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  • Writer's pictureAmanda

New Partner

There are two kids in the Mona family: Alex and me.

My parents still tell me stories of our Saturdays growing up: days when they attempted to entertain the two of us for twelve hours straight. Not an easy feat.

But soon I discovered paint smocks and watercolors. I would sneak into my mom's office to swipe reams of her printer paper and staple them together. Eventually they'd be splayed on the living room floor, full of scribbles. "Amanda's Art and Books, 25 Cents."

My dad would always "buy" my library and proceed to give it all back to me. I may have been four, but I knew that wasn't the way the free market was intended to work.

Anyways, Alex was a different animal.

He had a knack for blazing through phases faster than any other child I've known. The phases usually followed a pattern called "buy everything from the franchise."

Power Rangers, Transformers, Bey Blades, Bakugan, Pokémon, Mario Brothers, Legos. That kid's room was a shrine to plastic figurines.

And that's all he liked to do- until one day, in the middle of junior high, he picked up the bass guitar.

I don't know what got into my little brother, but he'd found his thing.

Fast forward to today: he plays acoustic, he kills at slap bass, he's won contests for his song writing, he sings opera, he's played on Broadway in Nashville.

Basically, he's a music god out of nowhere. (He's obviously put a load of practice into his craft. I'm proud of you, Alex)

And man, I wish I'd gotten a bit of that skill set.

I like to send Alex songs and ask, "Hey, why do I like this?"

He comes back with "It's another major seventh chord, Amanda. You're a sucker for those."

I will never have the near-perfect pitch that Alex has. I'll never understand what technically makes a song's production stand out, and my voice is always going to strain when I try to hit a high note.

Sometimes I kind of get the music theory thing, but then another major seventh comes my way and I fall for it all over again.

I don't know, some songs just seem magic. I can't describe it. Don't know why.

I tend to filter all of my favorite things through people I admire. Sometimes I wonder if it's because I'm not totally confident in the choices I make on my own.

I'd like to think that it's because I like to love things through people. I listen to funk because Alex likes it. I play piano because my mom's wicked talented on a baby grand. I drive around at sunset because that was Tessa and my nightly ritual back home.

I write, and I don't really know why.


I have a list of my favorite creatives. I take their perspectives and recommendations to heart, because I resonate deeply with what they've put out into the world.

These creatives also served as a life line for me when I felt like I was on a little Iowan island- full of great, hardworking people who also viewed full-time art as a pipe dream.

One of those creatives is John Green.

I could talk forever about John Green.

You probably know him as the author of The Fault in Our Stars, the 2014-book-turned-movie that slapped you in the face with heavy handed quotes and pretentiously named characters. This movie was plastered on every social media platform dominated by teenaged girls, and it was an absolute time to be alive.

He's written many more novels (Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, etc.), started VidCon, founded Crash Course, and is currently in the process of raising millions of dollars for healthcare in Sierra Leone. He's also science communicator Hank Green's brother. This guy does it all.

My favorite creation of John Green though, by far, is "The Anthropocene Reviewed." This book is a masterpiece of short essays- a love letter to the human experience. He talks about COVID, sunsets, his favorite bands, philosophy.

When I tell you this book served as my gospel through the pandemic, it is far from an exaggeration.

John Green shares my love for songs. He writes about the track "New Partner" by Palace Music on page 257:

"But 'New Partner' is not just a song for me. It's a kind of magic, because it has the ability to transport me to all of the moments I've heard that song before. For three minutes and fifty-four seconds, it makes me into the people I used to be. Through the song I am brought back both to heartbreak and to falling in love with enough distance to see them as something more than opposites."

I read this, and I know exactly what he's talking about. I hear "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles, and I remember going to my summertime swimming lessons at the YMCA when I was six.

I hear "Yes I'm Changing" by Tame Impala, and I remember racing around Des Moines at midnight with my high school classmates. We were playing a game called "Fugitive," in which you dropped your friends off in the middle of a cornfield and they attempted to make their way back home. Safe and fun midwestern activities.

I feel like I am a conglomerate of these moments, and this is my soundtrack. I return to it over and over again.

I hadn't heard my "magic song theory" described by anyone else before. I decided to listen to New Partner, just because John said so.

I get why he loves it.

So I started this one-sided tradition with one of my favorite authors. I fell in love with New Partner, and I began to listen to it as I felt my life chapters flipping forward.

I got a job. I played New Partner.

Broke up with my boyfriend. New Partner.

Graduated from College. Moved to Boston. New Partner.

It's my 23rd birthday, the first one without my best friends or my family. I know what song to play.

I like to love things through people.

And that probably sounds cheesy, and I can't explain to you why New Partner is magic. I don't know the music theory.

It's special because it is.

I hope that you listen to it through me.

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