You would think the violence alone would turn me off. Well, it did. I wondered what the fuss was about so I watched the first episode and decided it wasn't for me. Especially after I saw the Starks make young Brandon watch a beheading in the first episode. Plus, I generally try to stay away from anything that involves getting sucked into TV. I have only a few exceptions to that rule over the years, Mad Men being one. But for most of my adult life, I boycotted cable. I would likely be left out of water cooler-type convos if I hung out by water coolers. Still so many people were telling me to watch it, from all sectors of my life. Business associates, my boyfriend's friends, people and friends of varying beliefs, ethnicities and walks of life. I did more in depth surveying of these G.O.T. fans and I was intrigued. I hadn't heard about something so universal since Madonna and Michael were dueling on the charts. When two women in my healing circles begged me to give it another shot, I was deeply surprised. They were a yoga teacher and a reiki master. They truly know me, in deep and spiritually ways, and THEY said that I, "MUST watch and would love it." So I gave it another shot. I watched episodes 2-4 and I was hooked.
Joey joined me and our feverish new addiction had us wondering, is this mind control? What effects might it have on our subconscious? Joey and I literally covered our eyes during violent scenes, probably at least 10 minutes per show! We discussed the ominous "powers that be," making sure it keeps the populace engaged and distracted by the five pillars of Hollywood success: sex, violence, power, animals and kids. Plus the actors are all British. Was the Queen behind this, we wondered? Was it preparing us for the Kings, (a.k.a. corporations/politicians), to become even more open and insidious about their tyrannical and inhumane ways?
Perhaps, but like all things in life, we saw another side as well. The show felt deeper and from a higher more profound place than our conspiracy theories. Joey actually cried once, and I cried many times. I started to see the beauty in the writing, and how far we have come as human beings from times like this, and how far we have not come, and still need to go.
I also appreciated the way it would give just enough back-story for each character to help you understand why/how they would do what they do. There are a few characters beyond reprieve, but interestingly they seem to be the ones that you don't fully hear about their childhood/family. Like Little Finger...he is not cool. But, I have come to a place where I believe that we are all born with love in our hearts for ourselves and others, and it is experience/society that can turn us into beings of hate. This philosophy makes me willing to forgive. However, we MUST take responsibility, (which it seems only the Starks do in G.O.T.) first by forgiving and accepting, because often our egos really "know not what we do." Through that act of forgiveness, which really is all about awareness and empathy, I think justice can come.
I don't think anyone hurts others unless they were deeply hurt. Until we begin to "look" -- stare at, feel the effect of, and have had enough of a negative behavior, I don't think it's going anywhere. These characters, and many of us humans, aren't able to get out of survival mode long enough to take that hard gaze. My hope was this show was allowing watchers to do this, vicariously, through the characters. To me, that is one purpose of art, it's a way to experience and develop empathy.
Or maybe that is just me being idealistic, while giving myself an excuse to watch filth? Either way, it became personal for me, and I found myself thinking about the psychology behind what it must have been like to be a woman in a time like this. I started looking at charts of the houses in the show and became enthralled at the genius of the interweaving storytelling, the costumes, and the EPIC sets, and how it all relates to today's cultural climate. Then I would get mad thinking about how we could develop sustainable systems in some of the poorest countries in the world, for the kind of budget spent on this stuff, but unfortunately I have no power in that matter.
I was so intrigued by how real all of these characters seemed and the archetypal roles they, their gods, and their hells played. When Khal Drogo traded Daenerys for an army, I looked over at Joey, who happens to be Colombian and Afghani, and said, "o.m.goddess, we could play that couple for halloween so easily." Not to mention John Snow's Direwolf, looks like one of my dogs and I always hope John Snow and Daenerys will rule in peace together (which is sorta implied in the end of my video when I am with the Direwolf)!
We watched sooo many episodes to catch up over about a month period. For the two of us, who are rarely on the couch, we started to feel quite guilty. I could be meditating, reading, community building, writing...something MORE important! Joey began suggesting I make a song and video to cancel out all of our "wasted" time, but I knew the game he wanted to play. In the end, it wasn't just the guilt or the chance of every G.O.T. fan talking about us that motivated me. After learning more about the Queen of Dragons and all sides of her personality, life and choices, as well as Drogo, it seemed that I could tell a part of my story and my beliefs about current times, through her eyes. I was so inspired. When Drogo died, we both felt such a deep loss, and I knew I had to do a song. Many who watch the show may think it's just a G.O.T. tribute, and maybe not a good one, and many will think its just a cheap ploy. Either way, I have long since learned I can't control what people think, and have had to develop a thick skin being on Youtube.
So I went H.A.M. for about two weeks to try to pull something off by the season finale-all to the original theme song that was then sampled, produced, mixed and mastered by the amazing J.Glaze. I wrote and recorded the song and got a lil vocal coaching from my girl Emily Plazek. Then my soul sis, Lani, and I found a prime location in PGH. We turned my house upside down for indoor scenes. We found horses (which fell through due to lack of insurance and money), then our intern, Zane, build a throne for $50 bucks. We actually convinced my friend Josh to come to set drunk from his bday celebration to create a Drogo wig, and begged "my Khal" to take a day off and join me. We secured an amazing Larper named Kaza a.k.a. "Larp Girl" who literally was an angel/my new BF and had tons of props for us already. She pulled off the series of costumes in just three days, after we pillaged local thrift stores and Joanne Fabrics. I enlisted some of my favorite people with dark hair to act in various dothraki scenes, while the lovely Serena was the perfect Missandei. After randomly seeing one of my fav couples lil' baby named Jabari a few days before shooting, that could easily be the child of Joey and I, we knew we needed that scene too. It became a family affair, which is what keeps me going. I wrote out how every lyric corresponded with the scenes I was creating, and prayed it would work...in time. Most importantly, my homie and brilliant director, Nicholas Buchheit, was in to bring my vision to life. I produced what I believe to be a great work of art, perhaps only because of the other fabulous artists and people involved.
Well I will leave that up to you to decide. Is this art or just a ploy to get noticed?
My answer is...both!
In a world where 95 percent of signed artists fail or labels control content,(read more about my tips on music biz due to this fact) and I feel strongly that the type of art/worldview I have needs a stage, for all who make it. I AM using something that can break the barriers and get to people who might not otherwise give me a chance, but love them some Game of Thrones. And I hope it opens the gates for others, who are sharing similar vibes. But I also, have never, and I mean never, been so inspired and impacted by a show and it's artistic vision, writing, acting and filmmaking that I have seen in Game of Thrones. I found a muse that helped me to share: loss, love, pain, spirit, death, faith and triumph, with this series, and I am not afraid to show it. And, we released it with the Moon in Capricorn on the last Friday the 13th for another 47 years and so many other syncronicities you wouldn't even believe me if I told you!
I would love your feedback, any and all. Gods be good.