The Rise of TikTok Musicians

by Neve Kelley

When evaluating how you feel in the present, be sure to question whether your heart feels full.

TikTok has completely changed the music industry. Individual artists now have the potential for songs to blow up and reach millions of people—a phenomenon rarely encountered before the age of TikTok. Songs can gain popularity naturally on the app, even if they are not mainstream—a user casually scrolling through TikTok may hear striking lyrics or the intense chorus of a song and be inclined to seek out that artist’s music beyond TikTok. Users have access to the music of thousands of musicians and the app has now become a go-to for those hoping to discover new artists. According to the Music Network, nearly 75% of TikTok users in the U.S. say they discovered new artists on the platform, and 63% found music they had not heard anywhere else. One video at a time, these musicians are quickly rising to fame. 

Teen artist Olivia Rodrigo’s career has skyrocketed thanks to TikTok. By now, I’m sure we have all heard her song “Driver’s License,” which went viral on TikTok and immediately boosted her song to the top of the charts. Many TikTok users began using her song as the background sound for their videos, and the rest is history. According to Teen Vogue, the song has broken numerous records. “Driver’s License” earned the title of biggest weekly streaming debut for any song on Spotify chart history, as well as reaching the number one spot on iTunes. This made Rodrigo the first artist to rank number one on the iTunes (a music purchase and download service) and Apple Music (a music streaming service) charts simultaneously. Since her release of “Driver’s License” on January 8th, 2021, Rodrigo has released her debut album “SOUR,” which enjoyed a significant amount of time atop the Billboard album chart (The New York Times). It’s no secret that Olivia is an incredible artist, and we must thank TikTok for allowing millions to appreciate and marvel at that talent.

Another artist catapulting into the spotlight is Peter McPoland. McPoland started writing and recording songs at a young age, and his band even won Battle of the Bands in high school (Wasserman Music). After high school, he moved to Rhode Island, where he began posting original songs and covers on his TikTok account. His songs “Romeo and Juliet” and “(Here’s to the) Prom Queen” gained a lot of traction on the app, giving McPoland his start. His videos quickly grew in popularity, as did his songs on Spotify. McPoland now has over 1.5 million monthly listeners, and that number is only growing. Since having recently signed with Columbia Records, we can expect to hear much more from McPoland soon.

Olivia Rodrigo and Peter McPoland are proof of the power TikTok has over the music industry. With one viral video, an artist’s career can be completely changed. Without TikTok, these gifted artists may have gone completely unnoticed. Lucky for us, we get to experience their incredible talents.

Similar artists worth checking out:

  Lizzie McAlpine

  Grace Victoria 

  Ritt Momney

  Nathanie Ngu (Nathanie)

  Tai Verdes

How Is Your Heart?

By Jamie Wunning

When evaluating how you feel in the present, be sure to question whether your heart feels full.

Do you know that feeling when your brain stalls because you are forced to be present?

Instead of asking the typical “How are you?” a friend of mine asked, “How is your heart?” I had never been asked this before, but it struck a chord.

My answer was at first an accumulation of activities recapping what I was working on at the time and answering in the standard, social contract way, focusing on what we are doing instead of how we are feeling. But he asked again, “No, how is your heart?” I took a moment to reflect.

My heart was working hard, but it was full. 

My heart was full of a sense of accomplishment that I had finished another successful week of college; going to class, finishing assignments, making progress on my senior capstone film, working with local nonprofits, and managing club events. Life as a college student is stressful and it was important to take a moment to reflect on all that the week had to offer.

My heart was full of light as I worked on projects with an organization whose core mission is to brighten Peoria through the healing power of the arts. Art is not just a hobby or a career, it is a safe place to express emotion. And by providing artistic opportunities to those with limited resources, we are able to provide a foundation that can support healing and growth in our community. But it takes strong, hardworking, creative, passionate, and positive people to accomplish this goal. Working with this inspiring team on projects having a direct impact on the community fills my heart more than I could have ever imagined.

