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Toronto singer-songwriter Scott Helman recommends They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib

The musician says Hanif Abdurraqib's essay collection describes the big picture of music trends, from Bruce Springsteen to 2000s emo music.
Toronto singer-songwriter Scott Helman recommends reading They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib. (Brittany Farhat)

Scott Helman is a singer-songwriter and four-time Juno Award nominee. He released his album Hôtel De Ville in 2017 and has since been touring with hits like Ripple Effect and PDA. Below, Helman describes why he has loved reading Hanif Abdurraqib's book on music, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us.

"It's a collection of essays that are written from the perspective of a poet, but also a music critic. He's talking about music from Bruce Springsteen to Carly Rae Jepsen to emo music in the 2000s to current rap music like Chance the Rapper, which is cool for someone who is young and listens to music in that way.

"There were two girls that are the cousin of my best friend and I was up in Muskoka with them. We were talking about feminism in pop music and they just handed me this book. These two awesome women in my life said, 'Just read this. It's not necessarily about feminism, but I think you'll like it. It's really inspiring.'

"I think there is a history of toxic masculinity in music. The entire mythology of the rock star is just a dude that never grew up. This book is helping me think about that and there's a really great chapter about emo music in the 2000s. Hanif goes on to say that the theme in those albums revolved around summoning 'The Girl' and wishing for ill to befall her as punishment for heartbreak. That's what so much music has been about and that's not cool. I've always felt empowered by the idea that music isn't just these songs. They're part of this culture soup; music gives us context and gives us history and brings us into conversations about things. I like this book because it talks about music in that way."

Scott Helman's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Watch the music video for Scott Helman's song PDA