Welcome to the official playlist for Everyone is Dying and So Am I, my debut solo show!
Pop music is my lingua franca. It constitutes much of my cultural DNA and has shaped my identity. Growing up, I was raised on steady diet of icons like Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Cher, Prince, George Michael, and Janet Jackson. I grew up obsessing over TRL favorites like Britney Spears and Spice Girls, then Hilary Duff and Ashlee Simpson. I came of age and came out with modern day mega-divas like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé and create my adult life alongside queer contemporaries like Charli XCX and Perfume Genius.
Creating my first solo show from the fabric of my life—fact, fiction, and fantasy—has had me dig deep into the divine inspiration I intuit from the divas and drama of my favorite pop music. These artists and their work have unlocked parts of my soul that I amplify in my work onstage to help manifest an experience of communal celebration and catharsis that I've felt most keenly at my favorite pop concerts. In Everyone is Dying, I try to manifest that experience in a semi-autobiographical solo theatrical event.
Over the next two months and beyond, I am going to share some of the music that inspired me and the creation of the show. I'll reflect on certain songs and refresh the playlist periodically to coincide with my series of #Dieday Fridays.
Follow along and dance with me through my world of divas, drama, and dying before you join me in Boston or New York City.
1. Dance in the Dark - Lady Gaga
Gaga is my creative north star and has been ever since she exploded into our collective consciousness in the late aughts with her maximalist sound: Madonna-meets-Springsteen by way of the Scandipop Disco. "Dance in the Dark" is the song that opened her 2010/2011 Monster Ball World Tour, at which I first experienced her work live. It possesses the magical self-mythologizing, feminine self-empowerment, and dark edge that have become her signature and inspired so much of my creative life.
2. Running Out - Scissor Sisters
We are running out, aren't we?! That's the point of the show, articulated in this sleek cardio anthem from my favorite pop band, gay favorites Scissor Sisters. This song inspires the energy of Everyone is Dying's recurring central crisis.
3. Gone - Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens
"I feel so unstable; f*cking hate these people," is a chorus lyric in this brand new futurepop banger from cutting edge pop star Charli XCX. It explodes anxiety into a muscular dance anthem that feels like moving through our dark feelings towards the dancefloor.
4. Church - Aly & AJ
Yes, the same former child stars Aly & AJ that wrote early-00s "Potential Breakup Song" now craft gorgeously emotional, sensitive synthpop. "For all the times I can't reverse,/for all the places where it hurts,/I need a little Church," they sing, hoping to find something divine on the dancefloor. That sacred practice, that ritual wish is core to my show.
5. The Fear - Lily Allen
There is no pop songwriter more capable of capturing generational crises than Lily Allen, the sharp-penned Brit whose work marries her vulnerability with that of the world around her. "The Fear" captures the pervasive sense of 'something wrong' in the world around us that fuels my journey through the show.
6. Song for the Lonely - Cher
I first found this song in the aftermath of 9/11. Though it was released months earlier, people heard it in a new light following that day. I was 9, and I did, too. Cher is a titan, and hearing her share her seemingly infinite power so generously made me feel superhuman and invincible when the world around me suggested otherwise. It still does.
7. Out Alive - Kesha
"Live it up tonight, no one's getting out alive!" This 2012 Kesha party jam falls squarely into the genre of apocalyptic dance anthems like Britney Spears' "Till the World Ends" and Pitbull's "Give Me Everything" that made the end of the world sound like a prime opportunity to party. The honest kernel of carpe diem at the core of these songs empowers me to find my light in moments of darkness.