My heart was also full of pride for the progress Giving Voice has made. I have been connected to passionate creators who continue to inspire me with their monthly article and illustration submissions. The magazine is hard work, but the creative energy I gain from reading a new article and seeing the words pop off the page as I conceptualize the design, is invigorating. Making the magazine new and fresh every month is very important to showcase the student’s work. Students are faced with issues we are only spectators to, in a world that is rapidly changing. Having an outlet for students to voice their perspective and for adults to listen allows for community collaboration that will help change our world for the better.

In a world focused on “doing” instead of “being” it can be difficult to stop and reflect. How often do we ask ourselves if the activities we are doing are healthy for our being? I am very lucky to be involved in meaningful projects with dedicated people. My work makes me happy, but what makes me even happier is being able to share this with my incredible friends, family, and coworkers. The people you surround yourself with have a direct impact on your heart. Feeling supported, encouraged, and inspired by these core groups is what pushes me to keep working harder. 

Breaking the cycle of everyday life and being present in our own world is hard. Next time you see a friend, I challenge you to break the social norm and ask them to dive deeper. It is important to take moments to reflect on our health: inside and out.

No matter what you do, make sure your heart is full.

About Jamie Wunning

Jamie Wunning, a senior attending Bradley University, has been an intern for Big Picture Initiative since April of 2020, and serves as the art director for Giving Voice. She is a student in Bradley’s highly recognized Interactive Media department majoring in Animation with a minor in User Experience Design. As a member of Bradley’s Honor’s program, Jamie strives for academic excellence. Along with interning with Big Picture, Jamie is the media specialist at ART Inc. At Bradley, Jamie serves as the President of Adventure Club, Digital Arts Team, and is the social media chair for Bradley’s NERF Club. She is also a member of the National Society for Leadership and Success, Bradley’s Basketball band, and Rock Climbing Club. Jamie is passionate about creating art for others in the form of animation, video editing, traditional art, photography, design, and any other way she can.

The Virtual Championship of the World

by Izaak Garcia

After being separated, the world of esports offers a chance to reconnect. 

The video game industry is constantly growing and changing, with thousands of new viewers watching every day. Within the last decade or so, one catalyst for the popularity spike in the industry has come in the form of electronic sports (also known as esports). Since their inception, esports have grown exponentially within the last ten years, from a few hundred thousand viewers to almost 500 million. All over the world, tournaments are held for numerous games, showing off the aesthetics and creative details built into the game as well as the talent each player displays. These kinds of tournaments have only grown in size, and one of, if not the biggest of them all, is the League of Legends World Championship.

League of Legends is seen as one of the most popular video games in the world and has been at the top for quite some time. This 5-player team-based game involves extensive strategy along with communication and player coordination to eliminate the other team by destroying their home base, known as the Nexus. From an overview description such as this, it may seem as if the game is relatively simple, but when playing, it becomes a whole different story. The best teams from all around the world fight their way to the top of their region, and ultimately contend for a spot in this most prestigious tournament championship.

Each year, global teams qualify to compete with each other on the biggest stage in gaming, with the location of the World Championship switching every year. This year it is being held in Iceland, with 22 teams battling it out for a prize pool of over $2 million, and the title of World Champion. As with most things this year, COVID precautions will be in place. There will not be any live audiences and all those present, including staff, will be required to wear masks to minimize exposure. However, viewership is expected to increase with an uptick on online streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube, as eager audiences tune in from nearly everywhere around the world. Watching this championship can be as much, or to some, more fun than playing in it, and you can root for your favorite team just as you do with any other sport.

This year more than ever, people are looking to regain the connection they have lost with each other, and games like League of Legends and its tournaments are a great way for people to feel connected again. The continuation of the World Championship shows that even though the countries of the world have been isolated from each other for a long period of time, we will always come back together to enjoy the activities and events that we all missed. The League of Legends World Championships began at the beginning of October, with the finals being held on November 6, 2021. For information about this tournament or to watch the full games, feel free to visit lolesports.com.

