Your music asks answered by a lady who has a song for that
True Life: I’m an audiophile
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I love music. I have always loved music. My respite since the first grade is listening to music by myself and getting lost in my thoughts. I’m one of those people iPods were made for because I needed that many gigabytes of music storage. I was looking up more MySpace quizzes and some of them were way...too personal. Like when I was 20-21, the stakes were lower. Now, I’m married and quite frankly I don’t want to go back to my embarrassing and frustrating single days. So I found this thing about Music Asks and that is one of those things that you can AMA me. So I hope you discover some deep cuts that you like.
A song you like with a color in the title. “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves
I wrote my blog about Kacey Musgraves and the beauty of Golden Hour. I love this song and it’s so beautiful and kind. There’s this astrological concept of the Return of Saturn, in which in your 29th and 30th year everything changes. My life completely did a 180 at that time. It was so much awful change so fast that I struggle with believing positive things can randomly happen. I used to look for signs things would get better and I feel like the past few years have been relentless with awful things. This song is all about hope. As someone who struggles with that. It’s just lovely.
A song you like with a number in the title. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor
Hint- for those who don’t know- if a song is written with “2” or “U” in it chances it was written by the great Prince Rogers Nelson. Sinead is really controversial for a lot of reasons but her album “I do not want what I haven’t got” is marvelous and lush. Every single song sounds different and she wrote a song called “Troy” that is so incredibly moving and raw. You know those songs that say the things you want to say with the emotions you want but don’t want to look crazy? There are people, especially when you are young that rip your heart in two. There are certain situations that whenever I talk about I get too emotional. In comes, Sinead O’Connor and she wrote a lot of these songs when she was in her early twenties. Seriously, “Emperor’s New Clothes”? The line “I will live by my own policies/ I will sleep with a clear conscience/ I will sleep in peace” is basically my mood for my thirties. Anyway, this song just captures those emotions that break your heart and her ethereal voice just makes it beautiful. “All the flowers that you planted boy/in the backyard” that’s one of those little things that you notice with someone that makes you fall in love with them. Like I don’t think of the crazy sexy ladies that Prince was with having green thumbs and planting flowers to make a yard look pretty. However, that is one of those little loveable heartbreaking things. It’s a beautiful song about grief and one that has meant many different things to me in my life.
A song that reminds you of summertime: “Save it for Later” by the English Beat
My sister and I love the English Beat. My husband doesn’t get it. It’s just happy music that makes you smile. My Dad used to play them on some cassette tape and I have very vivid memories of driving around the mountains listening to it. This song just screams summer to me and it’s so pretty. It’s just a calming song. Like it’s the kind of song that’s like the audio equivalent to sitting in a lotus position for me in yoga. My sister and I saw them at the Black Swamp Arts Festival in Bowling Green one year and not gonna lie Dave Wakeling was pretty excited to see two really young women there. It wasn’t weird but it was like “we love you so much we used to listen to you in a 95 Dodge Neon on cassette with our Dad.” He signed my copy of The Sound and the Fury because I had to read it for school. Anyway, it’s peak summer music. I hope my son gets to enjoy it as much as I did in the summer.
A song that reminds you of someone you would rather forget about: “Alligator” by Tegan and Sara
I think the lyrics of the song speak for itself. But I like the repeated refrain of “over you over you.” It me. Sometimes you have to keep on repeating it to yourself and lament over “alligator tears cried over you.” Also, in this instance, my motormouth ran over this person.
A song that needs to be played loud: “Dance YRSLF Clean” by LCD Soundsystem
When this song came out it was the summer I lived in Madison during graduate school. I used to walk to work on the square and stop at a hip coffee shop where the bored baristas would play this song. I love how it starts out so soft and then the beat drops and it becomes this entirely different song. Like, it’s a song you really need to listen loud so you can experience the beat drop when it happens. Kind of like Bjork’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” and all of a sudden you are dancing. Listen to the song. Enjoy. I have the sense memory of iced coffee in an unairconditioned apartment on an isthmus listening to this song.
A song that makes you want to dance: “Let Em Say” by Lizzo and Caroline Smith
I heard this song on a Best of list in 2013 and I was like “I love it/ I love it/ and heyy you should too.” I saw that Lizzo was from Minnesota and I wanted to support her. Now she has blown up and she deserves it. I love Caroline Smith too but Lizzo was mesmerizing. Her voice is incredible. I have this dream of Lizzo playing Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton and Solange playing Eliza. Make it so Lin Manuel! But this song is so light and poppy and it made me so happy. I have been dancing to it in my kitchen. I think you’ll love it.
