Commentary on “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech”

Credit to…”coastscapes” from

After watching HBO’s documentary Shouting Fire, I can’t say that I was totally surprised but it did help me to reflect on my personal life, and obviously, the real meaning of freedom of speech.

As you might now, I was born in Colombia, a country infamously known for its drug trafficking cartels and a 50-year-old armed conflict between guerrillas and the state.  The country seems to have controlled to some extent these two issues; however, there are still thousands of cases where liberty in all its forms has being taken away from its citizens. Freedom of speech and press exist but sometimes, people pay a great price.

I’m providing this example as the background story of how I was inspired to become a journalist after a very important Colombian political satirist called Jaime Garzon was killed by suspected right-wing paramilitary forces. (Although, the case remains open due to heavy accusations made against army generals that indicate that they were in fact the ones behind his death.)

Garzon was a really good journalist and commentator, who created many political satire shows that were very popular during the 90’s. (Think of a “Colombian Jon Stewart”) In his shows, Garzon highly criticized every aspect of the country’s politics, military and judicial processes, the war on drugs and the social and cultural situation of Colombian society. Myself, and many people in my country believe that he was murdered because he spoke with the truth. He was enforcing his earned right to speak, and yet, in a nation politically modeled by the values of democratic countries such as the U.S, he was brutally assassinated.

Absurdly naive, I looked up to all these American films and television series that proudly portrayed a “free country;” and I wondered if it was truly real. So, when my mother came to New York, and I found myself living in this city, I started to comprehend that although there is some freedom, in fact “you have to fight for it”, as Martin Garbus (First Amendment Atttorney featured on the documentary) said.

I consider myself lucky to have had many different politically opinionated professors at CUNY. (I will not say their names, to protect their privacy. Because hey! You never know if they end up being accused of something.) But this type of influence might seem wrong to many people, (including some of those who appeared in the documentary,) but this positive exposure really opened my eyes, and helped me see both sides of the coin. As a soon-to-be journalist, I can definitely understand better how some mediums undeniably participate in a biased process of misinformation; sometimes even working against the freedoms of its citizens, such as the case of Debbie Almontaser, the Muslim teacher of Yemeni descent that told her story on Shouting Fire.

The only thing I regret is that documentaries like this one are barely funded or promoted in local channels. Hopefully, the internet provides us with an open window of learning, where we can read, listen and watch various versions of a same event. But bear in mind that this wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for a continuous movement of people that still defend the internet. Truly enforcers of the right to protest, to assemble and to speak.

Opposite to what happened to Garzon, people might not be murdered here in the United States for what they say. (And its citizens should consider themselves lucky for that.) But taking away someone’s job, banning him from a place or institution, using McCarthyism tactics or police actions against him just because he says what he believes in , it’s not just totally undemocratic, it also socially wrong.

It’s almost like denying our right to have a mouth.


Violator by Depeche Mode – Final review

Credit to…

It’s amazing to think that Violator is 22 years old. (I was still in diapers when it came out!) It is an album that feels contemporary even though the instrumentation is very eighties-ish. The lyrics are relevant as well, suggesting everyday life topics that range from pain, love, desire, fear, obsession, to faith.

“World in My Eyes” was the dancing sexy track of Violator; the one that I’ll happily play at a party nowadays. (I bet the crowd will go crazy!) Then, we have “Sweetest Perfection;” a really intriguing and captivating pop song. I found it to be one of the most singular tracks in the whole album. Guitars, drums, electronic synthesizer sounds, strings…just amazing.

“Personal Jesus” is without a doubt the heart of the album. It combines to perfection electric sounds, an amazing bluesy guitar riff, heavy drums and the incredible stimulating vocals of Dave Gahan. This can be a techno-pop anthem in all its glory.

Another track I rejected after my first impression was “Halo.” However, now that I’ve listened so many times, I respect it. It has a solid sound.  Subsequent to this, came the most unlistenable track of all, “Waiting For the Night;” an eternal soft ballad that failed to ignite any feeling other than despise.

And if “Personal Jesus” was the heart of the album, I think “Enjoy the Silence” was the brain of it. Here, Depeche Mode achieves glorifying perfection. Musically gripping, innovative and intense, this song will always remain as one of my favorite ones ever. Its lyrics are absolutely astonishing, and the music video will stay fixed in my memory forever.

“Policy of Truth” is also one of the most upbeat and sexier tracks in Violator, with a very distinct sound. “Blue Dress and Clean were a very good ending to the album with solid beats and singing.

