Ariana Grande recently fell victim to the curse of the serenade, releasing a song labelled 'Pete Davidson' shortly before their engagement broke upWikipedia

It is 2014, and I am waiting to hear one of my songs performed by one of my school’s choirs at the Bristol Cathedral Summer Prom. The lyrics cringe with specificity about a boy that will never like me back. To make matters worse – even worse than most things seem at age fourteen – the solo of the song is being sung by his then-girlfriend.

"The lyrics cringe with specificity about a boy that will never like me back"

At the time, I thought of this as a kind of victory. At last, I had been able to create something about our non-relationship that he didn’t dictate, something outside of my fruitless teenage obsession. Sincerity had won and was ventriloquizing the very person who had succeeded where I hadn’t.

 I’m still quite proud of the song and grateful for my head of music, Liz Gleed, for allowing me the opportunity, but I’m now also very embarrassed by it all. The only thing I really ended up achieving was to make all those concerned angrily uncomfortable for the rest of the term. It was not, in fact, some grand redemptive act, in which each cringe of my obsession – now transmuted into music – was solved and made acceptable.

"It was not, in fact, some grand redemptive act"

This article constitutes, of course, another confession. Old habits die hard. The history of confessions is long, arguably beginning with the genesis of annual confessions in Catholic Europe at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, leading to the poetics of Plath and Lowell and Sexton, and the sometimes very personal experiences that memes, in their strange frustration of formalism, delineate. The same thing is played out on Facebook pages like Camfess and Crushbridge: we grasp for absolution from the angst and absent-minded attraction that Cambridge essay crises, walks to lectures and anxious dancing engender.

The problem with more modern confessionals is that they are unbearably public. Once the song is performed, or the poem is published, or we press ‘post’, the confession no longer has the sense of personal authority and control that originally made self-expression so seductive. It belongs to the world of others, often unforgiving and political. 

"The problem with more modern confessionals is that they are unbearably public"

Confessing, as I did through my adolescent songwriting, elucidates and compounds the awfulness of whatever we’re describing. The curse of the serenade is that songs don’t exist in their own aesthetic vacuum, but rather become part of our social landscape, and, if you’re Taylor Swift or Lemonade-era Beyoncé, the subject of various online memes.


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The serenade makes you an ideologue: it links you to a specific set of emotions and judgments in a form that will probably outlast your commitment to them. Nevertheless, Taylor Swift still writes songs, and I’m trying to rationalize and redeem old mistakes under the guise of a Varsity commission. You’ll have to ask me about this article in four years time. I’m embarrassed, already.

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