Turn It Up
Hello there --
I'm writing this sitting in the sun and drinking an expensive but VERY healthful designer juice. It's great! It's 4:30 on a Monday.
I'm here because I quit my job to pursue writing.
As I've mentioned a few times recently, this decision and ALL the rigmarole surrounding it have encouraged me to try to reduce my non-essential thoughts. . .that's the only way I can think of to say it, in my way. In others' ways I might say "managing my anxious tendencies" or "personal growth" or "Zen".
Actually I was talking to a friend of mine about Zen recently and he made an interesting point, which is that people who are into Zen things are so because they themselves are very un-. It's the same argument that another friend of mine posed when he mentioned William James and his theory that saints and sinners are closer together than either is to the middle. . .because saints and sinners have at least both thought about it, usually. It's also what I believe to be contained in the Italian term "sprezzatura".
This is the last blog post on In Bed with Amy Wilson, so what I am trying to do is to turn the camera briefly on myself. Of course this is a blog all about myself (I know) so it's probably not too necessary. If you want to know who I am, you could find out.
Or at least, if you want to know who I've been.
I'm very excited and happy about my decision to move to New York City. I write it like that because that's how I say it in my head, and every time I do it's a little shout in that way: new york CITY!
What can I say? I watched too many classic musicals as a child and too many Nora Ephron movies as an impressionable youth. And too many Woody Allen movies, except that that's not really possible.
When I am in New York I want to really follow one of my dreams, which is (semi-facetiously) to be a professional writer of emails about nothing in particular. In particular. But also of course, about EVERYTHING!
You may not know how seriously to take me when you read this blog, that is full of questions like "what is art?" and "the meaning of life?", and also full of semi-schlocky pop songs. That's a hard thing to explain. Let me say that I am very serious about finding meaning, even in small things.
If you're interested in keeping in touch with me, you can subscribe to my newsletter and I will send you e-mails.
Here's one last song, by the artists that have unintentionally become a defining point for this blog. I am pleased to leave you on such a hopeful note.
The song: Daryl Hall and John Oates, "You Make My Dreams"; 1981
As you know, I'm in the process of completely quitting everything that I've been doing for the past few years and moving to New York City to follow my dreams.
This is one of those things, where, if I had any sense of how difficult it was actually going to be when I decided to do it, I probably wouldn't have done it. Which is why I'm, deep down, glad I had no idea what I was getting myself into!
It will not surprise you to hear that this is hard. It's not really surprising to me either. What has been unexpected have been the ways in which it has been hard.
The move to NYC is just the (hopefully close to) final stage of what I understand to be a quarter-life crisis. A few months ago, a few stages ago, I wrote about the difficult nature of uncertainty and about the flip side of that which I had newly discovered and about which I'll just go ahead and quote myself: Now that I am forced to be here by circumstances beyond my control, I understand the beauty and excitement of the present in all its terrible glory.
And that's it. For a long time I've known about myself that I tend to dwell either on the past (depression) or on the future (anxiety) and that I spend most of my time swinging wildly between these extremes (it's called 'cyclothymia'). It's only because I'm so profoundly worn down by the insane stress of a move like this that I'm able to be that upfront about it on a public and permanent forum like this one. But it's also because I'm so profoundly worn down by the insane stress of a move like this that I'm able to say, what of it?
The interesting thing about slowly disconnecting all the cords of my life has been that I've really had to realize what I am not. Clearly I'm not my radio show, because that's over. I'm not my job, because that's over. I'm not my blog, because that's going to be over too. I'm not my apartment, because I'm leaving. You see what I'm saying.
The song: Aretha Franklin, "Who's Zoomin Who"; 1985
It's another one from Aretha Franklin's 1985 album Who's Zoomin Who?, which she has said she made because she wanted to do something that sounded young. It does indeed sound young to me, even with the glaze of time, but also wonderfully world-weary in a way that Aretha Franklin sells so well. It also has that great classically-80s cheese in its sound and that's something I'm into right now. I enjoy walking down the street listening to this song and planning how I will zoom New York City, and these plans mostly involve actually zooming (roller disco, which is definitely coming back if I have anything to say about it).
I've said a few times on this blog so far that I've come to believe that maturity is constituted from a mix of toughness and vulnerability. Or more precisely, that's how my maturity will be constituted. I find myself often in the middle of these things: toughness and vulnerability, past and future, anxiety and ability, etc and etc. (Peppermint vs. Spearmint, Wheat Thins vs. Triscuits, Dog People vs. Cat People) There is a bi-polarity in my nature that leads me to create these theories and to see the world in these terms.
That being the case, here's the other side.
The song: Whitney Houston, "How Will I Know"; 1985
These songs are similar, released in the same year and produced by the same person, the legendary Narada Michael Walden (who is responsible for many of my favorite gloriously cheesy songs of the 1980s and 90s). But where Aretha's "Who's Zoomin Who" is confident, Whitney brings her trademark poignancy to "How Will I Know". How will she know? Well, most would say "she just will".
In my experience, it's not that simple. Self-knowledge is a harder thing to master than most people give it credit for. Give themselves credit for, I should say. I do think it often takes a major life event to move it along.
In that way, I could consider myself lucky. It's an opportunity. Although I'm losing my sense of who I am, as defined by external things, I know that I'm gaining something ultimately more important. Which is, the strength to be right in the middle of things and to know nothing more than that I exist here.
This was an unreleased demo version of Paul Simon's song "Something So Right", which is a song I posted when I was preparing to travel to Singapore around a year and a half ago. In that entry I described the dawning realization I was having that "happiness" is something more than the lack of unhappiness. I don't exactly remember the state of mind I was in when I wrote that, but I think it most likely had something to do with the values and beliefs I've been turning over for quite a long time now: things like self-determination.
Now I'm preparing to go to New York City and look into the eyes of random strangers and convince them (and myself) that me living in their apartment is a great idea. "Apartment hunting". But really more like "life hunting" or "future hunting". But also just "current moment hunting" -- looking for a place to land. At the same time it means a lot and it means nothing at all. This is a common contradiction I find.
In my current job, which I am leaving in a few weeks, I plan and deliver fundraising events. In learning how to do this, in using the skills I already had, I've figured out how to wind up and swing. When you plan a fundraising event you plan and plan, you prepare, you think through everything that might possibly happen -- but then a moment comes and you have to just execute. Make it happen.
I can't help but feel that this might be that moment for my own life. The wind up has taken a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long time. Probably it started when I was given Slouching Towards Bethlehem to read in high school and decided that I wanted to be an essayist, a career path for which there is no clear course. And as you do when you have an ambition like that, I've just tried to always take the next logical step.
On that rope bridge of happiness right now I am very much in the middle. The next step, the next step, the next step.
The song: Paul Simon, "Let Me Live In Your City"; recorded 1973
I sort of glossed over it in my last entry (I was feeling sad and thus not inclined to share when I wrote it), but I posted the song "Changes" by David Bowie because there are a LOT of changes happening in my life right now. Many of my closest friends are moving away, which is a complicated sadness because I am also moving away, and many of the things I have occupied my life with (like my work and my radio show and my apartment and even this, my blog) are ending.
It's like graduation all over again, which leads me to believe even more strongly in the circular nature of life and time.
AND in the circular nature of music, as I continue to be rocked and rolled by the resurgence of the disco sound.
Which is why I am so pleased to hear this song, by the ghost of Michael Jackson, on the radio.