In overall, I had high expectations for Violator and even though it wasn’t easy to assimilate it at first, it did make it me enjoy the music. I suppose that’s what matters at the end. Depeche Mode’s recent albums have not had as much success as the 90’s album, but you can’t argue that this British synth-pop band can rock heavily. Violator is a clean proof of that.  I rate it 4 ½ out of 5.

I leave you with a video of a Depeche Mode concert in Barcelona… so you can get a good dose of good music…

Avoid “waiting for the night…”

Credit to

This is the only song I didn’t like from Violator. It seemed very promising from the beginning but it fell into absolute boredom. It’s one of those tracks which can easily be forgotten. The ensemble of different instruments is catchy, I’ll admit it, but its repetition drove me insane. It lacked the energy of the rest of the album. It didn’t have the upbeat and mystery that was plastered all over Violator. To me, it was very depressing.

And it’s not that Depeche Mode doesn’t try to do their best at making “Waiting for the Night” appealing. They introduce background whispering voices, changing the mood of the song a little bit towards the end, but there is not excitement, no passion, nothing. Plus, this is the only track in which I feel Dave Gahan is singing without putting any effort in it. The lyrics are average, nothing exciting at all.  I think it’s ironic that the whole theme of the song is desperation; because that’s exactly what I feel with its never-ending tediousness.

I don’t understand how this track made it to the final cut of Violator. The whole album is nearly flawless but this song ruined it badly. Maybe if it wasn’t so long, or if it was a little more vibrant and unpredictable, it will make a good track. I really don’t know what else to say. Probably that I wished there was an automatic skipping option so that I could simply ignore “Waiting for the Night.”

I’ll give this dreary track 2 out of 5… and I think I’m being way too nice. Hey! I won’t even put a youtube video! I refuse to put you through this!

Sweetest discovery…

Credit to… Chris Lee/Los Angeles Times

This track was intriguing. First, I didn’t like it at all because I thought it was too slow and uninteresting. But this pop-ballad-techno song won my heart after listening to it carefully. It was “the surprising song” of Violator by Depeche Mode.

The bass line which marks the soft rhythm gives “Sweetest Perfection” a really mysterious charm. The accompanying drum loop (which sounds as a snare drum) works perfectly along with the sporadic synth-pop sounds in the background. But definitely, the best part of the whole song is the additional string sequences towards the middle and the end of the song. It offers a dramatic twist that creates a refined sense of tension and release. The drum beat and the electronic sounds complement even more this part; which in my opinion is one of the strongest sections of Violator. Extremely pleasant to the ear and to my mind.

I also think that this is one of the finest song-writing in the whole album. Martin Gore who writes most of Depeche Mode’s songs; surprisingly brings his vocal abilities to the track. I think it works fine, but I’m left wondering if Dave Gahan would have done a better job.

And even though the lyrics make an obvious reference to drugs, I believe they are enigmatic. It seems logic (but wrong) to assume the relationship between rock stars and drug addictions, but I’m sure Gore is referring to a very different type of obsession. It might be the possessive power of an idea, or an overwhelming feeling of jealousy towards something or someone, but there is definitely something that consumes the singer. He calls this his “sweetest perfection;” because that’s what he perceives.

Finally, I’m really happy that I went through the whole process of listening to “Sweetest Perfection” a couple more times and not just discard it as junk. Sometimes that happens with some of the albums that I purchase. I have the bad habit of skipping a track just because it doesn’t attract me in the first couple of minutes and I might be missing something really good. And this is definitely the case with this song.

I rate this song 4 out 5 for having a different tone than the rest of the album, but I think that its instrumentation is probably the major factor for this high rating.

Lyrics found in

World in my eyes… Depeche Mode

Credit to…

Depeche Mode’s “World in my Eyes” instantly caught my attention with its upbeat and sensual synthesizers’ sounds. This is a track that invites your body to move; to feel the music. The lyrics are tempting as well, and combined with the melody, it creates a really awesome effect which evokes a really sexual feeling.

This is another track in Violator that feels modern. The electronic sound with its mystifying appeal is dynamic; it never stays the same. It creates a really absorbing impulsive and wild mood. Synchronized to the lyrics, “World in my Eyes” is absolutely provocative. Some lines are repeated over and over in a very clear effort to convince (the listener) to surrender his/her body to its instincts.

You can see this here:

Now let your mind do the walking
And let my body do the talking
Let me show you the world in my eyes

I’ll take you to the highest mountain
To the depths of the deepest sea
And we won’t need a map
Believe me

The voice of Dave Gahan is full of sensuality which adds even a more distinctive sound to “World in my Eyes.” He evokes a really powerful feeling of taboo and thrill which I love! I’ll definitely let him show me, the world in his eyes. (Just, don’t tell my boyfriend.) Martin Gore said that the song “It’s saying that love and sex and pleasure are positive things.”  (This means I wasn’t too far from the basic meaning of the song!)

