Michelle’s Top 10 Songs of 2021

2021, you brought us great music yet again that it’s going to be hard to narrow it down to just 10 but here we go:

10. Charli XCX, Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek – New Shapes

This was released in autumn 2021, so it’s more of a recent track. I love the 90’s sounding production with booming synths and it’s lyrics about not being what a guy wants you to be or do and not giving a shit about it. Normally in pop music, female artists write about changing themselves for a man’s love, so this is very refreshing.

9. Adele – My Little Love

This wasn’t a single but it should’ve been, in my opinion. Its raw lyrics see Adele addressing her divorce to her son, who by the way sounds adorable from the recordings. Speaking of recordings, that spoken outro at the end broke my heart when I first heard it. Honestly, I was in tears. This made me (and everyone) fall in love with Adele even more and is proof she’s the queen of the break up album.

8. Riton & Raye – I Don’t Want You

This track is a proper club banger and takes me back to the 90’s….not that I was a clubbing teen around that time! Its organ sample is reminiscent of Crystal Water’s Gypsy Woman and the lyrics are ‘typical Raye’, where we see her take down a bad boy, who slept on her and her affections. It’s definitely one for those female empowerment playlists, so get it on there.

7. Years and Years – Starstruck

Oh my gosh, what a tune from the amazing Years and Years.  I was obsessed with this when it came out in April. Starstruck sees Alexander express his affections for his lover and joyously basking in that feeling his lover gives him. The vocal delivery is red hot and he sounds deliriously happy in it, that it’s a delight to listen to for those three and a half minutes. A career highlight for Alexander and shows he doesn’t need the backing of his bandmates to make a hit. He shines brightly (even more so) on his own.

6. Little Mix – Between Us

Little Mix have been through a lot this past year with the departure of Jesy Nelson but it’s fair to say, they’ve done just fine without her. I love this track because of its sentimental ode to female friendship, which we rarely see in girl groups. The girls are taking a much deserved break after 10 years together but don’t fear, Little Mix are and will always be FOREVER – if you watched the video, you’ll get the reference!

5. Will Young – Daniel

In 2021, Young released Crying on the Bathroom Floor. It featured this cover of Daniel, originally by Bat for Lashes. I love its acoustic pop production and vulnerable sounding vocals, which mirror the sound of Young’s previous album Echoes.  Covers are risky but if anyone can pull them off, it’s this man. Just listen to his rendition of Light My Fire.

4. Kylie Minogue and Years and Years – A Second to Midnight

This is the second appearance Years and Years have made on this list and it’s clear to see why? He’s an amazing artist and he shot through the stratosphere with this collaboration with Kylie. The two of them complement each other well and their friendship is infectious. Its lyrics are relatable to us everyday people, waiting patiently for the night time to begin, so we can become who we truly are. I can hear this in clubs in many years to come and you’ll definitely feel pumped after listening to it.

3. Jessie Ware – Please

The queen of modern disco reissued her 2020 album What’s Your Pleasure with this sultry club banger.  The lyrics are overtly sexual; delving into personal pleasure and demanding that what we give should be returned by our lover. “You want yours, I gotta get mine.” This is a ‘sex song’ done well, which is classy and empowers female sexuality.

2. The Weeknd – Take My Breath

The Weeknd came back with a bang in the summer with Take My Breath. I love the disco production and it sounds so retro that you’d think it came out 40 years ago. The lyrics are darker in contrast to the shiny, happy production and sees The Weeknd explore autoerotic asphyxiation with his partner. This is typical in a Weekend song and it’s nice to see that ‘darkness’ being embraced by the mainstream pop world.

  1. Disclosure – Happening

Well we’ve reached the number one spot and it couldn’t have been anything else. This is EDM done right, with a pulsating drum beat and a gospel choir, mixed with chopped up vocals by Howard Lawrence. For me, this is the BEST track from their Never Enough EP and its shows the progress these guys have made since their debut, Settle, in 2013.

Thank you 2021 for the great music and here’s to 2022.