The song: Michael Jackson, "Love Never Felt So Good"; 2014
I've written before about my interest in Michael Jackson and what he represents about talent and the nature of childhood. I think there's much more to say about him, culturally speaking, and about the strong reactions he inspires in people. It's been fascinating (if that's the right word to use) to watch the arc of Michael Jackson's public image change so much even in my lifetime as an observer, from his trials in the 1990s to various delicate comebacks to his death and the re-imagining of his life that happened after.
It would be easy to forget in all the discussion of the man himself that he was a brilliant musician. And brilliant often in a seemingly natural way -- from the way his voice stutters and glides like a heartbeat or a breath to his dance moves, like water. But we truly know that his brilliance did not come easily. To say the very, very least.
I love "Love Never Felt So Good" because it feels like the past, the present, and the future AT THE SAME TIME. (Circular nature of time. Also, there's nothing like a great piano groove.) And my favorite thing about Michael Jackson is that, even with everything else he was, he was someone who truly understood how good it feels to just DANCE. To dance in a way that feels inevitable, like there's really nothing else to do.
And that is true in my experience, that sometimes there really is nothing else. So to that end I'd like to share a few more of my favorite Jackson tunes, just in case you happen to need them too.
"When the world is on your shoulder/gotta straighten up your act and boogie down": "Off the Wall", 1979
"Where did you come from, baby/And oooh won't you take me there": "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"; 1983
And BONUS JANET: "Come On Get Up"; 2001
Come on, get up!
As are many people, I am fascinated with David Bowie.
Something that fascinates me about him is his aura of untouchable cool (which nobody can deny). It's interesting to consider rationally, particularly when you factor in all the many insane (and theatrical) things he's tried over the years. Many risks. Which seem to have a higher-than-normal rate of payoff. I would bet it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I'm just throwing that out there.
I'm interested in the places where David Bowie, bastion of untouchable cool, shades into the un-cool. I already kind of went there once with "Young Americans", Bowie's self-admitted attempt at "plastic soul".
Even though I've apparently made part of my life's work into an informal course of study in soft-rock apologism, I'm certainly not immune to the threat of "uncool". When I remembered this song and felt that I should post it here, my first self-reflexive thought was something like, "oh not THAT Bowie song. . ."
Because why? Because I worry about not showing the serious thought behind the soft-rock apologism, and also about showing it too much. Because I don't want to come across as a dilettante who only knows the greatest hits.
This worry has been slightly at the back of my mind for around ten years now, since I was buying "skuf" CDs at Everyday Music on Burnside Rd in Portland Oregon and first faced the ineffable fear of . . . something . . . when I brought my music choices to the counter clerk. (Music choices often being along the line of old Squeeze albums and ABBA Gold.)
Let's not pretend it doesn't exist, that fear.
I used to think that fear and worry were an essential part of the Amy Wilson engine, and even wrote about something to that effect. I chalk this up to a basic confusion in my soul between the feeling of running away from something and the feeling of running toward something.
I am going to tell you I like this song, and you're free to think I'm a dilettante who only knows the greatest hits. I don't like that thought, but I don't like this thought any better: that I could tell you my favorite Bowie song is the bizarre disco epic "Station to Station", or that I know exactly where to put the "wham bam thank you ma'am" in "Suffragette City", or I could just say something about Low, and you might think I DO know anything about anything.
What I know and what you know and what you know I know -- actually I feel none of that matters. It might be nihilism, or maybe it's pop.
The song: David Bowie, "Changes"; 1971
Today was my last Turn it Up with Amy Wilson on WCBN and this is the song I played to end it and this is what I said about it.
"It's been really great being on the radio. I've had this show in varying timeslots for two years and in this timeslot for one year. I think next year probably would have been the one-year anniversary of being in this timeslot.
And I was so, so very excited to get this timeslot and very happy to keep it for such a relatively long time, because I had been doing the late night -- the 3am-6am when I started out, and then the late night, which is a much different vibe. I remember the first time I came in to do a morning show I realized that the type of music I would want to play, and the type of music that people would want to hear, would be much different. Because it's sort of, it's Wednesday, hump day, you're trying to get through the day, trying to wake up and all this stuff. It's been really really cool to have this time, two hours a week, to share the music that I like and am exploring with all the listeners of WCBN.
And I'll take this opportunity to say: thank you so much to everybody who's ever called, or IMed, or e-mailed me, or in any way gotten in touch to say that the songs that I've played or the things that I've said have touched them or helped them see music in a different way. That is so meaningful to me -- it's really, I can't put it into words, but I'm so appreciative of everybody who has listened and I'm very very much -- I'm grateful to everybody who has reached out to let me know that my show has. . .made an impact on them. That's what anybody wants to hear! So, thank you very much -- thank you very much for listening to Turn it Up with Amy Wilson.
I've got one more song left to play! I usually don't plan out my shows very strictly in advance, but this song I knew I was going to play as my last song on this show. I still remember the first song that I ever played on WCBN -- this won't be the LAST song that I ever play on WCBN so I shouldn't get TOO tearful about it. . .I'm actually doing What It Is on Friday so you can hear me this Friday at 8pm, so. . .I'm not gonna get too, too far down the rabbit hole of emotion but -- I remember that the very first song I ever played on WCBN when I was doing my training was the song 'That's How People Grow Up' by Morrissey. The more I think about that, the more layers of meaning it seems to have. . .
I'm not sure that this one will have that same sort of resonance but who knows.
It's the song 'Give Life Back To Music' by Daft Punk from their album Random Access Memories which came out last year. It was notable to me because it was very interesting watching the album be successful in both WCBN/the alternative/non-commercial radio scene and on Top 40 with that single 'Get Lucky'. It was the first time I've ever seen that happen, and I don't think that I'll see it happen again for a while. It really, uh, showed me the -- what it means to be a true crossover, what it means to make things that are meaningful to a wide variety of people.
And I think that the way Daft Punk got there is by making the music that they wanted to make and, nothing else, and doing it exactly in the way that they wanted to do it. So I'd like to play this song for a few reasons.
One of which is that sort of sentiment, of doing what you want to do with authenticity and courage -- something that I try to do in my own life, on an ongoing basis. It's so much easier said than done.
And also because of the element of fun. This song is the opening track on the album Random Access Memories, and as you'll hear (if you're not familiar with it) it's a very fun song. And it's about the fact that music is about fun -- and entertainment. Life should be fun, most of the time. And music can help you get there.
It's kind of what I wanted to say all along with my show, Turn it Up with Amy Wilson. That's what I've been saying for the past two years. Thank you SO much for giving me the opportunity to say that to all of you.
So, with that said, I'll go ahead and play the song. This is 'Give Life Back to Music' by Daft Punk. I'm Amy Wilson. You're listening to Turn it Up with Amy Wilson on WCBN."
The song: Daft Punk, "Give Life Back To Music"; 2013
I'm here today to talk about men.
This may seem like a strange choice, given that I spent my weekend basking in the glory of Cher and Pat Benatar who just came through Detroit on Cher's Dressed to Kill tour. But when you see it in a certain way, the way in which I see it, this Cher/Pat Benatar experience was basically a worship at the altar of the modern feminine goddess. (I was thinking this even before Cher's final number, which saw her floating in a ball of white glitter over the audience and singing "I Hope You Find It".)
Much of my life is a study of the modern feminine. Simply because, that is what I am.
But clearly there is not one without the other and for as much as I love women I also love men, taken as a whole. Even though, taken as a whole, they make that hard on me.
