Overthinking so you don't have to.
Iris tagged me in a chain status (So glad we’ve moved on from chain letters; what a disrespect to trees!) to “list ten albums that have stayed with you over the years in some way.” The directions specifically state “Don’t take too long on this list – just a few minutes, tops. These don’t need to be ‘great’ record or critical darlings. Just records that have meant something to you personally.” It being a Facebook chain status, I presume that I should Keep It Simple, Stupid and just post the list with its album titles and artist names and let everyone figure it out and judge away. But me being myself, I went on a tangent while I scrawled ten lines on the train, and I had to explain to myself why these ten earned a place in this otherwise arbitrary grouping.
The Maykazine was getting dusty. I never stopped overthinking, I’ve just been writing less. So here’s some verbiage:
Lioness: Hidden Treasures by Amy Winehouse (2011)
Amy Winehouse was so amazing. I really love her voice. I miss her stuff. I lament over how she couldn’t be saved. My lamenting spirals into worrying about the state of mental health: for talented artists, for untalented artists, for civilians, for the poor. Most deaths are tragic. For me, her death was particularly tragic. Possibly particularly predictable, but still, just as particularly tragic. (Let’s discuss how gutted you’d feel if someone created a site predicting your death.)
I went to my second Coachella specifically wanting to see her, live. It was 2007 and she wasn’t heavily known. In the US, her reputation for self-damaging behavior was beginning to precede her reputation for great singing, and she was billed at some awful time like 3 p.m. on Friday. (This was the first year that Coachella had expanded into three-day affair.) After a lot of schedule shifting in my own Coachella group, I got to the gates with ten minutes left of her set. I did the pee-pee/”let’s get a move on” dance through security, and bolted to the tent. I got there just in time to hear her say, “Thank you, Coachella!” Years later, she died.
I enjoy listening to her B-sides and this amalgamation of “hidden treasures” the most, because it seems more respectful. My favorite Amy Winehouse is Lounge Singer Amy Winehouse, and these albums are less produced. “Rehab” is still fun as Hell, but when I think of her, I think of her in a dark oak-y room, and Frank B-Sides and Lioness just seem like better companions to the smoke that should fill that room.
Record Collection by Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. (2010)
I have a massive crush on Mark Ronson. He’s so talented, savvy, and cool. I haven’t a creative inkling of what it takes to make music, so his Midas Touch fascinates me. I love music minds who are archives for histories, cultures, and icons who shape modern-day music. When I read his interviews and re-listen to his tracks, I can really hear what he’s referencing. It wows me. I went to an otherwise lame keynote address because he was the speaker. It was about an atrocious topic: the London Olympics and writing some song for Coca-Cola. I don’t know what he said, who he namedropped, or if he spoke English, because I was just enamored with him the whole time. He is tall. He didn’t see me. It was hot.
Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers (1999)
OKAY YOU HAVE TO GIVE ME A BREAK ON THIS ONE. Californication got me through high school. It was fresh(wo)man year, I was getting a C in Honors Bio, I got in trouble for sneaking out to a rave because I liked a boy, and thus I found myself calculating an Ibuprofen overdose because I was convinced that I would never get into college, never find a job, never find a life partner, and might as well be dead. It was a sad, sad time.
“By the Way,” “Scar Tissue,” – OMG, “PORCELAIN??” (I am agog at the heavyhanded melancholy of those three titles in succession.) I was in my tragic emo teenager phase, the kind that could only be quelled by some label-backed band heavily merchandised at Hot Topic.
I haven’t been into an RHCP album since, despite seeing them live a couple times since its release. It’s what I needed at the time, and now I can’t stand the band. (I will admit I’m amazed at their continuing existence. They’re as old as I am, and their girlfriends are a fraction of my age.)
Fanmail by TLC (1999)
(In Left Eye’s voice) “Fanmail!”
This is such a great album. Even though the treatment was stepping away from 90s hip-hop and into more synthesized overproduction, I don’t think TLC overdid it. The cover was holographic/late 90s-3D . The videos had a tech-y metallic fashion to them. It was like TLC led the fascination with the coming of the new millennium.
I still listen to this one in its entirety on Spotify.
AND HERE’S WHERE I GO ON A TANGENT. Because I was putting myself in the shoes of my yesteryears with the first four items, I started thinking about the CDs that defined “school,” and life before college. You will see a pattern to this next batch of nominees.
Spoiler: The theme is soundtracks, and while I considered revising my selection for this sophisticated Facebook status meme, I am opting to stay true to my true self. Y’can’t predict me ’cause I’m a wild card. Gatorade me, bitch!
The Dr. Dolittle soundtrack (1998)
“Are You That Somebody?” Aaliyah was alive, Timbaland uh-huhed, and the choreo in this video rocked. Also probably the last Eddie Murphy movie I’ve seen.
