‘My Mind and Me’: A heartbreaking look behind the curtain of stardom

“Let me make you a promise. I’ll only tell you my darkest secrets.”

Selena Gomez does just that in her groundbreaking new documentary, “My Mind and Me,” baring herself to the world in a way which few celebrities have. Gomez does not paint herself as a person unsullied by her struggles, nor does she shy away from the sometimes grim reality she exists in. She fulfills that promise made in the opening scenes of the documentary, sacrificing her image for the sake of her message, one of promoting mental health.

However, it was not this message that initiated the project. In fact, when Gomez first approached Alek Keshishian, the filmmaker behind the 1991 documentary “Madonna: Truth or Dare,” she had no idea it would evolve into its current state. Originally, Gomez intended for him to capture the actuality of her 2016 “Revival” tour, shining a light behind the curtain of production and encompass her transition from a young pop-star fresh out of Disney to a true artist. To truly encapsulate the experience, Keshishian told Gomez that he would have to be witness to all parts of her life, both the highest peaks and lowest troughs.

Gomez gave him all of herself and more. When the tour was canceled in 2016, the young artist entered a psychiatric facility after an episode of psychosis, at the end of which she received her diagnosis for bipolar disorder. Instead of scrapping the film entirely, Gomez told the director that there was more to her story than being a star, and she was ready to share it, if he was willing to film it.

And film it Keshishian did. Picking back up in 2019, the team followed her through her return to the limelight leading up to the release of her 2020 album “Rare,” particularly emphasizing a trip to Kenya in collaboration with the now-controversial WE Charity. There is a distinct tension between who Gomez is in Kenya and who she feels she needs to be when she returns to Europe to do press for her then-upcoming album.

The film is particularly revealing in what it does not cover, as much as in what it does. There is no mention of the star’s return to TV with the show “Only Murders in the Building,” or her involvement in the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.” Most notably, there is a lack of attention given to her very public on-again, off-again relationship with Justin Bieber. The lack of these moments in the documentary speaks louder than their inclusion. Gomez does not want to be defined by her accomplishments in entertainment, or even her past love life. The focus of the documentary is solely on her battle with her mental health and subsequent philanthropic efforts.

In the single, released in tandem with the documentary, Gomez sings, “My mind and me, we don’t get along sometimes and it gets hard to breathe but I wouldn’t change my life… if somebody sees me like this, then they won’t feel alone.” With those words, the artist perfectly encompasses this relative sacrifice of herself that she makes in order to promote change and awareness.

In the end, the documentary showcases the pieces of Gomez’s life that make up her journey through pain and strife. It highlights the complexity of her battle with her own mind, resolving with the poignant conclusion of her befriending it rather than triumphing over it. Once again, Gomez shows that she is not perfect, and she is all the more powerful for that fact.

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Dear reader, Taylor Swift has triumphed once again

Taylor Swift has done it once again.

Anticipation over the singer’s 10th album release has only built since its announcement at the 2022 VMA Awards. Part of that anticipation is largely due to the lack of a single being released prior to the album drop date. Audiences were unsure what to expect from Swift, especially since her prior two albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore,” strayed from the typical sound associated with the artist.

Because of this, the initial listen to “Midnights” was rather jarring. However, by the second and third time, I was in no small way reminded that Swift is both a pop artist and lyricist, first and foremost. This album delivered both in spades, reminding the world that while she might have taken a break from the pop charts, she is as on top of her game as ever.

In a message from Swift to fans, she described the album as “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout [her] life.” Frankly, there is no better way to describe it. Swift is widely popular for creating albums representative of a period of time in her life, each one
containing a consistent vibe, creating what fans have dubbed as “eras” for each album. What makes “Midnights” so incredible is that it manages to take each of her albums, throw them together and still preserve a cohesive sound throughout the album.

The album features no shortage of lively, brazen songs that are purely modern in their production. Songs like “Karma” and “Vigilante Sh*t” fit right in with the “Reputation” era, their slow tempos with deep bass chords bringing attention right back to Swift’s long standing drama with rap artist Kanye West and his now ex-wife Kim Kardashian, as well as former manager Scooter Braun.

In addition to the vigorous “Reputation”-esque tracks, Taylor reveals some insight into her relationship with longtime partner Joe Alywn in a way fans have not seen since “Lover.” In “Lavender Haze” Swift comments on how Alwyn handles the lifestyle that comes with dating one of the most popular women in the world. “Sweet Nothing” is the only track on the album written solely by Swift and her partner, and it is the quintessential love song of the album.

