Ladies, let’s have a rare discussion: which music is your favorite? How important is music in your life — how do you find new music, and when is the primary time you listen to music? Do you like to listen to music while you work, or is it reserved for other times in your day?
A while ago on a plane I found myself writing a long draft post for Corporette about music — specifically, my favorite songs over the years. It’s a pretty navel-gazing post, so I figured, hey, I’ll save it for my birthday, unless I really get desperate for a post idea. Today IS January 28 — so you’ll find that list below.
To answer my own questions above, though — music has always been important in my life, particularly for my moods, either to lift me out of them or give me that “you’re not alone” feeling. For example, I vividly remember being about 15 and having a huge fight with my parents, retreating to my room, and blasting Talking Head’s “Road to Nowhere” on repeat — because it just felt so good to hear David Byrne wail “baby it’s alllll riiiiiight.” For some reason Leonard Cohen’s song “Everybody Knows” was the soundtrack to my first semester of law school — on repeat, full volume in headphones. (Not dark at all, right?) I’ve also mentioned before on this blog about how during some unpleasant times at my law firm where I had to work with unpleasant personalities (yay for screamers!), I had Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right (But It’s Ok)” as my wake-up song — every day, for months.
In terms of new music, finding new music for me is challenging. I use the Shazam app a lot when we’re watching television, or else my brother passes along a lot of his music. If I’m doing dinner prep I’ll use the Amazon Echo to put Pandora or one of my iTunes playlists on. I’ve had to winnow down some of my playlists to stuff I feel comfortable with the kids hearing (I don’t exactly want to explain PJ Harvey’s “30” or Marianne Faithfull’s “Love in the Afternoon” to my eldest). That said, though, I’ve started listening to podcasts instead of music during walks or workouts with weights. So I kind of miss music, and would love to hear your ideas about how you incorporate it into your lives! Anyway, some of my favorite songs (links either go to YouTube or Amazon):
- Songs for energy: “Rock Me Amadeus” by Falco, “Suffragette City” by (David Bowie) (RIP). “Rock Me Amadeus” is like my good luck penny or something — it’s silly but I just can’t help myself. Every time it comes on my playlist I smile. “Suffragette City” is up there too — if I’m out on a run and the song comes on, the part where he gets wound up in the middle (“…wham bam thank you ma’am!”) gets me every time. (Incidentally, if you were as big a fan as I was of Bowie in Labyrinth, you must check out this Honest Trailer.) I’ll add Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us.”
- Songs for love:“Girl Like You” by Edwyn Collins, “My Moon My Man” by Feist. First: “Girl Like You” (from the Empire Records soundtrack, which I think I discovered through Napster). I remember listening to this song so, so much while I was in serious Must-Date-Now mode and hoping so hard that I would find someone who felt this way about me. Second: “My Moon My Man,” which I first heard around the time I started dating my husband. I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by the relationship — he was so sure, which was reassuring but also a bit… overwhelming — and I really connected with her words “take it slow, take it easy on me… shed some light, shed some light on me, please.” OK, two more: Ani Difranco’s “Circle of Light” and Laurie Anderson’s “Beautiful Red Dress” — love the lyric “I’ve got a beautiful red dress… and you’d look really good standing beside it.” (When I was dating I had what I called a “toots” playlist too — as in, “tell yourself whatever you need to to get over it, toots,” with songs like Elvis Costello’s “I’m Not Angry,” or Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.”)
- Songs for kiddos: “Girl with One Eye” by Florence + the Machine. You probably were not expecting that one, at least not for this category, considering it’s kind of a song about murder and mayhem. But: when I was pregnant with Jack I heard that I was supposed to sing to my baby. I figured I had years ahead of me for “Wheels on the Bus” type stuff, so I found a bunch of stuff in my iPod that was in my key that I could/wanted to sing. “Girl with One Eye” is not exactly in my wheelhouse, at least not in its entirety (her range is amazing!) but I had such fun singing along that I sang along ALL. THE. TIME with Jack in my belly. (I also would recite e.e. cumming’s “anyone lived in a pretty how town” at random intervals, because I didn’t know how to “talk” to my baby, and had memorized the poem in college for a class.) Other songs: For some reason I don’t remember singing that much to Jack that much once he was out, but I sang a ton to Harry when he was first born — loudly and off key. Our songs: “We Three Kings” (which is one of the longest songs I know all the lyrics to — all five verses, baby!), “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, and “Skeletons In My Closet,” a super random song from a video game I played sometime in the ’90s (The 7th Guest). The first time Harry heard “We Three Kings” on the radio he looked at me with wonder. (I guess he was around 6 or 7 months old then.)
- Songs for adventure: “Rhythm of the Heat” by Peter Gabriel. This is an ollllld favorite, and there are lots of better Gabriel songs I could list here (and I know most of his canon, including his Genesis stuff). Still: this song came to me from a beloved teacher when I was 13 and really in need of something… broader than my existence. At the time I was listening to a lot of Guns N’ Roses and other lite metal, and feeling trapped and angry in my suburban life… It was the oddest song I’d ever heard, and opened the door in my mind to explore other types of music. I went down the art rock path — Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson — and loved it all, and that in turn opened wider artistic doors. I feel like I owe a lot of my life to the Rhythm of the Heat. (And the movie Joe Versus the Volcano, but hey, that’s a different list.)