And here’s Happening in all it’s audio glory:

Some honourable mentions:

Kylie Minogue and Jessie Ware – Kiss of Life

PNAU feat. Elton John and Dua Lipa – Cold Heart

Marina – Happy Loner

Galantis and Years & Years – Sweet Talker

Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd – Moth to a Flame

My Highlights and Lowlights of 2021

The end of 2021 is nye. Like 2020, it was tough but it got better as the year went on. There were those little bumps in between but what’s life without them, eh?

For anyone who is new to my blog, this is the time I look back on the year just gone and share with you my highlights and indeed, lowlights and trust me, there were loads of them.

So, let’s begin…..

  1. My 28th birthday celebrations – David finally buying me that Pandora bracelet and treating me to delicious chocolate cake and flowers. Furthermore, my birthday walk with Adelle at the Castle Grounds and having a good old therapy session
  2. Dog walkies with Conor at the Castle Grounds. It was cold and icy but when it comes to dogs, I can’t say no
  3. Getting an interview for the music PGCE course at Coleraine and failing it miserably
  4. Completing ‘The Stripped Sessions’ EP
  5. Being made redundant from The Ramble Inn
  6. Starting The Range in March and meeting my new gay best friend, Curtis and of course, Suzanne
  7. My car accident in April
  8. My interview for Belfast Met in May and successfully gaining a place on the part time register. Unfortunately, I got no hours this year but maybe in 2022
  9. My dental troubles; wisdom tooth extraction, root canals and really bad filling pain. A summer lowlight!
  10. Lunch with Kirstie at Rococo
  11. David’s birthday celebrations and finally getting to see Black Widow. You know me, I love my female empowerment films
  12. Anniversary dinner with David at Frankie and Benny’s
  13. Ann Mary’s visit to Belfast and having a much needed girly weekend
  14. Those pride celebrations with Ann Mary and Curtis….fuck, those tequila shots were strong!
  15. Recording Lovely Christmas. Who knew it’d be a disco banger?
  16. Christmas market rummage with Curtis followed by a night at the gay bars, where I ran into my ex colleague and friend Marcus AKA Lady Portia
  17. Meeting Curtis’ mum Lorraine. That’s FOUR mums I have now
  18. Samantha and John’s wedding in September at Ballygally Hotel and beach walkies (or should I say, selfies?) the next day with David
  19. Leaving The Range in October
  20. Starting my new job at Hazelwood College and meeting all my lovely post 16 students
  21. My pre Christmas brunch with the post 16’s. We got so hyper of those Nutella covered pancakes and hot chocolates
  22. Christmas celebrations with mum, David, Janet, Rab and the Hunters
  23. Recording more DIY music at home and the birth of my new (and unreleased) compositions Fantasy is Better Than Reality, Bet He, Liars and The Sex Song
  24. My (unreleased) collaboration with Krowen the Unknown. Check this guy out, he’s fantastic.
  25. Writing and recording Take Me to July and Don’t Take Making Luv So Serious with my songwriting partner Ghislaine
  26. Recording vocals for Runaway and getting paid £150. Imagine it, me getting paid for vocal work? Dreams really do come true!
  27. Passing my GCSE Maths after 12 LONG years
  28. Summer lunch with Steven at Bob and Bert’s. Six years too long, I say!
  29. Easter break with David and making Easter nest buns
  30. Christmas Eve lunch with David at Café Nero….our FIRST Christmas Eve together, can you believe?
  31. Graduation Ceremony at Queen’s followed by dinner celebrations at Frankie and Benny’s with David. 18 months later but you know what they say, better late than never
  32. Starting my new music course at NWRC
  33. Suzanne’s birthday night out at Ocean Club in Portstewart
  34. Dinner with Suzanne at Benedict’s followed by a micro pub crawl of Filthy McNasty’s and Weatherspoon’s
  35. Resuming my gym sessions after the LONG winter lockdown. Boy that was tough.
  36. Christmas Dinner with Adelle at Rococo
  37. Night out with Curtis and Suzanne at the Front Page, Granny Annie’s and Smoking Monkey. Yeah, you can tell I’m a fan of pub crawls!
  38. Mum’s birthday dinner at Tullyglass
  39. Samantha’s wedding lunch at Café Nero
  40. Finding a suspicious looking lump on my shoulder, only to find out it’s lipoma, which is thankfully harmless and surprisingly common
  41. My interviews for SERC and NRC and again, failing to get onto their teaching registers
  42. Not being able to do my CIT course at Jordanstown because of the lack of teaching hours
  43. FINALLY getting my music on Spotify and being featured on Chordblossom’s NI Music playlist
  44. Connecting with Emelie from Sweden and working on new music together only for it to fall through. Oh well, virtual collaborations are always risky!
  45. Curtis introducing me to charity shops. It’s fair to say, I’m a charity shop convert now!
  46. David’s weekend with me in Randalstown and seeing Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

