I love music. I enjoy turning the knob on my car radio to switch the stations. I like how songs in a playlist can build off each other, even if they are entirely different genres. I try to expand my music horizon, learning about different artists and finding local groups. I find it fascinating that a songwriter can create lyrics to say what you find difficult to say, or even emphasize the moment.
When writing Beleco, I knew I needed to include music somehow. The protagonist, Iva Michaelson, has lived in twenty-first century Austin, TX for the majority of her life. Her story begins at the start of the SXSW Festival, which includes one of the largest music festivals in Austin. Music is ingrained in her blood. Along with the Live Music Capital of the World city fused within her DNA, Iva’s connection to twenty-first century music is her reminder of where she came from. In several moments throughout the novel, it is her link to her old home and her old identity. It is also her security blanket. She uses it to block the world out. Nothing exists around her except her and her song choices.
The song references, much like the novel, is a time travel adventure in and of itself, from Iva’s sense of the past to Iva’s future. She dreams to the tune of Chopin and sings along to Billy Joel. She learns about a girl named Billie Eilish from Keiki, the thirtieth century queen bee, approximately five years from her 2014 mentality. Music in Beleco is a time stamp, moments in history that can be seen simultaneously. When Keiki mentions Janelle Monáe, Iva recognizes Janelle from the 2013 album The Electric Lady while Keiki knows Janelle from the 2018 album Dirty Computer. Side note: I very much enjoy Dirty Computer, especially “Make Me Feel” as it gives major Prince vibes.
Music part of who I am. The mid-2010s was a big moment for me in music. It was the time I really grew into my current music taste, thanks to the friends I had at the time, the university I attended, and the job I worked at. It was also a time that, in my opinion, great music was released to the world. I absolutely love Spoon’s album, They Want My Soul, so much so I bought the CD copy from the cash register I worked at during my Whole Foods Market days to play in my car on repeat. Plus, Spoon is local. Who doesn’t love that? I knew they had to be included somehow. I also included another local band that I was introduced to around the same time. SPEAK’s album Pedals had the perfect amount of synthpop to get you to dance in your car or write out a chapter (or two). To the person who gave me their CD, thank you!
Finally, the song choices in Beleco are also an ode to people who were and are important to my life. As I mentioned above, a friend of mine introduced me to SPEAK. I enjoyed the power of duo Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, but the song choice, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing)” is a reference to my former work hubby who introduced me to swing dancing at the Fed. He also gets a shout-out for showing me Donald Glover’s comedy set (Donald Glover = Childish Gambino, hint hint). Billie Eilish is loved by Susan, one of my closest friends from grad school, and a classical pianist (hint hint #2). Then you have Dschinghis Khan, who is one of my friend Jordan’s favorite groups. Let me tell you, that group is a trip. Finally, Foster the People, who I saw in concert in March 2014 with my best friend Siddiqi. Without any of y’all, I am not sure I would have had the confidence to write this novel or even publish it. Thank you everyone!