Kendall A. Bell

Lights

Generally speaking, I don’t usually find inspiration from Old Navy commercials. However, one night while waiting for whatever show my wife and I were watching to come back on, Old Navy was advertising some kind of sale. It wasn’t for sweaters. They’d already used the Ingrid Michaelson song “The Way I Am” for that one. Perhaps it was a pants sale, but it’s irrelevant, at this point. The thing that stood out was a simple melody, and the distinct singing voice of a woman. It’s not much of a mystery to anyone who knows me that I tend to gravitate towards female singer/songwriters, and this little dream pop song, “The Last Thing On Your Mind”, stayed in my head until I could figure out who it was, and find out, I did.

It turns out that it was a Canadian singer/songwriter called Lights. Back then, it was her stage name. Her name was Valerie Poxleitner then. Lights was a nickname derived from her rather unique last name. Soon after, she’d change her name from Valerie Anne Poxleitner to Lights Valerie Poxleitner, as there were a few other bands using the name Lights, though now, she could use it without any legal issues. Her music sounded very familiar, in a good way. She incorporated elements of 80’s synth pop with modern sensibilities, and that really appealed to me, since the 80’s and 90’s easily had some of my favorite music. I wasn’t prepared to get so caught up in her melodies and lyrics that she’d slowly become an iconic artist in my little world.

Her first full length album, “The Listening”, was on endless repeat, which may have driven my wife a little crazy. It got to a point where the cd player in my car was rejecting it, and skipping through songs, so I had to burn a copy for the car, and kept the original safely stored in the L’s in my collection.

I got to see her live for the first time when she opened for Owl City in Philadelphia. It was a little uncomfortable for me, as the Electric Factory was filled with fourteen year old girls who were there to swoon over Adam Young, though I’m sure there were several who actually knew who Lights was, as well. It didn’t matter. I was there for the music, and I’d never seen anyone perform with such unabashed joy as she did. She truly loves to create and play her music. C bought me a Lights shirt (I believe, as an early birthday present), and I still have it, though it’s a bit more snug these days.

I wasn’t sure if I liked her second album, “Siberia”. It was different. It had elements of dubstep, was beat driven, crisper and more electro-pop than anything else. I grew to love it. It was the lyrics that stood out. They were stronger, confident, passionate and they resonated with me. It was what compelled me to write a chapbook of poems inspired by some of her lyrics. By her third album, “Little Machines”, which really felt like an homage to 80’s music,  I was fully engrossed in this project of mine, and I pulled lyrics from all three albums and used them as poem titles, then wrote whatever I was feeling in the moment from her creations. What I ended up with was a chapbook that focused on isolation and longing, which may have been unintentional, but nearly mirrored what Lights was writing about on “Siberia”, so much so that I too used the title “Siberia” for my chapbook. What could be more desolate and barren than Siberia?

Even now, as she releases her fourth album, “Skin & Earth”, I practically hold my breath as I listen to each new track, giddy like those fourteen year old girls at the show. We all want to be moved by the art we love. We all want to feel connected to the artists that seemingly (and unknowingly) are in touch with the inner workings of our emotions. Her fans call themselves Lights Army, and I’ll soon have the logo tattooed on my right wrist, close to the tattoo of the opening line of her song “Running With The Boys” that says: We were kind of feral, wicked little machines. Old Navy brought her music to my ears, but she has kept me steadfast in her army of fans.

Published 10-15-17

Kendall A. Bell’s poetry has been most recently published in Philosophical Idiot and Edison Literary Review. He was nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net collection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015. He is the author of twenty-one chapbooks. His current chapbook is “We Are All Ghosts”. He is the founder and co-editor of the online journal Chantarelle’s Notebook, publisher/editor of Maverick Duck Press, and a music and book reviewer with Five2One Magazine. His chapbooks are available through Maverick Duck Press. He lives in Southern New Jersey.

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