Monday, June 22, 2009

Music That Has Made My Life Better: A Retrospective in Awesome Tunes on Monday!

Greetings, internets! I was surprised when Kailana said, "Hey, do you want to do this guest post on my blog?", but honored she wanted to share her space for my excessive talking, and warning, there will be excessive talking! That is just how I roll. Let's get this show on the road, as they say in the biz.

I haven't taken part in this weekly meme at all, ever! Internets, I feel really bad. This is not for lack of love for Chris, who is fantastic and also within easy stalking distance of yours trul—oh wait, but because I relate to music in weird ways. When I was a teenager, I would connect to bands through one song, embrace their album and listen to it on loop for hours and hours and hours and hours and get the picture. As I've aged (quite well, I might add) my habits have changed. I don't actively look for new music—mostly I let it come to me and it normally does so, much like childhood, in the form of one song. The difference is that I no longer search out the album as much as I used to, because most of the time I don't love the entire album as much as the particular song that led me to that album. There are exceptions (AS WELL THERE SHOULD BE), but this is how my music journey has operated for years now.

I am a big sucker for good story-telling in my music, which is what I am going to focus on today! I love stories and how pliable the stories in music are to individuals. What a song means to me, it won't mean to anyone else. That's the beauty of a good song: it says something, it tells us secrets, and never in the same way it tells someone else. For instance, does listening to Lady Gaga sing about poker faces make you think of watching 15 drunk, Southern men playing cards down by the river (no there was no van, although pick-up trucks were in abundance) and singing The Red Stroke by Garth Brooks entirely off key? No! Probably not, because you do not listen to Lady Gaga and are currently wondering why in the hell I do, and have now closed the window in disgust. F-Farewell? HOWEVER, it is a great example of how songs tell us different stories—stories we already know, stories that we have forgotten, stories that feature a man with a beard wearing a cat sui—um. Never mind, nothing to see here!

I thought long and hard about which songs tell me the best stories; stories that touch me and stories that make me think, that challenge me to be a better person. I finally came up with a good list of five, that encompass everything I love in the entire world. Allow me to share them with you!

Part I! The World Would Be A Much Better Place if We All Just Took A Moment To Dance: Kings of Convenience Possibly Antidote To Global Ills

Much like Aang on the excellent cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender attempts to SAVE PEOPLE THROUGH THE POWER OF DANCE, I believe many problems could be solved by taking a moment out to turn on a good song and shake around—possibly badly! DON'T WORRY. I won't tell. Feel free to push play and dance around the room. You'll feel better, and also it will distract you from the line in this song that will possibly bring the wrath of the entire literature world down on my head!

Part II! Love Comes In Many Bright Colors and Delicious Flavors: Regina Spektor Offers Free Samples!

Have you ever had a moment where the best comfort comes not from family, who just don't get your woe and agony, but from friends? From the friends that you've made your family because sometimes, family is just not a delicious bag of jelly beans with all the gross ones picked out? That's how this song makes me feel; a love song to friends, a love song to friends who will become more. When I talk about songs finding me through stories, even when the song isn't a part of the story, I use this example of a fan made video, that takes all best parts of the song, and the best part of a movie I love, and creates something that can speak to people and how love can change a person: make them better and stronger and brings out the capacity to love.

Part III! It's Not Just the Music, it's the Poetry that's Hidden Under the Melody: Badly Drawn Boy Might Be Scribbled, But These Lyrics Aren't

Ever met a song that you thought you wouldn't like much? It's not your style! What kind of guitar is that, anyway! It's not you, it's me? Ever met a song and knew within five seconds, that nope, it just wasn't going to work out, but geez, how do you break it off? Maybe the song was recommended by a friend, so you kept listening. Maybe under the music that's sort of weird, definitely not you at all, no way—you find something unexpected? You find a line that says something you didn't even realize you were looking for the words for and it's a revelation. This song is a little like that; messy, scrawled melody on the wall of your mind, but sitting right beneath is poetry. This happened to me with this song, a song that grated my nerves until I heard the words. GOOD LUCK, INTERNETS. I hope one day you discover a song like this. It is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, if rainbows had ends, that is.