Like any 26-year-old single girl, I've had my fair share of ups and downs in the dating world. But I don't think it's classy to talk about them in public detail, because I am a LADY DAMN IT. (I think I will ascend to a new level of ladyhood when I take Cher up on her recommendation of Saturday and start drinking Dr. Pepper mixed with Perrier. But, I might not quite be ready for that.)
In any case, this blog is about music.
Pat Benatar was amazing. She opened with "Shadows of the Night" and it was a truly transcendent rock and roll moment, I felt like Lester Bangs. And I gained a new appreciation for that song and for Pat Benatar generally and for super-dramatic eighties love-rock that drips tortured emotion with every guitar line. The power ballad.
It gets very hard to date sometimes, much of the time, because it has so many more downs than ups. On Saturday Cher prefaced a certain song by saying that real "dyed-in-the-wool Cher fans" tended to love it, and I was nervous that I wouldn't know it or love it. But it turned out to be "Heart of Stone" which yes, is one of the more earnestly ridiculous of her songs and is definitely a song for people who have wayyyyyyy too many feelings on a regular basis which is just another way of saying "dyed-in-the-wool Cher fans". Don't you sometimes wish your heart was made of stone?
I sure as heck do. I can have a somewhat reserved manner in person, and certainly in writing, so I don't always know if people know that I am an intensely feeling girl. (Intensely feeling and intensely thinking, it's a strange life.) This blog probably helps people know that, which is part of why I write it.
It's been a rough time for my feelings recently, now that I know I am leaving Ann Arbor and moving to New York City. They're getting a real workout. And they weren't exactly hanging in a dusty closet before, if you catch my meaning. But I have enough life perspective to know that the pain of failed things fades away.
My first love/heartbreak left me two things: my appreciation for the duets of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and a very soft spot for Foreigner. (It was also a good time for Cher in my life, the heartbreak part at least.)
So what I feel now when I listen to "Shadows of the Night" and remember Pat Benatar's thigh high plaid socks is actually not new, just the awakening of something a man gave me a long time ago.
Like I said, there's never one without the other.
The song: Foreigner, "I Want To Know What Love Is"; 1984
Obligatory introductory statement: I am in the process of quitting my current life and moving to New York City to follow my dreams. It might just go at the top of every post because it colors every day of my life.
If you're a follower of this blog you know that I love old pop music.
But I also love new pop music, particularly when it's really good. I'd say that discovering a new pop act I really love is one of the best things that ever happens to me and here's why: people who are making great new pop music ALSO love old pop music.
So it's like all things coming together for me. The sounds of the past I love plus the sound of the current day which I also try to love plus the sound of the future which I am really trying to figure out. (And about which I alternately wildly between "terrified" and "exhilarated".)
And this band is just a dream come true. It's three sexy Jewish girls who can dance AND play the guitar, and who sound like everything good that came out between 1975 and 1995. AND their last name, and the name of the band, literally means LIFE.
The more I become interested in Culture the more I see how much Culture is driven by what the boys like. That's largely cool with me but I also want -- and this is all -- for there to be a place for what the girls like.
I can't speak for all the girls but I can speak for myself, so I can say: I LOVE THIS BAND. I also love Lena Dunham, and Mindy Kaling, and Cecily Strong. And Duchess Kate Middleton. And Best Coast, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Janelle Monae, Valerie June, Robyn, and Drake. I loved the movie Her and I love that the Muppets are coming back.
These are the things that look and sound like the future to me, and I just want to go toward the light.
The song: Haim, "If I Could Change Your Mind"; 2013
I find myself introspecting a LOT these days, partially because it's the beginning of what seems like could be the most profound spring in a long time and partially because I am preparing for a major life transition.
And these things are combining in a strange way, kicked off by my recent urge (which I now understand to be seasonal) to binge on the music of Sam Cooke. I didn't address it in that entry of a year ago because I think I wanted to keep it light, but Sam Cooke is a tragic figure. So handsome, dashing, debonair, and talented; killed too young in uncertain circumstances; a great and soulful singer who wrote one of the best opening lines in pop and protest music -- "I was born by the river in a little tent/and just like the river I've been running ever since".
Given that it is also Marvin Gaye's birthday, and just past the 30th anniversary of his own tragic death, I thought of him too.
And I thought of Jackie Wilson in whom I became interested recently, perhaps the most troubled of all, a person who could never find his feet in life.
These troubled people, musicians and artists, leave behind a record of themselves. But unlike their counterparts in the world of rock and roll, the songs they left behind don't necessarily tell the story of their difficult personal lives. Sam Cooke is remembered for "Cupid" and "Twistin' The Night Away", Jackie Wilson for "Higher and Higher", Marvin Gaye for "Let's Get It On".
It's not a bad thing per se. This is the nature of pop music. But the more I get to know and love pop music, and it's such a big thing that I'll be getting to know it and love it for the rest of my life, the sadder I feel about the immeasurable distance that can exist between a happy song and a happy singer.
It's just one of the saddest things. And I see the connection to my own life as I continue to balance my own struggles with mental health with the pursuit of successful creativity and happiness, and as I continue to know and love people who are doing the same.
You can't get bogged down in these thoughts; 95% of the time you have to dance to the music instead of thinking about it. But today, I want to grieve a moment for all the people who made great pop music and suffered about it. Not for their music, but for their lives.
The song: The Commodores, "Nightshift"; 1984
I feel that this announcement can hardly follow the Conscious Uncoupling heard 'round the world, but I have one to make:
In just a few months, I'll be leaving my current job and location and moving to -- where else -- New York City. I'll be another 26-year-old half-Jewish girl from Oregon going to the big city to pursue her dream of becoming a cultural critic/pop music theorist . . . and I can't wait.
In Bed with Amy Wilson, this current project, will exist until roughly mid-summer at which point I will officially end it. (Officially!) In a very real way this blog is the outward expression of a particular time in my life, the time of living in Ann Arbor and figuring out what my ambitions are. As a person I have difficulty dealing with change which is why I am attracted toward clean endings rather than fizzle-outs. If things have to change, I want to stamp them with a big rubber stamp that says: "CHANGED".
Because I've been dealing with this major life change, deciding to make it and taking the steps to put it in motion, my taste in music has gone decidedly earnest. (Even more so than usual.)
I've also been exploring the field of what I would call "humanistic science", prompted largely by the re-boot of Cosmos which has been airing recently (and which will continue for many more weeks so you should watch it, no really, I'm not getting paid to say that or anything, just want to fly the flag for Science).
The genius of Carl Sagan, and of the whole group of people and projects he inspired, is to use the principles of science to bring people together in a quasi-spiritual fashion. To generate wonder about the natural world. To increase awareness of the central contradiction of human life -- which to my mind is that we are, at once, the smallest and least significant things imaginable, and also the most complex and beautiful.
(And to convince everyone that we should stop shooting at each other and start building spaceships!)
These two threads in my current mind come together in this song, which is nominally about reincarnation but I take more to be about the continuity of life more generally. In other words, that whether we are aware of it or not, we are all part of something larger than ourselves.
The song: Indigo Girls, "Galileo"; 1992
Although I know I am part of something much larger than myself, and made of star-stuff, and all that, one can only hold those thoughts in one's mind for so long and so my relationship to pop music and to this song is essentially self-centered. (Is that a bad word? It's just what I mean.)
Thus when I listen to it I can't help but think of this tiny reincarnation I am about to face, of shedding a few old layers and gaining some new ones in the tremendous and varied environment that is New York City.