The official music video for “World in my Eyes” did not impress me much. A mix of concert footage images with the image of Gahan seducing girl in a drive-in cinema; pretty basic, I think.

I’ll rate this song a 4.5 out of 5 for its great instrumentation and electrifying lyricism.

Lyrics found in

Credit also to the book Stripped: Depeche Mode by Jonathan Miller.

Enjoy the Silence… really, enjoy it!

Credit to…

More than silence, this song is so beautifully crafted that it can be played out loud anywhere! Once again, “Enjoy the Silence” is a masterpiece.

This track came to me once again, thanks to Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park. He remixed the song, and this version was included in Depeche Mode’s Remixes 81-04 album. The music video for that adaptation (Which was named: “Enjoy the Silence 04”) was shown extensively in Latin-American rock music channels; and that’s how I discovered the song. If I had to choose which one I like best, the original version or the remix, I will say both.

To me, the Violator’s version of “Enjoy the Silence” blows me away because it feels unbelievably modern and fresh. Electronic sounds are becoming more widely used; they have been adapted to many different types of musical genres, from alternative rock, pop, rap and even indie (among others.) It can easily be said that Depeche Mode was ahead of their time; or that at least, they understood the importance of breaking genre barriers and introduce blending elements to their music.

The characteristic leading rhythm of the song and the background electronic clashing sounds along with the mysterious voice of Dave Gahan invites you to relax and enjoy the track. Its melody is soft but upbeat at the same time, creating a very soothing atmospheric feeling.

I think the lyrics are pretty straightforward. The singer simply asks to the world to be quiet. Not a spoken word that could start an argument or a fight. He is claiming that words hurt, deceive, and separate us. The tranquility of his soul rests silently in his arms; the girl that he holds; the feeling that attaches him to her is not based on words only, is beyond that…

In this “modern” world, communication takes such an important part of our everyday lives, however I do believe that sometimes we become oversaturated by massive quantities of information. We’re constantly being bombarded by advertisements, political promises and absurd news; phones ring all the time and television and radio seem not to have a turn-off option anymore. It seems almost impossible to get a moment of peace in our lives. I think “Enjoy the Silence” makes you reflect on that.

I think the original music video shapes that idea even more. The king looking for a place where to rest; ends up in the top of a mountain away from everything. The World Trade Center version, (which was the one I first saw; ) it also conveys the idea of silent serenity. The towers can be seen as a symbolic icon of our civilization; a place that oversees the horizon, where you can simply find some type of serenity. (But you can even argue that the song which talks about the power of words, can easily be applied to the the WTC’s sad fate.)

For its amazing and up-to-date musicality and the reflective meaning of the lyrics and video, I definitively have to give “Enjoy the Silence” 5 out of 5.

Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode

Credit to Subnoise.chI admitted before that I first listened to Marilyn Manson’s cover of this song. And yes, I like it a lot. But after I discovered Depeche Mode’s original version, I can definitely say that this is among my top 100 favorite songs. (Hey, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make my own ranking and brag about all the music I’ve ever listened to.) Anyway, I believe that “Personal Jesus” is a masterpiece. It’s such a perfect delight that it almost outshines the rest of Violator.

Musically, the guitar riff is legendary “Personal Jesus;” the steady drum beat is flawless, the background keyboards are immersive, and the lyrics are sung with such an extraordinary vocal command, that it does in fact “make (s) you a believer.” This is one of Depeche Mode’s songs which feels more like a classic rock song than an electro-pop track, (mostly because of the use of the guitar), but it still contains the band’s electronic signature.

Lyrically, I always believed that “Personal Jesus” was in fact… a song about religion. I found the lyrics to be ironic; some type of out-loud statement by a crazy evangelist who proclaims he is Jesus himself; however, I feel there is some twisted intention behind his words. To put it in a more common example, it reminds of me the church’s huge problem with rapist priests. I especially believe this after hearing these lines/ I’ll make you a believer/ I will deliver / You know I’m a forgiver. I don’t know, but it definitely sounds somewhat perverted to me.   

According to Martin Gore (who is the main songwriter of the band; ) “Personal Jesus” was actually inspired by the book Elvis and Me, written by Priscilla Presley. He said: “It’s a song about being a Jesus for somebody else, someone to give you hope and care. It’s about how Elvis was her man and her mentor and how often that happens in love relationships; how everybody’s heart is like a god in some way. We play these god-like parts for people but no one is perfect, and that’s not a very balanced view of someone is it?”

