Laleh’s voice and lyrics burst forth alongside imagery of multicultural community
At Crown Fountain in Chicago, near Millennium Park, rests an art installation by artist Jaume Plensa. A simple black granite reflecting pool, dotted with fountains, rests between a pair of towers built of glass brick looming on either side. Children and families splash and play there, tourists stop to take photos, and occasionally you’ll even meet a smiling young adult bearing a “Free Hugs” sign. The towers use LED lights to display images of people’s faces from within the two glass brick towers. These faces smile, blink, shrug and interact with the water features. They beckon passers-by, with all their features and imperfections, piercings and dimples apparent from afar, to play and interact with the art they see. But seen from up-close, their eyes and nose and chin melt away, and all you can see and hear is a blurry sparkle, laughing kids, and the sound of falling water.
When I first heard the song, “Boom” by Laleh, her lyrics grabbed me so, in all their emotional poignancy and wonderful, tear-jerking sensitivity. She is a marvelous vocalist, and she loads the song with empathy, love, compassion, and her optimistic “seize the day” philosophy which I find so very resonant. But when I finally watched the disarmingly simple, unpretentious lyrics video for the song, I felt something far more universal and rare… Compassion. The video cycles through a series of faces, both of women and men, pierced and unadorned, smiling and sad, young and old, black and white, and every color between. They say nothing and do nothing, simply looking, face forward into the camera, communicating humanness and nothing more.
It’s a simple concept but the message is just remarkable. As a writer, I deal with stories… and when you deal with stories, you necessarily deal with people. People are complex, and rife with “unknown tragedies,” flaws, heartaches, and wounds. With people, every scar denotes a story and every unspoken sigh or facial wrinkle can open onto a thousand galaxies of truth, complexity, and personality. The faces here remind me of the faces seen at the art installation at Crown Fountain in Chicago. The faces appear with no name, no context, oftentimes with not even so much as a smile. They are unknown and silent, intelligent but obscure. They display humanness couched in mystery, under-spoken and misunderstood.
And yet, when paired with the great lyrics to this song, dear listeners are left with something irresistible, and honestly, truly remarkable. Laleh, a Swedish singer-songwriter and former actress, has a truly fantastic voice on full display here, dancing playfully and soaring with the cheers of a crowd shouting “whoo!” during the chorus and sumptuous, full orchestration throughout that just builds and builds. She speaks to an unknown person going through difficult times, telling them to leave their pain and heartache behind, and promising she will “stand by you.”
In this time of pain, when innocents are lost daily to the absurdity and barbarism of harsh souls who long ago lost sight of the value of the life of the individual, her message is immensely vital. The spark of life in these individual’s eyes is, I believe, the most precious of treasures. Their humanity, their personality, “their unknown tragedies,” are the building blocks that compose our human souls. To silence a person, and extinguish a person’s past, and their individuality, and their precious soul stories, is effectively murder. One cannot place value on a human life. One cannot dismiss the power of a person’s story. One cannot treat a person like they don’t deserve love, and compassion, and understanding. I repudiate the notion that any person’s life is worth more than any other. I strive, every day, to accept the diversity of human experience in all its shades and colors, and leave the rest, as they say, to God, or to the ghosts (they can worry ’bout that). Understanding, patience, community, humanity, and peace… Those are my values. What are yours?