When I end In Bed with Amy Wilson I plan to continue to document and share my life because that is something I enjoy doing, and my medium of choice will be Instagram. I have a tiny profile there already under the name showmehowever. I am attracted to Instagram for this purpose because it is such an elegant medium, a new form of communication, and I hope to do there with pictures what I have attempted to do here with songs.
This past Friday I, with the help of a few friends, put on a show called the "Zodiac Dance Party" which was an experience I will never forget.
Design by Rachel Auriemma.I called it Zodiac Dance Party because a) I didn't want to obscure the fact that it would be a party, with dancing, and b) I wanted it to sound somewhat mystical and yet also somehow so dorky that no-one would believe it was really sincere. BUT IT WAS.
(Because this is who I am.)
The bulk of the music was provided by my friends, The Votaries (of Rock and Soul), a group of talented graduate students whose version of "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" is now located deep in my heart.
But some of the music was provided by me, in the form of a dance playlist to which I devoted way too much blood sweat and tears (because that's also who I am).
And this is a song from that list that didn't get played, so I'm going to play it here. I think it says what I want to be about.
The song: Aretha Franklin ft. Dizzy Gillespie, "Integrity"; 1985
Firstly, looking up the exact date this was released reminded me of a thought I had the other day which is that, I would like the chestnut that there was no good music released in the 1980s to be retired. There was SO MUCH GOOD MUSIC IN THE 1980s. It is maybe one of the most interesting decades for music (to me). So that's that rant.
But more specifically, I want to say that I love this song. Partly because this whole album, Who's Zoomin Who, is a testament to the force of nature that is the great Aretha Franklin, who was 43 when she recorded it. I feel that she sounds her age in the best way, in the way that Tina Turner sounds her age. In the way that has such confidence and a feeling that she has earned what she is telling you.
This song, which features jazz great Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, was written and produced by Aretha herself. I can't name another dance jam on the subject of integrity (but if you know of one I would like to hear). Like authenticity, "integrity" is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. It is comforting from me to hear from Aretha, who has really lived, on the topic.
I increasingly think that integrity is one of those things, those bright lines, that separate those truly make it in the world from those who don't. And I guess I should clarify what I mean by "make it in the world" which is not in this case a matter of material success, but more about the ability to stay in the present without being overwhelmed too often by the never-ending pain-in-the-ass-ness that is life.
I also think that integrity and authenticity are both not actual destinations but more the hills shimmering in the distance, that seem to get only a little bit closer as you continue walking.
But, as I have learned in the past few weeks listening to it, this song is a fantastic one to walk to. (If you turn it up.)
I really don't like not knowing what's going to happen to my life. If I had my way I would plan out every step for the next three years and then everything would go according to plan. (And it would probably be, I can admit, boring.)
But, without being too specific, I'll say that I'm in a period where not-knowing is more common than knowing.
AND I HATE IT. Really. I'm struggling with it mightily. I get scaly patches around my eyes like a sick puppy or something. My stomach hurts on a near-constant basis. I cut bangs and they are refusing to lie the way I want them to, like they know it will drive me crazy and they're doing it on purpose.
But like I said in a previous post about the quarter-life crisis, I also have the perspective to understand that this is just a passing moment -- and maybe, in hindsight, will seem (like other passing moments I've experienced) to be glamorous, exciting, maybe even fun.
That's a big maybe. It's also possible I'll always look back at this period in my life and think UGH.
THE POINT IS THOUGH, I have no idea how I'll look back at this period in my life because I have no idea how anything is going to turn out. And that's the crux of the problem, the thing that keeps my goat-y Capricorn self up at night. But what I am starting to see is, isn't this how it's supposed to feel all the time? Not this stressful all the time, I hope, but isn't this the goal, the thing I'm working toward, the thing I know intellectually is important to try to do: live in the present.
Now that I am forced to be here by circumstances beyond my control, I understand the beauty and excitement of the present in all its terrible glory. The vibrancy of it.
This song became famous ten years ago in the movie Garden State, which everyone loved when it came out and now would hardly admit to loving. Because it's self-indulgent, and pretentious, and not as innovative as it thinks it is. But we didn't know that at the time. Or at least I didn't.
Circumstances beyond my control -- scary. But necessary?
I watch The Bachelor religiously and this season have been captivated by a contestant named Sharleen, a beautiful 29-year-old opera singer with self-awareness, a natural sense of reserve, and a moody temperament. She's a real lady. And what she did this past week, which you may have heard if you run around on the internet, was leave the show because (for some strrrrrrange reason!) she didn't think she could get engaged to The Bachelor after knowing him only for nine weeks. She liked him but she knew it wasn't going to work out so SHE broke up with HIM. Which is a rarity on a show that is pretty much designed to throw a big fish hook into the cheeks of young women.
But Sharleen, an artist, understood something that I feel that I now understand better after watching her, which is that you have to be able to break your own heart. I shy away from typing things like that because I don't want to feel like a pithy statement on the inside of a Dove chocolate wrapper, but as I wrote a year ago I increasingly believe these things are cliche because they are true.
That was the first anniversary of this blog, and this is now the second. If I didn't think this blog would last a year when I started it, I certainly didn't think it would last two. But here I am, still chronicling in my own sideways way this period of my life that is defined more by not-knowing than by anything else.
In that entry about "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" I left a note to my future self. I said that I thought maturity was becoming comfortable with a mix of toughness and vulnerability. I allowed for the possibility that my future self would think that was ridiculous, but bet on the fact that my future self would still think "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" was an awesome song.
And, I do. And I look back at that past self (not so very long ago, but still) and I like that she liked that song, and chose it to mark an anniversary. I think it sums up very much of what I have learned, which is about the idea of not wallowing.
This year the song is not quite as sassy, but retains that same quality of authenticity and vulnerability. I want to say to my new future self, who will someday be my present self, who will someday be my past self: I still think you were right, but it's fine with me if you were wrong.
The song: Frou Frou, "Let Go"; 2002
Because I love this video.
Because this song reminds me of my dad. (A guy who has very interesting taste in music, as I plan to write about more soon.)
Because of Lost in Translation and Bill Murray.
Because it's beautiful.
Because when I crave this song, there's no other song that will do.
The song: Roxy Music, "More Than This"; 1982
Something I wrote almost a year ago now is this: "As I get older I find myself facing more and more of the emotionally complicated moments of life.
These experiences have led me to believe that, when I do occasionally get a break from complicated concerns, I should spend that time experiencing things I find to be simple, beautiful, and good. With people I find to be beautiful and good. (But never simple.)"
And, man. Time is moving so fast and so slow for me. On the one hand, I feel that the me-of-ten-months-ago had seen NOTHING of "emotionally complicated moments", bah! On the other, I know she had, and this world-weariness in the me-of-today is only its own form of immaturity.
Regardless, I stand by what I said. And ever more so.
To me this song is a neatly wrapped package of sexy coolness, like the highest-end ice cream cake you can imagine.
The song: Dusty Springfield, "Son of a Preacher Man"; 1968
It was Dusty's last Top 10 hit for nearly twenty years; her next one, "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" I posted on my blog, a long time ago. I also featured her song "What Do You Do When Love Dies?" when someone broke into my apartment and, for a few days, it was the only song I wanted to hear. (And I still don't exactly know why.)
Long story short, I truly love Dusty Springfield and I often find myself turning to her when I want to feel settled in my emotions rather than distressed by them -- when I want, in other words, to be okay with having feelings.
