Purple carpet coverage of the 2012 Grammys and Oscars

A major part of my gig at Yahoo! is to tell the story behind our stories, sharing our editorial successes and celebrating our content leadership. But I returned to my entertainment journalism roots as a contributing editor to Yahoo!’s record-breaking coverage of the Grammys and Oscars.

Moderating Yahoo!’s massive 2012 Grammys live blog, which attracted more than 130,000 visitors in six hours and peaked at over 10,000 active participants, was certainly a unique experience. In addition to writing about the awards show as it happened, I was pulling in select questions and comments from an endless stream of user generated content, as well as publishing relevant posts from the Yahoo! Music and official Grammy Twitter feeds. Here are a couple mashed-up examples of how we engaged our audience and added value for our users:

Things were a bit more relaxed for the Oscars. I contributed several articles on fashion to the Yahoo! Academy Awards blog, including an especially popular post on the Golden Girls of the Oscars that made it to the Yahoo! Homepage. Metallic sparklies have always had a special place in my heart.

So what records did our awards coverage break? Funny you should ask, because as soon as my editorial duties were done, I put my corporate storytelling hat back on and started digging through the data. The overarching bragging rights:

  • Users spent over 270 million minutes consuming 2012 Academy Awards content on Yahoo!, a 23 percent increase from last year. Our Oscars coverage attracted 10.7 million unique visitors during the week of the awards show and drove nearly 500 million page views in total.
  • Yahoo!’s record-setting coverage of the 2012 Grammy Awards drove over 700 million page views and 4 million video streams. On the day of and the day after the awards ceremony, users spent over 120 million minutes on our Grammys site, an 18 percent increase from last year.

It was an honor to play on both the content and the comms side for these tentpole events.

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Celebrating a decade of difference with Billary, Bono and Gaga

Playing at the big purple mothership in Sunnyvale is a pretty sweet gig, but there are perks to working out of the Santa Monica office too, like easy access to the Hollywood Bowl for Yahoo!’s Decade of Difference Concert. Lady Gage, Bono, Kenny Chesney and a slew of celebrities helped us celebrate the Clinton Foundation’s tenth anniversary on Oct. 15. Check out my top five moments of the Clinton Concert on Yodel Anecdotal.

Archives – Verses of Forgiveness

This post originally appeared on My Ex-Boyfriend’s Band and was published in my masters’ thesis for the University of Texas School of Journalism.

Beneath the salt of everyday life, there was a bitter taste to my skin. I could feel it on my tongue, intensifying after days of not eating, when the fat burned away and my essence rose to the surface. I was a sour girl. I was an angry girl. I was a girl who lived the opening lines of “Stay Golden” by Au Revoir Simone. “I saw it coming/ I just thought that you should know.”

What I saw coming this time was the inevitable break up of yet another unhealthy relationship. My boyfriend told me he was moving to LA in the middle of a rock concert. He handed me a drink, leaned close so I could hear him through the whining electric guitar and sharp popping of drums, and said he was leaving. The June night pressed into my skull, hot and pulsing, cauterizing the senses. By the time he said he didn’t want anything to change, he wanted to make it work, even over such a long distance, I had cut him away. He was already another ex-boyfriend.

“Stay Golden” is my anthem of forgiveness, fittingly off an album titled Verses of Comfort, Assurance and Salvation. Of all the things that weighed on me, that made my body feel fat and bloated, my latent resentments were the heaviest. I had never learned to forgive, probably because I can never forget. I remember every word, the clothes we were wearing, the books on the bed stand. The picture may fade with time, yet the negative is always there, smudged faces and ghost eyes burned into my brain.

Or perhaps it was just men. I could not forgive men. A man’s rough hands grabbed me and broke my trust long ago, and other men followed, snapping my instincts of worth and preservation, leaving only dry kindling behind. I tried to make my body perfect so a perfect man would love me. I merely succeeded at making my body sick so only sick men could love me.

So it is no surprise that my deepest grudges were with ex-boyfriends and former flings. “A careless word is complicated,” Au Revoir Simone sighs. “An emptiness still leaves a space.”

