Thursday, January 13, 2011

Songs That Bear Repeating

Since I mentioned my rather compulsive habit of song-repeating in my last post, I've had a request to post some of the songs that have gotten this treatment in the past. And since I'm a sucker for reader-requests (whoa, people actually read stuff I write?!), I'm totally game. This is also the most I have actually planned out a post ever (I actually wrote down notes on my lunchbreak -- true story), which may have not been a great idea because of course, I kept thinking of more songs to include. For now, though, I'm keeping it to a super-concise nine (if I counted right). I pared it down like so:

You see, dear Reader, even though I, in theory, subscribe to the idea that there should be know guilty pleasures in life -- after all, you enjoy what you enjoy; in practice, I can usually recognize when I should be embarrassed to like a particular song. (Hence my admittedly defensive note about the T.Swift song in the last post.) These songs, however, are all songs that I am not even remotely embarrassed to love, nor do I feel like I should be. If someone were to put out a huge press release to the world that said: "[The Watermelon-Shirt Type] has played all of these songs on repeat before!", I would be okay with that. (To be fair, that's pretty much what a blog is, anyway. So, done and done.)

Also, it should be noted that although I'm putting unofficial YouTube videos up for your listening convenience (you'll notice I had to make some compromises here in terms of the visuals), if you like these songs as much as I do, please support the artists and buy their music! I paid money for almost all of these -- the exceptions are two songs which I received on mix compilations from other people.

#1- Fiona Apple, "Paper Bag"

I was staring at the sky, just looking for a star
To pray on, or wish on, or something like that
I was having a sweet fix of a daydream of a boy
Whose reality I knew, was a hopeless to be had

Hunger hurts, and I want him so bad, oh it kills
'cause I know I'm a mess he don't wanna clean up
I got to fold 'cause these hands are too shaky to hold
Hunger hurts, but starving works, when it costs too much to love


He said, "It's all in your head," and I said, "so's everything" -- but he didn't get it.

Her voice sounds like bourbon tastes.

Ms. Apple may be surprised to find that this song has been co-opted by some pro-anorexia groups as a "thinspiration" song, due to its use of food-hunger as a metaphor for love-hunger. But although she has discussed struggling with an eating disorder in past interviews, it seems clear to me via context that's not what this song is about.

This song gives me a visceral reaction every time I listen to it, and has since I was twelve years old. (Most other music I liked back then hasn't aged quite as well -- but the best songs, like the best books [Chronicles of Narnia, anyone?], seem to evolve with time.) I have a distinct memory of waiting to leave on the St. Joe's Middle School ski-trip bus with my friend Liz at about six in the morning, and sitting with our Discmen (Discmen!) and listening to this CD. The same year, I memorized the full title of the album (When the Pawn) and can still recite it on command:

When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king
What he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fight
And he'll win the whole thing 'fore he enters the ring
There's no body to batter when your mind is your might
So when you go solo, you hold your own hand
And remember that depth is the greatest of heights
And if you know where you stand, then you know where to land
And if you fall it won't matter, cause you'll know that you're right

#2 -- Fiona Apple, "Shadowboxer"

You made me a shadowboxer, baby
I wanna be ready for what you do
I been swinging around 'cause
I don't know when you're gonna make your move

Oh, your gaze is dangerous
And you fill your space so sweet
If I let you get too close
You'll set your spell on me

So darlin' I just wanna say
Just in case I don't come through
I was onto every play
I just wanted you

It's still amazing to me that the album this song is on, Tidal, came out when she was only 17. The whole album is breathtaking. There are rumors that she might be coming out with a new (fourth) album in the spring, and although they are unsubstantiated, I sincerely hope that they're true.

#3- Janelle Monae, "Tightrope"

We call that classy brass!

This lady needs to be a bigger star than she already is, stat. Talk about triple threat. I also love her in interviews -- other stars talk about their love lives; meanwhile she talks about ALIENS. ALIENS, YOU GUYS.

#4- Nerina Pallot, "Geek Love"

In the race to get out of this place, I am checking my face in the back of a spoon.
You're accusing, you say I'm not here -- but I'm here, yes I'm here, yes, I'm not on the moon.

I got this song and first heard of this artist from my friend Aly. It was on one of the few CDs that I brought with me on my cross-country Greyhound trip, and it was one of my favorites for looking-out-the-window-listening-to-music-and-writing, which is pretty much what I did on that trip. (Miss you, open road.) Also, her song "Idaho" is the main reason why I was super excited when my trip from California to North Dakota took me through the northern Idaho, where I had a layover in Coeur D'Alene.

#5- Amy Winehouse, "Rehab"

This song reminds me of summer '09, a/k/a Nomi and Abby's Summer of Glory, when we would drive around and play this song on a summer mix CD I made, and she would make me skip the one T. Swift song (Track 1, "You Belong With Me") that was on there whenever we got to it.

For the record, I may love this song, but I am not a heroin addict...yet. (Just kidding, M&D! No desire for that sort of thing, as you probably know.) Hilariously, though, the GoogleAds on YouTube advertise rehab facilities alongside this song. ("They advertised that I should go to rehab, but I said no, no, no.")

#6- Johnny Cash, "Hurt"

What have I become, my sweetest friend?
Everyone I know goes away in the end.

You could have it all -- my empire of dirt
I will let you down. I will make you hurt.
If I could start again a million miles away,
I would keep myself. I would find a way.

