Self-realization is difficult, especially when you feel that the closer you get to the truth of things the more distance you seem to put between yourself and the life you once knew. But oftentimes, this is the only way to come to an accurate understanding of your place in the world. And musician Benjamin Love, an artist working within the LGBTQ scene in the South (and Los Angeles, where he also spends his time), has had plenty of time to deal with both the harsh realities of people's close-minded assumptions and the collective joy that has been shown to him over the past few years.
"I wanted to be completely honest with myself and with the Chattanooga music community," he said. "For the first time, I feel like I can write about what's real to me."
Love has a new record, "The Star Shaker," coming out July 7, and it holds a particular resonance for him, as it represents a renewal of purpose and direction in his life. Drawing on the various musical histories of artists such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson and Damien Rice, Love has found a collection of specific influences that have molded his creativity. Shadows of classic soul and funk brush up alongside a series of breathtaking pop melodies, which allows him to espouse this multifaceted aesthetic without bowing to any one rhythmic lineage. He wrote all the lyrics and performed all the music on the album.
For the video to his new single, "Star Shaker," he teamed up with Los Angeles professional dancer Tramon Richard to concoct a visual accompaniment that would pair up perfectly with the joyous and uplifting sentiments that he explores in the song. The clip finds Richard dancing in an improvisational manner, with his arms and legs moving in an ecstatic series. Shot in a handful of locations—including the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree, North Hollywood and Chattanooga—the video uses some of the most desolate geographies to represent what it's like for some people in the LGBTQ community to grow up in the South.
"You should celebrate who you are," Love said, adding that he has lost close friends who never felt that their voices were represented anywhere. He hopes that this video gives people a chance to reflect on their individual strengths in the face of daily obstacles and find happiness and acceptance in their own lives. The video also shows a handful of actual couples, standing together silently but saying much in their love for one another.
"I wanted to capture them in their reality," Love said.
With a sound that's equal parts euphoric pop rhythms and encouraging soul attitudes, "Star Shaker" is a song that acknowledges the darker parts of the world around us while also persuading us that the fight to have your own voice is as important as anything you'll ever do. Buoyed by a hooky chorus and Love's stratospheric voice, the song echoes around in your head long after the music has died down and retreated back into your speakers. It's as much a call to arms as it is a balm for those whose hearts ache within their chambered walls.
You can purchase the single and preorder the new record here.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.