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Taking Wing: Flight of the Omega Playlist

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Flight of the Omega has had a very strange path to publication. And by that, I mean it just kind of … happened.

Flight is on the shorter side for me, being just 50,000 words. It’s still technically a novel (depending on who you ask, of course). Yet it’s not the 60, 70, 80k-long type fare I usually write.

On top of that, I wrote it in one shot last December. I was supposed to be taking a break from writing. Flight of the Omega was a silly, nothing sort of project that I just started one day.

And then I cranked out almost 50,000 words in a couple of weeks. Inspiration, much?

“Okay,” I said, “this thing has to be crap.” So I went back through it. Once. Twice. I printed it out the second time, because I sometimes find it easier to tear my work to shreds on paper.

Still nothing. So I finally booted it over to my editor, and she found a few nitpicks. Overall, it wasn’t much—nothing that required major overhauls and extensive rewrites.

Flight of the Omega Is a Weird Book

I mean, all my books are weird, yes. But Flight of the Omega might take the cake for me, in part because of how easy it was to write. The other issue, I think, is the tonal dissonance.

All my work contains this to some degree. There are some funny parts, and then there are some deeply tragic parts. As a reader, that can feel a bit jarring, depending on how it’s handled.

Flight of the Omega is extremely pronounced. It starts off almost as a romcom. It’s cute, it’s kind of funny. I mean, we’re dealing with giant, shapeshifting, alien birds. That’s kind of a funny concept, right?
And then we drift deeper and deeper into some seriously disturbed/disturbing psychological shit. Even the end of the book, as much as I think it represents a deep hope, isn’t maybe what some readers would traditionally call a “happily ever after.”

The cover for Bad Spirits by Cherry Pickett, which features blue smoke on a black background, colliding with the title typed vertically in white text.

I think it’s HEFN, and maybe even HEA. So that’s why I’m still calling it a romance. (You can compare what I did in Bad Spirits—it’s “happily ever after” in very particular sense.)

How the Heck Do You Make a Playlist for a Book Like That?

Given how quickly I wrote Flight of the Omega, I didn’t slap a playlist together for it. I wasn’t feeling inspired by any particular song, not like I sometimes am.

And then there’s the tonal dissonance. So how do you put together a playlist for a book that’s so uneven, that ranges from being funny to being heartbreaking and even disturbing?

I’d like to say that I really struggled, which is why I’m writing this post immediately after making the playlist. But I’m pretty sure I’m dragging my heels because I just hate putting playlist blogs together for whatever reason. They’re actually super easy to do once I actually sit down and do them. I just … have some internal resistance that makes me procrastinate on this particular front.

Playlists are the worst, and I don’t know why. So you’d think Flight would be extra difficult, because of what I noted above. There wasn’t a song that serves as a sort of genesis point that I could build around. There wasn’t even a playlist I was cribbing off of when I was writing. And I’m slapping it together months later, after writing and editing and proofing the book and noting this weird unevenness in its tone.

Yet here we are, and I have to say, it was actually pretty easy to put the playlist together. I just picked a bunch of tonally dissonant things that felt fitting. If the playlist somehow jives together, I will be amazed.

Kicking Off the Flight of the Omega Playlist

“Giddy Up” by Dragonette was one of the last songs I thought of when I was brainstorming. But it really feels like a fitting opening for it. “Giddy Up” is usually said by cowboys (or “giddap”) to get their horses going.

On top of that, Dragonette’s track is upbeat and a little bit quirky (a lot of the band’s work is). “Giddy Up” tells us the singer is marching off to war, but it doesn’t seem like a serious war. It seems more like someone who wants to go party.

“Giddy Up” is definitely not my fav Dragonette tune, but it does have one essential feature I was looking for with the Flight of the Omega playlist: a country-ish vibe.

I Hate Country Music

Now, when I sat down to put this playlist together, I thought, “I need some country twang here.” Why? Well, it’s a book that’s ostensibly about cowboys. Jack is never called a cowboy per se, but most of his work with the Alerians would fall into that category. He talks about training them, roping them, saddling them, and breaking them—much like cowboys do with horses.

