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  • Giavanna Gradaille

Review: "blue balloons (feat. Semler)" - Miki Ratsula

I think one of the biggest shames of pop culture are the stereotypes it developed for the LGBTQIA* community for the sake of public palatability. It’s robbed members’ ability to express emotions beyond the confines of these stereotypes; simply put, it’s robbed us of any humanity. It also reinforces an unspoken expectation, too. By consistently portraying community members in the same confining caricatures, there’s then an expectation for us to uphold these caricatures in both public and private spaces. But thankfully, we have artists like Miki Ratsula who defy these expectations and reclaim our humanity. In their latest single, “blue balloons (featuring Semler)”, Ratsula takes listeners through the disheartening experience of being misgendered by a close friend.

The indie-pop single “blue balloons (feat. Semler)” showcases how unintentional and accidental errors still leave a sizable impact. Most importantly, it reflects the cornucopia of hurt and questioning that occurs in the aftermath of this event. The single opens with folksy guitar plucking that leads into the first verse. Within this verse, listeners learn that Ratsula was misgendered at their own birthday party. Being misgendered is already an indescribable blow, but to have it occur on a day celebrating you and come from a friend – it has the ability to send you into a downward spiral of emotions. When a friend has known you for so long, there’s a history that’s been established. To forget something as simple yet crucial as pronouns feels like a betrayal of the time the two of you spent together. And it makes a person (whether consciously or unconsciously) reevaluate this time together. The reevaluation raises important questions regarding the legitimacy and depth of the connection; if the friend cares as deeply about you as they’ve made it appear - or if it’s even remotely close to matching the adoration you have for them. Questioning the friendship then evolves into self-questioning that downplays the accomplishments that were made to get to this version of yourself, which listeners hear in the second verse. Ratsula sings in the latter half of this verse: "What I’d give for one more wish / Not to see me as I was / But someone different". This takes listeners into the melancholy chorus sung with Semler that’s a rewording of Lesley Gore’s hit, “It’s My Party”; and there’s great irony behind this inclusion. Gore was a proud lesbian whose queerness was absentmindedly forgotten in the bulk of their obituaries after their passing. The reworded chorus serves a greater purpose than being catchy – it highlights the importance of identity and how little things like pronouns help fortify your identity. Then, to find out how excited Ratsula was in the lullaby-like bridge for their own party, to only have this excitement turn into grave disappointment – it makes my heart ache over the carelessness. Yet in the face of this event, Ratsula shows nothing but resilience throughout it all alongside Semler. Which is all we really can do in moments like this. And to Ratsula: I hope at the next birthday party you’re surrounded by people that understand the importance of being recognized as yourself in the present, and not as you once were.

Finnish-American singer and songwriter, Miki Ratsula, has independently been releasing music since they were 16. Amassing a large community of fans that adore their transparency and honesty about their personal life before the release of their 2022 debut album, i owe it to myself. Ratsula is also no stranger to Pop Passion. In early May, we briefly covered their memorable feature in the review for Jules Paymer’s piano ballad, “The Daughter That My Mother Wanted”. Since the single, the Southern California based artist has been working on their sophomore album i’ll be fine if i want to, that’s set to release on October 6th. With "blue balloons (feat. Semler)" being a little taste of what's to come from the album. But if you can’t wait that long, Ratsula has live performances scheduled: they’ll be performing today at Los Angeles Pride, and Nashville Pride later this month on June 24th. Tickets for both pride events can be found here, on their website. Semler is a queer Christian artist with a mission to make religion more inclusive and welcoming of LGBTQIA* members. In 2021, their sophomore album, Preacher’s Kid, reached the top of the Christian music charts - becoming the No. 1 album. An achievement that both shocked and surprised the music industry. But the album resonated with masses of believers whose identities was never welcomed nor acknowledged by religious institutions because of their queerness. Semler’s music has sought to create meaningful discussions around an institution that preaches inclusivity, but only willingly offers it to some. Other singles to check out form the artist are their latest release “Faith”, and “Same Lover”. And as always, show the iconic voices of the queer community some virtual love in the form of streams, likes, and follows.

Written by Giavanna Gradaille




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