BY JONATHAN YOUNG
An Osseo High School senior hopes the song she wrote to raise awareness of teen dating violence will earn her the chance to record a song with Grammy-winning artists Carlos and Salvador Santana.
Shannell McCoy, of Brooklyn Park, is one of seven teens nationwide competing as part of the PAVE the Way Project. PAVE stands for "Preventing Abuse and Violence through Education."
The sponsors are a Minnesota-based domestic violence agency called Cornerstone, Verizon Wireless and MTE Inc., a management and artist development agency.
Winners will be selected through online voting by the public Tuesday, May 29 through Tuesday, June 12.
McCoy’s song, titled "Breathe," describes an unhealthy relationship from the girl’s point of view. It expresses pain, confusion and internal struggles:
"’Cause you know what to do to make me smile/It’s the same thing you do that makes me cry."
The chorus centers around the feeling of being smothered:
"You make me feel like I can’t breathe/And even though I’m numb to your affection,/I still haven’t learned my lesson when you/You make me feel like I can’t breath."
The song ends with a glimmer of hope, as the singer decides to walk away from the harmful relationship.
McCoy said she wanted to write a song listeners could relate to.
"The thing I like about my song is that it speaks to the reality of some situations," she said. "It doesn’t just paint this perfect picture – it paints something that’s real. Not everybody has picture-perfect relationships."
The song’s theme of feeling like you can’t breathe came to McCoy in the shower. Then she sat down at the piano and kept playing with the words until they came out right.
McCoy said songwriting has been a hobby since she composed her first song at age 5. Since then she has crafted hundreds of songs and performed in multiple venues.
"I like metaphors and being subtle with my messages," she said.
Growing up in a home with an African American father and a Filipino mother meant she had a variety of musical influences when she was young, ranging from Chaka Khan to Lionel Riche to Journey.
She said "Breathe" was based partly on her own experience.
"As a songwriter, I take little things in my life, and I blow them up and make them bigger," she said.
But mostly the song was based on her observations of others.
"I’ve seen strong, confident, beautiful women become completely unconfident and, like, stripped and totally subservient," she said.
Although she said it might sound clich