Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 Retrospective, The Playlist

Will, a singularly sexy individual I have seen three times, knows music and when I asked his favorite song, he said he could never pick just one. Then he mentioned creating a soundtrack for his life, a project I found both charming and intriguing. As I sleep more and cough less, I find myself awake after midnight, lazily drifting through thoughts. And it seems - at least for me - that devising a playlist for my past takes a great deal of time, squinting as I search memories and attempt to pair sounds with the visuals I find easier to recall.

1. Elvira, The Oak Ridge Boys
This was my first favorite song and I remember carefully placing the needle on the record on the giant system in my grandpa's basement and waiting for the people inside the huge box to begin singing my song. Grandpa's face would crinkle in a grin when I told him before we'd sing a dance.

2. I Get Around, The Beach Boys
Dad had a smaller (but louder) stereo at our house and I can vividly remember Brother as a toddler as we'd take turns dancing on the blue ottoman that matched the living room chairs in the center of the room.

3. Copacabana, Barry Manilow
Mom was a big Manilow fan and I'll still admit he has some catchy songs, but this one sticks out for me because it completely bummed me out. Songs were not just for giggles and dancing. They also existed to cause deep emotional pain. Also, Mr. Manilow behaved rather badly in a limo while doing a concert in Peoria, allegedly saying something rude about our city. For shame, Barry. For shame.

4. Like a Virgin, Madonna
I know parents today must struggle with lyrics for music their children like. But I can still remember Mom & Dad wincing with sheer discomfort as Beth and I linked hands and twirled each other around the house until we were dizzy, singing along about being touched. For the very first time. (The same thing happened with Color Me Badd's I Wanna Sex You Up, by the way, albeit with my mom asking if I could just not play it anymore when I was a tad older.)

5. If You Leave, Orchestra Manoeuvres in the Dark (Is that not a good name for a band? Nice.)
Cousin's bedroom was painted black. She wore make-up and ripped jeans and shirts that would slip off one shoulder. I thought he was the most impossibly cool individual on the planet. I was allowed in her room during a family gathering and she talked to me and played music and was impressed when I memorized this song and began to sing along. "You're smart," I remember her saying and beamed with flattered delight.

6. You Got It (The Right Stuff), New Kids on the Block (In my defense... never mind. It is what it is.)
7. Good Vibrations, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch (Mark was Donnie's brother!)
8. Freedom 90, George Michael
9. Killing Me Softly with His Song, The Fugees
10. Piano in the Dark, Brenda Russell
I had a boom box situated downstairs, close to the trampoline on which I'd bounce. Next to it were cassette tapes - scattered and stacked - all of which contained rhythms and lyrics that were vitally important to me at the time. So much of that is blurred in my memory - spanning the years of grade and high school - that I can't really recall specific songs. As I write this post, I realize it's because they weren't associated with other people. I was alone as I engaged in daydreams and worked through worries and the music - while profoundly necessary - wasn't all that memorable. It was, however, mostly peppy.

11. Swinging on a Star, Bing Crosby
I won my first (and only) first place medal for my solo performance of this song in a junior high competition. It reminded me of my grandparents and I found it adorable. Still do.

12. Close Every Door, Andrew Lloyd Webber
I loved Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat in high school and had a flirtation with other musicals as well. There was something thrilling about watching people perform - music and plotlines filling a theater so that nothing else was able to intrude on the experience. It is, by the way, no accident that this is a spiritually-focused musical or a song that focuses on God.

13. The Red Strokes, Garth Brooks
14. When Love Finds You, Vince Gill
15. One Boy, One Girl, Colin Raye
16. I Never Knew Love, Doug Stone
I went through a country phase in high school, much of which I've blocked from my memory. I fear if I opened those doors, the likes of Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Tim McGraw and Martina McBride would emerge to sing and make me cry. I literally had to pull the car over while listening to the radio more than once on my way back and forth to my rural high school.

17. Beauty and the Beast, Angela Lansbury
Grandma watched Murder, She Wrote, and I remember sitting next to her, linking my fingers with hers and thinking how the skin on her hands, a little loose from age, was remarkably soft as we watched Belle and Lumiere and Chip. When I think of unending love and unconditional acceptance - a simple comfort and enduring support - I think of Grandma. And am profoundly grateful I knew and loved her and achingly sad that she's gone.