This is a VERY valuable function of music, in my mind. I mean, maybe one of the most valuable.
I also have to say, on the subject of experiencing things that are simple and beautiful and good with people who are beautiful and good:
I miss a friend who used to live in Ann Arbor and has since moved to Ukraine. When she lived here, there were a few late nights when one or both of us felt restless. So she'd pick me up in her car, which I will affectionally call a "jalopy", and we'd make a trip to Meijer.
Like all establishments that are open 24 hours, Meijer has a special character late at night. It also has air-conditioning, a good thing in a Michigan summer. We'd browse the DVD aisle and sometimes I'd buy something impulsively (my vast collection of romantic comedies can attest to this). Or maybe the makeup section. Or maybe the baked goods.
The point was, we were together and we were not where we didn't want to be. One of these nights, driving back, my friend put on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and she skipped it forward to this song. Windows down, very late and very warm, we zipped down Packard Rd turning this song up and singing along -- which is a very hard thing to do if you care about sounding good, which fortunately we did not.
I had already loved this song but now I'll love it even more, because it is inextricably linked to a moment. That's another one of my favorite things that music can do.
I enjoy being able to truly listen to a song that I have heard a billion times, and to hear it for what it is, if it is a great song. It's not something I can always do though, more like a magic-eye puzzle where the picture pops in and out depending on how I angle my head.
Anyway, I enjoy doing this and I also really enjoy, when I can, doing this with other people. Like pop music group therapy. Perhaps this is my mission in life.
This is a song that is highly associated with cheesiness, but I don't think it's in itself a cheesy song.
The song: Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive"; 1978
This song was not set up to be a hit, but became one due to the sheer force of its nature. Originally released as the B-side to a cover of a Righteous Brothers song (hello 1978), it was more popular with DJs than the A-side -- a factoid that I cannot help but love. Unusually for a disco song at the time, Gloria Gaynor had no backup singers and her voice was left at its natural register, not pitched up.
These things I learned from reading the Wikipedia article about "I Will Survive". What I know for myself is that this song is a universal anthem of self-respect, an underrated theme in pop music and culture. I also know that this song is one of a very few that is recognizable to the great majority of the population within about 5 seconds of it starting. I think it is, truly, a great song.
And I love this video with the dancer on her skates who just spins and spins. Is that what self-respect is, disco pants and a spotlight on an empty floor? Seems like it could be, to me.
Hello. There seems to be something in the air about Fleetwood Mac today.
I appreciate this because I've been thinking recently about how dearly I love Fleetwood Mac and how this love seems to be -- like my things about Motown and Morrissey and my attraction to the scent of bay rum -- one of those things in myself that is a signpost, a marker of something that I am.
As I am still kind of experiencing a quarter-life crisis, I find these markers valuable because they give me something to hang on to. But because I also eventually want to leave my quarter-life crisis, I am moved to try to understand this in terms beyond myself.
The Motown thing is about the fascination of glamour and style and collaboration, not to mention the endlessly (to me) interesting idea of singing about sad things in a happy way. The Morrissey thing is about productive self-absorption, and about being open with your esoteric sources of inspiration. Bay rum just smells like goodness. And Fleetwood Mac is a group that uses high skill to make interesting, yet accessible, things.
All of these boil down even further to a word I first used on this blog on March 4, 2012 and not often since then, a value I increasingly pursue in pop music and in life: authenticity. I felt afraid to use it the first time around because it seemed, I don't know, maybe self-evident? Maybe taking on something I didn't know if I wanted to or was ready to take on?
It's a slippery thing, but I think it may be the most important thing. The last time I wrote about Fleetwood Mac I said, "This blog is about relationships." I still think that's true, but I also think deeper down this blog is about authenticity: not only songs that exemplify it, but my own search for it -- stumblingly, and over time.
The song: Fleetwood Mac, "Never Forget"; 1979
"Never Forget" is interesting to me because it is off the 1979 album Tusk, their majorly ballsy follow-up to mega-hit Rumours. Nobody really liked Tusk at the time but now I think everyone probably loves it, just because it is very hard not to love. As an album, it's a little strange and off-kilter. The songs don't seem to be in the right order. And you're not really quite sure what it's about, thematically, at least not in the same way you are sure that Rumours is about love and its dissolution. (Maybe Tusk is about the dissolved pieces.)
And it ends with this song, written and sung by Christine McVie who may be the least appreciated member of the band (including by me). At her best, her contribution to Fleetwood Mac is this fatal sweetness, a sweetness that seems too much to be real. In this song, "the stars must be my friends to shine for me" and "just remember that love is gold" sometimes stick in my throat because, like it or not, I am still a product of my time and my time just does NOT get down with that kind of un-self-conscious dreaminess. (I wish it did, though. I read recently on some strange person's Internet blog [no, not this one] that soon we'll all become more comfortable with mysticism and move away from the obsession with logic, science, and reason. He offered no evidence for this naturally, but I believe it wholeheartedly because I want to.)
But whenever this song comes on, a little burble comes up in my heart and I feel like I should look up at the sky just to see what's going on out there. This is a decision I never regret.
As I mentioned in my last post, I'm a little sad that I didn't have more time to focus on Christmas music here when it was seasonally appropriate. There's so much to say! I don't know what any of it is yet, but I guess now I have most of a year to figure it out.
HOWEVER: I do have one more seasonal card up my sleeve. And oh, it's a good one. Get ready.
The song: Carla Thomas and Otis Redding, "New Year's Resolution"; 1967
From King and Queen, Otis Redding's last studio album, and one of my current (and recurrent) favorites. A song like this could easily be cheesy or gimmick-y, but this one really does it for me. Maybe because in my interpretation, it's not actually New Year's at all. It's March or something, and they're just wanting to start over somehow. I like that. I do that sometimes. And why not? A new year can start any time you want it to.
Here's to this one.
I still feel a bit remiss about not having written more about Christmas music this year, as this is one holiday to which music -- and particularly pop music! -- is closely tied.
However, time marches on and, as is always the case in my life, I have to swoop directly from Christmas-thoughts to birthday-thoughts. My birthday is today. December 26. And it always has been!
Last year on this date I posted a Morrissey song, and my half-baked thoughts about the nature of aging (as seen through the lens of my continuing interest/obsession in modern monarchies).
Incidentally that Morrissey song, "That's How People Grow Up", is an amazing song and also holds the personal distinction of being the very first song I ever played on air at WCBN. Not unintentionally.
I think it would be a fun tradition to, as long as I have this blog, do the Morrissey thing on my birthday. Not least because a birthday should be a day of self-indulgence (in this case intellectually AND aesthetically, whee hee) but also because it should also be a day of self-honesty. And when I am truly being honest with myself, I see that my Morrissey "thing", my "thing" about Morrissey, is pretty revealing.
I have now been 26 for approximately 26 minutes. I can already sense it will be an interesting age. Old enough to know how young I actually am, and young enough to worry that I am getting old. But one thing I am (thankfully) realizing as I get older, at the rate of approximately one day per day, is that once you've been through enough environments and iterations as a person you start to get a sense of what about you is the environment and what about you is you.
When I was a twenty-year-old creative writing major, it made sense for me to love Morrissey -- albeit, even then, in a somewhat self-consciously nostalgic, wet-behind-the-ears sort of way. (It was, after all, not that long ago objectively speaking.) But it was always me who loved him, and that knowledge is the kind of thing I now think is precious. Which knowledge? That this, is just, who I am.
