Hurt is the 11th album in the A Year of Music project. It is unlike any of the other albums in the current catalog of work, as it is 10 tracks long and focused on a specific topic: Amanda Todd.
In 2013 I released an album called Deconstruction. During the creation of that album was when I first heard the name, Amanda Todd. I know the date well: October 13, 2012. It was three days after her suicide. That was the day I sat down and wrote out a song called “For Amanda”.
The song was primarily driven by anger at those who pushed her to her fate. I’m someone who has been to that same cliff and jumped off. In my case, it didn’t work. For Amanda, it did.
I can’t explain how mad I was at people for letting this happen. She reached out for help online and was torn down and attacked because of it. I was angry at the whole world for letting this happen. Not just that, but I was also angry at myself. Even though I didn’t know anything about her until afterward, I still felt responsible.
When I was recording the track, I mentioned something that has stuck with me since that day. I stated that this is your life, not theirs. Do not let others take it from you. That has since become my mantra and is a big part of the guidance I provide on YouHaveaFuture.org.
Fast forward to November 2020.
I was behind on the A Year of Music project and had albums stacked up and waiting to be released. Album #11 was intended to be something else. It was similar to Dreadnought and God of Odd. I had worked my way through several of the tracks when something happened.
I changed my mind–completely and without reason.
I really have no idea why I changed my mind. I don’t even remember when it happened. All I know is that one day I was working on battle-style tracks and the next I was working on the album that would be called Hurt. I don’t even remember what was supposed to be on #11 anymore. It’s like someone changed the channel and I was just working on her album instead.
Now, while I can’t say why that shift happened, I do know that I didn’t want to just make another song for her. Instead, I chose to make a whole album. But how do you make an album for someone like this? That’s simple:
You write what you wish you could do, what you wish you could say, and you don’t hold back.
I decided early on that the album would be a mix of music and non-music tracks. While other albums had skits and interludes, this album was different. Every other track is a song, while the others are all non-music. The first two were short, while the last three ran very long. The final non-music track, Saving Amanda, was 34 minutes.
This album is one of the only albums from the whole year that didn’t feature Hannah. While she and I were going through issues around that time, we had since patched things up. However, as I told her on Dreadnought, I needed to go away to do this on my own.
Another fact about this album, one which will be noticed by no one is that every instrumental and sample came from before October 2012. This was deliberate. If I could go back, every instrumental used on this album would be possible at that time.
And going back is exactly what I wanted.
The premise of Hurt revolves around the idea of going back in time to fix a mistake. In this case, the mistake is not just hers but mine. Now armed with the knowledge of who she was and what she was facing, I enlist the help of someone to build a time machine that can send me back to help her. The problem is that it sends me to October 9th. I have one day to help turn her around, or at least put a pause on things to buy more time.
The idea for this is rooted in reality. I don’t mean that we can time travel, I mean that if I could, this is exactly what I would do. I wouldn’t go back and play the lottery or buy tons of Bitcoin for $1.
No, I would try to save Amanda. She was an immensely talented kid who had a bright future ahead of her. She just needed help getting there.
A lot of people make fake emotional music. What I mean is that they pretend to cry or be upset just for the sake of the song. I get that. You’re trying to craft a particular mood and image for the music.
That’s not what happened here.
What you are listening to is real. The emotional breakdown I went through on the final two tracks was not an act. I completely fell apart while recording. Years ago on Becoming Nothing, I got upset near the end, but it was nowhere close to what happened to me here. I was straight up crying my eyes out.
This wasn’t completely unexpected. Before I started working on “Her Story”, I dug up all of Amanda’s videos. I watched every one of them, some multiple times. This was not easy for me. Seeing how talented she was, how she wanted approval from people just like every other kid, it just really hurt. Then I watched the card video. It was the first time I ever watched it.
It broke my heart. I can’t bring myself to watch it again.
One of the ideas I had for the non-music tracks was to do them spontaneously. They tell the story of me going back in time and trying to help turn her around, and if I had that chance, I’m likely not going to have a prepared script with me. So “Advisory” and “Ultra-Rewinder Machine Thing 4000” are the only scripted non-music tracks. The others are all off the top of my head as they are being recorded. They were done in single takes.
For “Saving Amanda,” the track was intentionally long. The reason was that I knew I needed to make it past a certain point in time. This way, she would miss that fateful moment. The problem is that I ended up doing a lot of babbling. I even mentioned at one point that it seems like I’m just trying to talk a lot for some reason. That’s the reason.
Fortunately, all of that talking worked and I successfully kept Amanda here, alive.
Unfortunately, that’s not what actually happened. This isn’t Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, and as much as I wish I could change the past, I can’t. While I knew that realization was going to land in the recording, I didn’t anticipate the upset and uncontrollable ranting that came after it. I also didn’t want to remove it because it was an honest, raw look at how I felt.
And I think she needed that to be said.
