It was always clear that "Strong Swimmer" by Shelby Earl was a song about perseverance, but Earl takes it so much deeper in a recent video for the 2017 track, from her album "The Man Who Made Himself a Name."
The clip features an androgynous teen (played by Earl's 14-year-old niece, Mackenzie) searching for a gender identity that feels right, and not finding much support from classmates or adults. Dismayed, the kid comes up with a distinctive new identity: superhero, with homemade cape, striking hairdo and cheeks adorned with gold stars. It's a powerful video, and Mackenzie is a relatable, entirely sympathetic protagonist — even teens who aren't questioning their gender identities can feel isolated and misunderstood, so imagine adding a super-complex new dimension to the angst of young adulthood. It's no wonder gay-straight alliances are showing the video, or that Earl has received a flood of messages from people who have seen themselves in, and been inspired by, the clip, which premiered with Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger.
I've written a lot about Earl (here, here and here, among other places) since her first album, 2011's "Burn the Boats." Not only does she write compelling songs, she's always been a beacon of positivity and optimism. It's hard to think of a kinder, more caring advocate for people who simply want to be themselves, whatever that ends up meaning to them.