Using someone else's words/music to express yourself is tricky business, as anyone's who's ever made a mixtape can attest to. On one hand, it's a subtle art of plagiarism, borrowing someone's cred and lived experience to make yourself seem more interesting. On the other, you clearly resonate with the material or you wouldn't have put it on the mix. It does say something about you, is a part of you, even if someone else made it originally.

Artists who come to prominence via someone else's song is an interesting phenomenon. In some regards, it's even harder than getting noticed for your own creativity, which rings out with sincerity and authenticity (even when it's neither.) It also requires improving on the original in some regard, enough so to be noticeable and noteworthy. Look at Grayson Chance's piano-led cover of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi," transforming Gaga's tale of paranoia and fame into the tenderness and uncertainty of youth. Or Johnny Cash's take on Nine Inch Nail's "Hurt," which turned Trent Reznor's masochism and self-destruction into a heart-melting ode to his departed wife and longtime partner June Carter-Cash.

North Carolina cellist Kelsey Lu has been raising eyebrows and turning heads with a couple of noteworthy covers leading up to her much-anticipated solo debut. Following a well-received cover of Joni Mitchell's "River" on Christmas Eve, Lu's take on the smooth, soulful art-funk of 10cc's "I'm Not In Love" wraps the original in gauze, lace, and cobwebs. It teases out the romance while amping out the remoteness and detachment that is all-too-common in today's relationships. 10cc's soul-funk rhythm section is replaced with a simple pulsing heartbeat, lulling and enervating in equal measure. It's the sound of placing your ear on your lover's chest and letting it lull you into a trance.



The accompanying Super 8 music video re-imagines love as a kind of insular universe, an infinite bedroom where the world has no hold, where time stops and you're left with an eternity to explore your partner, yourself. It's an endless expanse, where you've got all the time in the micro-verse to be yourself, to love fully and truly.

Kelsey Lu reminds us that love isn't dead in 2019. It's just changing, as it always is. In the process, she's written a new romantic epic for a new generation of mixtapes. We Are: The Guard will be placing "I'm Not In Love" on our Valentine's Day mixtapes, that's for sure!


J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.