When I met Au Revoir Simone at SXSW, I had the uneasy feeling of looking in a mirror. They had the same dark hair and bangs, loose tops over skin-tight pants, an air of sweet sorrow even after a successful show. When I asked them about their fans, the singing keyboardists immediately acknowledged the dedicated young girls who grabbed onto their music with such force.

I smiled in recognition. Of course the lovesick band geeks and dark artists embraced Au Revoir Simone. These young women know what it is like to be a sour girl. I can hear the acid lingering in their lyrics. “So don’t feel bad,” they reassure the clumsy man who held a delicate heart. “Realize all your emotion/ And may you find all your relations/ Will keep you free.”

But in “Stay Golden,” Au Revoir Simone shows there is an aftermath to anger. The music is a fall day in Brooklyn, sitting alone at a coffee shop, the terrible memories buffered in a Prozac dream. It is a muted script, a close-up of a girl staring out the window, pale sunshine and poplars reflected on her cheeks, thinking, but not too deep, not so deep that it hurts. The sharp edges and chords of dissonance are removed.

“I’m feeling better every day.” When they sing this line in their soft bird voices, I think of mercy. I think of moving on, of recognizing and making amends. I think of a beautiful view. It is always fresh, always pure, always on the horizon. There is a reason to drift forward. There is something beautiful over the next hill.

“I’m feeling better every day.” The most beautiful lyrics, repeated twice, more melodic than the rest, remind me where I am today. They remind me to turn these patterns of golden light into a new memory. They remind me to forgive.

I do not have to make myself anything. I let myself be happy, I let myself be kind, I let myself be at peace. And I am feeling better. Every single day.

Archives – Whine On, Amy, Whine On

This post originally appeared on My Ex-Boyfriend’s Band and was published in my masters’ thesis for the University of Texas School of Journalism.

Amy Winehouse won’t go to rehab. No no no. But we know she should.

“Rehab” is an undeniably contagious track. The defiant anthem of denial is the jazzy songbird’s personal motto and claim to fame, blurring the lines between creative expression and scandalous exploits, saturating both popular and alternative media. And in Winehouse’s personal life, each new debauchery exceeds the last. It is tragically inevitable she will abuse herself into some sort of treatment program, voluntary or not, and onto the cover of Rolling Stone. Or perhaps Wenner and crew will wait until she releases her third album, a painful yet mature reflection on her troubles and triumphs, glorious with emotional rebirth. As long as the main character survives, the story can write itself. If she falls, switch to the alternative ending that references Janis Joplin.

“I don’t need drugs or alcohol,”€ Winehouse told the British press in October. “It’s something to do when I’m bored.”

Apparently the 23-year-old is nearly bored to death. Winehouse is firmly enmeshed with the gossip columns, which means a very public record is kept of her various binges and outbursts, as well as her fluctuating weight and tumultuous relationships. During interviews she loudly declares she faces nearly every mental demon in the DSM-IV, from unmedicated manic depression to addiction to bulimia, while simultaneously insisting she does not need help.

I can certainly relate to the situation. Before I entered residential treatment for an eating disorder that was supported by a regime of pharmaceuticals, I did not plan on going to rehab either. As Winehouse said, “I don’t need help because if I can’t help myself I can’t be helped.”€ I could admit that I was sick, but it took two weeks of detox and stabilization to admit checking myself in was a good idea. After ten years of bad decisions it was hard to believe I finally made a good one.

That is one of the most difficult aspects of accepting help: giving up your old identity. Problems like alcoholism and depression become so pervasive that they predetermine your entire life. Every thought and every choice, it all falls back to that place of suffering, maintaining the sick circle. At least you know what is coming.

Who would Amy Winehouse be if she wasn’t a boozer and brawler? What would she do everyday? And what on earth would she sing about?

“I only write about stuff that’s happened to me, stuff I can’t get past personally,”€ she said in this month’s Blender. “Luckily, I’m quite self-destructive.”

