It might not always seem that way, but I also have a soft side. I appreciate a good ballad when I hear one.
And it’s not always about how catchy or memorable the song is.
What touched me in Blair Djuna’s latest release are the lyrics. Particularly the part where the artist sings about the lack of self-love.
In the last two decades, there have been a few iconic songs with a view on “beauty”, in all its shapes and forms, as the focal part of the narrative.
Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”, released in 2002, is probably one of the most recognisable and famous tracks. But James Blunt (“You’re Beautiful”), One Direction (“What Makes You Beautiful”), Joe Cocker (“You Are So Beautiful”), and even Eminem and Pharrell Williams (“Beautiful”, in both cases) also have had something to say on the topic.
Art (and music, by extension) never tires of exploring timeless concepts. And beauty surely belongs to the most significant ones the human race has been pondering since ancient times. So no wonder it’s “discussed” so often in the creative industries.
Yet, when I hear a new song called “Beautiful”, I instantly become a little cautious (with all due respect to all the musicians who feel the need to write about it). Maybe it’s because the word itself carries a fairly big emotional load that we tend to use too frequently in everyday life. To my liking, at least.
So I approached Blair Djuna’s new release in the same sceptical way. But I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with what I came across.
Derrick Attwood, known by his stage name Blair Djuna, is an independent singer/songwriter based in Sydney.
As it often happens, his interest in music started when he was just a kid. Firstly, he would just write and play songs for fun. But in his teenage years, he realised his passion wasn’t going away. So he went on to study Bachelor of Music (in songwriting).
His first serious project was an alt-pop duo called SEGANA, launched in 2018. Influenced by artists like Major Lazer, Zayn Malik, and Justin Bieber, the band released a few well-received tracks. Nevertheless, Derrick decided to venture out on his own, and fully embrace his Blair Djuna music persona.
“When made with conviction and honesty, music can be incredibly captivating. It’s more than a feeling; it’s an experience you take with you long after the last chord is played. (…) I have dedicated my life to creating songs that bring people joy, self-reflection, and real emotion”, says the artist about his journey so far.
Judged by his latest release alone, Blair Djuna aspires to create a unique musical aesthetic. By pushing the boundaries of what is understood as popular music today, the listener is welcome into a versatile and a little eccentric world.
It might sound like a cliché, but two things stand out to me in this solo project: a genuine will to make a deeper connection with the audience and a drive for doing something meaningful with the artist’s talent.
The latter one shows in Blair Djuna’s authentic and raw lyricism. And that’s also the part that won me over when I heard “Beautiful” for the first time.
The single was released in August 2022. According to the muso, “It is a song that will help you connect with your innermost emotions, secret fears and feelings”.
And he might be right.
Already on the first listen, it evokes feelings of melancholy, self-doubt, and even despair that we all sometimes experience thinking of our previous relationships. But it ends up being a journey into oneself when the artist sings the last lines: How could I feel beautiful? / When I don’t even love me at all.
I probably wouldn’t have paid that much attention to the song if it wasn’t for two words. Yes, the song itself is pretty. And it’s quite different from Blair Djuna’s two previous, more dancy releases. But it’s the self-reflection part that earns the song its merit, in my view.
Additionally, you can’t deny the artist his flair for engaging storytelling. His lyrics feel very personal and intimate. “Every song is an important part of who I am, and my hope is that others feel that sincerity through the lyrics I write”, offers the muso.
This honest and heartbreaking realisation from “Beautiful” that self-love is the key to projecting that feeling onto somebody else should absolutely not be underestimated. It almost feels like catharsis.
After all, we’re all constantly told we have to accept ourselves first to live a happy and fulfilled life. But, with all this vicious “show me your happiness level” game we’re subconsciously exposed to on social media, how many of us truly know how to love ourselves, with no sense of guilt or over-indulgence?
And that’s what makes “Beautiful” meaningful to me. Upon listening to the song, you will, inevitably, question your failures and disappointments. Yet, at the same time, you’ll look at them through a glimmer of hope.
That’s also why, even though it sounds fairly simple, the song has a lot of depth. You can see the muso seeks different techniques to get his point across, sonically speaking.
He believes that exploration and, thus, true originality in music will always speak for themselves and connect with audiences. It’s hard to disagree.
“Music is more than just something to fill a quiet room for me. It can be a companion during hard times or a way to celebrate the beauty of life. No matter how or why you connect with my music, I’m glad to have you along for this amazing ride and cannot wait to share more of what I’m working on with you”, confesses Blair Djuna.
And that is a beautiful way to finish this post.
Cover image: supplied
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