About Izaak Garcia

Izaak Garcia is currently a freshman at the University of Southern California, majoring in Cinema and Media Studies with a minor in Applied Cybersecurity. He has played soccer with FC Peoria, Dunlap, and Richwoods for over a decade combined. Garcia has also played tennis for 4 years, securing a spot on both junior varsity and varsity teams. Along with this, he has competed with the Richwoods Worldwide Youth Science and Engineering team for Biology and English for 2 years and earned multiple awards for the school. Garcia is also heavily involved with the arts. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has played the saxophone for 8 years and piano for 2 years. During his junior year of high school, he was involved in theater at Richwoods as stage crew and manager. He helped with two productions and was being trained to be stage manager for senior year before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted school. Outside of school activities, Garcia is involved in Jack and Jill of America (an organization for young African American men and women to serve the community). He served as his chapter’s treasurer during his freshman year of high school. Along with Jack and Jill of America, he enjoys coding, learning new languages, and playing video games.

A Pandemic Polarity

by Anjali Yedavalli

The impact of COVID-19 on daily life varies depending on where you live…

It was early July of 2021. I was chatting with an old friend near the tennis courts of my high school. The two of us were with our families watching a tennis tournament while catching up on old memories and enjoying one of the first large social gatherings we had been to since the pandemic began. Something about the scene—the moms and dads sitting in lawn chairs watching their kids compete, or friends piling on the bleachers cheering on their teammates—made us both feel that melancholy touch of “normalcy” again. With most people in the area having received both doses of the vaccine, it finally felt safe to attend such a sporting event.

“It’s so nice to feel like things are returning to normal,” I told him. 

“Yeah, but you know, I kind of feel like we’re living in one of those dystopian novels.”

Seeing that I was confused, he said, “I just feel like the United States is like the Capitol from The Hunger Games. Like, we’re the privileged few that get to live out life like normal while the rest of the world is still very much fighting the pandemic. This…,” he paused, gesturing towards the clumps of families cheering their loved ones on, “…could never happen anywhere else.”

I immediately saw the event through a new—albeit grimmer—lens. The sight of people without face masks, enjoying themselves, living free from the constraints of the pandemic, suddenly felt disturbing and unfair. “You’re so right,” I whispered.

According to vaccination data provided by The New York Times, leading the pack in COVID-19 vaccination rates are countries like the United Arab Emirates and the U.K. The United States comes in near the middle with about 56% of the population being fully vaccinated and 65% having received at least one dose. In contrast, countries such as India, Pakistan, and Nepal have a fully vaccinated population of less than 30%. Several countries within the African subcontinent including Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya have a fully vaccinated population of less than 5%. This is especially concerning considering the surge in COVID-19 cases in these areas during the late summer (Holder). 

At first, the statistics surrounding developing nations don’t look so daunting. A comprehensive study released by the United Nations offers several possible explanations for this, including lower quality of data collection, decreased testing ability, and the fact that many developing nations took effective safety precautions. Cambodia, for example, shut down schools and restricted travel almost immediately. However, all countries are not created equal in the eyes of the pandemic. Developing nations suffer a greater degree of economic and health-related disparities and inequalities. The study goes on to explain how the pandemic has shut down opportunities for employment for low-skilled labor. This decreases prospects for the less educated in these countries. Additionally, the fragile health care systems of developing areas are experiencing further strains. In West Africa, high incidence areas of COVID-19 experienced a decrease in the use of health services by 27.6% during the latest Ebola outbreak. Worries now arise related to the threat of reversing years of progress in attempting to reduce child and maternal mortality rates in these nations (14).

