Didn't Want To Be Your Ghost

I Am A Bird Now by Antony and the Johnsons

I've been listening to this album for the past couple of weeks now, and was puzzling over how exactly I should start it. When I first listened to Antony and the Johnsons, I had somehow stumbled on "Fistful of Love" on some random blog in 2005, and one night laying awake with my CD player (I didn't get my first iPod until 2007), I fell asleep mistakenly believing "Fistful of Love" was some sentimental love song, and no deeper than that. When I attempted to listen to I Am A Bird Now, I found the subject of gender confusion something I was incapable of understanding or even wanting to spend time to understand. And so for many years, Antony and the Johnson was only "Fistful of Love", and that song by itself was misunderstood.

The album opens with "Hope There's Someone", opening the album on a note of loneliness, in which the singer finds himself incapable of going to sleep at night for fear of dying in his sleep. This fear of "the middle place/between light and nowhere" could be assuaged if only there was "someone who'll take care of [him]". "My Lady Story", on the other hand, describes a body devastated by cancer, singing, "My lady story/Is one of annihilation". Here, the singer feels as if their body is broken, singing, "My womb's an ocean full/of grief, then rage/And still you're coaxing me/To come on out and live/Well, I'm a crippled dog/I've got nothing to give/I'm so broken, babe". "For Today I Am a Boy" has surprisingly simple lyrics, and poses as a song from the perspective of a hermaphroditic child, who sings "One day I'll grow up, I'll be a beautiful woman", later elaborating to "One day I'll grow up, I'll feel the power in me", but sadly sings "But for today I am a child, for today I am a boy". "You Are My Sister" is truly touching, opening with the lines "You are my sister, we were born/So innocent, so full of need". The singer describes their relationship, in which he "was so afraid of the night/You seemed to move through the places that I feared", and expresses a feeling of living inside their own world ("You lived inside my world so softly" and "But there's nothing left to gain from remembering/Faces and worlds that no one else will ever know"). The song ends with the sincere lines, "You are my sister/And I love you/May all your dreams come true/I want this for you". "Fistful of Love", which presents itself as a very innocuous love song, describes the relationship burdened by domestic violence, in which the person sings, "I tell you I love you/And I always will/And I know that you can't tell me/So I'm left to pick up/The hints, the little symbols of your devotion", finally singing "I accept and I collect upon my body/The memories of your devotion". The album ends with "Bird Gerhl", in which the singer has resolved all of their troubles, singing "I've got my heart here in my hands now/I've been searching for my wings some time", and feels that everything will be fine "'Cause I'm a bird girl, and bird girls go to heaven".

Though the album explores many themes (mostly that of gender ambiguity), the album is tied together with an overarching expression of trying to find love, even in the hardest moments. The album expresses a desire for someone to be there when you are at your weakest, when your body, your identity, or your situation is not what you might have wished for. If, when listening to the album, you focus on only the gender confusion aspect of the album, you are sadly oversimplifying it. Though Antony chooses a different aspect of struggling to explore the themes of identity, loneliness, death and love, the themes itself and the outcome of the album is accessible to everyone.

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