When Kate Bush expressed “I’ve always been a coward” we all collectively gasped. Vulnerability is ugly, female vulnerability is especially controversial – among the self-love anthems, the confession “I’m a loser” can be seen as disempowering, but Gabrielle Aplin’s new single ‘My Mistake’ is far from a weakening of the spirit.
I listen to music because I want to feel represented, because I want to be allowed to feel complexly. If we ignore the complexities of self-doubt, pain and struggling we miss out on a fundamental part of the human experience.
I heard this single for the first time yesterday morning, waking up to all the self-doubt I fight daily like so many of us. In her song, Gabrielle allowed me to notice it and to recognise its impact. Opening simply and personally it’s mainly her vocals and piano: “I really want a conversation, but I let it slip away, a debt I’ll never pay”. Even at the climactic points of the song the accompaniment is never overpowering; the focus is as it should be – Gabrielle’s thoughts and experience.
This song made me remember the words a good friend said to me recently: “do you think you’re afraid to get better?”. It’s the acceptance that you’ll never change, that you can get used to pain and hurt, not knowing who you are without it, that “there’s magic in this misery”. This song is so perfectly self-aware of this perspective and Aplin takes full responsibility for this feeling, “it was my mistake” punctuating the end of every chorus.
Ugliness is accepted, “am I jaded?” juxtaposed against the music video, which was released almost simultaneously to the single, and both artistically and aesthetically beautiful. Aplin lies delicately in silk and soft light casting shadows on the wall while describing her “dark imagination”. This is an incredibly accurate depiction of mental illness; her surroundings are so beautiful, but excess of wildflowers are always external to the dark and frightening within. Similar again to Kate Bush, Gabrielle dances wildly, freely and strangely, feeling every word. Music allows for her perfect expression of the imperfect self.
I’ve been a Gabrielle Aplin fan since I was thirteen, her songs back then spoke to all my romantic musings while ‘home’ rooted me in my surroundings. I’ve felt connected to her music for so long with each new release growing up with me and evolving in style and subject. She’s been away since her previous EP Miss you, which felt to me so connected to love and care, attached so heavily to my concerns at the time. But I didn’t realise I needed her personal confessions today, I needed to feel not alone this morning.
Adding a little acceptance and truth can only make good. Yet again I hold onto the hope that artistic expression and openness will allow us all to feel that little bit better.
[Imogen Hay – @imogenislay]