Discover life lessons in the song titles of iconic pop divas…
By Jumol Royes
When you hear the names Whitney, Mariah, Tina, Céline, Shania and Cher, one word immediately comes to mind: divas.
The very first VH1 Divas concert debuted back in 1998 and aired annually, with a few breaks in between, before taking its final bow in 2016. The concerts featured iconic performances by some of the top female vocalists of the day delivering a musical master class and showing off their impressive range and skills (if you’re too young to remember or you just want to reminisce, that’s what YouTube is for).
Music has the power to move, inspire, transform and heal, and you’ve probably experienced the soul-stirring, mood-shifting, can’t-stop-toe-tapping effect that accompanies any listening session that includes one of the aforementioned chanteuses belting out a classic hit. But behind the music of these vocal powerhouses are timeless messages that still resonate today.
Listen closely to the lyrics in the song titles of these oldies but goodies sung by our most beloved pop divas and you might hear some lessons to live by for your best gay life.
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston
Chances are you’ve been in a bar or a nightclub when this song comes on and the scene pretty much always plays out the same way: you grab your friends, flock to the dance floor and start singing out loud at the top of your lungs (boy, does this bring back memories of my first foray to a TIFF after-party). We’re social beings who match each other’s energy, and we usually don’t even need to think about it. The next time you receive some good news or you’re in an exceptionally upbeat mood, call a friend who could use a little pick-me-up. Sharing is caring. Share your joy and your pleasure.
“Emotions” by Mariah Carey
Let’s be honest, though; there are times when not even a phone call from our BFF is enough to lift our spirits. Given everything we’ve been through over the course of the past year and a half, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why some of us are feeling disinterested, disappointed and discouraged. When we expand our emotional vocabulary and embrace the concept of emodiversity (the variety and abundance of emotions), we develop our emotional intelligence and become better equipped to navigate moments of struggle and resilience. Feel all the feels. Sometimes it’s okay to not be okay.
“What’s Love Got to Do with It” by Tina Turner
Music is strongly associated with memory, and this Tina Turner mega-hit is one of the first pop songs I can recall listening to as a child of the ’80s. Back then, I didn’t know much about love, nor did I give it much thought. But after having my heart broken a time or two by beautiful boys who treated me badly, then coming to terms with trauma as an adult and bearing witness to the cruel and unnecessary pain and suffering inflicted upon the most vulnerable among us, what I know for sure is that one of the biggest problems in the world today is a lack of love. Learn to love yourself first, and then extend that love outwards to others. What’s love got to do with it? Everything.
“That’s the Way It Is” by Céline Dion
We often think that life would be so much simpler and less stressful if we could just control our circumstances. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Mental health and addiction treatment programs teach that recovery is a non-linear process and it’s essential to learn how to surf and ride the waves. If we’re constantly waging war with ourselves and the world around us, that creates resistance – and what we resist, persists. We then end up getting more of what we say we don’t want and less of what we do want. Be flexible and willing to go with the flow. Right now, it’s like this.
“That Don’t Impress Me Much” by Shania Twain
I recently found myself spending too much time mindlessly scrolling on Instagram and realized that it was taking a toll on me IRL. My feed was overpopulated with pictures of half-naked white guys with six-pack abs chilling on a beach at an exclusive resort, or doing something equally fabulous. I don’t know about you, but that’s not my lived reality. So I decided to start following more body-positive content creators and queer people of colour. I also turned off the app’s notifications on my iPhone. Don’t be overly impressed by the Instagays, and stop trying to keep up with them. Do you, boo.
“Believe” by Cher
We live in a world where proof and evidence reign supreme. If we can’t see, hear, smell, taste or touch it, or easily explain it, we’re told to dismiss it. The problem with this perspective is that it doesn’t really tell the full story. Athletes know that training and practice are important, but it’s their ability to dig deep and believe they can do it that allows them to achieve peak performance and pushes them across the finish line. Entrepreneurs value sweat equity and risk taking, but it’s their unwavering belief in themselves and their ideas that makes success a reality. Conventional wisdom says that “seeing is believing,” but maybe we got it mixed up. “Believing is seeing” has always worked better for me, so I’m going to trust my gut.
JUMOL ROYES is a Toronto-area storyteller, communications strategist and glass-half-full kinda guy. He writes about compassion, community, identity and belonging. His guilty pleasure is watching the Real Housewives. Follow him on Twitter @Jumol and on Instagram @jumolroyes.