A song to drive to “Jamming” by Bob Marley
Like many Americans, I have a commute. It’s not always frustrating but there are usual jams and it is frustrating. Also, I love Bob Marley. My son loves him because of the book “One Love” by his daughter. It’s hard to be angry when you hear this song and I also think about Chief Wiggum’s version at the end of a Simpsons episode. Again, it’s hard to be upset listening to this song. I’ll be stuck downtown and I’ll just be like “I hope you like jamming too.”
A song about drugs or alcohol: “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha
The older I get and the more I see the effects of hard living on people, I guess I’m kind of over songs about alcohol. Does that make sense? I mean it’s not really rebellious at a certain point to drink too much. That being said, the most I have ever partied in my life was when I was in grad school. I lived a block away from a bar that for 3 dollar well mixers where my cranberry vodkas would be literally be all vodka and diluted with the slightest bit of cranberry juice. I felt like I was preventing UTIs and not risking a hangover by drinking a clear liquor. I went out a lot. The fun of going out is mainly people watching. Being a single lady at a bar you kind of ran the gambit of meeting people some were fascinating ie a sailboat instructor and some were persistent ie a sous chef at a local restaurant who literally carried a pound brick of butter and put it on the bar. My friends remember that moment as something that was so out of the ordinary. Like he carried it in his winter coat. I think he may have spent upwards of $25 in $3 well drinks for me in the five times we saw each other. So when I look back at that time it’s not really a time I want to go back to. But that being said, a song that kind of captures that time in my life that was really popular was Tik Tok by Ke$ha. For Halloween, at the bar, my roomies and I went as Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, and I was Ke$ha. It was too fun. Pop ten years ago was all about being extravagant and having fun. It was about women pushing boundaries and it was great. So now knowing what Ke$ha went through making those hits, I feel bad loving those songs. I have friends who think of me whenever they hear them.
A song that makes you happy: “Mayor of Simpleton” by XTC
I wrote about this in my yoga blog but when I heard this song again I laughed out loud. It’s just so witty and sweet about someone who is just lost in academia. I work in academia and it’s a trip. I went to a really rigorous graduate program and I know a lot of really objectively smart people. Part of my job is going to CMEs to learn more about advances in medicine. So listening to this song just made me laugh out loud because it’s the opposite of pretentious and it’s so wonderfully layered and full of puns. You can listen to it over and over again and hear new things. Listen to this earnest line and try not to have your heart melt. When all logic grows cold and all thinking gets done/You'll be warm in the arms of the Mayor of Simpleton
A song that makes you sad: “Tender” by Blur
I mention my Dad a lot because he used to make all of these playlists and then if my sister and I made one he would insist on a Dad tax. He would choose one song and it was often out of context. I remember in French class listening to Debussy and having to run to the CD player because Dad had insisted on adding a Black Flag track to my “Music for French Class” CD. The last time my family went to South Carolina for spring break when I was about 15, my Dad put “The Best of Blur” in my Easter basket. We listened to the album from SC to Ohio. When we came back I had this nasty fight with my Mom and when my Dad picked me up from theater rehearsal he said “listen to this song.” He put this on and said, “Ali, you’ll always be my baby girl and I’m telling you that you need to be kinder to your Mom.” So it reminds me of my Dad and thus I haven’t been able to listen to it all the way through since he passed. I miss him every day. Now that I have a little one I kind of understand that sentiment more and more.
A song you never get tired of: “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush
I listened to RU Talking REM RE:ME? And Adam Scott described early REM as the music you listen to and brood about girls. I used to listen to this song and I brooded about boys. I already wrote about this song in one of my blogs but it’s just beautiful and intense and everything you need in music. But seriously, it’s peak teenage crush music and ideal for drunkenly singing into a hairbrush at parties (not like anyone ever did that or did it again sober).
A song from your preteen years: “Sittin’ Up in My Room” by Brandy
We used to have this old school R&B station that later went off the air but it was really good. One time I was at a drive through with my husband and this song came on. He had no idea about the lyrics but it’s a perfect song for preteen angst. It’s just perfect for tween girls who just want to sit in their rooms in painters caps and write about boys in their journals. Oh Brandy. Remember when she was Cinderella and when she took Kobe Bryant to prom? The Boy is Mine? I love this song and it’s perfect. This was when R&B was all about raspy alto voices, the lower the better. “I’m just a mess with a thing for you.”