One standout difference in this album is the quiet introspection combated by a busy production that it offers, so different from the vulnerability of “Folklore.” In a message released on Swift’s social media platforms about track three, “Anti-Hero,” the singer says, “I really don’t think I’ve delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before.” Not only can it be found in “Anti-Hero,” with powerful lines such as “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror,” but in many other tracks as well. In her fifth track, Swift shares the message, “You’re on your own kid, you always have been.” “Midnight Rain” features heavy synth influences, which pairs perfectly with the message of wanting pain and passion over comfort. In one of my personal favorites, “Labyrinth,” Swift discusses being “lost in the labyrinth of my mind” and shares the message “Breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out.”

Personally, I found that the contemplative tracks had a more profound effect, but that in no way takes away from the musical mastery that makes up some of the lighter songs of the album. However, regardless of personal favorites, this album is a triumph, a sign to the music world that Swift is fully capable of embracing her titles of “singer-songwriter” and “pop star” at the same time without sacrificing either.

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“Different Man”, different music

Kane Brown has carved out a niche for himself in the music industry, straddling the line between pop and country. His collaborations with popular pop artists like Khalid, Blackbear, Marshmello and others only solidify that position. His new album, “Different Man,” is no different. Tracks like “One Mississippi,” “Losing You,” “See You Like I Do,” “Go Around” and “Dear Georgia” possess Brown’s typical pop production with country influences.

However, with this album Brown released tracks that drastically deviate from his usual style in either direction — one toward a resolute pop/rap and another toward a more old-fashioned country feel with rock influence. His song “Grand” is by far the most rap of any song he has released, going beyond his classic pop influence. Personally, I think the shift works for Brown. While the change would be too radical for other country artists, the song has been largely successful with his audience because of his already established place in pop music.

That being said, I also found Brown’s more traditional country tracks — especially with the added subtle upbeat rock influence — to work exceptionally well on the album. His tracks “Bury Me in Georgia” and “Riot” are energetic and invigorating. They parallel some of the great hits of the 1970s when country rock started to become popular. The songs also resemble country music from the early 2000s. It is rather fitting in that sense, one of two collaborations on the album is Blake Shelton, one of the prominent figures during that era of country music. Other facets of that old-fashioned country feel are the songs “Devil Don’t Even Bother” and “Drunk or Dreaming”, which take on more of a lazy honky-tonk mood instead of country rock. In my opinion, these songs stray a little too far from where Brown can flourish.

The most notable song on the album, however, has to be “Thank God”, which features Brown’s wife, Katelyn Jae Brown. Jae Brown released two songs in 2016 and has been absent from the performance scene ever since, opting to pursue a degree from Berklee College of Music instead, graduating in 2019. The couple met in 2015 at one of Brown’s first shows and were married in 2018. Since then, they have welcomed two daughters into their family.

Fans of the pair have been eagerly awaiting a collaboration for years. In an interview with People Magazine, Brown said that his wife is his “secret weapon”, and they were waiting for the right song to come along. It seemed he was right about the secret weapon part. “Thank God” has remained the #1 song on the iTunes charts since its release on Sept. 9. A large part of that is the emotion and love the couple share for each other that shines through in the song.

Other notable facets of the album include the return to Brown’s roots. Two of the songs on the album, “Bury Me in Georgia” and “Dear Georgia”, emphasize the singer’s connection to his home state. In another song, “Pop’s Last Name,” Brown offers a touching tribute to his grandfather, who played a large part in raising Brown after his father was sentenced to prison in 1996, an issue Brown touched on in his song “For My Daughter,” which was released in his last studio album, “Experiment”.

Overall, I enjoyed the album and the divergence from his typical style. My favorite track would have to be “Whiskey Sour” because of the beautifully melancholic mood of the song, which seems to transcend the partially frivolous nature of some of the other songs in the album. 

Artist: Kane Brown

Album: Different Man

Label: RCA Records Nashville

Favorite tracks: “Thank God”, “Whiskey Sour”, “One Mississippi,” “Losing You,” “See You Like I Do,” “Go Around” and “Dear Georgia”

If you like: Country, Pop, Rap, Rock

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5

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