There is an inherent privilege in developed countries’ access to resources. A privilege that bolsters our ability to recover from disaster. As normal life proceeds for us, perhaps it is best to stay aware, and grateful, for the privileges we may overlook. We should remain cognizant of our ability to not only help each other, but those in less fortunate situations around the globe. All it takes is a little bit of reframing, and we could all be written off as the complacent antagonists in a tragic dystopian story. And who are we to disagree with that?

Find ways to combat the pandemic’s impact on children around the world at unicef.org/take-action

About Anjali Yedavalli

Anjali Yedavalli is a senior at Dunlap High School. Aside from taking academically rigorous classes, Anjali is involved in Speech Team (IHSA State qualifier in 2020), Student Council, UNICEF Club, the school plays, Jazz Choir, and is the Madrigal Queen of Dunlap’s Madrigal choir. Anjali’s main goal in the community is spreading passion for both academics and creativity. She has organized and led multiple public speaking workshops for middle school students and volunteered her time at North South Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding underprivileged children in India. In addition, she has joined and contributed to the Dunlap Young Musicians, a student-created music group that performs at senior homes on the holidays. She is also active in her Sunday School (Chinmaya Mission) and has helped write promotional songs and plays to help fundraise for the school. Last but not least, Anjali is a classically trained Bharatanatyam dancer of Mythili Dance Academy and has contributed to shows that have raised over $500k for a variety of charities.

Art by Aryanne Westfall

Ary Westfall is a junior Interactive Media major and Theatre Arts minor attending Bradley University. She is the social media manager for DAT, creates webcomics in her free time, and enjoys all forms of sequential art. Ary hopes to break into the comic world or find work in pre-production art for television. 

Speak Up

by Kamia Fair

content warning: self-harm, depression, and suicide

The way you feel matters,

Express your feelings.

Are you trapped around your pain?

Trying to find a way to stay sane?

Speak up, let your thoughts set free,

Loving yourself has no fee

You’re screaming for help

But no one can see.

I demand you to speak up with me,

Suicide is not the choice

Let your thoughts set free!

You are strong, not weak

No one’s there, so you

Wipe your own tears, everyone’s here

But they don’t see you there.

Speak up with me. 

I’m hurt can’t you see?

Depression is real, you’re starting to get

Obsessed with the thrill of harming yourself,

You’re wounded, I can tell.

Heart stoned and cold,

Every person that walks into

Your life folds,

Now you’re all alone

Speak up, speak up with me.

Your life is important, 

Don’t let no one tell you differently

Bear with me, I know your life

Is rough, but be tough.

I know you’re tired of being strong

But hold on 

Speak up, speak up with me

Don’t hold your peace

Let your self release

Please, oh please 

I’m begging you to 

speak up with me!

You mean something,

It’s okay to be you.

Speak up, speak up with me

Let those tears dry and

Find your happy place,

God doesn’t make any mistakes

Speak up, speak up to me.

About Kamia Fair

Kamia Fair was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois, and is a senior in high school at Manual Academy. Fair loves nature and R&B music. She has many personalities—one is a free spirit and another is closed in and shy. She loves anything that has a true meaning. Fair’s book is her voice and freedom. She likes to write about things like her past, present, and future, as well as the things she lives around. What inspired her to start writing poetry was trauma that happened in her past. It began as an every day journal, to finally bringing it out her inner self. Fair hopes to bring more people like herself from her community to write— or at least more people from her community to read what she speaks, and hope for it to inspire them and hope for them to hear her voice to feel where she is coming from.

A Closer Look at Gabrielle Union’s Surrogacy Experience

by Kianna Goss

Infertility is a painful journey for anyone—but Black women face even more hurdles.

On September 10, 2021, Time Magazine released an excerpt from Actress Gabrielle Union’s new book “You Got Anything Stronger?” 