At the end of “Face to Face,” I told her that I would send her a track of mine so she could hear what kind of music I make. I was trying to talk her into working on music with me, and I wanted to give her something that would convince her.
As I tried to figure out what to do, the thought of making a track specifically for her came to mind. That’s how “Take Your Power Back” came to be.
When I sat down to write that song, I knew that I couldn’t just write anything. I needed to write something special. I had to write a song that would get her attention. I had to literally write a song for Amanda. And that’s what I did.
“Take Your Power Back” is the song I wish I could have given her. It’s something I wrote, specifically aimed at her, with the intention of helping her see that she had more strength than she realized. I wanted to give her a semi angry song that was motivational, inspiring, loud, and tough. I wanted to speak to her in a way that would break through the pain and would show her that none of these people are worthy of her tears. I wanted to help her see that she can stand up, she can fight back, and she can take her power back.
Of all the music I make, for the rest of my life, I know that I will never make a better song than “Take Your Power Back.” Though it was written specifically for Amanda Todd, I believe it can speak to others.
Amanda had always wanted to write a song that bullied kids could listen to and know that it’s not their fault and that things will get better. She never got that chance. Maybe this can do the job for her.
I wrote “Her Story” in one night. I had to because it hurt so much to hold all of that in.
Before I even started, I knew the track would be very long. I knew there would be no hooks, and that the song was likely going to destroy me. Finding the music for it was difficult. I knew the tone but wasn’t sure about what to use. I went through multiple melodies, including acoustic guitars and multiple piano loops.
Finally, I quit digging and used something Amanda liked: “Jar of Hearts” by Christina Perri.
The piano worked perfectly for the song, and being that Amanda herself sang a cover of it once, I felt like she would appreciate it. So, for nearly 9 minutes, I told her story as best as I could. Part way through, I started falling apart but managed to pull myself back together and continue. I didn’t do as well in the last few seconds and almost couldn’t continue. It’s really hard to read lyrics when your eyes are full of tears.
I powered through the rest of it and finished the track because I knew I couldn’t do that again. There was no way that was going to happen, and I said as much. I just could not do it.
After the verse, I was notably upset and complaining about what had happened to her. Just as I did with “Saving Amanda”, I ranted for a moment before finally making myself stop. Amanda took over from there.
The last couple of minutes of the song are of her singling “Outside Looking In” by Jordan Pruitt. Though she had sung “Jar of Hearts”, there were a couple of reasons I went with this one instead. For one, the recording didn’t have any background music in it, while her Jar of Hearts cover did. The recording quality was also better.
But the main reason I went with it was that not only was this the last video she released, but what she was saying fit her completely.
Her voice being on this album needed to happen. It couldn’t just be me talking, rapping, breaking down into a depressed pile of goo. Amanda had to be there. And she was, in more ways than people notice. What do I mean?
The cover of the album has no writing, and is just her photo. The back, features another photo, the track listing and additional text. Among that text is the album title, Hurt.
The album title is in Amanda’s handwriting. So yes, she literally had a hand in the creation of this album.
I am a broken person. I know that, and I’ve talked about it for many years in my music. But as screwed up as I am, I’ve managed to pull myself out of that pit of shit I was stuck in for so long.
I never knew Amanda. I wish I did. I wish I was able to go back and fix this, to help her fight through the pain and hurt so she could be here, celebrating her 25th birthday this year.
This did not have to happen, and though I can’t do anything about what happened to Amanda, I can do something about others. Amanda has shifted my gears, so to speak. You see, I was on a specific path but something happened. Think of me like an asteroid flying through space. I’m moving along on my path until out of nowhere, something smacks into me from the side. Now, my path has changed.
I believe it was Amanda who smacked me. She hit me hard enough to knock me back on track and do what I need to be doing. Because of her, a few things have happened.
First of all, my music is changing. You’ll see more of what I mean when Home is released.
Second, I’ve finally launched a side project I had wanted to do for some time. That project is called YouHaveAFuture.org. On the site, I provide advice and guidance through a blog. The main focus is on kids and teenagers who are suffering from depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other forms of negative self-conscious behavior. I relate a lot of my own past issues, some I’ve never mentioned before. I need them to understand that they aren’t alone and that this isn’t the end of their story.
I am also working on music specifically for YouHaveAFuture.org. One is a collaboration album. Each track has open space for any of the audience of the site. They can rap, sing, or do spoken word with me as we let music help us through our problems. I’ve also included separate instrumentals they can use on their own.
And last to be mentioned, I do support the Amanda Todd Legacy Society. I wish it didn’t have to exist. I wish that kid could be here. But until I find a genie, I will continue to support her legacy as I have.
If We Could Go Back – Anno Domini Beats, The Unbeatables
Trauma – The Unbeatables
Take Your Power Back – Telling Beatzz
Her Story – Sample from Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri
Note: There was a lot of extra reverb going on when I recorded the vocals. Unfortunately, I can’t do a lot to get rid of that. So soon, I’ll be re-recording “Take Your Power Back.”