18. Bedroom Dancing, Day One
I thought Cruel Intentions was a reasonably good movie, but the soundtrack? It never left the stereo in college. In the dying days of the CD (though I was always a late adopter of new music technology and wouldn't have an iPod until I finished grad school), we had a disc changer and would listen to the same 3-4 albums ad nauseum, an unending alpha to omega through an artist's work or, in this case, collection of music to match a film.

19. True Companion, Marc Cohn
College existed for crushes as much as core curriculum. And, apart from bonding over the same few CDs, we also watched certain television shows with sincere and profound devotion. Felicity was one of those and my absorption in it and our passionate discussions around Ben versus Noel have meaning for me even today. (I have an unpublished post about it - I'll tell you later.) We also claimed Sunset Beach as our favorite soap opera and had a standing Friends date.

20. What Can I Do? The Coors
Talk on Corners typically was typically close to the Cruel Intentions CD and brings to mind vivid memories of sitting on twin beds in dorm rooms or double beds in our apartment and talking about sex, boys and Cosmo articles. Doing homework, establishing friendships with the depth and quality I'd always wanted and learning to have an identity that was at least a little separate from that I had with my family. Those friends, by the way, made my utter failure at attracting male attention bearable in the presence of their love and acceptance.

21. Long Day, Matchbox 20
To continue the 'whole CD' theme, I went to a concert with my girls in college. We saw Matchbox Twenty some 3 hours away and, on the drive home, realized that the car's CD player was broken.

"We'll sing," I decided and with strong support from the backseat and hesitant acceptance from our shyer driver, we went through all of Yourself or Someone Like You. A capella. Remembering the order and every lyric and giggling through some of the more off-key renditions. And it was perfection.

22. Jesus, He Loves Me, Edwin McCain
Edwin was a personal favorite of mine - I have much of his early stuff and had given CDs to Dad since he was fond of him as well. This is a sincere bow of the head to my spiritual growth in college, tied closely to Dad's heart attack just as my senior year started.

23. Elevation, U2
Grad school, following a rather decorated senior year with weight loss and academic success, started on an undeniably high note. I was confident and happy and full of hope. I was meeting people and finding my own way to be charming and, for the first time, living some distance from my parents. And though it was scary, that first summer filled with literature and new places and people was stunning.

24. Babylon, David Gray
"I feel sick," I noted the other day, looking around and wondering what had caused my stomach to cramp. "Oh," I realized after a moment when I noted this song playing in the restaurant where we were having drinks. "Freaking David Gray is making me nervous and insecure." For when I was listening to this, encouraged by my grad school cohort, classes and labs had started and I suddenly realized with no small amount of shock and terror that I wasn't nearly as smart as I'd grown to believe.

25. Bubble Toes, Jack Johnson
As it tends to happen for me, I find the right people at the time I most need them. And M, with her tiny body and huge personality, provided the stability and encouragement and support that I required as I found my balance in the big, bad world. M is, of course, from Hawaii and through countless study sessions and dinners out, we grew impossibly close. She was, for a time, my lifeline.

26. Hotel Paper, Michelle Branch
27. Turn Off The Light, Nelly Furtado
28. Sweet Surrender, Sarah McLachlan
"You're a misogynist," Carrie noted, my other favorite friend from my graduate research group. We listened to a lot of music while analyzing data in our office that overlooked the lake and she was staring over my shoulder at iTunes. "I will give you female artists and you will listen to them and you will like it." And both because she was right and because I loved her, I did. She still sends me music sometimes and we tend to monitor each other's playlists when we room together at conferences.

29. The Remedy (I Won't Worry), Jason Mraz
Few songs make me dance, even when completely alone. So I smile as I remember wiggling and twirling about my tiny studio apartment during my second year of grad school, having done quite well on my qualifying exams and feeling more confident in myself from a research perspective. If you'll notice, grad school is wildly variable - ups and downs coming quickly and with great intensity.

30. Unwell, Matchbox 20
It was clear to me that I was struggling with a mood disorder as I worked through a Masters and Doctorate. That one shouldn't be driven to tears so easily. That it shouldn't seem nearly impossible to get out of bed. That answering the phone or responding to the buzzer of my apartment should be commonplace and not cause a deep desire to hide in the corner of a dark bathroom, hoping nobody would find me until I was ready to face them. This song could also be used to describe that horror that was the very end of my graduate career.