And when there is nothing left to destroy, no fat left to burn, the ultimate decision arrives. All the excess self, the bad feelings and recurring nightmares, are gone. You are down to bones, the vital organs, pale skin that barely keeps the world out. Do you preserve what is left or push ahead, oblivious, disappearing?

If you have already worn yourself down to the heart, cannibalized the muscles that bind your soul, it is too late. The stories cannot be untold and the pictures cannot be erased. There is nothing to salvage, just tiny pieces of paper, floating aimlessly, bleeding in the rain, forgotten. The once persuasive record becomes a rallying cry of demise, a pathetic plea, a suicide note. The DJ won’t spin such sad songs on Saturday night.

Archives – A Love Letter to Margot

This post originally appeared on My Ex-Boyfriend’s Band and was published in my masters’ thesis for the University of Texas School of Journalism.

Winter in the Midwest is a bitter time. The sky is gray and heavy, flattened steel, holding back the sun, pressing down on your shoulders. The grass is brown and the trees are bare. Each breath is sharp, sending small crystals of frozen air into your aching lungs. How do keep your blood flowing and your body awake? How do you crack the foggy ice that has petrified your mind?

If you are Richard Edwards, a 21-year-old college student living in a dank Indianapolis basement full of spiders and worms, getting in bed at 11 a.m. and sleeping until 9 at night, trying to keep your heart beating through your first break-up, you write a song. Then you write another. You play your guitar. You make something beautiful.

“I’ve always been a writer,” Edwards says, a hint of self-consciousness creeping into his already quiet voice. “And yeah, most songs are about myself, something that is bugging me. That record was not all personal, but it was certainly introspective. I was younger, I was upset about life.”

Unlike most ballads of depression, Edwards’ music begged for something bigger than a single acoustic guitar. He began collecting talented musicians, from a classic cellist and trumpet player to a pair of guitar-rocking, drum-beating brothers. Armed with Edwards’ songs and the power of eight inspired players, Margot and the Nuclear So-and-Sos exploded onto the indie rock scene.

I first heard Margot in 2005, when I was struggling to find my way in a new city and a new life. I was a new person, only one year out of rehab for an eating disorder, still struggling with the inertia of my self-destructive impulses. But in this confusing and ugly world I could always escape into the beauty and hope of music. I laid my body on the bed, put “Dust of Retreat” in the stereo and let Margot’s haunting lyrics and unyielding strings lift me up.

There was one song in particular that resonated in the marrow of my bones. It begins with the steady thump of a bass drum, cello and guitar layering on top of it, Edwards’ voice growing from the melody. “On a freezing Chicago street we shook/ Your hands were trembling from all those pills you took/ And we got drunk on cheap red wine in a paper cup.”

It was my Midwestern hometown, it was the oppressive winter, it was that faulty body, it was those easy escapes. Yet this time it was beautiful. All these sad, painful things created beauty.

“And I was barely awake when you got home/ And climbed yourself into bed wearing cheap perfume/ And Sarah screamed, your every breath is a gift/ if you weren’t so selfish then you might want to live.”

Yes, selfish. That was the right word. So selfish that you want to throw the pain away. You see the potential, you know what you could make yet you waste it. Not only is every breath a gift, every ache is a blessing and every tear is a promise. Yes, you are lucky to have this pain, to have its power.

“So if your lover should leave don’t get too sad/ And don’t compose epic poems to win her back/ Cause when your bird has flown, she’ll never return home/ Though all your life you’ll wait she never will return.”

When Edwards thinks back to the mildewed basement, the girl that got away, the nights that were his days, he is happy. Not content or ready to stop creating, but he is at peace.

“I always had this grand dream,” he says. “As long as you are doing it for the music, I think those goals act like hope. It meant all this had a purpose.”

Even the unbearable, the broken heart, can lead to this. From the cracks in the dark, pulsing muscle a delicate life begins to grow. The heart has already been broken, the sadness has already washed over you, these things will not change. Pull them all together, weave in each disappointment and fear and sharp memory, and you will find something new. These are not endings but a beginning. Make something beautiful.