Anna Akana: How ‘I Feel Nothing’ Helped Me Recover From Heartbreak
The YouTuber turned musical artist writes about how her new song—and its desert-set music video, which you can see exclusively here—represented a rebirth in the wake of a breakup.
“I Feel Nothing” was written, shockingly, at a time when I felt everything. I was going through an intensely dark period of depression, substance abuse, and dragging myself through the remains of a broken heart. Everything hurt, all the time, and I longed for the day when the chaotic emotional turmoil would just settle down already (completely unaware that two years down the road a global pandemic was cracking its knuckles).
This track was one of the first songs I wrote for the EP No Longer Yours. Fresh off Casualty and its tortuous ballads, I was exhausted of writing (and wallowing) about pain. I desperately needed to convince myself that empowerment was right around the corner, girl! Just hang in there! I wanted a song for how I would eventually feel nothing when my ex’s face smiled up at me from a screen, somehow happy without me. I wanted a reminder that someday, I wouldn’t dissolve into a mess of tears and red wine when I saw his arm slung around his new girlfriend. I wanted an anthem that was far from the teenage angst that hits us all when we’re rejected, dejected, and utterly addicted to refreshing our ex’s socials.
The entirety of No Longer Yours was written from a desperate attempt to skip this heartbreak portion and usher in an era of fierce. To transform from sad and broken to single and “wouldn’t want it any other way.” Late twenties are prime time to reckon with our useless, leftover patterns and sort through the mess. By the time you’re thirty, you roll up your sleeves and Marie Kondo your entire subconscious. It’s a time to cut your metaphorical bangs, glow up, and consciously create who you want to be. I was ready to go from Disney Miley to full-blown Rock Star Miley. Yes, we still love “The Climb” Miley, but we’re also here for the mullet and the motorcycle and the looks.
“I Feel Nothing,” at the time, was a fantasy. A hopeful eventuality. And I wrote it from the perspective of my future self, someday looking back on this period and laughing with amused embarrassment. It was an anthem for myself to cling onto, to repeat over and over, to fake it until its words were so ingrained that I would start to believe it. If this sounds dramatic to you, you’ve clearly never howled on the floor about a boy who could barely grow a beard breaking your heart.
When Auden Bui (director/cinematographer) and I discussed making music videos in the middle of COVID-19, we found the creative constraints to be refreshing. We settled on a desert location in Bakersfield where crew members could maintain significant social distancing. Our costume designer Jennifer Newman created the pieces at home with my measurements and dropped them off at my door, sealed and disinfected, days leading up the shoot. What I vividly remember most about the shoot are two things. One: Auden and I vowed to never shoot in the desert again. Some days would be a blistering 100 degrees, and most of the video involves my signature rage-smashing. Two: we discovered a bundle of dumpster kittens behind the motel we stayed at. Our entire second day of filming was a flurry of our mostly-female crew checking in on the kittens as my best friends Michelle & Melissa Macedo drove the three hours from Los Angeles to pick them up and take them to a vet hospital. (Shameless plug: check Macedo out on Spotify!) In between takes, we would crowd around a phone and watch the latest video update, which was always just the kittens mewling and crawling around in a cardboard box.
Despite the restrictions that came from collaborating at a time when we have to be isolated, “I Feel Nothing” and the rest of the quarantine-created videos came out far better than I’d hoped. But perhaps, even more importantly, before I knew it… they came true.
The moment that “I Feel Nothing” cemented itself wasn’t a big, climactic one. It was a small slice of life, a few seconds of acknowledgement. I saw a photo of my ex and his new girlfriend and felt… indifference. For a brief moment, I hoped that they were both happy. Then I scrolled right past him, feeling nothing. Nothing at all.