In Conversation with singer/songwriter Caroline Meade
By Steph Prizhitomsky
With banger rage ballads such as I HATE IT! and Streetcar, Caroline Meade, a 21 year old singer, songwriter, and actress from New York City, is no stranger to music that makes you feel. “I’m uncomfortable with my sadness. I think I’m more comfortable with the anger.” The musician’s debut album is indie rock alternative at its finest, and Grow Up is only the tip of the iceberg. This master of hard hitting heartbreak anthems is well on her way to solidifying herself as the next big thing.
In stark contrast, Caroline got her start in musical theater as a kid in local productions, beginning to audition for Broadway at only eight years old. Though her sound has transitioned to a much different genre, she still cites musical theater as one of her great loves, despite her complicated experiences in the field. "I had a lot of issues, like a lot of people telling me there was one way to do things all the time and that I wasn’t good enough yet, and I wasn’t. They were right. That’s not personal. I wasn’t good enough yet. I also got weighed at every audition as a child for Broadway. Some casting directors I wanna sue for my therapy bills.”
From the start, she’s considered herself a performer first, with the writing coming later. And from writing her own songs, performing them, working as an actress, and running and editing her own podcast, those words definitely carry weight. She recalls wanting to be a musical artist before even knowing how that would happen or how to play a single instrument. “And my mom was like yeah Caroline; she’s starting a band on the playground, and I was like five.” At that point, she was listening to movie soundtracks, the cheapest thing to buy on Itunes at that distant old time when people still bought music, and later, artists such as M83, St Vincent, Lorde, Haim, Frank Ocean, as well as Cage the Elephant, Oasis, Radiohead, The 1975, and Paramore were credited as some of her big inspirations growing up. Going back to her musical theater roots, she remembered playing Wicked nonstop in the car as a kid. All that has shaped her style into what she described as an ambient sense of rock with a cinematic feel. Nothing clean cut sounding here.
It would be years later in middle school that she began writing songs and found her love for it, writing her first song fittingly after seeing the film The Thing Called Love starring River Phoenix that told the story of newcomers to country music moving to Nashville. Caroline reflected that she’s always wanted to write songs. “I have a language processing disorder, and I have ADHD. It was a huge thing growing up. It’s a huge part of me. Lots of doctors saw me as a kid, and I just feel like having those two issues made me perceptive and rageful and angry that I couldn’t say a lot of stuff, but I thought a lot of thoughts. Cause I was mute until I was like four. So I always say I’m making up for lost time.” In high school, she learned guitar, and the ball began rolling. She began collaborating with people. Before that, she wrote songs acapella for two years, which she does not look back fondly on. Still, one of the products of that acapella era did end up making it onto her first album.
Also off that first album, she wrote the song Streetcar during her first semester of a songwriting class at LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, describing that as the first time she felt seen in that program. “When I wrote music I could be whoever the fuck I wanted.” She recalled this as the first time she knew who she as an artist, not caring if anyone enjoyed it or not.
And while it may seem like songwriting came naturally from there, it did not come without its difficulties. The musician brought up a long period of time with writer’s block after completing a particular song and not knowing how to follow it up. “I always thought writing good songs was like a fluke. I was like ‘That was an accident. I’ll never write another one again.’ ”
Nonetheless, her first album titled Grow Up released in 2019 at sixteen years old. When asked if she had a favorite off that album, she eventually came to her answer: the song Catcher, though she clarified the song was not about her but about someone else’s breakup. “Because I was fifteen, and I had no experience, you know. So most of that album is not about me.”
And now she has a new album in the works and a single set to release in February with new music she’s described as much more her.
Caroline laughed when I asked if she’s had an oh shit I’ve made it moment, instead describing it as an oh shit I’m standing on my own two feet moment. “I haven’t made it by any means. Especially cause most of my art is not out yet cause it’s in the middle of being made. I don’t have an oh shit I’ve made it moment cause I haven’t, but I have an oh shit I’m getting better moment where I’m like oh, this is like for real. This is what I’m gonna be doing.”