I think both explanations work fine. The good thing about songs (or art) is that they have interchangeable meanings and everyone feels them differently. And if you see the music video, “Personal Jesus” could have total different meaning.

For its fantastic and unforgettable sound and its really provocative lyricism…I give “Personal Jesus” 5 out of 5.  

Enjoy this really cool version of the song:

Article credit to Spin:

Lyrics found in

Violator… Second Impression

Breaking News: I’m officially hooked to Violator.  

During the last couple of weeks I’ve been listening to the album A LOT. At first, I was a little skeptical mostly because some songs did not have a “wow factor.” But the more I listen, the more I understand the concept of Depeche Mode’s Violator. When done properly, the synthesizers’ sounds can be unbelievably catchy, almost danceable and body gripping. This powerful effect works perfectly because it brings out a very sexually charged feeling to the whole album, along with the enchanting whispered sensuality of the vocals by Dave Gahan (Martin Gore is the vocal lead of some songs, but he lacks the same effect than Gahan.)

Something I really enjoyed, and that I didn’t notice at first, was the musical interludes between some songs, mostly because Linkin Park (who is heavily influenced by Depeche Mode) uses them all the time. I find this to be a very original way to engage the listener in the natural flow of the album. Personally, it functioned greatly. I also started to pay attention to songs I didn’t like at first, such as “Sweetest Perfection” which has slowly won my appreciation. Others however, keep being avoidable such as “Clean.”

During this week, I did some research on the history of the English band, (which is amazing.) The fact that Depeche Mode has been constantly evolving without losing their essence is very respectable. (You can’t say that of many bands, nowadays.) I really enjoy the fact that Violator’s distinguishable electronic instrumentation (owed to Martin Gore’s mostly) does not overlays the basic use of guitars, bass and drums. I don’t know if Depeche Mode was the first to create this genre mixture but I think that this combination produced a very powerful hybrid of electro-rock-pop which influenced plenty modern bands and artists who I listen to such as Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Linkin Park, Rammstein. After listening to these bands again, I can definitely Depeche Mode’s influence.

I’ll keep listening earnestly to the album and deconstruct its songs as much as I can. Maybe it will keep surprising me. This time, I’ll rate it a little higher just because I fell in love with “Sweetest Perfection” which I rejected before.  I give Violator… 3 ½ out of 5.


Depeche Mode’s Violator – First Impression.

Credit to

I was already familiar with Depeche Mode’s music. I discovered them after listening Marilyn Manson’s cover of Personal Jesus. Then, back again in the 00’s when Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park released a remix of Enjoy the Silence, which made me really interested in Depeche Mode’s sound.  Not really caring about their albums but focusing on some major singles, I downloaded tracks such as “People are People,””Just Can’t Get Enough,””It’s No Good” and “Precious;” covering snippets from their extensive musical career unknowingly. So when I was given the album choice of Violator, I thought it would be easy. Honestly, I’m having a hard time digesting it.

It might be the annoying sound of some 80’s synthesizers (Even though the album was released in 1990) or the excessive use of loops…but some songs in Violator are just awfully simple and unappealing. I found myself skipping many tracks just because they didn’t attract me even after listening to the first couple of minutes. For example, “Sweetest Perfection” lacked energy and magnetism. “Halo” is horribly repetitive without any big and dramatic melodic changes; which drove me crazy. “Waiting for the night,” had an amazing beautiful melodic line but to be honest, it indeed left me waiting…for some type of excitement.

However, there are songs such as “World in My Eyes,” “Policy of Truth” and “Blue Dress,” whose intros are instantly charismatic and rescues the album from failing. These songs offer a little more musical substance with strong choruses. Also, the darkness and gloominess of some of the lyrics is captivating as well as the mysterious way of singing of Dave Gahan. (Or is it maybe that he’s English?)  . I don’t include “Personal Jesus” or “Enjoy the Silence” because they are masterpieces on their own but I’ll definitely talk about them in next posts to come.

Finally, the album cover with its bloody red rose and the black background is memorable and it undeniably leads you to the different motifs of the album: love, sex, taboo, obsession, the loss of innocence, etc.

If I was to give an initial rating to the album, I will definitely be a 3 out 5 for the absorbing lyricism and vocals, plus the astonishing rock-pop-electro mix of some songs, which I believe were very innovative for the decade. The excessive dependability on repetitive loops (in some songs) was definitely a downside but I’ll see if I can get to like them!

Here, you can listen to the whole album, (in just one youtube video, which is pretty awesome too!)