- Songs that speak to my loyalty/traditionalism: the album “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” by Ray Conniff and The Ray Conniff Singers (huh, available for Prime streaming!). It isn’t Christmas unless this CD is on. Not as in, “on the playlist,” but as in, it IS the playlist.
- The prettiest songs I’ve ever heard: This is a mixed bag — “Shame” by PJ Harvey, “Small Song” by Lhasa De Sela, and “Flyg Vilda Fågel” by Lisa Ekdahl. OK, FINE, and if I’m letting my dork flag fly I’ll include Enya’s “Caribbean Blue.” “Shame” I associate with law school — a relationship didn’t work out and I took solace that PJ Harvey, who obviously was/is awesome, had at some point been in similar shoes. “Small Song”… so, so beautiful, and such a wonderful thing to remember as we go through life. (RIP Lhasa.) “Flyg Vilda Fågel” is, I think, is what happiness sounds like. (I have no idea what the lyrics actually say, and don’t really want to know.) And, hey, Enya. I’d also add The Civil Wars’s “If I Didn’t Know Better” to the list (I actually do prefer the Nashville cast version, which I think is what you hear in the YouTube link.)
- Songs for girl power: “Invincible” by Pat Benatar. Another oldie on my list. I was probably 11 or 12 when, one night, my mother and I happened on the very silly movie this song was written for, The Legend of Billie Jean, and I stayed up late watching it so we could see who sang that song they kept playing. (Funnily enough this is one of my son’s favorite songs at the moment — let’s set aside the wisdom of teaching lyrics like “we’re gonna scream until we’re satisfied” to an unruly 4.5 year old.) Newer and trendier, but I would add Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” to this list. Also, I always feel empowered when I listen to these songs, although I suppose it’s debatable whether the songs themselves are empowering: “Crucify” by Tori Amos… “Like a Prayer” by Madonna… and “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. Ok, I’ll add “Hope You’re Happy Now” by The Sounds. (Along these lines, Marie Forleo shared a similar empowering song for her in a recent post that I’m also enjoying…)
- Songs for the introvert: “Time” by Pink Floyd. Whenever I throw a party and make a playlist, I try my best to have the music create an energy in the room. In my youth, “Time” would usually close a 7- or 8-hour party playlist. Alarm clocks, wake up! Dark thoughts of your own mortality and how little you’ve accomplished! The party’s over! You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here. I remember one party I threw with a friend and, at 3 or 4 in the morning, we sat slumped on the floor talking with one of her friends, whose name, I think, was George. (This happened to be a Beaujolais tasting party, and I’d probably had a zillion glasses.) The song came on the playlist and I just remember thinking, “DUDE, who are you and why are you still here?”
- Cheesy songs I’ve listened to far too long: “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” by Eiffel 65, “Around the World“ by Daft Punk, “Be My Lover” by La Bouche, and “Land Down Under” by Men at Work. I suppose “Rock Me Amadeus” fits in here also. I don’t know why — these are all mainstays on my running/workout lists.
- Songs to Wake Up To: I love having a good wake up song, and will get into a rut where my iPhone makes me up to the same one every morning for months. For a while it was Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman,” then I switched to the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll,” and these days it’s “Blind” by Hercules and Love Affair. I have a whole “Get Up” playlist in iTunes for mornings or times that aren’t so rushed; before kids my husband and I would listen to stuff like this before we went to parties.
- (mentioned above): Songs to play on repeat: “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen,”Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads, “It’s Not Right (But It’s OK)” by Whitney Houston. (I particularly like one of the dancier mixes, but the original song is good too!) Sometimes in my life (I guess “Girl with One Eye” fits in this category too), for whatever reason, I just need to listen to a song on repeat… like, a lot. “Everybody Knows” was my law school song, particularly first year, first semester. I would take study breaks and blare it through headphones, laying flat on the floor of my dorm room. “Road to Nowhere” was from earlier, in high school — as I was finishing high school I just loved the line, “they can tell you what to do but they’ll make a fool of you, and it’s all right, baby, it’s all riiiiight!” And finally: “It’s Not Right (But It’s OK)”, which I’ve mentioned on this blog before. I think of this as my BigLaw song — I went through a period of about 4 months or so where it was my alarm clock song when I went through a rough patch at work with an un-fun case staffed with un-fun people.
- Entire Albums I Love Listening To: PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love. Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues. Peter Gabriel’s Security.
I could go all day with different little categories, but I’ll stop there.
In other random music news — I subscribe to iTunes Match so I don’t have to worry about storage space on my phone and iPad. Almost everything is organized by self-made genres which I use to create Smart playlists, usually for mood. The “genre” listing on iTunes will often look like “get up / workout / introspective / angry,” meaning the song will end up on those four playlists.
Ladies, what are some of your favorite songs and musicians? (I think I started this list as a “top 10 songs” and then wound up grouping from there.) How do you discover new music; which old music still has meaning to you?