She cited music as having been essential for her growing up in New York City, originally from Staten Island with a yard and some peace and quiet from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city. From Staten Island, she took the ferry every day to get to school: two hours there; two hours back and spending time on the train needing something to listen to, in addition to going to school for music where she’d be listening to music five hours a day. “I never listened to the same thing twice. Rarely. Just to listen to new music and just be knowledgeable; I mean I always say 90% of the music I listen to I don’t really like that much to be honest.” She saw bands that she wouldn’t have seen otherwise, went to all the shows of a high school boyfriend in a rock band, and to venues all over the city, making plans ahead wanting to play with the bands she saw. “I feel one billion years old cause a lot of those venues actually closed during covid.” One of these venues that closed, a favorite of Caroline’s, was Silent Barn which apparently was not silent nor a barn. “There was a treehouse.” She says her favorite venue she herself has played at would be The Sultan Room, which she described as having great sound, great people, and an awesome vibe.
In addition to being a musician, Caroline’s podcast Sidetracked. is now in its second year of running. A quarantine baby that’s stood the test of time, the podcast’s guests have ranged from actor David Iacono to musician ELIO. “I remember the clear moment when I had the idea which was when I was at New England Conservatory for my first semester of college. I literally stayed for ten minutes then I left cause I did not like it. And there was really nothing to do in Boston but talk.” Caroline calls herself a true documentarian stemming from a fear of forgetting and a fear of growing older to which a debut album called Grow Up feels appropriately titled. But the podcast is by no means all doom and gloom. She reflected that it gives her a chance to stretch her funny bone just talking it out with a variety of people inside the music industry or out, new friends and old. And that’s what she says is the main point of the podcast: to share conversations and make new connections. “I’m definitely most myself when I’m with certain people. Honestly I just kinda have conversations with people I’m too nervous to approach. Even though I’m extroverted I still do have really bad social anxiety.” Though she did note that she interviews so many men it just seems like she’s going on recorded dates.
When prompted for the most thrilling things the future holds for her, Caroline launched into a passionate rundown of her new music. Still only vague details with the far off release date and the work in progress status of the album. She also noted that she’s excited to get her acting shit together, to act in a play again, but that was something she left for the far off future. “This year has just felt like coming home to myself. I’m really understanding what I’m meant to do. I understand what I mean when I say things. I think I’m really excited to feel settled in my music.” On top of that, what’s in store appears to be a myriad of creative projects that she listed off the top of her head which included but was not limited to delving into film scoring, a short film working in front of and behind the camera, and a feature film script sitting on the shelf. And when asked about her biggest craziest goals in the long run, playing MSG and winning an Oscar was the response. “That’s like pretty big. I don’t know if it gets bigger. It always gets bigger.” The musician also expressed her desire to one day be recognized for all that she does, and she criticized society’s ever so familiar prejudice that a woman cannot be accomplished in multiple fields or even be capable of excelling at more than one thing. “And then probably just being able to live in New York the rest of my life.”
As a final sendoff, I asked for a lyric that would best describe her music overall and was treated to a snippet of an unreleased song that goes like this: “ ‘Traveling alone, and I’ve never felt so unseen, but if loving you makes me wrong, what does hating you make me?’ That kinda sums it up. It always ends in anger cause I’m mad at both. Like I’m mad for being mad, and I’m mad for being sad, and I’m mad at the person who did it. I write a lot about grief. I write a lot from a place of really knowing someone and feeling like they’re half of you. I think closeness in music is one of the most beautiful things."
Taylor Swift: The Art of Reflection and Speculation
By Liv Johnston
Taylor Swift is a special kind of musical artist––one that has created a portrait of herself through nearly two decades of narrative lyricism. With each new album, Swift’s picture becomes clearer and more detailed––listeners learn more about who she is, what she loves, and what concepts fascinate her. That is why one of the first thoughts I had after listening to Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album, Midnights, was, “but what does this add to her story.” From my initial perspective, every new Taylor Swift album creates a new, rich world. Yet Midnights was full of reflection and, seemingly, repetition. I couldn’t help but feel that Midnights added nothing new to the story Swift has been building of herself.