A favorite song from the 80’s: “Dress You Up in My Love” by Madonna
Let’s get this straight, Madonna was this girl’s first taste of high fashion and I remember seeing her in her Dior bustier when I was in elementary school and thinking that was the ultimate in fashion. It’s like she took being a pop star and just pushed through all the rules of what singers could be and what they couldn’t be. She truly had a grasp on fashion and was constantly evolving. I saw her say she doesn’t have any tattoos because she doesn’t want anythiing permanent. She’s also an Italian American woman who is fit and gorgeous. The older I get the more I am in awe of her. I love this song because it’s just light and bubbly pop and I want to sing to someone who gets their suits custom made in London. It’s just music you can dance to all night. Oh, my favorite MAC color “Russian Red” was made for her! She has a sexuality that is so vibrant but she’s in control of it. But anyway, this is perfect dancing in your living room music.
A song you would love played at your wedding: “January Wedding” by the Avett Brothers
I’m married and this was our wedding song. I decided to get married in the winter because I get the blues in January. So I figured having something to look forward to would be good. I know lots of people thought it was crazy to get married then but I knew I’d be a winter bride. It’s a special thing and I love it. My husband and I had friends use their song for their wedding and we decided to use it for ours. I have vivid memories of dancing to this song with my husband and seeing one of my aunts getting so happy when they sand “Come January, let’s get married.” We danced to this song as snow fell and surrounded by people who loved us. It was a perfect song. True story: one of my good friends had the DJ play the wrong song for her first dance (It had a similar title) and then as we all realized it she was presented with an engraved photo frame with the wrong song’s lyrics to commemorate the event.
A song that is a cover by another artist: “Get Into the Groove” by Ciccone Youth
My Dad loved Sonic Youth and was obsessed with this song and Thurston Moore’s off-key singing. I remember him playing it for my sister and me and letting us know that the killer bassline was being performed by a woman. He was like “she rules.” Thus began my obsession with Kim Gordon. I woman that if I met, I would melt. I don’t even know what I’d say. She was obsessed with Madonna when they decided to cover the song and they changed their name to Ciccone Youth because Ciccone is Madonna’s last name. This song is so different and arty. I love it. I’m still viscerally angry at Thurston Moore but this song brings me to happy times. I remember talking about this song with a friend of my aunts and saying “this woman has the most beautiful voice.” It was clearly Madonna and she was my aunt’s age so they were right in Madonna’s wheelhouse. But she was nice and just nodded. Anyway, how cool is this song?
One of my favorite classical songs: “Sleeping Beauty” by Tchaikovsky
For a while at work I listened to classical music because it helped me focus. I need something in my ears to focus and I loved listening to classical music. This one is just so powerful and evokes such a mood. I love the parts they used in the Disney movie with Maleficent, so eerie and creepy. When I saw the ballet that part was used with two cats dancing. Anyway, I love it and I think you should too.
A song you would sing a duet with on karaoke: “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues
Disclaimer: I would not sing one of the words the woman sings but I love this song. I love how Shane McGowan sings and is clearly so wasted. I love how harsh they are to each other but they really love each other at the end. Kirsty MacColl had such a beautiful singing voice and she passed so tragically. But this song is so wonderful. It’s also a perfect bar song. Seriously, play it at a bar and see if people don’t respond. One of my college professors saw the Pogues live and said Shane McGowan is a poster child as to why people shouldn’t do drugs. But seriously, how amazing are the Pogues? Their songs are gorgeous. This whole album is great from start to finish.
A song from the year I was born: “Raspberry Beret” by Prince
This is the first song I ever put on repeat. I loved it. It was just so pretty. The bridge was great and it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It’s hard to explain why I love Prince so much. When my husband and I reconnected, we were at a bar and Prince came on the radio and I said: “I love Prince so much.” He responded, “Wanna come back to my place and listen to some Prince?” Which really, who would say no to that? My husband was like “that was the smoothest thing I’ve ever said.” Ha! Prince brings that out in people. I love Prince so much in such a way that it’s hard to even put into words. When we went to a Prince tribute night after he passed, I asked a friend if he remembered the first time he heard Prince and he was like “It was that important to you?” Well yeah! I mean it’s like in those movies where everything was in black and white and then things were in color. He had this world I wanted to get into. To this day, I surprise people when I can sing all the lyrics to his hits. Yep.