If you know anything about Morrissey you know that this is maybe his chief quality: being exactly who he is, this being a melodramatic individual who teeters between pitiable and completely insufferable. But also! Also, well-read. Great with wordplay. With a totally unique voice. A presence. Some pretty snazzy dance moves. And -- and THIS is the kicker -- an actual sense of humor about himself.
I just love him, and love can forgive so many things. I don't mean any of this to say that now that I have reached the venerable age of 26 that I've decided to indulge all my flaws henceforth in service of Being Myself. That idea is pretty horrifying to me. What I do mean to say however, is that in the grand slalom race that is life, it is an excellent feeling to know at least what shape my skis are.
Why pamper life's complexities when the leather runs smooth on the passenger seat?
The song: The Smiths, "This Charming Man"; 1983
It has been a long since I have written to you, which I could explain but the explanation doesn't matter.
What matters is that over the past few weeks, I have had much cause to feel that a) I may be having a quarter-life crisis and b) I am experiencing a lot of personal growth. As anyone who has been through a personal growth spurt will know, it is often unpleasant and often makes one sort of an unpleasant person. Like the teething of the soul.
I don't think I'm fully teethed at this moment, and maybe won't be for a long time. But I do feel a lot better than I did at this time last week.
As always, music is a valuable tool for this sort of thing and the music I've been focusing on is the extremely recent EP Fade Away by Best Coast. If you asked me to sum up the moment of mid-twenties uncertainty in which I currently find myself, the instability and the low-level angst and the problems that I objectively know are not THAT bad but that feel bad, I'd say, "listen to this."
The song: Best Coast, "Who Have I Become?"; 2013
Because when I listen to it, I realize that this is just a passing moment, and I can see the beauty in that.
The above is my best attempt at representing in words that line that we all know how to hum, which came to me out of the blue when I was in the shower today, which is Thanksgiving.
It took me a few times through to remember what it was, as it was just one of those things that occasionally comes through on the radio receiver in my head. Although I am working on my skills to appreciate classical music, they are not very good -- and so I think it appropriate that, of all the classical pieces that could come to me as an idea for a blog post, it would be this one. It IS a pop song, after all. Interpreted and re-interpreted many times, too commonly heard to be really listened to, but one of the musical themes that shapes our lives.
Like many people, all I really know of this song is that main line. It might be because of the name that this song comes to me in moments of idle happiness -- of THANKSGIVING, one might say -- but I also think there is something special captured there.
All I want to say here is, good job Beethoven. And good job to the people behind this very cool video featuring visual accompaniment. And Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
The song: Ludwig van Beethoven, "Symphony No. 9 (Fourth Movement)"; 1824. Performed by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
This song I would put in the category of, things you've probably heard too many times to actually hear.
But it's SO GOOD.
(For a long time, it was in that category for me too.)
Interesting things about this song:
1. It's Motown, but really does not sound like it at all. Mostly due to that squeaking, soulful vocal line (which is SO great).
2. Not only is it Motown, it's one of the few Motown hits actually written by Berry Gordy himself!
3. Not only was it written by Berry Gordy, in his frenzy of writing he became convinced that this song had to be recorded immediately if not sooner (it seems like he did this a lot). It was supposed to go to the Temptations, but he actually literally could not FIND the Temptations, so grabbed another group and had them do it instead.
Which is a very charming story and only feeds my Martha-Reeves fantasies of being some unassuming office-type in the corridors of Hitsville USA and being called in to pinch-hit as a backup singer on what turns out to be a mega-hit and then having a whole fabulous life filled with sparkly dresses and doing for a living what I currently do only in the privacy of my own home, ie perfecting my snapping-along technique to the music of the Four Tops.
AHEM. In any case, I love this song. If only because it reminds me to remember that life goes a lot better if you can dance about it. Incidentally these dance moves look a lot like mine although I can only hope to one day be this stylish.
But isn't there something just so endearing about these relatively unpolished moves, particularly with the distance of time and our current culture of HD hyper-quality? I think so. This is so much of what I love about watching Motown artists: they truly are having fun, and it shows.
The song: The Contours, "Do You Love Me"; 1962
(After all, she may not love him any better now that he's got a rockin' Twist, but you gotta know that'll serve him well.)
PS Important research for this post came from the excellent blog Motown Junkies, which is a must-read for any fan of Motown or of intelligent, unpretentious, serious writing about pop music. Thank you, Motown Junkies!
I am very interested in fame.
Not so much for myself, although I do fantasize several times a week about being on Dancing with the Stars, but certainly as a concept and one that affects all of our lives regardless of what we think our level of buy-in to mainstream culture is.
Without a doubt one of the most interesting commentators on the subject of fame these days is Lady Gaga, not least because she has always made it explicit that she IS interested in commenting on fame through her image and music. (Some of my other favorite mega-famous women, like Katy Perry and Rihanna, are less obvious about it.)
Although in this day and age, it seems that everything is a comment on itself. I think that's why I appreciate when it's made explicit, because there's got to be a straight line to something in order for me to feel motivated to navigate the maze of meta-commentary.
There was a time (roughly 2009) when Lady Gaga was mega-famous the first time around and it was au courant to discuss which was your favorite Lady Gaga song. (Either it was au courant or I have some very indulgent friends. Or both.) Sometimes I would say "Alejandro" (which IS a really good song) but in my heart of hearts I always felt that this song was the alpha and omega of Lady Gaga, the one that would endure to show people what she was all about.
It's still too soon to make that call but at least in my opinion, this song holds up.
The song: Lady Gaga, "Paparazzi"; 2008
First off, ooh this song is still REALLY catchy is it not?
Secondly: "Paparazzi" links romantic obsession to cultural obsession by blurring the lines in the figure of the amateur paparazzo/fan who only knows she wants to possess, somehow, the object of her attention. It doesn't seem to really matter how. In this song, the song itself, Gaga plays the obsessor. In her life at the time, she was the obsess-ee.
Which is I find her latest single such an interesting follow-up to "Paparazzi".
The song: Lady Gaga ft. R Kelly, "Do What U Want"; 2013
Like "Paparazzi", this song compares the public (fame) with the private (sex). As such, like "Paparazzi", it works both as a pop song and a statement, depending on how deep you're in the mood to think when you hear it.
She pushed this song to greater heights in three ways:
- By collaborating with R Kelly, an artist whose image currently epitomizes (fairly or not) the washed-up. This is why I really believe and respect him when he says "we're laying the cut like we don't give a fuck", because I think not-giving-a-fuck is precisely what R Kelly needs to do right now. That's the only way back.
- By referencing Marilyn Monroe, the ultimate touchstone of poisoned fame. (For more on that, see this somewhat crazy post I wrote forever ago about Marilyn, Rihanna, Tupac, Kanye, and "Candle in the Wind".)
- By, in the opening lines, providing at least the illusion of a glimpse into her personal life. Lady Gaga has always been, for better or worse, a highly constructed celebrity. What she says about herself rarely has the ring of truth. But Lady Gaga has always been out to shock, and to engage in meta-commentary, and to provoke conversation. I believe she's reached a point of fame -- and what's more, that the culture has shifted such between 2009 and 2013 -- that the most shocking and provocative and au courant possible move to make is. . .simple honesty.
To me this song feels like mega-hit. I'm interested to see if it is.
(Writing this post reminded me of a relatively similar, although less cultural and more personal, entry about Eminem's songs "Lose Yourself" and "Till I Collapse". Read it here if you like.)
