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TITLE: Anthem
By Shaun Stevenson

My head rocked with the electrifying vocals of the singer running through the speakers in my Corolla. I rolled the windows down so everyone sitting at the light would be able to hear my song as well. Maybe they could be infused by the energy of the band. “Stand up and be counted for something when it's time!” I belted, feeling the thrill rising in my gut of releasing my vocal talent to the old lady with pink hair and a matching poodle in the Oldsmobile next to me. I had been released. I had found my freedom. Freedom in a band simply called, Superchick.

I remember the first time I mentioned the band at work. I had brought the Regeneration album for the assistant manager, Nathan, to listen to in the morning. The lyrics to “One Girl Revolution” rocked the store with blazing guitars and a chorus with energy to match: I'll be everything that I want to be. I am confidence in insecurity. I am a voice yet waiting to be heard. I'll shoot the shot – bang! - that you hear round the world. I'm a one girl revolution. I don't know what he really thought, but when I told him later over the heads of Amanda and Mary that Superchick had a new song out on the radio, both of them looked at me in horror. “Did you seriously just say, 'Superchick?'”

I gulped.

I went home that night and perused my album collection. I pulled out every CD case and put them in stacks. Stacks of male singers and stacks of female singers. Stacks of pop and stacks of rap and rock. I counted the male, rap, and rock piles on one hand. The female and pop piles would take a couple calculators to total.

Something about the piles bothered me. I felt a twinge of “non-normalness” run through me. My friends kept talking about the latest Switchfoot and TobyMac albums, while I was still dancing to the Stacie Orrico one I had bought nearly two years ago. None of my guy friends even dared to mention the word “pop”, let alone the fact that those pop songs might be sung by a girl.

That summer, I attended a youth retreat through my church. I ran the sound for the all-guy band playing, and before they started a set, I was in charge of putting up a couple of music videos on the big screen. Mr. Arzie, my youth pastor, had threatened me before the retreat. “If you play even one video of some twittering girl singer...” He knew my habits. I used to play all kinds of girl bands from BarlowGirl to ZOEgirl to Margaret Becker in the office adjacent to his at the church. Retreat time came, and I was really into the latest Stacie Orrico video for her breakout song, “Stuck”. Under the pressure of a couple girls in the front row, I played it. Stacie Orrico appeared on the screen, drum loops kicked in, and so did a chorus very near to my feelings over “girl music”: And I can't fake it the way I could before. I hate you, but I love you; I can't stop thinking of you. It's true: I'm stuck on you. My youth pastor ran over, pointed at the screen and yelled, “What is that!”

I stopped the video.

Maybe something was wrong with me. Was there another guy out there who really enjoyed singers like Rebecca St. James and Sarah Kelly and Nicole C. Mullen? I have yet to meet one. My friends started noticing my apparently strange taste in music. They would glance through my album collection, let a funny expression fall onto their faces, and ask me, “Don't you have any CD's by guy bands? What's with all these girlie singers?”

I only shrugged.

So what do I think about all this? It's a good question. My brother David tells me, “But listening to girl bands is what makes you unique.” Kendall Payne, a singer-songwriter with just the slightest touch of country in her pop/rock music, kept telling me the same thing: I wanna feel something sweeter than this sin. Cover me in leaves and roll me over again. I've been everybody else. Now I want to be something closer to myself.

I'm confused.

Am I programmed wrong? How come it seems like every other guy and his brother all love to listen to head-banging, throat-burning, screaming idiots? What was wrong with a few drum loops backing a female singer?

All I can accept is the idea that I'm different. I'm not the same as your average Joe, and I don't want to be like him. I don't want to be a burping, nacho-eating, football-crazed guy. I don't want to be the guy who talks about girls like slabs of meat. I don't want to be the guy afraid to cry in a movie. I don't want to be the guy who has to be “macho” or dressed right, or sports-savvy. I don't want to be the guy who's afraid to listen to “fake music”, or as some might call it, pop.

I started up my Corolla, felt the hum of the engine, and a wave of electric guitars and drums washing through the speakers. Superchick's latest single from the upcoming Beauty From Pain album coursed through me. I fell into the lyrics of my anthem, singing along, no matter what anyone else might think of it.

“It all comes down to this.
You take your best shot, might miss.
Got the will, you'll find the way
To change the world some day.
Grab this moment before it's gone.
Today's your day, so c'mon. Bring it on!”

(c) 2005 by Shaun Stevenson
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