Birdman

Birdman

AP0071Last night I watched the movie Birdman and it left me feeling both inspired and a little embarrassed. Inspired, because of the performances and writing were nothing short of brilliant and that always makes me want to be creative; embarrassed, because the subject matter hit a little too close to home.

The concept of the “tortured artist” is often romanticized, but from a safe distance. The sickness that animates those of us who choose to be vulnerable in front of discerning audiences (and the effect said sickness has on the people who depend on us in relationships) is often glossed over. Birdman does such an amazing job of showing the insecurity underneath the gloss of celebrity, and does so with sharp dark humor and insight.

“Sickness” might seem like an exaggerated term, but it’s the only thing that can describe the act of trying to find validation in a pleasure/reward system that’s as fickle as seeking public approval as you bare your soul in front of people. Really, that sounds like only something an insane person would partake in. Yet, despite the risk, slings and arrows, the reward (when all goes well) is a very drug-like high, and like a drug, the high doesn’t last long, causing you to need more and more stimulation as you become desensitized.  “It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” one of my heroes once said to me about performing.

In Birdman, the characters put the high before tending to important relationships that are falling apart around them. I loved how the filmmakers did long continuous shots that were like a rollercoaster ride. Maybe it wasn’t intended this way, but I took it to be a stylistic choice that symbolized the flow of emotionality from the perspective of one who is always probing for validation in every interaction with people. Also, the whole bit where Ed Norton’s character suffers from ED unless he’s on stage acting is a hilarious illustration of this point. I think sometimes performers experience such exhilaration from being the intense focal point of a captive audience that it screws up their senses.

After watching this movie, I can’t help but question my motives in pursing a career as a performer/writer. I’ve been painfully aware for a while now that the drive that pushes me doesn’t come from an entirely healthy place. Heck, I even make fun of myself about it in some of my recent songs like “The Charlatan’s Last Stand,” a song where I to channel the indomitable maniac that still lives inside of me. It’s tongue-in-cheek, of course, because I’m fully conscious that it’s a reckless part of my being. Still, the high is lovely.

I have to say Birdman sobered me up a bit at a much needed moment. Things have been feeling really strange lately. And I’ve slipped into feeling really sorry for myself, not knowing at all which way I’m going to go to advance my career. It’s to the point where I feel a bit paralyzed and all I know to do is gig constantly which puts me in that cruel cycle of entirely depending on how a show went to validate my existence. Sick.

That hard part about all trying to find a balanced view of all this is that the pressure isn’t just internal. The sickness is also perpetuated from the outside because there’s a perception from people that where I’m at right now is not good enough. I hear all the time, “Why aren’t you famous? You need to go on one of those singing completion shows. Why don’t you believe in yourself?” In my head, I’m like, “Christ, don’t you think I’m trying?!” On top of that, I get this “tisk tisk” sort of vibe from close acquaintances that think I should just throw in the towel because I’m not some super star. It’s weird. Don’t get me wrong, I was set on world domination when I started this journey and still the goal is to get as close to being a career artist as possible. But shouldn’t they be happy for me that I’ve found a way to do something that is close to what I dream of doing and get to live comfortably? And what if one day I decide (or fate decides for me) that this is as far as I go? Should I feel ashamed after I’ve put in years of honest hard work? In a way, that’s the sentiment I get from people.

Anyway, the movie and the timing of things got my gears turning. The take-away, of course, is to focus on one’s real relationships instead of seeking love from the capricious mistress that is an audience (live or otherwise since social media is such a big part of the picture now). It seems appropriate then to end with lyrics from one of my favorite songs of mine that I of course wrote way out of my singing range because, being delusion like the main character in Birdman, I tend to imagine my ability is like that of a superhero’s.

I wrote the following song maybe two years ago when I started to really understand the aforementioned “sickness.” Ultimately, it’s about letting go of that lovelorn-like desperation.

I’ll get it on record one day even if it is too high to sing. I’ll find a way…… see?… indomitable.

Oh and go see this movie. It’s truly a work of art.

 

Why Don’t You Want Me At All?              by J. Adam Pitts

Verse 1

So many young have perished at your hand

For such a treasured treasure

Oh how the fools’ heads decorate your land

I should know better better

PreChorus1

I’ve bled out for you

Torn myself in two

I’ve given to you

My soul

Verse 2

For years I’ve watched you with such affection

I’ve suffered madly, badly

I’ve sinned and sought to be your reflection

You’ve wholly had me, sadly

PreChorus2

I’ve bled out for you

Torn myself in two

I’ve ceded to you

Control

Chorus

Why don’t you want me at all? 2X

Verse 3

It’s very cruel how you discredit my creed

“Never say never”

And without pause like to always remind me

Nothing’s forever ever

PreChorus 3

I’ve bled out for you

Torn myself in two

I’ve taken for you

the fall

Chorus

Why don’t you want me at all? 4X

Bridge

Here in your shadow

how can anything grow

always beneath your bright bloom?

Ooh, I want to be in the light with you

I want to share the warmth you do

I want to feel what it’s like to glow

But I guess I’ll never know

Pre Chorus 4

It’s all been in vain

What more can I say?

Love wasted in ways

Untold

Chorus

Why don’t you want me at all? 2X

Why don’t you want me? 3x

I’ve loved you

I’ve loved you

Outro

And so they say

All dreams must fade away

I’ll let you fade

away