MXMS - WHAT’S MY NAME
The duo MXMS step into the light about the painful reality of bullying and social exclusion on "What's My Name?" in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day.
[Content Warning: References to suicidal ideation and self-harm.]
MXMS - WHAT’S MY NAME
Fame is a funny thing. We lionize, idolize, practically worship celebrities. Heck, in America, more children want to grow up to be YouTubers/Vloggers than astronauts. To become famous, notorious, or simply even known, you must have something distinctive about you, something memorable.
The fact is that the mainstream, status-quo system is not set up to help children and adolescents become exceptional. It's to help them become average. Sure, you could get all paranoid about this, but it's more likely to do with the fact that average is more likely to equate to comfortable. No parent, teacher, or principal is going to consciously push a child towards a lifetime of privation, starvation, risk, and uncertainty. All pressures push towards a middle-of-the-road life, toeing the line and doing what you're told.
Essentially, we victimize people for what we cherish most. Some of the most beautiful, talented, capable individuals end up taking the most shit, because of it.
This is the duality explored on "What's My Name" the newest single from MXMS. It's their most real, raw, intimate, and confessional single to date, being built around a skeletal framework of spartan piano and singer Ariel Levitan's heartbreaking story of teenage alienation.
In a statement, both Ariel and Jeremey had the following to say in regards to “What’s My Name,” “I was the painfully shy girl in school that used to walk the hallways hugging the wall. I prayed that no one would really notice me and tried to camouflage myself as much as possible in efforts to avoid bullying. I would constantly hope that one day I wouldn’t be seen as a moving target. I was bullied most of my life, predominantly in my middle school & high school years. I know what it’s like to eat lunch in a bathroom stall. I know what its like to want to fit in so desperately that you’ll do just about anything. It’s funny, when were that young we don’t quite have a full grasp on what bullying really is and how it can impact you for the rest of your life. All we have in the moment is the primal instinct to run and we are left with yearning questions as to why our peers could be capable of such psychological and/or physical harm.” - Ariel
“I was adopted at an early age from a pair of teenage drug addicts into an ultra conservative christian world that I never understood or belonged a part of. I was the object of daily abuse from the kids in grade school for never being tough enough to fight, athletic enough to win at anything, never having the right clothes or saying the right things at the right time. I didn’t know who my blood family was, and felt completely alone and isolated from anything real. Endlessly ridiculed and physically bullied until high school when I finally found band of misfits where I belonged and later dealt with the trauma of birth to future with copious amounts of self-medication that I still battle today. But I stayed alive.”
"What's My Name" goes into both the causes and effects of a troubled youth. It begins, all innocence, with the same drives many young girls want - a pretty dress, a boy to be nice to her, a kiss. This innocence goes off the rails with family drama, as is so often the case with us troubled souls, and she begins to be outcast. "Boy, what's my name?/Is it slut? Is it strange?" In this simple, moving piano ballad, over the span of four minutes, we get to see how these pressures become systemic, how a troubled youth can lead to a lifetime on the margins.
It all boils to a climax, as the pretty piano chords are shredded with the final line, "I'll blow out my brains." It hits as hard as an abuser's fist, cuts more deeply than an x-acto blade. It cuts that much more deeply considering what a talented, heartfelt, hard-working musician Ariel Levitan is. The fact that people could be so cruel to someone so unique, so gifted, shatters you like a porcelain heart.
If you're reading this and you're struggling, and We Are: The Guard know this sounds as trite as some guidance counsellor's anecdote, but things truly can get better. Hang in there. Follow your dreams and work hard at them. Be a kind person and think of others.
Try and find some like-minded individuals to share sympathy and support. Trust us, many music lovers, and music makers, have been exactly where you are, right this second. Some of us might be there still. But the music sustains us, like a light in the dimness. This light helps us find one another. And then we know, that we are not alone.
You are not alone.
It is MXMS’ hope that this song will spread awareness of the severity of bullying.
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.