Youtube ads are annoying, aren’t they? My eyes and ears glaze over when they start. Frankly, I’d rather dress like a matador, tie a red flag to my chair, and try to outrun a bull than play Raid: Shadow Legends.
Stick your champions up yer-
I was served one particular ad a few weeks back, that wasn’t actually an ad at all. It was a nine minute music video in place of an ad.
Half-listening, the sound of a guitar made its way to my ears played in a classical manner. Followed by an unexpected ghostly sound, a spectral yodel, if such a thing exists.
I looked up from my work to see a young man sitting in a derelict room. wearing a hospital gown, sitting in a hospital wheelchair, and holding a guitar but he isn’t singing, he’s speaking.
Hi there Ren
It’s been a little while
Did you miss me?
You thought you’d buried me, didn’t you? Risky…
His overall tone is creepy, not dissimilar to Andy Serkis’s portrayal of Gollum. The artist, Ren, then answers himself back.
Hi Ren, I’ve been taking some time to be distant
I’ve been taking some time to be still
I’vе been taking some time to be by mysеlf since my therapist told me I’m ill.
And I’ve been making some progress lately, and I’ve learnt some new coping skills
So I haven’t really needed you much, man
I think we need to just step back and chill
His tone is melancholic, and I realise I’m listening to a conversation between a man and his thoughts. It evolves into a rap as he fires shots at the voice in his head. That voice that tells you you’re worthless, to give up, to abandon your hopes and dreams and, sometimes, encourages you to just end it all.
We hear the story of a boy struck down by a chronic illness, that all but bankrupted his ambition and how, despite the struggle, he’s still trying to do the best he can.
We see and hear the alternating perspectives go at it. They’re facing separate ways, adding to the Gollum/Smeagol dynamic we see The Lord of the Rings (which I still can’t anyone to sit down and watch with me again!)
Ren, you sound more insane than I do
You think that those doctors are really there to guide you?
Been through this a million times
Your civilian mind is so perfect at always being lied to
Okay, take another pill, boy!
Drown yourself in the sound of white noise
Follow this ten-step program, rejoice!
All your problems will be gone! Fucking dumb boy.
The true Ren fires back with appreciation for his own work.
Nah, mate, this time it’s different man, trust me
I feel like things might be falling in place
And my music’s been kinda doing bits
Like I actually might do something great
And when I’m gone, maybe I’ll be remembered
For doing something special with myself
That’s why I don’t think that we should talk, man
‘Cause when you’re with me, it never seems to help
But, of course, that voice isn’t having it.
You think that you can amputate me?
I am you, you are me, you are I, I am we
We are one, split in two, that makes one, so you see:
You gotta kill you if you wanna kill me
It’s this part that hit me hardest. I’ve had those thoughts, that I’m not good enough, that I’m wasting what time I’m allowed on this planet and that I’ll never be without that voice. I want rid of mine too, so much that I’ve been so close to ending it – but with love and support, I know I won’t ever do that.
There’s a real risk that this blog could become a play-by-play of the lyrics, so I’m stepping back from that. Let’s talk about Ren for a minute, not the characters within the son, but the real Ren.
He’s a Welsh lad, active in Brighton, who was scouted whilst busking as part of the duo Trick The Fox in 2009, then going on to be signed by Sony in 2010. Their first song, Twista, hit radio stations in 2013.
Ren later released a statement, explaining the band was splitting after his diagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, more commonly known as M.E and BiPolar Disorder. Sony released Ren from his contract soon after. A chronic health condition effectively killed his dreams.
In 2015 Ren learned he had been misdiagnosed. He didn’t have M.E, he had Lyme disease, contracted through a tick bite. Ren has been going through STEM Cell treatment in Canada, to this date. He has a GoFundMe here which is still active, with Ren giving back through his music.
Even without researching Ren, the song illustrated the challenges he’s experienced and continues to go through. This right here is why writing is important and why I believe it’s one of the best tools we have at our disposal to externalise our thoughts, connect with others, and make a difference!
I don’t write about mental health and disability because I want sympathy, I do it because it matters and if the culmination of everything I’ve ever written is that one person feels, even slightly, less alone, then it’s worth it.
I’ll leave you with Ren’s words from the spoken outro to the song.
When I was seventeen years old, I shouted out into an empty room, into a blank canvas that I would defeat the forces of evil, and for the next ten years of my life, I suffered the consequences, with autoimmunity illness, and psychosis.
As I got older, I realized there were no real winners and there were no real losers in psychological warfare, but there were victims and there were students.
It wasn’t David versus Goliath, it was a pendulum eternally swaying from the dark to the light. And the more intensely that the light shone, the darker the shadow it casts.
It was never really a battle for me to win, it was an eternal dance, and like a dance, the more rigid I became, the harder it got.
The more I cursed my clumsy footsteps, the more I struggled. So I got older, and I learned to relax, and I learned to soften, and that dance got easier. It is this eternal dance that separates human beings from angels, from demons, from gods.
And I must not forget, we must not forget, that we are human beings.
This blog is a little different to my others, and could very well form a regular feature. Please let me know what you thought of this if you’d like to read more, and if you have a song you’d like me to listen to.
You can find Ren on Youtube and across all social networks, and you can listen to Hi Ren below.