OK, I Feel Better Now
October 18, 2019
Coming-of-age stories typically pinpoint a teenager’s transition from awkward, naive highschooler to empowered, capable adult. However, these narratives tend to leave out the fact that, because of societal pressure to be small and delicate, women tend to take longer to feel comfortable taking up space within society.
Nashville singer-songwriter Kelly Hoppenjans creates empowering rock — combining the spirit of riot grrrl tinged with folky introspection — that yells this sentiment from the rooftops. Despite being her debut full-length album, music has long been the crux of Hoppenjans’ existence, and OK, I Feel Better Now encapsulates a lifetime of physical and emotional healing, breaking vicious cycles, and the power of femininity.
“I'm 30, so I came of age, whatever that means, a while ago. I think coming into owning who you are can take women longer than it does men, because of the pressure we face to suppress parts of ourselves that don't fit the expected 'woman' mold.” Hoppenjans divulges.
After picking up guitar at a young age, the Nashville transplant began writing songs around the age of 12 — assuming that if you played an instrument, it was necessary for you to create original music as well. Around the same time, the budding musician picked up a copy of a popular music magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists issue, and was disappointed to find only two women, Joan Jett and Joni Mitchell, listed among 98 men. Hoppenjans thought this meant women couldn’t be rockstars, and was disheartened by the lack of electric guitar role models that she was in search of.
“As a kid, I remember going over to friends’ houses to jam and being worried that my electric guitar was too loud,” Hoppenjans says. “I’d be like, ‘Should we turn it down? Is your mom going to yell at us?’ I was always worried about that, and the guys I usually played with could not give less of a shit.”
The theme of “Space” threads throughout OK, I Feel Better Now — asserting a need to break the cycle of society’s gendered expectations. “I’m gonna let go, seep into every space,” Hoppenjans patiently sings over gentle guitar and forthright percussion, mirroring the empowering realization that it’s okay to exist and occupy your own expanse in the world.
“We’re taught to be polite, quiet, petite and unobtrusive,” Hoppenjans says. “And trying to fit into those molds, or just being aware that we don’t fit them, can lead to so much insecurity and self-doubt. I love the idea of sound having a physical presence, as that air flows out of us — the loud sounds we make physically take up space — and that feels so powerful.”
Hoppenjans takes this notion one step further by teaching at Nashville’s liberal arts university, Belmont. She works with music therapy majors or electives, specifically instrument performance and songwriting majors, to help students cultivate their unique sound and discover who they are, as their musicianship grows. Album opener “Portrait Of Your Life” bridges the gap between teacher and musician, and sets a tone of self-approval, by providing a twangy, sonic visualization for women to step out of society’s frame, and into a vivid life of acceptance and empowerment.
“I’m really passionate about my work as a musician, as well as a teacher,” Hoppenjans says. “I aim to empower people, especially women, and encourage people to own their space. It’s so inspiring to see students grow in confidence and learn to love their own voices.”
Nestled beside empowering narratives, lies an emphasis on mental health — noticing negative thought patterns, self-awareness and increasing mindfulness. Pop music tends to glorify obsessive romantic relationships, while dismissing women who express how damaging this type of partnership can be. “If I Had You” (co-written with Jess Kenney) takes the “crazy ex-girlfriend” archetype to the extreme. Atop deceptively buoyant instrumentation, Hoppenjans bullishly blurs the line between love and obsession, painting a particularly dark relationship during the song’s chorus: “I’d do anything to keep you, if I had you,” Hoppenjans sings.
“Calling a woman ‘crazy’ is an easy way to dismiss the way she is feeling by saying she’s being overly emotional or irrational,” Hoppenjans says. “The album, as a whole, deals with the experience of being a woman in the world and accessing our power as women. I feel there is so much power in taking control of the narrative around the so-called “crazy ex-girlfriend,” and saying, ‘You think that’s crazy? Oh no, this is crazy.”
OK, I Feel Better Now encapsulates the emotional and physical duality of healing — whether that be recovering from a physical ailment, or emotionally unloading a burden — through breaking toxic cycles, cultivating and embracing your identity and claiming your space in the world. By shedding the expectation of quiet introspection, Hoppenjans’ debut full-length record relinquishes dauntless cognition.
Kelly Hoppenjans On Tour
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