Part IV! Guilty Pleasures Should Never Be Guilty, They Should Just Be Pleasures, Because Life is Too Short to Give a Damn: Jonas Brothers Edition

Popular culture is telling me because I am 26 years old and not a teenybopper anymore that I should be ashamed of myself for loving the hell out of Jonas Brothers and their ilk. "This isn't the 90s, Renay!" they all say. "You're not 14 anymore! You had your heyday with Hanson! You can never go back!" as if this is some reverse All Dogs Go To Heaven situation. Here's what I love about music shaming if you don't listen to the "right" stuff and shun the "popular" artists: it's so silly! And a waste of time! It is mostly an amazement that there are the boys, playing instruments and creating art and wearing skinny jeans when ten years ago at least one of those things would have made them GAY and therefore destined to be unsuccessful. I won't say which one! Is anyone tired of the debate between high and low culture? These kids can make thousands more albums if they will make playing music look cool, because when I was in school the only thing cool about playing an instrument was that your parents had money to buy it for you. THANK YOU, attractive but off-limits-to-me boy band!

Part V! Exceptions to Rules Are A Way of Life Unless That Rule Is "Don't Listen to Weepy Songs When You're Sad": Jimmy Eat World Makes me Break That Rule Constantly

I said there were exceptions to my rule about how I get attached to just one song off an album, and this is it. Jimmy Eat World has been with me since 2001, when I first discovered their song, "Claire" and quickly acquired every song and album by them I could find. They grew popular with their single "The Middle", and I would be lying if I said I didn't love their mainstream stuff just as much as their other work. I could spend the next 4,000 words explaining how Jimmy Eat World encompass Parts I - IV for me in various ways, because they do. Their music stays comforting, whether quiet or loud, simple songs or complicated rocking out because of the stories they tell. They invite you to dance, and to sing, and show you in as many ways as you want what love is like without every using the word. They tell thousands of stories in two lines of lyrics, such as Just Watch the Fireworks, or A Praise Chorus. Unfortunately, most of the time all this band's songs make me sob uncontrollably into my cat's fur, either because they're so pretty, or sad, or they make me so happy! I NEVER CLAIMED NOT TO BE A WUSS.

Part VI! The end!

That concludes our musical adventures; I hope it has been enlightening and preferably you danced at least once. In closing, I leave you with two of the excellent songs from the video game franchise Kingdom Hearts: Simple and Clean and Sanctuary by Utada Hikaru, which I promise not to say anything about, except that they're awesome. :D



  1. All these music posts depress me. They make me feel so freakin' old. Yes, I am so pathetic that I never even know who half the artists you all talk about are. :( But Renay, you just made me, not because I know these songs or artists either. But because you mentioned Avatar, and that is one of my very favorite shows in the whole maybe I can pretend for a minute that I'm not so old and un-hip after all. Yeah, I know, it's going to take some mighty fierce pretending.

  2. haha, Renay, this was a great post! Thanks so much for participating!

    And, Debi... I planned to ask you to participate when you were back to blogging all the time....

  3. Great post, Renay (and Kailana!) My brother turned me on to Regina Spektor a few months ago. Her music is wonderful!! As far as the Jonas Brothers go, I have little girls. Enough said! I'm to my eyeballs with them....but I'm strangely compelled to like their new song, Paranoid. Just don't tell the girlies. I like to give them a hard time!! sheesh. For that matter don't tell anyone!

  4. I loved reading this even though I only knew a few of these bands and songs...who cares because I could relate to your reasons for picking them! As for dancing...I did that the other night after watching Hammer's new reality show. We have hardwood floors and I can slide and move pretty cool on least I thought I danced well, but my hubs and son were quick to point out that MC Hammer I'm not!!! But I still enjoyed letting loose!

  5. I love Regina Spektor and I love the Utada Hikaru songs!! I actually own both kingdom hearts soundtracks because of those songs :p I'll let you keep the jonas brothers though Renay :p

  6. I really like your choices! The Kings of Conveniece are lovely. One of my best memories EVER is being on stage with them. Not just me, a whole group of people, but anyway, it was AWESOME. And Regina Spektor deserves many <3 <3 <3s as well. Speaking of whom, she has a new album out today, to which I'm listening this very instant! And so far it's beautiful. I could go on an on, but I'll just say that this post makes me want to start writing about music again, semi-regularly at least, because I haven't even thought about what a song means to me in far too long. And I don't want to lose the ability to articulate it.

    And ha, I SO had my heyday with Hanson. And it was FUN, and I miss it, so perhaps I should give the Jonas Bros a listen :P Music shaming is indeed VERY lame. And for some reason it seems to happen much more often than book shaming, which is of course also very lame.

  7. I love Kingdom Hearts! I finished the first one and really should go back and finish 2 at some point. Disney meets Final Fantasy, genius.


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