That was a long list. When I look back on the year, it wasn’t a bad one; full of twists and turns, which were bad at the time but if it wasn’t for being made redundant from the Ramble Inn, I never would’ve met Curtis and Suzanne. I never would’ve had the motivation to apply for a new job and start again after months of being on furlough.

I guess the moral of (my) 2021 is that change is inevitable, whether we play a part in it or not and that those tricky periods are nothing to fear because good times are always around the corner.

394 Goodbye 2021 Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from Dreamstime
Image by Dreamstime

The Benefits of Having a G.B.F (Gay Best Friend)

Firstly, I dedicate this blog to my G.B.F, Curtis 🙂

  1. They know their fashion and are good at picking out clothes
  2. (A follow on from point 1) Guaranteed shopping trips
  3. You don’t have to worry about them hitting on you
  4. They’re funny as fuck (or should I say, camp?)
  5. They’re ‘pervert repellent’ for those sleazebags who hit on you at nightclubs
  6. They’re direct and keep it real
  7. You can slag off your boyfriend to them and they won’t be offended…you know, cause they’re also a man
  8. You can be camp and over the top with them, without hearing those words “calm down, will you?”
  9. You can sing Lady Gaga songs and ‘vogue’ on the dancefloor with them
  10. They’re guaranteed friends for life
Gay Best Friend
Image by Somee Cards

The After Effects of the Night Out

Why is it that when we go out and have a few drinks, we feel crap the next day? I’m not talking about hangovers but that heavy feeling of sadness that lingers over us like a dark cloud. That’s how I’m feeling this afternoon.

I went out last night and had a great time. My friend and I danced and took loads of shots into the small hours of the morning. It was needed, not just because of the jobs we do but because of the lockdowns we have had to put up with the past 19/20 months.

But now, I just feel sad and can’t control the emotions I’m feeling. It just feels like a big chip on my shoulder.

I went out for a walk this afternoon but whilst in the autumn sunshine, I found myself crying. Luckily I was able to disguise it by pretending there was something in my eye.

After some self analysis, I came up with some reasons for feeling like this; the first one, alcohol. Alcohol is naturally a depressant, so obviously it’s going to cause my brain to crash, which heightens those depressive thoughts and feelings I already have. Secondly, society. Society says that we should be an adult and have our shit together by 25. Of course, as adults, we can’t go out and have fun, right? I struggle with this because it triggers, in me, that feeling of guilt; guilt for drinking and going out clubbing when in fact the time to do that was ten years ago when I was a teenager.

Lastly, my status as ‘a loner.’ During my teenage years, I didn’t have many friends and spent a lot of time on my own. I didn’t have those opportunities to go out clubbing and socialise with my peers. I got so used to my own company that when I did have that opportunity to go out; it felt so alien to me.

I know all that is bullshit because fun doesn’t stop at 20. We are human beings and are entitled to fun at any age. We need fun to let off steam and to escape reality for a while. It’s a survival mechanism, for god sake. Secondly, I have to allow myself to have friends and surrender to that change because we all need company. We aren’t meant to go through this life alone plus people bring out things in us that we didn’t know we could be, do or feel. As much as human beings suck, the benefits do outweigh the negatives.

The bottom line is this, we have to look after our heads after a night out, figuratively and literally and recognise it’s just the alcohol that’s making us feel that way; those thoughts aren’t true and the feelings, well they’re just feelings. If you do struggle with these ongoing depressive hangovers, then re-evaluate your drinking habits and limit yourself. You don’t have to go overboard with drink to have a great night.

