There are breakup songs, love songs, party songs, songs about a loved one dying, worship songs, songs about childhood memories, songs about growing up in a small town…and then there are songs about sexual abuse.
When you’re wanting to listen to music – if I could take a wild guess – asking Alexa “play songs about sexual abuse” is probably not your go-to command. There are a lot of catchy tunes released throughout the decades that have classic, beautiful and tasteful lyrics about a woman’s body and what the singer is wanting to do to it (please note my sarcasm). Not surprising is how there aren’t a lot of songs about sexual abuse. I mean, who would want to jam out to that anyway?
However, last week on World Forgiveness Day country singer/songwriter, Lindsay Ell, released a song just about that.
1. The song to bring about healing
“make you” by Lindsay Ell
Do you feel it? If you’re like me, you’ve noticed an overpowering sense of revival and great awakening that is pretty hard to fall asleep on. And I’m all for it. Along with calls for systematic change in our policies for black people and people of color is a plea and awareness for sexual abuse and human trafficking.
I actually was going to review two songs this week- I had it all planned out; two songs from two strong women, I even announced it on my Instagram story. However, after diving into Lindsay Ell’s new song, there is no way I can bring myself to moving on to review another. Not when this is such an important song with such important timing.
Continuing in the momentum of the #MeToo Movement, over the weekend a sudden storm of a human-trafficking conspiracy theory took to social media against the major e-commerce company, Wayfair, famous for selling furniture and homegoods. These accusations coming about the same week as Lindsay Ell released her newest single “make you” about the singer’s experience with sexual based trauma.
Lindsay Ell is a Canadian country artist. She first made her appearance to the scene with her song “Criminal” in 2017 and followed up with hit, “What Happens in a Small Town” with fellow country star, Brantley Gilbert. In 2018, she released her own take on John Mayer’s Continuum album, which I *highly* recommend you taking a listen to. She is a badass guitarist for one, with a style is typically a blend of bluesy, soulful, and rock with lyrics that are honest. Her storytelling often details her relationships – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Her latest single, comes paired with two other songs, “wAnt me back” and “I don’t lovE you” on Heart Theory. “make you” is different than her usual. A ballad, piano keys backed with an acoustic, electric guitar, soft harmonies and added percussion in the 2nd verse to help detail the difficult subject of her own sexual abuse trauma. For a sexual abuse survivor, it is one thing to be able to speak about it out loud, let alone be in a spotlight and release your personal story in a song for the whole world to hear.
So why release it and why on World Forgiveness Day of all days? To release such a vulnerable story takes courage, hope, and more courage. It’s not like a song about sexual abuse will reach radio top 20, so why do it?
Sometimes music is not about being catchy or the next Summer jam. Sometimes music is just meant to bring about healing and inspiration.
It seems that Ell isn’t just doing it as her own form of healing, but to help give a voice to those who need the same healing.
In college I took a Psychology of Women course and one of the sections we discussed was on sexual and domestic abuse. The harrowing statistics related to sexual abuse are soul crushing; 1 in 3 girls have been sexually abused before reaching 18-years-old. I’m sorry… did you really take the time to read that? Let me repeat it for those in the back, 1 in 3 girls have been sexually abused before reaching 18-years-old. That just means BEFORE they’ve become an adult… that’s 33% of girls have been molested or received unwanted touching, or the like. That doesn’t deal with those over the age of 18. Another sobering fact, majority of sexual abusers are someone the girl knows and trusts.
Lindsay Ell explained that she was raped when she just 13-years-old by someone she knew from church and then again in a separate incident at 21.
At first listen, it’s easy to think it’s a song she’s writing for her younger self. But listening to it deeper, it’s not just for her… it’s for all the survivors.
“Pain is something we can let control us if we don’t deal with it, but the minute you put a voice to your story the shame has no power,” Lindsay said in an interview with People Magazine, “I wanted to release it on Global Forgiveness Day. Forgiving people in our past is a huge thing for whatever reason, but forgiving yourself is so important,” says Ell. “There’s an incredible amount of healing that can happen, and it can’t happen until you can truly open up that forgiveness for your own heart.”
She relives her pain in the first and second choruses.
“Thirteen, staring in the mirror
You still look so innocent but that was all gone yesterday
At eighteen, you’ll see it a little clearer
As something that was taken, before you could give it away”
“At twenty, it hits you like a racecar
It still feels like a new scar
One that you dont talk about
At twenty-five, you’ll find the strength to say it
And even though you can’t change it
There’s peace in saying it out loud”
She relates and inspires in the chorus telling that girl that it’s not going to break you – it’s going to make you. The chorus is down-right poetic. In the first 11 out of 12 lines she dictates the horrible feelings, events, anxiety, depression, thoughts, actions that will come about from the abuse throughout the survivor’s life. Yes, you’re going to deal with a lot. Yes, you’re going to hurt.
“It’s gonna make you hate yourself
When you didn’t hate yourself at all
It’s gonna make you build a fortress
Where you never had a wall
It’s gonna make you question God
And wonder if he even cares
‘Cause it’s so messed up, it’s so wrong
It’s just so unfair
And when you’re broken past the point
Of what a broken heart can take
The cracks’ll heal but you’ll always feel the break”
But it’s the last line of the chorus that gives meaning to the title:
“And that’s what’s gonna make you”
The trauma happened, but it won’t define you, it won’t make you weak, it won’t make you powerless – despite it all – you’ll become a warrior, stronger, and an inspiration.
This is not a song to raise awareness, although it inherently will do that, this is a song to bring about healing and a well of courage and strength to those who have been through such abuse.
It’s artists like Ell that will go beyond hit charts and festival line-ups, she will truly make a difference in this world and honestly – that’s what matters. So, to you, Lindsay Ell, I say thank for creating such an important and liberating song for those who need it.
To read the full People interview click here.
To learn more about our Music Editor, Shaina Russo, Click Here
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