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Updated: Jun 23, 2020

I have been playing guitar and singing since my early teens, and I've written songs for about 6 years now. I was just thinking that I don't usually get to share much of the history or meaning behind my songs unless I'm playing very small, intimate venues. But even then, people come to listen to music, not to me droning on for half the show. So I figured that this would be a great way to start to share some of the more intimate details about my music with you! So this is the first post in the Why I Wrote It series.

I wrote a song named, He Called Me Beautiful while I was studying abroad in 2018. It was released in collaboration with my producer, engineer, and dear friend dyl-pykl , Matyb, and WHY? Record Company earlier this year. And you can listen to it on all streaming platforms, or at the end of this post.

The song began as a poem called Muy Hermosa. The poem came to me after a very scary experience in Buenos Aires, surrounded by men, with no phone service, and with whistles and phrases such as "muy hermosa (very beautiful)", floating around in the air.

He called me beautiful

And I felt sick

He called me beautiful

Because I was in the wrong part of town

He called me beautiful

Not because I was

But because he was not

Cars honked and people shouted

I guess my hoodie was too much

I guess my head down attitude

Was begging for attention

My quick walk was asking for a chase

They followed, I ran

Muy hermosa he cooed

I could have thrown up

The comment was no compliment

It was a warning

The story goes like this; My friend and I had the day to ourselves in Buenos Aires. It was our first day there, and there were no plans for the day other than to meet the rest of our group at a university across the city by 8 pm. We decided to make a day of the trip to get there. Google Maps said 2 hours walking, or a $20, 20 minute care ride. We decided on the walk so that we could fill the time and see the city. It was a good idea in theory.

We walked for about 45 super enjoyable minutes through the main part of the city. Eventually, our map took us to a big train station with a single road passing between many lanes of track and train depot lines. There was nothing about the turn onto this road that made us question our route at all, so we turned and kept walking towards the university. Very quickly though, we realized that we were not in the same part of town any longer. After walking this road for 5 to 10 minutes, we decided it would probably be best to call an Uber at this point. We weren't very far away from the school now anyway. But lo and behold, both of us had now phone service or data roaming. There would be no Uber rescue.

We had already come through quite a sketchy part of the road, but we didn't notice anything worse than some stares from passing vehicles and a few honks and whistles. There were two of us, so we figured, if we just got to the end of the road, and away from the tracks, there wouldn't be much else to worry about. In hindsight, we should have turned around then.

As we continued walking, we noticed a large villa de emergencia (slum) situated on the other side of the tracks beneath the overpass. We quickly remembered from our previous jaunt to Buenos Aires that we had been told about this slum while we were passing it on a bus on our way into the city. The area is called Villa 31. Look it up. We were told that this was the poorest area, with the 2nd highest murder rate in the entire city. But it was still far on the other side of the tracks, and we could not see that changing for the entire length of the road. Wrong again.

The cars on the road somehow became fewer and fewer, even though there was literally no turns going off the road, so I'm not sure how that even happened. But we passed by a medium sized building with a few men outside. They were on the other side of a high chain-link fence, but at this point, my friend and I were already so freaked out based on everything we had been told about this area and our prior experience with men on the street. This is when the infamous "muy hermosa" comment happened. My minimal Spanish skills picked it out in the throng of speech, and prompted my friend and I to pick up our pace and watch our backs as we passed by the men.

Luckily, shortly after this interaction, a police officer situated on roadside called out to us to ask where we we going and basically saying everything we had already figured out by then: you should not be here! We explained ourselves and our lack of knowledge of the area and told him we had no service to call for help. He was very kind and ended up driving us the rest of the way to the university. And before you think anything about corrupt government agencies, know that one of the first things our group was told before getting on the plane to go to Argentina was that the police in Argentina are kind and helpful. We had way less to worry about with the cop than we did if we continued walking down that road. Because as we found out once we went not even 2 minutes down the road in the cop car, the road passed right through Villa 31. We would have been in the middle of the most dangerous area of the city. We got really lucky finding that officer.

Like I said in my post about my experience abroad, I learned A LOT. This story was probably the least fun, but most educational experience I received while I was there. Now in hindsight I can be glad for how things turned out, and I will know for next time to be more careful in big cities! I grew up in the middle of the woods where we had to worry about safety less than 1% of the time. I am privileged for that, and this experience really opened my eyes.

The poem turned into a song a month a so later, and took on a much more generalized meaning. The song makes the experience expandable to many more shared stories of catcalling, street harassment, and verbal abuse. The story from Buenos Aires was definitely the most intense of these instances, but that made it the perfect platform to cover dozens of other similar experiences. I think too many of us know what it feels like to receive comments on the street, in the grocery store, online, from a teacher or a boss, and literally any other instance where we put ourselves around other people. He Called Me Beautiful is a big PSA to everyone, everywhere, to keep your unwelcome comments, looks, and touches to yourself.

Personally, the song was a productive and healthy way to move on from a scary memory. It was super fun to work on, record, and collaborate with, and I am super happy with the finished product. I turned a bad experience into a great song, and that is all I can ever hope to do as a songwriter!

He Called Me Beautiful

He called me beautiful again today

Said take it as a compliment it's meant to be okay

But his eyes were saying things he couldn't say out loud

so I turned my back and ran away to another town

I'm not sure what I did

I'm not sure why you're acting like that

And I don't think it's fun

To have you speaking to me like that

They called me pretty thing but yelled when I ignored it

They screamed you fucking whore you're actually not worth shit

I guess my hoodie up was begging for attention

When it comes down to it stolen times just an extension

I'm not sure what I did

I'm not sure why you're acting like that

And I don't think it's fun

To have you speaking to me like that

There comes a time to self-reflect and see that you're not worth her pain

'Cause much too often girls are seen as a prize that can be gained

But we're all people we all feel things and it's nice to have some space

So next time just please think twice and don't ask for a smile on her face

I'm not sure what I did

I'm not sure why you're acting like that

And I don't think it's fun

To have you speaking to me like that

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