I distinctly remember lending this CD to Clarence Tsay in Honors Bio, asking him point blank: “I’m not gonna get this back from you, am I?”
“T-Say” answered no, and he remained true to his word.
See? The Space Jam soundtrack taught us how to be forthright and and honest.
I am still bummed out that Spotify does not have the actual soundtrack, just “in the style of” covers, and that I have multiple friends who have never seen this movie. What the flock? They have missed the planets-as-marbles analogy, the Monstars’ Anthem, and the combination of Warner Bros. characters dribbling alongside Michael Jordan.
I don’t give two hoots about basketball, but you need to see this movie.
The Rush Hour soundtrack (1998)
Jackie Chan! The closest thing 60% of my high school had to seeing a reflection of our selves on screen. All of this came at the price of minstrel-esque racial stereotypes, but it was something. One could argue we haven’t gotten very far since, and music-wise, the whole CD is dominated by Black hip-hop with a sprinkling of forced Jackie Chan Chinglish.The selection is solid, though. This was Dru Hill pre-Sisqo “Thong Song” and – wait for it – MONIFAH.
I mean, if you can’t remember the kind of smut you were listening to during puberty and your sexual awakening, what were you even doing listening to the radio?
The Romeo & Juliet soundtrack (1996)
Y’know, I wasn’t so into Leo in Baz Luhrmann’s R+J as I was into wanting to be Claire Danes. They issued a collector’s series of “postcards,” and I carefully combed my sister’s YM’s to collect all…four. (Future teenagers, beware: A collection of four magazine-paper postcards is not worth scouring. But I guess you’ll be collecting…apps? Bitcoin gift cards? I don’t know…) Paul Rudd didn’t have a beard, but he did have an astronaut costume, and Garbage was doing funky stuff with breathy voices. THE CARDIGANS! We had finally gotten the DISH Network at my house, so I would tune into VH1’s Top 10 Countdown. Remembering R+J leads me into thinking of Shawn Colvin, Sixpence None the Richer, Paula Cole, and…Hanson.
The Moulin Rouge! soundtrack (2001)
I bought this CD from Newpark Mall in a bad mood, loaded it into the trunk-loaded 6-CD changer in my mom’s car, and listened to it all the way to a track meet in Concord. I hadn’t even seen the movie yet! I was never into Beck until I heard “Diamond Dogs,” and I had never really heard Rufus Wainwright until “Complainte de la Butte.” (Years later, he would say “I feel like a faggy Sinatra!” three feet away from me on stage at Coachella.) We had an impromptu Moulin Rouge night at my house a month ago, and I can still sing along with every one of these tracks, yes I can-can-can!
I think one of the reasons I got so deep into remembering my favorite soundtracks during this exercise is because of the sampler nature of soundtracks: The different artists gave me multiple starting points to discover more music. Nicole Kidman sings a couple of poetic lines in the film, listed on the MR soundtrack as “Gorecki.” This was all in the Napster/early Google days, and I was obsessed with finding out if there was more to this poem. The way it was recited, it had to belong to a larger body. The information wasn’t as readily available as it was in a search today, but I eventually found it: “Gorecki” (1996) is a track by downtempo drum’n’bass duo Lamb. I’ve actually never seen the music video until now:
Discovering the original led me down a short exploration into trip hop and more UK electronica. It was a great moment to be a teenager with time to hunt for and emotions to feed with new music.
Yes, I also own Moulin Rouge 2, the more score-oriented follow-up soundtrack. (It’s so unoriginal to say Moulin Rouge is my favorite Baz Luhrmann film, but you should know that Strictly Ballroom is a close-second must-watch from his Red Curtain Trilogy. Honestly, Romeo + Juliet is whatever.)
The Phantom of the Opera Original London Cast Recording (1986)
Time warp! This is a relic from grade school and I will never let it go! Some time around 4th grade, someone gave me Phantom of the Opera on cassette. I. WAS. OB. SESSED. I took it on road trips. It lived in my Walkman. When someone gave me the double-disc CD set I played it while I did my homework. My sister was outwardly disgusted with my fixation, and I did not get a fuck.
I could recite the dialogue and lyrics with the CD. Most of it, without the CD.
I can still recite the dialogue and lyrics with the MP3s. Some of it, without the MP3s.
My mom told me how Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote Christine’s music for his then-wife Sarah Brightman, and I thought that was the most romantic thing in the world.
If I had grown up in New York, where the theater scene is far more prevalent in cultured kids’ homes, I would have been that kid, enrolling at NYU Tisch, lining up for student tickets, and trying to find out where the actors were going after their performances. I love musical theater. I don’t love all musicals. I love great performances and well-done stories and live execution. Cats was my first musical, but Phantom was my first musical obsession.
I believe Parallel Universe Mayka is a Dance Captain on a Broadway show.
So there’s my Random Ten. Would love to hear yours, be it on Facebook, blog comment, or mixtape. Play on!