However, I continued listening and I realized that although Swift has previously portrayed a lot of the songs’ subject matters, the air of reflection provides a deeper and matured tone. Perhaps it does not offer entirely new ideas, but reflection offers a new perspective to old emotions. Periods of reflection are as much a major part of people as periods of movement and drastic change are, which Swift portrays brilliantly. Midnights seems to say, “here is everything in the past that has gotten me to this point in my life,” or as Swift puts it, “the things that [are important enough to] keep her up at night.”
Altogether, Midnights is an amalgamation of who Swift is. Much like how Folklore and Evermore are sister albums, Midnights seems to be (and is theorized to actually be) the sister album to Lover. When discussing the concept for the music video, “ME!,” a song on Lover, Swift says, “then there's me: it's like dancers, cats, gay pride, people in country western boots and I start riding a unicorn.” Here, she boils herself down to her key traits; the listeners understand who she is through just these few things she uses to represent herself. Now, much like she did in her Lovera era, Swift challenges herself to reflect on her life and boil herself down to exactly what makes her her throughout Midnights, and accomplishing that feat is admirable in and of itself.
With this newfound appreciation of the purpose of Midnights in Swift’s larger narrative, I went on to see various interpretations and analyses of the lyrics on the album, and I realized just how many differing opinions people had on the album and what was being conveyed. It seemed as though every other post I saw on social media was about Taylor Swift and with her standing, I wasn’t surprised. But I started to wonder how Swift could paint such a clear, boiled down portrait of herself, yet still manage to throw her audience off of the full truth. How can she balance such extremes?
Part of the fun of listening to Taylor Swift is the dissection, and Swift is aware of this activity her fans delight in. It allows for discussion and engagement in the art released. In a way, Swift seems to delight in this interaction with her work as well. But Swift, having faced so much scrutiny in her life from the media, is more than well aware of the degree to which people like to speculate. Thus, to maintain some level of privacy in a world that always wants to know more, Swift tells her stories with deep precision. She recounts just enough, blends reality and fiction to just the right degree, that her listeners can piece together an overarching narrative, yet never see the fully detailed picture. Despite how much Swift likes to tell stories of her life, she also sets concrete boundaries on just how much she allows the public to know. In 2010, Swift said, “every single song is like a road map to what that relationship stood for, with little markers that maybe everyone won't know, but there are things that were little nuances of the relationship, little hints,” alluding to the fact that she likes to give hints about her life, but never the full story. Everything about Swift seems clear at a glance, but the more and more you listen, the deeper and more convoluted her lyrics can become. This directly plays into her fans’ love of dissection––the less Swift directly says, the more analysis her fans will perform, the more they will discuss and listen to her art, the higher the ratings her art will receive.
The previously mentioned fact that Midnights is deeply reflective, and Swift’s understanding of speculation are intrinsically tied. Swift’s knowledge of the public’s love for speculation is critical to the success of such a reflective album as Midnights, and as an extension, “The Eras Tour.” People love theories, patterns, and callbacks, and Swift, aware of this, is sure to include an abundance of them in Midnights. Now, people aren’t merely talking about this one era of her life, but all of them––past, present, and (speculatively) future. Her fans dissect which songs on Midnights correlate with which songs she’s written in the past, how themes connect over time, and what exactly “keep[s Swift] up at night.” Again, this has greatly increased the amount of material there is available to discuss concerning Midnights, thus also increasing the album’s ratings. In this sense, Swift truly is the “Mastermind” she claims herself to be.
Female Representation in Anime
By Zahra Siddiqui
As someone who can appreciate anime for the unique themes and genres that you don’t usually see in western media, I struggle to find anime with relatable or well-written female characters. Nearly every time I start a new piece of media, an element that significantly influences my decision to consume it is whether the audience finds the female characters interesting. Now obviously, an excellent female character isn’t the only important factor in a story to be engaging. However, if the author can prove that they can write not only compelling characters but compelling women, then I tend to trust their writing abilities much more.