The cover of The Bull by His Horns, another book like Flight of the Omega that also features cowboys and ranching lifestyle.

Given that content, it felt right to pick some tracks that have at least something of a country feel.
There’s just one itty-bitty problem with that plan: I hate country music.

So, how am I going to put together a playlist with a country vibe if I don’t even like country?

It’s not like I’m going to sit here and pick through a bunch of popular country songs to see if there’s something that “fits” the vibe of my playlist.

(And we’ll leave aside the fact that country music has been, for ages, co-opted by fascists. If you don’t believe me, look at the furor around Lil Nas X and “Old Town Road.”)

Pushing Boundaries with Crossover

Lucky for me, there are a few angles I can approach from. One is the work Avicii was doing on his debut album, True. Avicii rose to prominence with “Levels,” which feels, largely, like a video game-type track. Even there, though, Tim Berg showed his willingness to draw in musical influence from wherever he found it: one of the reasons “Levels” is so catchy is thanks to the sampling of Etta James’s “Something’s Got a Hold of Me.” James’s powerful voice resonates and enriches the electronics vibes, which isn’t necessarily something we expect.

Avicii’s work continued to push boundaries when the artist began collaborating with country music artists. House and electronica have sampled from many different sources—1970s disco has long informed Daft Punk and hits likes Madison Avenue’s “Don’t Call Me Baby”—but country music has generally been considered too disparate from house to really be folded in.

Avicii challenged that with both “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother.” While neither track is firmly country, there is something about them that evokes the genre, most especially in the lyrics—and in the musical performance that delivers them.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Two Steps from Country Sometimes

Rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, and blues more properly (as well as jazz, and thus pretty much every pop song you’ve ever heard) all owe much to Black musicians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the 1950s and ‘60s, the genre was repackaged and delivered to white folks by a series of white artists, much the same way jazz had been earlier. British bands, as much as they repackaged rock ‘n’ roll and reimported it for white audiences, were actually listening to the records of Black musicians and learning to write their own songs, versus simply re-recorded the hits of Black artists, as many American record labels had their artists do.

Country is less-talked about in terms of its Black roots, although if you listen to rock, R&B, blues, and country, you’re bound to hear at least some overlap. Rock in particular sometimes veers very close to the edge, almost crossing over into country.

Much like genre lines in book publishing, musical categories can be relatively porous, with genres bleeding over into each other.

Where’s the Dividing Line between Any Genre?

That’s how we get something like the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Scar Tissue,” which is a rock song. But there’s something in Anthony Kiedis’s delivery that evokes that country-singer twang, and, much as we hear in Avicii’s “Hey Brother” and “Wake Me Up,” the dividing lines are much flimsier than we’d like to think.

“Scar Tissue,” from RHCP’s 1999 album Californication, is a fitting song for JP, who carries a lot of psychic wounds. The singer tells us there’s scars that he wishes “you saw,” which implies that he’s covering them up—or maybe that they’re invisible, impossible to see.

There are a bunch of other songs on the list that straddle this invisible line between rock and other genres: Kings of Leon is a band that I’d say walks that line with almost every song they release. I picked “On Call” and “Knocked Up” for the Flight of the Omega playlist. “Knocked Up” pretty much outlines the plot of the book (the plot of almost every book I write, ha), while “On Call,” I think, does a nice job of summing up how Jack feels about JP by the end of the book.

Finally, I added “Sundown” by Canadian great Gordon Lightfoot, which is another one of those tunes that straddles genres. As much as this is a rock song, it’s also easily a folk song or a country song—and I’ve heard Lightfoot’s tunes turned into hit pop songs, which demonstrates, again, the porous nature of musical genres.

