The second installment of the LOVEP interview series has arrived! In this episode, Nomadic Bloggers talks with emerging Staten Island artist J U S T Y about her most recent release SAUDADE. The project, presented as the first in a series, is an 8-track rumination on a love lost. Featuring largely borrowed production (we all gotta start somewhere), what is noteworthy about the project are the lyrics.
I recognized how important it was to me to write a record from my heart, for the heart. That’s how this record came about.”
The first song I heard off the project was the heartwarming “Can’t Explain It” which led me to falsely assume the project was a celebration of love. While I cannot say with confidence that it isn’t a celebration, I’d argue it is more a wake than a baby-shower. It is a post-love reflection with unclear intentions. Is it meant to revive the past love? Or just honor it for what it once was? This track serving as my introduction also misled me to believe the full project was hip hop, which it’s not. It’s more R&B, the only rap verses coming from frequent collaborator Jaded. While I normally don’t stray far outside hip hop, I enjoy this deviation from my norms.
It took me a few listens before I realized the “you” throughout is most often the same person. This led me to wonder if it was a linear narrative. While it comes close, I would have to say it isn’t. For example, if it followed the narrative of a love, I would expect to see “Can’t Explain It” earlier in the track list. Additionally, I would not expect to see “Cheaters Never Win” introduce a second relationship mid-retelling of the relationship in focus.
That said, I think that speaks to the reality of love. It doesn’t follow logical plot arches, it’s messy and confusing. So perhaps, while not linear in a strict sense, it does follow the narrative of real affection, highlighting oddities like how we fall most madly in love with another only after we have parted ways and said our sorrys. Speaking of which, if you have ever withheld a sorry from a lost love, I recommend skipping “I’m Sorry, More Than Sorry” otherwise that track might really fuck you up with guilt.
If you’ve ever wondered about the functionality of apologies, how love is impacted by technological advancement, or the capacity of creative endeavors to heal both the creator and the consumer, check out the interview below.
Is SAUDADE a linear narrative?
I would say so. In a way I’m bringing you along my journey but I don’t fully give you the other perspective. For example in “Cheaters Never Win,” I acknowledge the fact that I experienced infidelity but I don’t give you a vision as to why that other person felt the need to cheat. On “I’m Sorry, More than Sorry,” you see that I’m quite apologetic towards someone I still have feelings for but you only get a minor glimpse into the reality that they’re in a new relationship/moved on. So a lot of SAUDADE is very centered on my point of view and in some way I feel like I subconsciously wrote the record that way to maintain some sort of control because of the fact that I couldn’t control someone cheating on me or not wanting to be with me.
On the other end and perhaps in a more subliminal way maybe this sort of linear perspective/narrative reveals the sense of loneliness I feel as a writer/musician-in that I’m the only voice, I’m the only one experiencing this experience in this particular way, and in a lot of ways SAUDADE is a form of acceptance in being alone while reflecting on the elements which surround that. Even in its definition, SAUDADE translates to is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves, that may not actually ever return.
SAUDADE is largely a love story, or perhaps more aptly, a post-love story. That said, it begins with “God Is Good, God Is Great.” Is this meant to suggest that your relationship with God comes before all others? Do you understand your relationship with God as a form of self-love?
My relationship with God is certainly the most critical to me. I find that as individuals, as humans, we do tend to put a lot of our faith into other individuals and for me that hasn’t proved solid, because people will always disappoint you in some capacity—this doesn’t negate their value or quality as an individual, it just reinforces the fact that they are human. For me, putting my faith in God is putting my faith in that that is not of this world, that that is not of human flesh or capacity, therefore it’s very important to me as an artist to show how my relationship with God has influenced me as a human. I can depend on God, I lean on God, and I’m humbled by God.
This sort of humility of course adds to the sense of security/love I feel in my relationship with God, however, I wouldn’t be completely honest if I said it has resulted in a sense of complete self love. It reinforces the fact that I have the capability for it(self love), however actually carrying it out, actually loving all of me, is something I’m still working on. It’s something I often talk to God about, and it’s crucial for accepting any other form of love.
If you know the places you are looking are the wrong ones, why look there? Is it for fear that if you look in the right places you might actually find who you’re looking for?
Fear and Expectation tango on that track. On one end sure I could be looking in these places to avoid confronting my feelings, to avoid the possibility that maybe, just maybe, that person could feel the same way about me, and then what? We dance and stroll off with the skyline behind us? That’s the sort of thing that maybe makes for a happy ending, but it’s not what I expect.
