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First Watch: Thao's 'Meticulous Bird,' A Hammering Beat With A Powerful Message

A still from the video for "Meticulous Bird."closemore
A still from the video for "Meticulous Bird."

It may be easy, as you focus in on the sharp synths, rolling bass and snapping drums (one can hardly be blamed) driving "Meticulous Bird" to miss the remarkable message being sung by Thao Nguyen, leader of Thao And The Get Down Stay Down.

At the heart of its lyrics, Thao told me, is a "reclamation of the body." It's a song for survivors of sexual violence, a catchy chorus cloaked around a driven beat, which sees Thao dressed and dancing sharply — in a purple paisley jumpsuit.

"Meticulous Bird" is from A Man Alive, an album I've now enjoyed and lived with for just about year now. I love finding new and powerful meanings within this song — Thao told me that she's thrilled to learn more about the songs she writes by performing them for the past year:

"Never have I felt more energized or connected or grateful onstage than in the performance of this song. I have loved nothing more, nor have I ever felt more honored, than to share very raw and heartfelt moments with people to whom this song has meant something.

"I've danced a lot more than I expected while performing 'Meticulous Bird' onstage, that's why I wanted to dance in the video. I've never performed it live in a purple paisley jumpsuit, but the jumpsuit is part of the being free. I've never had such an emotive outlet via song as I have in this one — that is demonstrated in my straight-to-camera moments.

"Director Jonny Look gave me the opportunity to present the song in all its facets: the darkness, the dark humor, the unfettered anger and the complexities of moving on from violation and how the memory of trespass rises to the fore and then recedes into the every day.

"My ongoing hope for 'Meticulous Bird' is that a survivor of any kind would hear it and want to use it; to celebrate their sovereignty, to remind themselves of their power, to warn those who would exploit the vulnerabilities of others that such trespasses against the humanity of one or many will never go unanswered. My updated, amended hope for 'Meticulous Bird' is that it is just one contribution of an endless many in the efforts to resist and to notify whoever needs notifying: you have no idea how ferocious we can and will be."

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down will be back on tour in March. See it more than once.

Copyright NPR 2017.

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