Sexual violence. Systemic misogyny. Gender inequality. In the past few years, these ubiquitous phrases have been emblazoned across newspapers, scattered throughout magazine articles, and plastered across television screens and social media. While the Me Too and Time’s Up movements ignited a global conversation about rape culture and harassment, the patriarchal backlash has been swift and savage, as loud as the rallying cries of support. Politics, film, television, and finance have all publicly grappled with the fall out of these issues, yet the music industry seemed conspicuously quiet until allegations were levied against the likes of R.Kelly, Dr. Luke, Russell Simmons, and Ryan Adams. As the tide turns, the voices grow louder and award-winning Canadian actor, writer, producer and L.A.-based singer-songwriter Michelle Vezilj is part of that emboldened chorus.
As a 22-year-old aspiring artist, Vezilj dipped her toes into the world of modeling. A seemingly innocuous message in her inbox one morning led to a year and a half long diet and exercise regimen, bi-weekly Skype monitoring with the London-based director of Elite Model Management, and a devastating evening in Boston that ended in sexual assault. An official statement and detailed account of this harrowing experience can be read HERE. Years of internalized guilt and humiliation were cast aside when Vezilj finally decided to share her story with a broader audience.
“Fire Goes to Die” is that cathartic battle cry. Inspired by the Me Too movement and a vision that appeared to her one night in a dream, this gloriously acerbic, alt-rock anthem is a galvanizing call for action. With a clever nod to the ancient Greek myth of Apollo and Daphne, Vezilj’s heroine fends away the advances of an unnamed predator, fighting the paralyzing instinct to stay rooted to the soil. He sets fire to the ground, and she rushes to the sea as he screams, “What would you do without me? The chorus erupts in a wall of guitars, and her gorgeous, crystalline soprano becomes untethered, gritty around the edges as it soars over the pain, unwilling to submit.
From Tori Amos’ “Me and a Gun” to Rhiannon Giddens’ “At the Purchaser’s Option”, there have been many courageous female artists whose artistic strength and integrity lie in their willingness to be open, vulnerable, and fiercely outspoken. “Fire Goes to Die” may be Michelle Vezilj’s debut single, but it should be mentioned in the same regard, and it heralds the arrival of a singular talent whose take-no-prisoners approach to tackling uncomfortable subject matter, regardless of the consequence is admirable. Lyrically raw, bruised, and dripping with acid and honey, Vezilj’s country-tinged track rises above surface level angst, mining an emotional intelligence rarely found in today’s vapid pop landscape. It isn’t merely about survival; it is about reclaiming power and shifting the narrative from victim to victor.