Some advice to take on board myself 😉

21,119 Hangover Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock
Image by iStock

The Self Reflection Blog: We Are The Only One Holding Ourselves Back

I’ve had a shit couple of weeks, in fact, I’ve had a very eventful 2021. I, like everyone else, started the year in lockdown, failed my PGCE interview, got made redundant from my waitressing job, had a car accident and then a claim put in against me, got onto the part time teaching register only to be told I’m getting no teaching hours this year, suffered moderate dental pain (not to mention all the shitty procedures I’ve had to get done) and last but not least, found a suspicious looking lump on my right shoulder.

How much more can a human take?

But hey, this isn’t one of those self pitying blogs, where I yap about how much the world hates me and has nothing but bad luck to offer me.

I know my life isn’t bad. There are a lot of good things going for me. I have a partner who loves me, I have a roof over my head, I have money coming in (for now anyway) and I have my singing/songwriting talents.

Despite all that, I still feel I’m not reaching my fullest potential nor am I in a place of contentment. I blame this on my anxiety and low self esteem. I used to think it was society’s fault for keeping me in this loop of dead end jobs, poor quality housing and bad boyfriends but the onus was (and still is) on me. All those times I felt left out at a party? My anxiety. All those times I felt like I didn’t fit in? My anxiety and all those times I let those boys use me? My low self esteem.

With anxiety, it creates this fear in our heads that the world is dangerous and that by chasing our dreams, we are making fools of ourselves, so we settle for the safe option. The other culprit, low self esteem, damages our confidence and has us questioning if we’re even deserving of our dreams. Another symptom of low self esteem is self comparison. All my life, I’ve compared myself to other people, men and women, who are supposedly more successful than me. Then I ask that question, why them and not me?

That attitude doesn’t help matters any and is detrimental to my mental health. The reality of life is this, it does come down to luck and those successful people just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I like to think though that it doesn’t just boil down to luck. I like to think their hard work and graft also got them to that place of success. I know that deep in my heart, I haven’t done enough to build my music career and fanbase and David reminds me of this when I’m having one of those ‘my career is going nowhere’ days.

The truth is I am afraid; afraid of failure, afraid of success, afraid of my dreams not living up to the idea I have in my head. It is being afraid that is holding me back, which is disappointing because I have so much potential and have a special gift to share with the world, which is being wasted.

Achieving your dreams and a happy, healthy life is possible for everyone but can only be achieved by drive, a passion for your craft and a whole lot of self belief.  

Edward Monkton - Anything Is Possible Fairy – Postmark
Picture by Postmark Online.

Forbidden Love: The Best Kind of Love

I have been binging on lots of Mock the Week episodes ever since lockdown, especially episodes from ten years ago featuring my fav Russell Howard, Andy Parsons and Frankie Boyle. Anyway, there was a particular episode in season eight that stuck with me and that’s episode four.

In this episode, you had a very young Jack Whitehall and Holly Walsh. The latter was on Russell and Andy’s team and to the audience (or to me, anyway), it was undeniable the chemistry between Russell and Holly. There were little things I picked up on like Russell’s head turn at the end when Holly looks at him but on his face, a giddy looking smile and Holly’s lingering look at Russell during the Scenes We’d Like To See segment. As we Russell Howard fan girls know, he has been dating Cerys Morgan since 2001 and Holly is married and has two children to an unknown man.

It got me thinking about love and in this case, forbidden love.

To me, there is nothing more painful than forbidden love. Think about it, it’s a relationship that can’t happen because your parents have forbade it or you’re in a relationship with someone else and you have commitments, like children. On the other hand, it’s a sexy kind of love. Forbidden love allows us to explore our deepest, darkest fantasies and step into a world where we can be with the person our hearts (and genitals) truly desire. In the case of Holly Walsh and Russell Howard, they looked like they desired each other and to my eye, they looked well together.

That’s the key word, ‘looked’.

Yes, on the suface, some people ‘look well’ together but when you think about it, what it really boils down to is personality….do both of you mix? You may fancy the ass of that particular guy or girl and want them in your bed throwing all shapes but your personalities might be too similar that arguments start and become a common occurrence or you both could be so different, that it’s a struggle to find any common ground.