Fire and Fever

Bruce Springsteen’s oeuvre is another great example of how flimsy those dividing lines are. I think Springsteen is one of the artists who “gets” what rock is really all about, sort of at the core of the genre. Sure, maybe “Hungry Heart” is a really light-sounding, pop-ish affair meant to get radio airplay, but it also has a lot to say. The song’s about a guy abandoning his family because he doesn’t feel fulfilled. Other songs are more baldfaced about their messaging: “Born in the USA” and “Atlantic City” aren’t here to make bones with you.

“I’m on Fire” is an interesting one. It’s a relatively short song, and it’s clearly about a guy who is in love (or, at the very least) lust with a girl. It’s the simple arrangement and the vocals that land it on the Flight of the Omega playlist: the Boss delivers this song with something that feels closer to that country twang. The opening line seals the deal for me: the singer asks his intended listener if her daddy’s home. Patriarchal control is at the center of the novel.

Fever, Heat, and Omegas Go Hand in Hand

The narrator of “I’m on Fire” mentions waking up in a pool of sweat. Much of the language evokes not just desire or passion but fever. That’s not uncommon for songs lyricists—“fever” is an easy way to talk about sexual desire. My favorite example is Kylie Minogue’s “Fever,” which is also the title of her 2002 album. Minogue refers to her listener as “the only surgeon left,” and a doctor, whom she asks to “prescribe” for her “symptoms.”

More recently, Dua Lipa released her own track entitled “Fever,” which is pretty catchy as well. (As a Canadian, I appreciate the French from Angele in there too.) The singer informs us she “has a fever” and entices the listener to check up on her. She suggests her fever stems from kissing. She then asks the listener what they “wanna do right now,” because she doesn’t feel like lying down and resting.
No two ways about that: the song’s about sexual desire, plain and naked as the day. That always dovetails well with omega stories, where heat—and subsequently fever—are plot devices drive the characters forward. And yes, this story does make use of that device. JP goes into heat, which sets into motion the rest of the plot, effectually.

Wild Card Selections for the Flight of the Omega Playlist

I have a few more tracks I added, mostly because I felt they were somehow fitting. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is a track I first encountered with the Kill Bill soundtrack, but it’s incredibly catchy. It’s not a country song; it’s not a rock song; it’s a pop song—at least in the Santa Esmeralda version—but it again demonstrates some of the overlap between genres. What made me pick it for this book? The lyrics, of course. The singer implores the listener not to misunderstand them, despite the “foolish things [they’ve] done.” Both JP and Jack do quite a few foolish things, and they easily misunderstand each other time and again; the messages aren’t always coming across clearly.

I’ve been adding a Charli XCX song to almost all my playlists recently, and, although there wasn’t one that really stood out for me as being “Jack and JP” immediately, I figured why not add one? I ended up picking “Twice,” from the album Crash, more for JP than anything. Throughout the novel, JP disassociates and has to pull himself back to the present moment. “Don’t think twice” is kind of a fitting motto for someone who is trying to push back trauma, dealing with maybe some anxiety, and someone who ends up making a lot of impulsive decisions.

As much it’s dark, it’s also hopeful in some ways. Loss is natural; it’s a normal part of life, and, although it hurts, we can’t let it hold us back—“don’t think twice” indeed.

That’s very much something JP is learning throughout the book, and it’s part of why I think the book has a hopeful message, despite its darkness. And that might make “Twice” one of the most fitting songs on this playlist: it’s tonally dissonant, much like this entire book.

Flight of the Omega Playlist Track Listing

  1. Giddy Up — Dragonette
  2. Wake Me Up — Avicii
  3. Scar Tissue — Red Hot Chili Peppers
  4. I’m on Fire — Bruce Springsteen
  5. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood — Santa Esmeralda
  6. Hey Brother — Avicii
  7. Knocked Up — Kings of Leon
  8. Sundown — Gordon Lightfoot
  9. On Call — Kings of Leon
  10. Fever — Dua Lipa
  11. Twice — Charli XCX

Listen to the playlist on Spotify.

About the author

By Cherry

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