It seems that I always turn to Cher when I want to brush on the topics of feminism or humanism. The reason for this is two-fold: for one thing, Cher is one of my favorite women/humans of all time, and secondly, she represents something that is important to me.
Given that she has been mega-famous continuously since 1965, it seems to me there's no denying that Cher is a living legend and a force of nature. What's truly remarkable about this in my eyes is that her chief talent seems to be "being herself".
I don't mean that in a derogatory way. This is what makes her singing and songs resonant -- they seem to be reflective of something true, something she has lived. And if you've seen her acting in Moonstruck (which I hope you have), you'll know that she brings unforgettable transparency to that character. (The incredible writing of John Patrick Shanley is also a factor in what makes that movie SO GREAT, it must be said. "I ain't no monument to justice! I lost my hand! I lost my bride!")
Cher is always willing to be herself, but what's more, she has a sense of humor about that self. For instance, do you know that she once starred in a mini-production of West Side Story. . .playing all the characters? It's completely insane and brilliant. Watch it here.
And I have complete confidence that Cher will be Cher until the day she disappears from this planet in a cloud of purple glitter (I'm pretty sure she won't "die" like the rest of us). A confidence that is reinforced by her most recent single:
The song: Cher, "Woman's World"; 2013
The song may not be your taste, but please give it up for a 67-year-old woman who wears a gigantic headdress made of cut-up newspapers in the video for her ENTIRELY CREDIBLE club song.
The amazing thing about "Woman's World" is that it sounds so like a Cher song, but it also sounds like a 2013 song. This tells me Cher can adapt to the world as it is, which is something that I admire in everybody but particularly in people who are on the older side.
That feels like a controversial statement to make, although I am not quite sure why. Perhaps because it carries a huge weight of implication: that it's hard to be woman because men make it that way, or that it shouldn't be hard to be a woman any more because of the 1960s, or that (the old chestnut) the feelings that give rise to the idea that it's hard to be a woman are because of an individual woman's personal failings instead of something universal or systematic.
I don't know that I'm trying to make a political statement, and I certainly don't want to make a statement of victimhood. I know it is also hard to be a man; I have read novels. My theory is, and it's not exactly groundbreaking but okay, but my theory is that it's just hard to be a person and the way in which it is hard is determined by what kind of person you are.
This is why I respond so much to Cher's music, which contains not only her trademark message of self-actualization but also the exhortation to join together instead of working apart. Speaking personally, that's the only thing I've ever found to make it easier.
I just came back from a brief trip to Scotland.
In the summer of 2007 I ran to this song.
I've wondered what the first song to be featured here twice would be.
I knew it would happen, given how much I love to listen to songs repeatedly and how much the meaning of songs can change over time.
So You Used to Shake Em Down but Now You Stop and Think About Your Dignity: "Rock and Roll Never Forgets"
Those who know me these days know that I spend a fair amount of time listening to various flavors of Comcast Music Choice, also known as those weird 400-level channels just after the Mexican wrestling and just before pay-per-view porn.
As I've written about here before, I have what I call (in a tongue-in-cheek fashion) Chronic Existential Pain Syndrome.
David Byrne is really doing it for me right now.
This morning as I did my radio show, I found his album Here Lies Love and experienced a gradual dawning of increasingly exciting revelations:
1. It's a disco/club album by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim.
Although this blog is generally what I would describe as "aggressively UN-topical", I'm going to veer into the current for a second.
You may have heard that Miley Cyrus performed at the VMAs this Sunday. You may have heard this from pretty much every news outlet, mainstream and niche, feminist, socio-cultural, and otherwise.
I too have heard this.
Recently, for a reason that is boring, I was faced with the knowledge of what is the very first song I ever purchased from iTunes.
It's "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers.
Things that have happened to me recently:
1. Two viewings in one week of the 2010 future-cult-classic film Burlesque starring Cher and Christina Aguilera.
Do you believe in coincidences?
I sure do. There are a lot of them in this life. Some of them even seem to make patterns. But it's all in the interpretation.
It's a coincidence that this song has come on several times in the last weeks when I've been feeling blue and down.
I like a theory. I'm always working on a few, mostly ridiculous, ones. Like for a long time I had this whole matrix of food choices that was supposed to say something about your personality (Wheat Thins vs. Triscuits, spearmint gum vs. peppermint gum etc), and while I am not willing to abandon this entirely, I'm also open to a few more theories of personality and humanity.
I think I may be a silicon-based organism, because my mind just does not work very well in the heat.
But here's a good song! It's off the album Al Green Explores Your Mind, which held the distinction of "my new favorite album title" for about a week until it was knocked off by Everybody Hertz (by Air.)
I hope we can all agree that Eric Clapton's (or Derek and the Dominos if you want to get pedantic) "Layla" is an amazing song.
It's got all the things: technical complexity and innovation, more than enough emotion to go around, and a backstory encompassing several grand figures of rock history.
Because I've been mulling over American songs this past week, I thought I'd share two more classics of the genre.
Like I said in this post with this Sam Cooke song, some songs are to get the party started and some are to keep an existing party going. Cruising songs, one might say.
Summer is the best time for pop music.
In fact I would even venture to say that it is THE time for pop music, and pop music at all other times of the year is just trying to recreate the feeling of summer.
I should clarify my terms: in this case I mean "pop music" as in the stuff of the current day (and oh what a day it is currently).
Music is a form of communication that is sometimes direct and sometimes ineffable as heck. For instance, this particular song has been for the last few months something I listen to when I want to feel like myself again, after not feeling like myself. (Which is a distressing feeling as I am sure you understand.)
There is a particular topic that I want to start writing about more often.
Want is maybe not the right word. I mean something more along the lines of "don't really want to at all, but feel I should in order to stay true to my own personal values" (but that doesn't condense well).
Get ready, because this song is just ADORABLE.
The song: The Shirelles, "Everybody Loves A Lover"; 1962
Here's a nice summery song that will make you want to participate in a montage of fun activities with a group of attractive people:
The song: Two Door Cinema Club, "Something Good Can Work"; 2011
Usually I would just link to the entry where I said this, but for the first time in my life I am feeling the urge to quote myself and I kind of want to ride this wave into shore.
I can only ever realize in retrospect how much the music I showcase on this blog (and on my radio show, more on that later) reflects my mood.
I recently had the opportunity to speak in front of about 130 people about "any subject related to writing", which as you can imagine was extremely exciting but also extremely intimidating.
I really, viscerally do not get why Tom Jones was as famous as he was.
Am I too young? Cynical? Just squeamish about men who wear their shirts unbuttoned too far?
(Yes, yes, YES.)
Similarly, I really viscerally Do Not Get the song "It's Not Unusual". But I still love it. And here's why.
For those moments when life seems a little bit too close and real, like when I saw hyenas in a zoo in Singapore. It's a modern zoo, so you can't see they're in a cage.
The song: The National, "Slow Show"; 2007
I mentioned a few weeks ago that my house was broken into, and posted a Dusty Springfield song.
One cool thing about having had this blog for over a year: I can now start to see patterns in the way I listen to and enjoy music, which is really interesting because usually when I am in a Phase I pretty much feel like that Phase is the alpha and omega, the way things have always been and the way they always will be.
Girl groups: I recently mentioned them!
This song is notable for being the first song by an all-girl group to reach #1 in the United States. (Just think of the many all-girl groups that have come along since then! And what we would do without them! Our worlds would be so much darker.)
