Brooklyn-based singer Apollo Flowerchild pronounces an anthem of self-affirmation with their new single “Bloody Hands.”
Listen: “Bloody Hands” – Apollo Flowerchild
What is it that certifiably makes an anthem, an anthem? What are the qualitative properties that signify that title? “We’re the Champions,” “Love on Top,” and “Here’s To Never Growing Up” are three examples that come to mind. Perhaps it’s the epic production or the intrinsic levity of their lyrics or, maybe, it is a certain overlooked, elusive quality: subjectivity. Anthems, as they’re commonly understood, are about togetherness – the rallying battle cry that encapsulates a group, generation, etc. Yet, while their purpose is inspiration for wide accessibility, the insular nature and personal relationship to an anthem are fundamental. Anthems have to feel like they’re written for you while still accessible for the world. The songs with all these qualities are rare and well sought after, and in 2020, a song that deserves the honorable title of “anthem” comes from the compassionate and deeply nuanced single “Bloody Hands” by Brooklyn-based Apollo Flowerchild.
Flowerchild is one of the artists signed to the TransTrenderz Label as part of the Ghostly Beats Project – a project to bring Black trans artists, rightfully, to the forefront, a start that began with performing for Blxck Cxsper, leader for the Ghostly Beats Project, at an open mic at their place of work. The rest is, as they say, history. Flowerchild cites their music as “by the community for the community,” and god are we excited to see success. Not only because Flowerchild’s friend describes their music as “a warm hug” but to see and hear a non-binary trans person of color be unabashedly confident and uplifting is integral for communities globally. Flowerchild wrote “Bloody Hands” from interwoven memories of a queer camp based in NYC, and it’s irrefutably an anthem for the community.
In the first verse, they start their narrative off with hardship. “So I burn away my fears, Holding in my tears ‘til I get home. They said love is the key.” Then they take it a step further, adding a subjective context, “Maybe you’re the one mistake I need, To know no one is right for me.” To be trans and have to wrestle with the idea that maybe you’re not meant to be loved is a common one, and, unfortunately, we’re always looking for the “final straw.” “I’m regretting every choice, destroying all the things that I hold dear, and a dark cloud hovers near.” How can anything feel right when your very existence feels wrong?
Yet, as heart-wrenching as Flowerchild’s first verse is, they immediately find a different light with their chorus. “And all I need’s to get out of my funk, You broke me down, I build myself back up again. Feeling more vulnerable than I have ever been. Find something that you love and hold it within, Your bloody hands.” The idea of bloody hands comes from the phrase “you’ve got blood on your hands” often said when you’ve hurt, betrayed, or just done something wrong. Flowerchild, however, brings about an interesting idea; that perhaps you have your own blood on your hands – and maybe that is the most powerful thing of all. Throughout the strife and the relentless pain, remember yourself and everything that makes you, you – your “blood” so to speak.
Watch: “Bloody Hands” – Apollo Flowerchild
Flowerchild returns to their second verse relaying similar feelings to the first. “I’m running through the dark, Afraid to ever stop or I’ll fall down, and no one will hear the sound.” They talk so vividly with imagery of darkness and suffocation, all to contemplate their place and importance to anyone – in a world that pushes you to the margins and your community falls on jaded ears no less. The last line, however, hits the hardest with its delicate poignancy, “I’m buried fairly deep, Underneath things I searched for but never found, And I’m holding that shovel now.” Queerness comes with relational trauma and repression. Our lives need to be hidden and kept secret for our own safety, yet Flowerchild is determined we unearth what has been forced underground and, moreover, use it!
When we think about bridges, in a musical sense, it’s typically about bridging the chorus and a verse together. Flowerchild, however, uses it in that traditional sense but also finds a more literal definition. “And though my past is stained with blood, and scars from all the ones that I’ve ever loved. I’m cutting through the thorns, this time, leaving nothing undone.” This is the huge “hurrah” of the track, the climactic moment where Flowerchild realizes their own, and thus our, power. Flowerchild articulates on excavation; they have realized the best way to get over something is to go through, and they’re tired of being ashamed of their past. Flowerchild wants to keep every experience close to home, in the palm of their hands, as it makes us who we are.
During the climax, Flowerchild emerges victorious and grateful. “And now I am all out of my funk, I can breathe again, learn to love someone else.” Flowerchild has moved out of their funk and has found something they thought they lost. As trite as it sounds, it’s honest that you cannot love someone until you love yourself. “Standing tall above the clouds even though I’m scared, and I can’t wait to hold you with my two hands. Cause you’re all I have, you’re all I have.” Flowerchild has a clever way throughout this whole track of making it sound like they are speaking about love for another person, but with a little more thought, it’s clear they mean themselves. At the end of the day we only have ourselves, and to deny self-love and self-fulfillment is inhumane. If Flowerchild’s rallying cry for all of us to love who we were and who we are in order to be the best version of who we’ll become isn’t an anthem, I simply don’t know what is.
Flowerchild ends the track on a bittersweet outro, “And I was the last stepping stone, to being better than I’ve ever been before. And when I cry, I’ll cry, I’ll laugh, then I’ll die. But I won’t waste another second dwelling on, my bloody hands.” They are well aware that life comes with much more pain and eventual death, but they’re not scared. The blood on their hands has dried and they can hold their own hand through all the heartache and joy. Flowerchild has gained the most important approval of all; their own.
In unprecedented times of isolation, we’re entrapped by self-hatred and comparison. We feel a bitter resentment for the way the world looks around us as we mourn the minutiae of the human experience. Although, if we can take Flowerchild’s message and apply it to the specific, and even the general, we can remember something important: we must be ok with where we are now to proceed. “Bloody Hands” is an anthem for those whose feelings are insurmountable or that the last embers of hope are disintegrating. The blood on their hands is permanent, just like the wounds that bred them, so the only way to heal is to acknowledge and move forward to tomorrow. The definition of an anthem might be ambiguous but Flowerchild’s words are not: do not be scared of past grief or of yourself – the two go hand in hand.
Listen: “Bloody Hands” – Apollo Flowerchild
? © Daniel-José Cyan
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