Awestruck. That’s how I felt while reading this story of a Black woman suffering. Often, celebrities don’t allow the public inside of their lives on such a personal level. However, Union shared her journey of surrogacy in great detail, with the raw emotions she was experiencing. I believe she shared this story to connect with other women who have suffered such deep loss.

Union revealed that her reproductive endocrinologist informed her that the best chance at having a baby was through surrogacy. Union mentioned how she had been through different treatment plans and “…more miscarriages than she could confidently count,” according to Time Magazine. This was devastating for Union because she wanted the experience of being pregnant. According to BBC news, the risk of Black women having a miscarriage is 43% higher than white women.

In 2019, the Chicago Tribune wrote a story on Tiffany Harper by Danielle Braff. Tiffany Harper is a Black woman who was, at the time, struggling with infertility. Harper mentioned how she didn’t know of other Black women that had undergone infertility treatments, therefore she suffered in silence, which was isolating. Suffering in silence is a common theme for Black women who are struggling with infertility. A lot of this stems from the barriers Black women face in society causing feelings of incompleteness if they are not able to carry a child. 

Union went down a rabbit hole searching for how to find the right surrogate. By searching through books, communicating on surrogacy message boards, and having conversations with their fertility agency, she and husband Dwayne Wade found an ethical agency they felt comfortable using. Finally, they found a service that checked all the right boxes.

That’s when Union met Natalie, her surrogate, and felt a good aura from both her and her husband. Natalie received a positive pregnancy test in March 2018, and Union was confident that the baby would arrive around Thanksgiving. During an ultrasound with both couples, Union admits to crying because she understood how many potential babies she lost. This is similar to another Black woman named Brittany Turner, a mother who finally gave birth to her son Brayden after having four miscarriages according to Akilah Davis, ABC7 news reporter. 

Fast forward to late October. Natalie texts Union to let her know that her water had broken. Natalie proceeded to go into labor for 38 hours ending with the doctor performing an emergency c-section because the umbilical cord was tied around the baby’s ankle. Fortunately, Natalie gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Kaavia James.

Thoughts like “Would she love me more if I carried her?” wandered through Union’s mind. She also worried that her inability to carry a child might put a strain on the love her husband had for her. Union shares this story to speak her truth about what she deals with and how it affects her. Union’s story is not uncommon, as there is a statistically higher number of Black women suffering from infertility. To me, this was Union breaking the silence barrier to get more women to speak up to form unity. To show other Black women they do not have to suffer alone.

Reading Union’s story inspired me to further research how many other women of color have difficulty carrying a child. According to the Center for American Progress, “African Americans have the highest infant mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States, and higher rates of preterm births explain more than half of the difference, relative to non-Hispanic white women.” 

I encourage everyone to research more about women of color with struggles of infertility. You will find a lot of information on how many women suffer more than you think. Also, you’ll see the lack of treatment options or the lack of being able to afford the treatment. Union gave a powerful testimony that many other Black women can relate to. As an advocate, if they are suffering in silence, it’s important to use your voice to help end their silence.

About Kianna Goss

Kianna Goss is a senior at Bradley University, majoring in journalism with a double minor in sociology and advertising with public relations. The importance of community involvement is to use your voice. Kianna’s voice is one of the strongest platforms she has, and utilizes it through her writing. Being a Black woman, Kianna often writes to give a voice to the Black community to gain control over the media that portrays them in a negative way. Kianna is a writer with different form expressions. She has written poetically, through blogs, newspapers, and opinion pieces. Kianna always looks for more opportunities to grow as a writer and person. Kianna is currently the social media director for Her Campus, works as a peer mentor for Bradley’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and is a team leader/caller at the Bradley Fund. Being able to explore her creativity is what she loves most about Bradley. The Communications department is molding her into the journalist she aspires to be.

About Faith Marie

Faith Marie is a homeschooled senior in high school who dreams of being an artist entrepreneur one day. She fell in love with creating at a young age and now experiments with all kinds of mediums. You can find her on Instagram at @faithmariedraws.

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