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Saveena Patel paints picture of journey to UCLA in emotional original song

(Andrea Grigsby/Illustrations director)

By Vivian Xu

May 28, 2020 12:37 am

Saveena Patel’s wonderland and reality are now one and the same.

The first-year ethnomusicology student will be competing in Spring Sing with her original song, “Wonderland,” which she will be singing with her ukulele. The song reflects on her journey to UCLA and is one of many in her original repertoire, she said. Her first songs date back to third grade and since then, Patel said her songwriting has matured. Rather than forcing out songs for the sake of it, Patel said she now writes from raw emotion as a form of catharsis.

“It’s gotten to the point where songwriting has become my therapy,” Patel said. “It’s where I go whenever I’m stressed or whenever I need to ease my mind off of something and escape. … Every single day I fall in love with it more.”

Patel’s love for songwriting goes hand in hand with her love for singing, she said. When the time came to choose between orchestra and choir in elementary school, she said she chose the latter and continued to develop as a vocalist, picking up the ukulele along the way. Over time, Patel said music became a vital form of self-expression and emotional relief. Brayden Sutton, a second-year biochemistry student and member of Patel’s a cappella group, Pitch, Please!, said her passion for music is palpable through the way she physically emotes while performing.

“She very much feels the music that she sings or performs,” Sutton said. “Even just in rehearsals when we’re going through music, her facial expressions … show how much she connects to music.”

Emotional connection is at the very core of Patel’s songs, which she said are usually produced by a rush of feelings late at night. The overwhelming stress and angst of the college applications season led her to write “Wonderland,” which chronicles the obstacles that stood in her path on the road to her dream college, or UCLA – her wonderland. During the journey, Patel said she reminisced on the past when such struggles, like juggling college applications with an already long list of responsibilities, were not even within eyesight.

Opening wistfully with “I’ve been trying too hard for this wonderland of gold,” Patel said the lyrics are meant to have a tint of irony, since she recognizes that dreams are brought to life with hard work. Such juxtaposition of idealism and reality exists in the musical composition as well. She said her use of a fast-paced rhythm and minor chords – which are usually more somber – are an unexpected combination.

“I use a lot of minor chords in the song but I try to keep it upbeat, so you can be jamming along,” Patel said. “Secretly, there’s a little bit more weight to the meaning behind the song. (But) if you’re not listening to the lyrics, you’re just vibing.”

The addition of her occasionally raspy voice – which Patel said is dark with deeper tone – further contributes to the duality in her song. “Wonderland” is a cheery outlier among her usual compositions, since Patel said she gravitates toward writing more melancholic and slow-paced songs. Yet, the song’s light airiness contrasted with yearning lyrics mirrors the complexity of her own emotions during strenuous times, she said.

Not only does the song manage to capture Patel’s feelings, but it also encapsulates her as a person, said her friend Abbey Dunlap. To the inexperienced listener the deeper undertones of pining and strife of the single may go unnoticed. However, the layers to the song are analogous to the dynamic between Patel’s bubbly optimism and more sensitive side, Dunlap said.

“When you first meet her – to the majority of people – she’s just someone who (makes you think) ‘How could she ever be sad or upset or angry?’” Dunlap said. “But then when you really get to know her, … you see she’s more than this shining, happy person all the time.”

Now that Patel has finally reached her wonderland of gold, she said she is eager to shed her exterior and expose all the intricacies of her personality by performing her song at Spring Sing. Although being subject to the judgment of thousands of strangers is intimidating, she said having the strength to lower her guard and share music from deep within gives her a surreal feeling like no other.

“What I love so much about (performing), and especially what I’m excited to do for Spring Sing, is just being vulnerable,” Patel said. “You just go out there and put all your emotions out to people who don’t know your story. I feel like that’s such a beautiful experience.”

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Vivian Xu | Assistant Arts editor
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