Please be advised that this article includes content about sexual violence.
Ever since the #MeToo movement begun gaining momentum, I have been thinking about how political realities inform romantic relationships. Though several high profile sexual assault cases have dominated the media landscape, the wave of personal story-sharing on social media illuminated that violations of consent are not always so undeniably blatant. They are perpetrated by people we think we love, by people who have said that they love us. They invite gaslighting and self-doubting and, in turn, episodic relapses, which are then used against us. How are the ways we express and expect intimacy, affection, and love, tied to power dynamics embedded in gender?
“I was perfectly inspired by the #MeToo movement to tackle certain subjects on the album that are not particularly easy to approach, whether it’s consent, abuse within a relationship, things like that… This album is pretty much a guidebook to not get caught in these things,” Beatrice Martin tells me over the phone from Toronto, where she is doing promo for her forthcoming album, en cas de tempête, ce jardin sera fermé.
Martin, a native Montrealer, has been recording music as Coeur de Pirate since 2008 when she was 18 years old. Her accolades range from several Juno nominations to winning a handful of Felix awards (the Quebecois music awards); from going gold on her albums Blonde and Roses, to being longlisted for the Polaris prize in 2009, 2012, and 2016. Recording in French and English, her albums have received critical acclaim across Canada and internationally, the kind of recognition from a Quebecois chanteur arguably unseen since peak popularity of “The Chanteuse” herself, Celine Dion. Coeur de Pirate’s 2015 album Roses was the last we had heard from her, until now.
Something I admire about Beatrice Martin’s career is her consistency in resisting compartmentalization. Her earlier work, with her undeniably sweet voice accompanied by piano and minimal instrumentation, could have been pigeonholed into coffee shop acoustic singer-songwriter. When she became recognized as a darling of the Quebec indie music scene, she began writing songs in English. When she transitioned to pop music, her lyrics evolved into the abstract, the metaphoric, and often, the grotesque. The Coeur de Pirate ethos rejects predictable narratives.
It was interesting to see how the album was ingrained in feminism, because in every song I realized how much integrated sexism I’ve applied in my life.
“In case of the storm, the garden will close,” Martin translates her new album’s title for me. “It’s basically a phrase that I stole from a garden in Paris,” she says with a laugh. “When it’s not nice out, they close the park, which is like a warning. If you’re going through shit, don’t close up. It’s a phrase that I’ve kept with me as a mantra.” To me, the title makes opening yourself up feel triumphant. It can be terrifying to acknowledge your own feelings, let alone to express how you feel: it requires being okay with the unknown. Yet in that as-of-yet unknown space could be a deeper sense of self-knowledge, self-worth.
To sever the risk from the reward is a potentially tragic feat of self-containment: keeping your guard up or not allowing yourself to feel the full spectrum of emotions makes for a less fulfilling existence. Living wholly, to Martin, is possible only through diving into the unknown. “The album is about all the things that I never said before because I was too scared and I didn’t know if people would accept them… Being vulnerable is not something that you have to be scared of. It’s through pain that you evolve, I feel strongly about that.”
Sure enough, Martin is using this album to excavate and expose painful memories. The music video for “Premonition,” the newest single off her forthcoming album, probes at the toxic cycles that can unfold in abusive relationships. I mentioned to her that I can’t help but think of the second-wave feminist adage, “the personal is political” when listening to it —that there is still something inherently political about female artists sharing their experiences with love, sex, and intimacy.
“It was interesting to see how the album was ingrained in feminism,” she responds, “because in every song I realized how much integrated sexism I’ve applied in my life, and how I’ve only gotten myself into these situations because I’m scared of frustrating someone.” “There’s a song called ‘Carte de Blanche,’ which is a very poppy, cute song, but it basically talks about, you know, you just found out your boyfriend is cheating on you, and your initial reaction is to hate the woman that it happened with. And that’s not a good reaction to have! That’s the reaction that patriarchy has imposed upon us. Other women are not the problem.”
I think of the finale of Big Little Lies, the critically acclaimed murder mystery drama, and the transformative power that becomes possible when women realize that being pitted against one another occurs at the expense of our own survival. “I realized a lot of things through finding that I need feminism in my life, just to understand so many things, from consent, to how to react when these situations happen to us.”
In August 2016, in the wake of the homophobic attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando in which 49 people were killed, Martin penned an open letter via Noisey coming out as queer. I mentioned that it was interesting that en cas de tempête, ce jardin sera fermé seems to focus on heterosexual relationships (to which she laughed, and agreed), and wondered if she felt a sense of obligation, as a public persona, to be transparent with her personal life.
“I think [getting politically engaged] is important now, I used to not think that I needed to be. I remember clearly when I was starting out, I didn’t really know if I could position myself in anything, it was weird. But this concerns my condition, my gender, my daughter.” “What’s really awesome is that by saying that I was, and I am queer, and I’m there for it, you know, people have seen my shows as a safe space, and that’s really great. I didn’t really quite get that before and I don’t know if I noticed it as much, but now I really do.”
en cas de tempête, ce jardin sera fermé utilizes the energy of the synth melodies and cutting lyricism to remind listeners that indie-pop, in its unadultured state, has the capacity to exhume and emancipate past traumas. Martin’s songwriting juxtaposes pain and release: her lyrics devastate, while the upbeat tempos liberate. “The lyrics are very very hard, but the production is very upbeat. It’s just a way for me to get through things, and to cope, and [to] re-appropriate the events that happened to me. I have songs that talk about conjugal rape on the album; it’s not really fun, but the song is still upbeat, and it’s a tango, and it’s me being like ‘these events don’t own me, I own them, and I’m going to cope the way that I’m supposed to cope.’”
And yet, despite the incredible resilience necessary to experience this spectrum of emotion, Martin tells me she has been called “too much.” I feel a personal kinship with women who have been told that they are too sensitive, too much, over-emotional, as if these qualities are the antithesis to strength, rationality, emotional intelligence. It’s something women with strong personalities are often told, as though shrinking us will solve our problems.
I’m not really scared anymore. I used to be, but I’m not anymore.
“Hypersensitivity is a big problem for a lot of women, because we feel things, and the fact that we feel things… is seen as a weakness because people are very scared of being something that [others] don’t understand. I’ve been told that I’m too much, that… I’m strong minded, but in a negative way.”
en cas de tempête, ce jardin sera fermé is a testament to courage —the courage to not only feel, but telling people how you feel, despite being told that it makes you less palatable, less loveable. To be okay with what others might deem “too much” is to tend to the flame that enlivens you, to nurture it, nourish it. It is, after all, only through storms that gardens can grow.
“I’m not really scared anymore. I used to be, but I’m not anymore. And I’m just so happy that things are out and I get to share them with everyone, and that [listeners] get to translate their own stories into the music, that’s why music is so powerful, because you can do what you want with it.”