Real relationships are about common ground and love. Unfortunately they’re things forbidden love lack. Forbidden love is about the build up of tension and hoping and wishing for that end goal; sex. Sex doesn’t neccessarily mean you’re in love (at the start anyway) which makes forbidden love superficial but at the same time, I get it. I get the fascination with forbidden love. It’s about the unactable desire, the ache of our bodies, that they won’t be touched by that person we lust over and the unfortunate reality that it will never happen.

Image courtesy of Pinterest.

And here’s the clip:

National Sex Day: My Top 5 Sex Scenes from TV and Film

On Wednesday, we celebrated National Sex Day. I didn’t know such a day existed until I got an email from Lovehoney, with offers on rampant rabbits, cock rings and butt plugs.

Sex is an incredible human function and it’s high up there, on my list of priorities. Why, you ask? Well, duh, orgasms. Orgasms make me feel good, not just physically but mentally plus I love the intimacy that comes with sex. There’s nothing more lovely than having someone inside you. I mean, honestly, you can’t get any closer than that with your partner.

Like everyone, I have watched sex in TV shows and films and most of the time, it’s portrayed as this intense, animalistic encounter, which we know, is a far cry from reality. That doesn’t mean, as sexual beings, we can’t enjoy them and fantasise that Ryan Gosling is making sweet love to us.

To mark this very special occasion, I have put together a list of my top five sex scenes. Be warned, you may get a little hot under the collar.

5. Masters of Sex – Bathroom Sex

After an intense day at the hospital, Bill returns to the hotel to destress with Virginia and no, not with eating a Chinese in front of the TV. While undressing in the bathroom, Bill grabs Virginia from behind, turns her around and rips off her tights and panties. He undoes his zip and they fuck up against the bathroom wall.

Why do I like this scene?

The spontaneous sex & the sizzling chemistry between Bill and Virginia.

4. Normal People – Connell and Marianne’s ‘reunion sex’

After months apart, Marianne and Connell reunite at Trinity College. After their encounter in episode 4, we knew it was a matter of time before they’d be jumping into bed again. Roll on episode 5. In this episode, Marianne breaks up with the dull Gareth, gets drunk at a party and makes sexual advances towards Connell. The gentleman he is, he declines because she’s drunk. The next morning, Connell drives her home and she takes a shower, while he waits for her in the kitchen. She comes out wearing a night gown and walks towards him. He undoes the tie and kisses her stomach. “Come to bed then”, she says. Then proceeds the sweetest, gentlest sex scene I have ever seen on TV.

Why do I like this scene?

The deep and intimate connection between Connell and Marianne and not forgetting that brief glimpse of Connell’s chain…..the star of the show, of course. 😉

3. Fifty Shades of Grey – Ice Cube Scene

While negotiating Mr. Grey’s contract, Anastacia sends a cheeky email saying “it’s been nice knowing you.” Christian then walks through the door. “It’s been nice knowing me?” he asks. He throws her onto the bed and rolls up her top, using it as a blindfold to cover her eyes. He takes an ice cube, puts it in his mouth and runs it up and down Anastacia’s naked body. He spanks her and flips her over. He takes out a condom, undoes his jeans and thrusts hard from behind.

Why do I like this scene?

The foreplay, the doggy style sex and Beyonce’s Haunted in the background.

2. The Ugly Truth – End Scene

In the final scene, we hear screaming and moaning, which can only mean one thing. Abby then turns on the light and Mike, while breathless, asks Abby if she was faking it. She replies “you will never know.”

Why do I like this scene?

The When Harry Met Sally fake orgasm reference and its humorous take on sex.

  1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Smashed

This is possibly one of the hottest sex scenes in TV history. Spike tells Buffy she came back wrong from her resurrection. This upsets her and they fight in this abandoned house but the violence soon turns to passion when she gives into her desire and kisses him. The sex is so intense, they end up putting holes in the walls and falling through the floor.

Why do I like this scene?

The undeniable desire Buffy and Spike have for each other, it’s raw, animalistic albeit toxic depiction of sex and the Enya-esque background music.

smashed - Spuffy Image (5547808) - Fanpop
Spike and Buffy in Smashed, 2001. Image by Fanpop.
Fifty Shades Updates (@ShadesUpdates) | Twitter | Ice cube, Fifty shades,  Cube
Fifty Shades of Grey, 2015. Image courtesy of Pinterest.
Recap: 'Masters of Sex' Season 2, Episode 3: 'Fight' | IndieWire
Bill and Virginia in Masters of Sex, 2014. Image by Indiewire.

