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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


Destiny’s Child – The Writing’s On The Wall
From the moment I first saw ‘No, No, No’, probably on MTV Base, it was always about Beyonce for me. It was a shock to me that she was the same age and would’ve been in the same year at school as me. She was my exact contemporary, born September 1981 and I was May 1982. She’s always been like a sister to me in that sense. I have always kept Beyonce beside me.

Even when her career has taken turns that I didn’t appreciate, she was there. I hated the I Am... Sasha Fierce record, dropped out and didn’t really come back until the Beyonce album. Sasha Fierce was the pop album she needed to make. It’s the one where she finally had the record sales that someone like Taylor Swift can take for granted. It appealed to an adult contemporary audience with ‘Halo’ and ‘If I Were A Boy’. Fair play. That’s what she did, but I wasn’t there for that.

The Writing’s On The Wall kicks off with ‘Get On The Bus’, another incredible Timbaland beat. I’d moved in with my grandparents when the record came out and used to get home from work at McDonalds, like a bird that goes back to the same spot, waiting for ‘Get On The Bus’ to come on MTV. I sat up night after night waiting for it. Then came ‘Bills Bills Bills’, ‘Bug A Boo’, ‘So Good’, ‘Hey Ladies’. The Writings On The Wall was the album that got me through my disfellowshipping as a Witness. At that time, I had no friends and at home, all I wanted was the comfort of Beyonce’s voice. When you leave a religion behind, when you leave god, I’m not saying she replaced him because that would be completely stupid. But I did need an untouchable being to have in my orbit. Aaliyah might’ve been that person. But she passed away. Beyonce’s still very much with us. She’s been my night star for my whole adult life.