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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Across The Pond And Beyond - Swing Out Sister

I've been doing a lot of thinking about big breaks, and how it's come to my understanding that in order to find your breaks in this world, you have to actively seek them out.

This is something that I have completely struggled with my whole life.

There's a lot of factors that surround why I have had such feelings in my lifetime.  Some of it is linked to the feelings of low self-worth that I carried around with me for years.  Feelings that I undoubtedly never should have had in the first place, but for whatever reason did have.  It's been a life-long struggle, but I feel like I have my emotions in check.

There's the fact that I am currently in a physical place that I'm quickly losing my lustre for.  Though, that's less of a concern than it has been, and I'm well on my way to finding a solution to that goal as well.

No, I think the biggest thing that is stopping me is the fear of failure. 

Do I have the utmost confidence in my abilities as a writer?  Yes, absolutely.  I look through newspapers and publications for spelling and grammatical errors as a source of fun and entertainment.  Not necessarily because I'm an arrogant S.O.B. that believes that he is the best writer in the world, but because I think that if someone is to put out a publication that is read by thousands of people, they should care more about spelling and typographical errors.  Mistakes do happen, but when you can pick them out like clockwork, it becomes a bit hysterical, and a little sad.

Am I in a place where there's a lot of opportunity to showcase my abilities?  Not really.

And that's where the fear comes into place.  In order to pursue my real dreams, I know I have to cut the cords of the safety net and fly, fly away.  It did happen once in my life.  For two years, I had the best time, and being away from everyone and having the chance to be who I wanted to be and find myself was a great experience.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it didn't work out.

It actually wasn't until recently that the feelings of wanting to better myself really came out.  And maybe it's worth venturing out into the world despite the risks of everything bad that could happen (such as ending up homeless, jobless, and tending to my eighty-seven cats, pushing a bent shopping cart with three wheels asking people for spare change.)

But that won't happen to me because I won't let it.

It's just summoning up the courage to tell myself that I deserve better.  That's the tricky part.

I know that I owe it to myself to stop digging my heels.  The action behind doing it is something that I need to do, but I guess in some ways, I have suffered from a weird form of stage fright. 

Whenever I do try to get a plan going, I seem to chicken out.  Freeze up.  I'm like that guy who is standing on stage in just his underwear panicked at what to do while everyone else points and snickers.  I listen to other people tell me that I need to do these things to better myself, but something inside me is preventing me from doing so.  It's a bit hard to explain why this is.  It's not laziness.  It's not stubbornness.  It's just...I don't know what it is.  I've always been an open book in most cases, and I can come up with a logical explanation for why I am the way I am except for this one thing.  Eventually, I hope to unlock the mystery behind why I am like this, but for now, we'll continue.

Keeping with the trend of making your breaks happen is today's blog subject.  This is a song that I hear quite often through the music player at my workplace, and the lyrics of the song kind of go along with what I'm trying (and failing miserably in my honest opinion) to say in this blog.

Have any of you heard of the pop group Swing Out Sister?

In the spirit of the Across The Pond And Beyond Wednesday, this group is based from the UK.  Originally a trio (one of the members has since left), the members comprise of lead singer Corinne Drewery, Andy Connell (keyboards) and Martin Jackson (drums).  They selected the name from the title of a 1945 movie called Swing Out, Sister, but it's not because they agreed because they liked it.  All three actually HATED the name!

What made the group's beginnings unique was that one of the members went into the group not having any musical experience whatsoever.  Connell and Jackson were in other bands before forming Swing Out Sister, but Corinne Drewery was into fashion design, and worked as a model before joining the group.  However, this background ended up featuring prominently in one of Swing Out Sister's biggest hits.

Swing Out Sister's big break came in 1986, when their album 'It's Better To Travel' was released in the United Kingdom.  Over the next year, people really seemed to enjoy the band because they combined jazz music with electronic beats to make some music that sounded different from all the other music acts out there.  In 1987, Swing Out Sister was discovered in America, and while their success was never quite as big over in North America as it was in the United Kingdom, their persistence over their desire to 'breakout' into the world helped secure them a top ten hit in the United States, as well as two Grammy Award nominations in 1988.

So it's only fitting that we talk a little bit about the song that helped them 'breakout', so to speak.

ARTIST:  Swing Out Sister
SONG:  Breakout
ALBUM:  It's Better To Travel
DATE RELEASED:  October 3, 1986

It's been 25 years since this song came out, and one thing that I've noticed is that the whole video is the perfect example of everything about the 1980s being condensed into one four-minute video.  The brightly coloured garish clothes.  The funky backgrounds and shapes.  The fun and excitement that everyone in the video has.

The 1980s were one of those carefree times where people were happy, happy, happy.  I think maybe on a side note, this is why I have such a fond recollection of that decade because it reminded me of a simpler time in life.

Of course, I was only five years old in 1986, and the only stressful decision I had to make was whether to use crayons or markers to colour a picture.

But we aren't here to talk about the 1980s.  We're here to talk about 'Breakout'.  And one thing you might notice is that the subject of the video has to do with fashion design.  This video is somewhat on the ironic side, mainly because of the subject.

As I said before, Corinne Drewery's main goal in life was to become a fashion designer.  She wanted to showcase her talents.  Stitch up clothes.  Sketch new designs.  To become a contestant on Project Runway before Project Runway even existed.  So, to have a little bit of fun with that idea, the video sort of examines the possibility of Corinne achieving her dream.  She designs this little blue number with the help of her bandmates, shows it off at a fashion show, and it immediately becomes the showstopper.  It's presumed that she goes on to become a success as a fashion designer and her designs rival those of Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Here's the irony.  That song did nothing for the fashion design aspirations for Corinne, but it DID help put her name on the music charts.

Though it wasn't exactly the way that she wanted to break out on the scene, it was the big break that she sang about (and it was the break for the rest of the band as well).

But listening closely to the lyrics, it seems to be showing me some added perspective.

The song talks about how one must overcome their fears and anxieties, and look past an uncertain tomorrow to find their big break.  Maybe it's time I take those lyrics to heart. 

The statistics are straight forward.  A lot of jobs created nowadays require a person to have a post-secondary degree.  As some of you may know, I don't have any sort of a degree in this at all.  Certainly there are other aspects that lead to getting job offers, such as networking with others, and showing general aptitude for a certain skill.  But if that's what it takes, I think that I would like the chance to try something that I can fall back on, just in case the writing career does not pan out.  That's not to say that I will NOT give up on making a career as a writer.

Being a writer, especially in a world where people's attention spans are decreasing, is going to be an incredibly tough market to get into.  That said, I know that I have the talent to be the best damn writer that anyone could ever hope to have.

I just have to keep my mind open, and realize that my big break is out there.  I just have to find it.


As for the future of Swing Out Sister, well, Breakout may have been their big breakout hit, but they didn't seem to have the same success in either their native UK or the US.  However, in Japan, they have sort of a cult following, and have had a slew of success in that country.  Though, given that Japan has also made pop idols out of Alyssa Milano and Jennifer Love Hewitt, it's really up to you to define the word success.

Regardless, it's worth it to listen to some of Swing Out Sister's songs that didn't do as well, because there really was no group that sounded like them.  Like this minor hit from '89.

Or, this one from '92.

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