It makes me respect somebody to learn they love the music of what we call "girl groups".
Last Friday night an unknown person kicked down the door to my apartment, rifled through my possessions, and stole some of them.
I've been thinking a lot recently about country music.
I keep thinking I'll write one post where I just break it all down, country music and why I love it and what's unique and special about it, and these ideas always seem within my grasp when they're inside my head but completely ineffective when I try to put them outside.
One of the greatest things about the time I spend at WCBN is how often I get to read liner notes.
I think these are generally an underappreciated art form.
Back in the summer I read the liner notes to Paul Simon's latest album, which were written by Elvis Costello, and I've not forgotten this line:
I briefly mentioned this once but not in very much depth: I don't think of myself as an "albums" person.
I just respond to the song for the song. And think of songs for themselves.
I started my blog with a post about the Mature Break-Up Song.
In the almost-year since then I've wrestled a lot with the question of what my blog is about and for.
Editor's Note: The following post is presented in the form of a conversation between myself and my dear friend Emma Claire Foley, who recently revived her own blogging efforts with Having An Empty Mind. When I asked her to describe her blog, she said, "Uh. .
it's been a while since I wrote here, although I have been thinking about it every day, because that's what you do with something you love.
My mind has been occupied with a million other things, most notably and tangibly a very large upcoming international trip,
but more ineffably, the question of happiness.
One thing I am completely willing to admit about myself is that, where it comes to matters of media and culture, I am so stubbornly conservative as to be, like, one of those mountain trolls post-turning-into-stone.
And I don't mean like drive like drive in a car, I mean like drive like be driven.
Earlier today I was in a situation that does not hit me where I am strongest: a large dark room filled with mostly-strangers having emotions.
(Cigarette smoke used to crowd away some of the overwhelming emotion-ness of bars but now there is just no respite!)
By the time you read this, it will be my 25th birthday.
Also the first birthday LITERALLY IN MY ENTIRE MEMORY OF MY ENTIRE LIFE that I have not felt some angst about being a year older.
Here's a Christmas carol you don't hear too often, based on an 1864 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lamenting the state of the country during the Civil War.
The modern Christmas song is a tough thing to pull off.
For years my dad and I have joked that all we need to do to strike it rich in this life is somehow write the next hit Christmas carol, one that will be covered by generations to come, and then live easy forevermore on the royalties.
By night I am deeply embroiled in an intensive cultural-criticism training program (eating microwave popcorn by myself and watching cable television) but my day job is about children.
It will most likely come as no surprise that I'm a person who can get really melancholy and self-pitying and just terrible. (Have I ever hidden how much I truly love Morrissey?)
As I've mentioned before, I often have to force myself to turn outward.
When it comes to romance, the older I get the more I find myself turning into a fascist.
I used to not like this song. The implication that One True Love should somehow supersede a person's entire previous life ruffled my feathers, although I appreciated the beautifully simple and distinctive drum line and the sweetness of those notes at the beginning.
"Tainted Love" is by FAR my favorite song to sing in the shower, so I was delighted to come across this lesser-known original version of it. Before clicking, I thought to myself,
"Great! I will do a Version v. Version of this because what's better than listening to 'Tainted Love'? Listening to 'Tainted Love' five times in a row!!!!!!!"
A few months ago, around when I moved into my new place, I got on a real kick for self-improvement. Now I drink water with lemon in it (according to the highly reputable text Alkalize or Die! by Dr. Theodore Baroody, this is all I need to become immortal) and I try not to talk unless I have something interesting to say.
What I think a lot of people don't realize about being American is that part of being American is feeling kind of weird about it.
Okay so there's a lot of pretending that goes on in my life. I think it's a natural consequence of a) living alone and b) an overactive brain.
I usually steer clear of posting songs or theme-ing posts to holidays just because I feel that's establishing what could only be called a dangerous precedent,
but this song struck me as something good for Halloween and I'm trying to put my finger on why.
There's two kinds of hobbies in this life: the ones that exist outside your head, and the ones that don't.
One of my personal favorites of the latter genre is "pretending my life is a movie and I am the music director".
This is a really great song and I recommend that you listen to it ASAP.
The song: Erasure, "All Through The Years"; 1994
The moment: 1:25
If you've turned on a TV or the radio in the past three months, you've heard these songs.
My argument is essentially, not to put too fine a point on it, that these two songs represent Everything That Is Wrong With Everything in the Year 2012.
(in a metaphysical sense.)
Here we go.
I really love October (who doesn't) but I find that it can sometimes really exacerbate what I'll call my Chronic Existential Pain Syndrome.
Like most chronic things, it's low level most of the time and then occasionally flares up, usually in the form of thoughts like so:
The things you love most are the things you return to again and again.
Hence the concept of the dog-eared page. Or buying DVDs in an age when it's just as easy not to. The desire to own and mark what you know you will want to see again.
The things I return to are usually things I hardly realize I am returning to, because they never feel old, they just feel good.
Friends, it's that time again.
For that unanswerable question: who sung it best?
THIS TIME, a special twist because all of the artists featured here have ALSO been previously featured on In Bed With Amy Wilson. Because I love them all. A conundrum is before us.
The song? Only the one everybody should have in the back pocket of their emotional register:
As I've hopefully made clear, I'm really into things that seem kind of bright and upbeat but in fact are DARK and TWISTED and MORBID. The contrast is just really zesty to me.
I really like doing radio, as evidenced by the fact that for the last four months I have been willing to drag my carcass out of my burrow between the hours of 3am and 6am to do it.
There are a lot of things that are addictive and magical and wonderful about the radio, and I've done a lot of thinking about them recently. Here are two:
I recently submitted to the McSweeney's Internet Tendency Column Contest, which I did not win (evidently) but which required me to write one full example column for the submission.
I have been occasionally known to say I am in a relationship with my blog, which is only about 25% a joke.
Please excuse the recent radio silence. I have been moving, an endeavor which takes relatively little time in the physical world but which has CONSUMED MY BRAIN with a potent mix of dread and excitement and a catlike desire to pee everywhere in my new place (but the pee is colors and music).
Several (many) months ago I made this statement, which has periodically resurfaced to haunt me ever since: Neutral Milk Hotel's "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea" is the greatest folk song of our time.
Gonna talk about something I don't really talk about: I was on Jeopardy! and I won.
I was 22 years old and it was not College Jeopardy!, it was regular.
There are two kinds of people - people who get crushes, and another kind of person I don't want to contemplate.
I have a crush on this song, which I have played on Turn It Up with Amy Wilson each of the last three weeks, for some reason always between 5AM and 5:30.
The song: The Four Tops, "Ask the Lonely (a cappella)"; 1965
By all accounts Levi Stubbs, the lead singer of the Four Tops, was a well-adjusted and contentedly-married person despite having a voice that can get into your soul and stay there.
In this world fun is where you find it.
And if it's murderously hot and a once-a-year festival has descended upon your town and everyone is united by a shared feeling of irritation and rage (not a bad way to be united frankly),
The song: Trails and Ways, "Nunca"; 2012
I want to let this song speak for itself, because I think it can.
If I were in charge of the music for a Wes Anderson movie,
I'd put this song on the soundtrack.
The song: The Beatles, "Anna (Go With Him)"; 1963
I'm not asking you to like her music; that's a matter of personal preference.
But I just can't help but want to throw my hat in the ring of first-flush reactions and comments to Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D which hit theaters near you on Thursday.