As someone who’d consider themself a fan of anime, there are a lot of very popular ones that I avoid simply because of the reputation it has for its women. Anyone outside the anime world has probably heard of Naruto, Sword Art Online, and Fairy Tale. I am not in any way comparing these stories to each other or their levels of writing, but their female characters have all been known to lack depth and dimension. They are also shows that I started and dropped very early on because I couldn’t see myself in any of the female characters.
One thing that these three anime have in common (in regards to their female characters) is that the writers inadvertently utilize a “tell don’t show” technique by telling the audience that the women are actually very powerful, but they never show this because the male characters are constantly given the spotlight. This forces the female characters to be reduced into a healer and/or damsel in distress and/or love interest archetype, with no real goals or personality.
When writing a character, I believe it’s important to make every aspect of them significant to their personality. If I say a character prefers vegetables over fast food, you might think that they are concerned with staying healthy. Or if I say a character has circles under their eyes, you may assume that they don’t get much sleep. Or if I say a character likes to draw, they could be a very creative spirit. If a character is younger, they’ll be more naive. If a character wears sweatpants everywhere, then they probably prefer comfort over fashion. If a character that you write is a woman, there needs to be significance to that. What is your intention in writing this character as a female? What assumptions will audiences draw simply from the fact that this character is a woman?
I do want to acknowledge that there’s much better representation nowadays than there has been before, and this is true for media outside of anime as well. Fullmetal Alchemist (both the original and the reboot) and Jujutsu Kaisen (specifically in the manga) have some of the best female characters I’ve seen in a long time. Every single one has their own ambitions, personalities, and specialties that make them feel fleshed out and authentic. They were able to stand out with the other male characters and added to the story without becoming a tool for it. Though I have a few qualms with the female characters in Attack on Titan, there were so many undeniable standout scenes for the women to showcase their strength and development throughout the series.
One reason in particular why I think Fullmetal Alchemist female characters are the best in anime is the fact that the author is a woman. Arakawa has first-hand experience, and this only added to her writing quality. Obviously, I don’t think men can’t write women properly, but it’s usually much easier to write what you know, and if what you know is the male experience, then the men will be much better written. This is evident in most shounen anime as they are usually written by males, for males.
If an author doesn’t know how to write female characters, then I’d rather they make an all-male cast rather than create a poorly-written woman just for the sake of having one. Both Hunter x Hunter and Haikyuu!! are fantastic stories with wonderful characters that have very limited female casts. This limitation does not at all make the stories less compelling, and I still found ways to connect with and enjoy the male characters because I wasn’t distracted by how awfully the women were written.
There are so many more concerns to discuss when it comes to female characters in anime: specifically fanservice and over-sexualization that feels very out-of-place and uncomfortable, as well as tsundere and yandere gimmicks that restrict characters within a certain parameter. These exact issues are why some women will shy away from becoming fully invested in an anime and why anime has a reputation for being weird or gross. In general, the problems in female representation in anime are so talked about because they have become so repetitive and exhausting to see.
Peter and George are facing a crossroads in their relationship. Will an impromptu trip on the Staten Island Ferry help them mend their broken fences?
A play by David Taylor Little
Napoleon Entering Brighton Beach
A man purporting to be Napoleon Bonaparte suddenly appears on a near
empty public beach near Coney Island and asks directions of a woman who is
watching her husband, a solitary ocean swimmer. An amusing distraction becomes
personal and turns dangerous. Sometimes – oftentimes- it is best not to talk to
A play by Lawrence DuKore
Things I Think About When We Say Grace
A play by Phoebe Levitsky
I Can Fly
In this monologue, a student named Teri realizes they are "different" only when
Mother begins to cover it up and a friend advises Teri to keep it a secret. Teri learns that others
also have secrets, but secrets may become harmful and dangerous.
A monologue by Gary Sironen
A play by Madilyn Lopez
A short story by Phoebe Levitsky