Bright Star

The cogs are turning. The train has left the station. The ship is sailing. Use whatever metaphor you want, somehow I’m back on the hamster wheel of doom. The next tour’s being booked in for the autumn and, yep, it’s all going to kick off with a performance at the NO U IN FTRE event.

“Don’t worry about it,” Max says. “There’s gonna be loads of lesbo-friendly tunes on the new record.”

We’re in the production studio and Max nods at the engineer. Immediately, the room fills with the enormous sound of synthesised bass and electronic drums. A voice – not mine – comes in over the top. I’ve heard this song a million times before. Maybe not exactly the same one but all you need to do is turn the radio on and you’ll hear a virtual photocopy of it. Except we’re the ones doing the photocopying. I want to ask someone what the point is. But I already know the answer. Money. Money. Money.

We listen to song after song. Me, Khan and Max. Max thinks everything is ‘sick’; he’s middle-aged but he talks as if he was in my class at school.

“This is the single,” Khan decides when we’re halfway through one chorus I can hardly differentiate from the last.

I put my head in my hands.

As promised, there are thirty of these tracks.

Thirty.

“What do you think?” Khan asks me when at last they come to an end.

He doesn’t really want my opinion. He’s already over at the vast mixing console, asking the engineer to play this bit again and that bit again.

I think about having to record my own vocals for all the new songs and the awful, ludicrous months ahead and my head starts to spin. All that time I spent plotting to get off the treadmill and yet here I am. Still running to stand still. Still doing what I’m told. I can’t work out what’s more embarrassing: my one attempt at breaking free from Khan’s manacles or the fact that he’s managed to put me back on my perch so easily.

Not that either of those things is what really messes me up the most.

Worse is how much effort I put into that one moment, how completely I’d believed that I’d find some understanding or support. The public might not have seen me working and sweating the way they saw me rebelling then retreating, but still it’s that blind effort, that stupid faith, I find most humiliating.

What a joke.

Talking of jokes.

“This is going to be the album of the year,” Max says.

Is he speaking for my benefit? Do these people still think I believe what they say? That I believe they can see something in the music that’s beyond my understanding? Maybe, once upon a time, I credited them with some kind of second sight. With a power that allowed them to dictate what people liked.

I’m nineteen now.

I’ve grown up.

I know better.

I do.

I do.

Find out how Bright Star got here. Start N-N-N-N-Nineteen from the beginning.

Chapter image by Ellie Burgin.