10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Care About What You Eat

I’ve been going through this really weird phase with food. I’m becoming really self conscious about what I eat and it’s fucking exhausting. For example, everytime I eat sweets or chocolate, I feel guilty, not just because of the potential weight gain but because of my teeth. Like everyone, I’ve experienced plaque, tartar, decay and tooth extraction and I panic I’ll become one of those old people with rotten teeth or no teeth at all but then I think to myself I brush twice a day and use mouthwash, so my teeth will be fine. We shouldn’t limit ourselves of all these amazing foods/treats because of these irrational fears and with that, I’ve compiled a list of some of the reasons why you shouldn’t give a fuck about what you eat. Read on for a guilt free mind.

  1. Because worrying about calories is damaging to your mental health
  2. Because there’s always a way to burn food/calories off i.e. sex, walking, weights etc.
  3. Because life’s full of different kinds of foods you need to try at least once
  4. Because you only live once
  5. Because of this miraculous invention that allows us to eat sugary/spicy foods – toothpaste and a dentist and a scraper. OK, that was three things.
  6. Because your body and teeth are beautiful just the way they are
  7. Because, sometimes, you deserve a treat
  8. Because we need that tub of Ben and Jerry’s to cry into. Those damn boys!
  9. Because who can honestly watch a movie without some popcorn or sweets or crisps?
  10. And ultimately, because food is something to be enjoyed

So go ahead and live your best (food) life.

Obviously ignore this if you are gluten or lactose intolerant.

ᐈ Calories stock images, Royalty Free calories photos | download on  Depositphotos®
Image by Depositphotos.

International Women’s Day: Challenging the Meaning of Being a Northern Irish Woman

This month, we celebrated International Women’s Day. It’s a day to remember all the mothers who gave birth to us, the female friends we hold dear and the sisters who listened to our cries after that gut wrenching break up.

I am marking the occasion by challenging what it means to be a woman in Northern Ireland. Generally speaking (and not just in Northern Ireland), women are told to aim for a life of motherhood and domesticity. They can’t have a career, they can’t earn their own money and have to dumb themselves down for the attention of men.

Can I ask, who made up these fucking rules?

Firstly, men like smart women who have their own minds and can think for themselves, second of all, women most certainly have a right to make their own money and lastly, they can choose not to be mothers.

In Northern Ireland, the majority of women are quite conservative and settle down very early on in their lives and have three children by thirty. Yes, that is their choice as a woman and fair play to them for raising those kids because it’s not an easy job but it’s not for me and I have rebelled against that all my young life and will continue to because I want something different.

What happened to wanting a different lifestyle? What happened to being a different woman?

I think fear comes into it. We, as women, want a relationship, to avoid being labelled as ‘the lonely spinster’, who lives alone with her ten cats. We want to avoid being asked those questions, “why aren’t you married yet?”, “why aren’t you with child?” And “why aren’t you and your partner living together by now?” I love David and wouldn’t be without him but we aren’t ready to move in together and it’s way too early for marriage and don’t get me started on the possibility of kids. Who wants to bring a child into this gloomy, hopeless Covid world? Anyway, I digress…..

Unfortunately, this (outdated) ideology continues to be passed down to the younger generation and that makes me incredibly sad. My friend Chris and I talk about all the posts we see on social media of young women getting engaged and moving in with their partners and he made the point that there must be something in the water here. Whatever it is, it’s not just a societal expectation, it’s a religious expectation too. Northern Ireland is a predominantly religious country and Catholicism teaches Northern Irish women that they should meet a man, marry him, procreate with him and live a holy, spiritual life until the day they die.

Women in this country are so invested in this societal and religious bullshit that they can’t see another way of being. They don’t BELIEVE there’s another way of being. Trust me, girls when I say, there is. You can lead a completely different life and be a completely different woman. Question is, are you brave enough?

EBU - Join us to mark International Women's Day 2021!
Image by EBU.