31. Love Song for Noone, John Mayer
So as not to forget the second half of grad school, once M and Carrie had departed for greener pastures and Chienne arrived from the shelter to be my bestest buddy, I tried to find a song that offered a nod to the intense dating exercises I undertook. I was very fond of John Mayer at this time but always ended up sleeping with only my sweet canine for company.

32. Breathe (2AM), Anna Nalick
I listened to Wreck of the Day all the time when I moved to Southern State. I had these little white speakers I would attach to Chandler, the iPod, my graduation gift from my parents. (Chandler is currently on my ottoman waiting for the 2010 Retrospective playlist, by the way - great little guy.) Being terribly lonely, I was reading a lot of blogs and finally gathered the courage to start my own five years ago.

33. Only You, Josh Kelley
34. Come Down to Me, Saving Jane
35. Time, Sarah McLachlan
36. Leave the Pieces, The Wreckers
If I were to select the beginning-middle-ending-ended songs for Pete, these would be them. I was aware that these were potential selections for this project, but kept my mouse hovered over Pause on iTunes when they played, ready to delete them if I felt that awful sick feeling of rejection and loss and heartbreak. I relaxed when I felt nothing but a vague sense of nostalgia - a glimmer of sympathy for myself at that stage and some pride in knowing I worked through it and am healthier for the experience. If it seems like a lot of space to devote to a heartbreaking experience, remember that it encompassed a fairly recent and quite important time for me. I met Charlie and grew more confident that I wanted an Industry position and that there were truly wonderful guys in the world. I met Friend. I regained some confidence professionally even as I crumbled personally. And these are reminders of that more than my obsession with someone I wanted to love me.

37. Fidelity, Regina Spektor
Friend was - and is - unlike anyone I've met. And though I know a lot of words, I have not enough to fully express the love, admiration, gratitude and wishes for her happiness I have. Our relationship is chronicled in posts, for she was such a vital element to my post-doctoral experience that the blog would have been mostly meaningless without her for my last two years in Southern State. I can say that the distance between us in the past year has been like a gnat - it buzzed at my consciousness until I knew I had to fix it or go completely crazy.

So why this song? It is at times gentle and powerful, completely compelling and a little quirky. And one of my enduring favorites. Plus, she has broken my fall - or helped me heal afterward - on more than one occasion.

38. The Way I Am, Ingrid Michaelson
We move to my current home, my position in Industry, and the post-2008 version of Katie and Minor Revisions. And while the process has been neither quick or easy, I have grown more comfortable with myself - my place, my talent, my flaws. It's been a favorite song - simple, sweet, sincere and a little silly.

39. Mercy, Duffy
Though I'd heard this before, I bought it during a trip to London in January. It was playing at the pub where Jenny, Richard and I shared drinks after dinner. And though I loved meeting them and had a nice time, I'm including it more because it's become my travel theme song over the past year. It is another of those rare tunes that can make me dance and I smile when I hear it, thinking of a clumsy if heartfelt routine in my lingerie in my room in Paris in an attempt to ease my melancholy over not being in love, coughing through my attempts to shake it in Stockholm in a teeny-tiny hotel room, and hummed it as I bounced through Barcelona. If you find yourself jetlagged, I totally recommend playing this. Loud. It really does help.

40. Big Bang Theory Theme, Barenaked Ladies
I don't listen to a lot of music of late. There is always sound - I even sleep with the television on in an attempt to distract my brain from worry in order to rest. So since I do find myself giggling over DVDs of television shows rather than listening to music (today is unprecedented in that the television is off so I can focus on music), it seemed an appropriate place to pause with this particular song. It is also a gentle reminder of Will, as I attempted to introduce him to the series one night, and he triggered this post/project which Sheldon may have called, "Eight hours well wasted." It was actually a lovely and memorable way to spend a germy Thanksgiving.

If, by the way, you have something you think I should hear, leave a comment. Please and thank you. And should you decide to do a playlist of your own, could you send me a link?


Anonymous said...

This is such a cool idea! I may have to get to work.

Seeking Solace said...

Those are some really good picks!!!

An Oldie said...

First of all I agree too, this is cush a cool idea. And second some of these brings back so much memory for me as well.

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