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Baker's Dozen

Beauty From Trauma: Paul Mendez' Favourite Music
Paul Flynn , October 7th, 2020 08:40

Pop is all over Rainbow Milk, the Gordon Burn Prize-nominated debut novel by Paul Mendez. Here he tells Paul Flynn how a love of Marvin Gaye, Beyonce, Solange, Joy Division and Missy Elliott gave him a clearer understanding of his sexuality and racial identity


Beyoncé – Lemonade
Coming back to that period between 2012-2015, my dark years, I suppose. January 2015, I was unemployed. I hadn’t worked for six months. I had a drug problem and was depressed. I had a conversation with a friend of mine. I have no memory of what he said to me, but that day I had this renewed need to sort my life out. Then this feeling of a new beginning was supplanted by the release of Lemonade on the 23rd April that year. Part of the reason Rainbow Milk came out on 23rd April this year was that it was my grandmother’s 90th birthday. The other part was in tribute to Lemonade. It really did resurrect me.

Because it started with ‘Formation’, this new Beyonce – woah, she’s Black – was a radical thing to me, because of the pop thing she did before. When Lemonade dropped and it was about infidelity, Beyonce was this most perfect human being. I think of her as the girl in the ‘Bootylicious’ video with the long blonde hair, the pink at the ends, assuming the role of the proxy blonde white girl and having every privilege in the world. What she is telling us on Lemonade is she is someone who understands pressure in the same way that I do and is someone who has, in turn been cheated on by her husband so has this vulnerability. There it is again, that pattern of art produced by trauma.

Suddenly I’m hearing Beyonce as an album’s artist for the first time. The Writing’s On The Wall is a great album because every song is a single. This was a masterpiece, almost as if hewn from stone. I related immediately. Because she drops the album at midnight, you wake up in the morning and everybody is talking across social media about it. So, you sit and listen to it on your phone and honestly? It just changed my life. It gave me the impetus that I have built on until it gave me the life I have now.