My expectations crush that sort of risk with looking in the right places because I may find what I need but what if I don’t find what I want? What if that other person finally looked in the right place to find exactly what they’ve always needed? Would I have been the wrong place all this time? In the end, I think I looked in the wrong places because I thought that was the right thing to do—to accept that I couldn’t be where I wanted to be, with who I wanted to be with, but to hope to find something somewhere.
What is the effect of reflecting longingly on lost loves? Did you write these lyrics for yourself or for that individual?
It’s bittersweet. On one end I felt like I was finally admitting things to myself that my head tried to make my heart suppress. I was finally able to come to terms and say okay, I do still love this individual, okay I do care, okay this does hurt—at the same time, that comes with accepting the wrong as well. That reflection came with okay I screwed up, okay this was for the better, okay this other person could feel a sense of liberation and experience love again, and that’s comforting because you want them to be happy but it’s a tough pill to swallow because you wish you were the person who could have been a part of that? Reflection allows for accepting what you feel, for what you lost, and for what it is now. I think I subconsciously wrote these lyrics to show that side of me that maybe I was most uncomfortable showing—I wrote to say ‘hey I still care, I never stopped.’
Do you think saying sorry could be seen as self serving?
I do and I think ‘Sorry, More than Sorry’ points that out. I’m ultimately saying I do hate to say sorry because everyone says that but in a way it’s all we’re left with to express a sense of discontent with our actions. The sorry helps us come to terms with that wrong doing however it doesn’t mean it makes things better so in that sense I do feel as if it’s self-serving because at times people don’t necessarily need and or want your apology as much as you need it for yourself.
I think it’s interesting that you used a beat sampling her for “Can’t Explain It” because it’s not a happy ending. And I wonder what that says about the love you express in the song.
For sure and I’m glad you touched upon that because like you said her doesn’t technically have a happy ending since the main character does end up alone and if you notice in the song it’s only my profession of love for someone else, even in Jaded’s verses it’s a one sided love and the listener never hears the prospective of the person being admired so that’s revealing in itself because it shows you that yeah I love you beyond explanation but do you love me? Or is this unexplained love also unattainable? So I think that’s a super important correlation between the movie and the song
You’ve said your latest track, “Can’t Trust It,” is a prequel to “Can’t Explain it.” In your own words, what is it about?
It encompasses the reality of our generation’s love story in that we build these connections based on a lack of trust. We are in these situations but there is an anxiousness/uneasiness that follows us which doesn’t fully allow us to love and be loved.
Do you think that is unique to our generation? If so, why?
I do, because we live in a very of the now generation, not that that’s entirely a bad thing, but we don’t necessarily think long term. It’s all about what we have in front of us now, who we’re with now, what we’re doing now. Whereas other generations definitely looked towards a more long-term type of situation. Maybe that’s all dependent on time/place/individual, but I think it’s harder to find someone who wants that sense of stability in a time when it’s more common to date around or ‘have fun’.
Do you expect that trend to continue? Such that we get more and more adverse to commitment?
I think it’s dependent on the individual honestly. I do think it will be harder for people looking for it. Think about some of the biggest artists of the now who write mainstream love songs. Someone like The Weeknd practically glorifies this can’t be a one man/can’t really love you fully persona (most evident in his song “Die For You” where he clearly admits that yes you’re perfect, this could totally work, but I don’t do love). So I feel as an artist when I write these love songs I also implement the type of lover I happen to be. I look for a long run in a space where spontaneity is preferred and maybe that’s an unrealistic goal, for now at least.
Do you think the subject of the record heard this project?
Oh boy hot seat question haha, I do, but maybe the more burning question would be did it change anything? I think a lot of people very much want the ending to this SAUDADE to be a happy one. I think people hear a song like ‘Can’t Explain It’ and hope that it ends with something, but by definition SAUDADE illustrates this longing for something that you may already know isn’t coming back. That being said this EP doesn’t necessarily have an ending, I say it’s an open heart record in that you get to see the inside of my heart, pick at the things you like, disregard the things you don’t. This record will always be an individual record, with the exception of ‘God is Good’ and ‘Cheaters Never Win,’ this is a record I wrote for that person, but I do think it goes beyond my experience, nothing changed but everything did.
I’ve seen people take lyrics from ‘Can’t Explain It’ and post it on their significant other’s dashboards and I’m just like woah, this feeling is universal. It’s not just how I felt for this person, it’s about how people feel, what they feel, everyday. So in that sense I’m not special lol I just happen to be an artist and I just happened to put a record together. But I got to introduce these listeners to someone I still admire, and respect, and love, and maybe the happy ending is that that doesn’t end, I’ll always be able to say hey you changed my life, and you taught me about love and loss, and even if you never hear this record, people know that you’re the type of person who can inspire someone to want to write, want to create something beautiful.