Is it terrible that the phrase "heroin addict" made me remember to add this song (which I wrote in my notes, but didn't count in the nine I listed above)? This is actually a Nine Inch Nails cover, but I find the Johnny Cash version a million times more enjoyable.

#7- Lily Allen, "The Fear"

I want to be rich, and to have lots of money
I don't care about clever; I don't care about funny.
I want loads of clothes & fuckloads of diamonds
I heard people die while they're trying to find them.

& I'll take my clothes off, and it will be shameless,
'cause everyone knows that's how you get famous.

I mentioned this one earlier as a Perfect Pop Song (TM). I really admire how Ms. Allen manages to combine saccharinely-perfect catchy pop melodies with actual social issues. The whole album "It's Not Me, It's You" is wonderful.

#8 - Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories, "Stay"

Major throwback. This song came out in 1995, and I can remember being in the health-club locker room with my mom and enthusiastically singing along. A few years after that, I remember staying up late to watch Lisa Loeb on Loveline with Dr. Drew.

#9 -- Adele, "Right as Rain"

Who wants to be right as rain?
It's better when something is wrong.
You get excitement in your bones & everything you do's a game.
When night comes, and you're all on your own,
you can say I chose to be alone.

I first heard this song during a happy event and assumed that it was cheerful, probably due to the upbeat tempo. After listening to the lyrics, though, I couldn't hear it the same way again, sort of like being unable to picture the way you imagined characters in a book after seeing the movie.

#10 - Adele, "Chasing Pavements"

If I tell the world, I'll never say enough
'cause it was not said to you,
and that's exactly what i need to do,
If i'm in love with you.

Should I give up, or should i just keep chasing pavements even if it leads nowhere?

Since I finally gave into the countless recommendations of friends and started listening to Pandora last year, I've come to terms with the fact that my taste in music, which I once thought was rather eclectic, is entirely predictable. My discovery of Adele is an example of that. What is that, Pandora? Lots of piano? Subtle use of vocal harmony? You know me too well...

***EL FIN***

Tune in next time for "Songs I Am Actually Pretty Embarrassed To Have Played On Repeat." Well, maybe. If people want it. And I'm not too embarrassed.

In the meantime, here's what I'm reading as of late:

Born to Believe: God, Science, and the Origin of Extraordinary Beliefs and How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, MD
Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere by Kate Harding & Marianne Kirby
Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael Kimmel
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
A World That Will Hold All the People by Suzanne Gardinier
Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield
The Real Facts of the Grimms' Fairytales, which I have been borrowing from my friend Charlotte since forever
Communion by bell hooks
Fragment of the Head of a Queen by Cate Marvin

I overheard someone say recently that sometimes, our worst qualities are the same as our best qualities. The more I think about that, the truer it seems. I'm extremely loyal, but that also means that I don't know when to bail. (But maybe part of that is from riding horses, and the knowledge that's tougher to injure yourself if you're still on the horse instead of the ground. On the other hand -- the emergency dismount exists for a reason!) I'm honest, but sometimes it's possible to be too honest and say things that are unintentionally hurtful. It also means that I don't build up the walls that most people have in place for self-preservation -- but even the strongest houses collapse without walls.

Also, you guys! I totally wrote a poem the other night and immediately sent it out for publication. I have never, ever done that and I probably never will again. I keep a folder called "Unfermented Poetry" and I usually let things sit for at least several months, sometimes several years, while I revise, ignore, or some combination of both. But every once in a long while, something leaks out so honestly that I'd feel like it was lying to revise it. I will probably hate it if I reread it (and so no one else can read it either, unless it gets published). It's basically about how I don't understand the Book of Job. I reread it the other day and it really made me think of this Onion article.

Also, my body is better than anything on TV lately! I wake up every day with something different. Earlier, it was a baboon-red rash covering my entire neck. Then, hives all over both of my legs. (I took a picture! If you are nice to me and like gross things, maybe I'll send it to you. But also, maybe not.) Then, I could see my heart-beat in my left wrist. (Paging Dr. Peters? What does this mean?) Always against my better judgment, I decide to Google these things, and the Internet tells me that I could die at any moment (this time: the allergic reaction could spread to your throat and it could close up! oh noes!). And will it be sleeping all day, or no sleeping? Being very hungry, or not hungry at all for two days in a row? Tune in next time!

I think death is probably the Internet equivalent of college health services suggesting that I am either pregnant (srsly, not even possible) or have mono. ("So, my eye has been pretty irritated lately, and now it's bright red and oozing." "Hmm. Are you pregnant? No? Are you sure? Why don't we do a test to be sure..." "But my eye! It burns! Do I have pinkeye? Should I not go to class? I need ans..." *collapses in puddle of eye ooze*)


  1. Have you ever come across Marian Call? Her Got to Fly album might interest you.

  2. Nice list (I had never heard of Nerina Pallot, she sounds great!). Now I’m curious about the list of songs you are actually pretty embarrassed to have played on repeat.

  3. Have you read Love Is a Mix Tape, also by Rob Sheffield? It makes me want to cry, but it's lovely and silly and heartfelt and not stupid all at the same time. Which is quite a feat.

  4. Sarah: Thanks, I'll check it out!

    Rob: I'll consider you a vote for that post, then. It might have to happen.

    Nina: Love Is a Mix Tape is wonderful as well as one of the saddest books I've ever read, and I completely agree with your assessment of it. Did I tell you I saw him read at Brooklyn Book Festival?