A song that makes you think about life: “These Days” by Nico
The first time I heard this song I hated it. Then it grew on me. Then I loved it. I just loved how blase Nico sang it and how powerful the lyrics were. I guess Leonard Cohen was obsessed with her and she was like “no thanks Leonard Cohen.” She was with Jackson Browne who wrote this song when he was 16! So I’m like what a deep song and it was written by a teenager. But the line “please don’t confront me with my failures/ I have not forgotten them.” That is so me. I am such a perfectionist and I had never heard a line that summed that up. A lot of music is like “I’m a mess.” Very few songs are like “dude, I’m doing better than average but I’m not perfect.” That’s the appeal of “These Days.”
A song that has many meanings to you “Sound and Color” by Alabama Shakes
Let’s be real Brittany Howard has a generational voice. She’s incredible and even if they had only released “Hold On” I think the Alabama Shakes would be classic. However, this song is so real about grief. Basically, if you had talked to me in the weeks following my father’s passing I would be saying the same things Brittany Howard sings so plaintively about. About how scary and weird the world is. “This life ain’t like a book.” How true. But then I was listening to it when I was in labor with my son and I feel like it’s so perfect for a new baby. “A new world hangs outside the window/ beautiful and strange.” Also, “love is sound and color.” is so true. I wanted to get that framed and put in my boy’s nursery. So it went from being a sad song to a song about my baby.
A favorite song with a person’s name in the title: “Alison” by Elvis Costello
My name is Alison and one of the best songs ever written has my name in it. My college radio show was called “My aim is true” and I remember wistfully thinking “when will I meet a man who is true?” I’ve had this song sung to me so many times. I love it though. I guess Elvis Costello wrote this song about a woman that everyone had a crush on growing up who made some sad life choices. But still, listen to the ending. I love it. It’s just a sadly beautiful song.
A song that moves you forward: “Like a Girl” by Lizzo
The past few years, it’s not been easy to be a femme. Shout out to Lizzo for including trans people in her song and it made me cry the first time I heard it. I’m a survivor of sexual assault which is not something I like talking about. All of these stories that women are making public about how awfully we’ve been treated are heartbreaking. It gets overwhelming and when you feel like people who are supposed to have your back don’t care it’s just awful. I used to think being accused of sexual assault was a dealbreaker for people. Not so much. Cool. Noted. So it’s really nice to hear Lizzo scream her lyrics that we can do everything “Like a Girl” and it’s great and it makes us stronger and better. It’s like “we’re gonna get through this.” I see you Lizzo. Thank you.
A song I think everyone should listen to: “When U Were Mine” by Prince
I think in the realm of pop songs, this is a perfect pop song. It’s the perfect length. It just is amazing song writing. Good pop music is really really hard to write and this is just different. When this came out, Prince was wearing women’s clothing on stage and was getting booed off the stage when he opened for The Rolling Stones. He was just pushing limits of what fashion was, what being an pop artist was, and honestly what music could do. I just can’t even imagine the levels of life he lived. He just had an uncanny ability to be ahead of everyone without even trying and staying true to himself. Oh Prince, I really wanted to have an awkward encounter with you like several of my friends. I feel bad even sharing his videos from YouTube because he didn’t like streaming media and he demanded he got paid what he was worth. Good for him! But anyway, I hope you like this song.
A song by a band I wish was still together: 7 Chinese Brothers by REM
My Dad loved REM and it was interesting seeing their progression from the ’80s into the 2000s. Late eighties REM is my childhood and listening with my family. Hearing about their lives and what kind people they all are is pretty amazing. I read this really interesting book about Athens in the late seventies and eighties and I can’t remember the title but it reminded me a little bit of my college experience (nowhere near as prolific) but just the fact people were weird and were supportive of each other. Since the lyrics really didn’t mean too much but were about a book that both Michael Stipe and Peter Buck read as children but stuck with them. I also chose this band since they genuinely like each other. Like I love the Smiths but I wouldn’t want to put Johnny Marr through that again. So team REM!
A song by an artist no longer living: “Tears Dry on Their Own” by Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse was such a vulnerable person who was crying for help and people couldn’t see beyond her crazy big hair and tattoos. Yes, she made a bunch of mistakes. She did not deserve the press treatment that she received. She had a generational voice and this song is the very essence of heart break. Just “I’ll be the next man’s other woman soon.” That just desperation and dejection is so intense. Her walking down the streets of London after making an obvious mistake and continuing to make them even though she was aware it wasn’t right...heartbreaking. The last few seconds of that song and her cry while people harmonize these happy beats from girl groups. Powerful. When she passed my Dad called me to tell me he loved me and say how sad he was for her family. The night she passed I went out with friends and the bar we went to played “Back to Black” from start to finish and we all listened in awe of what she did. I think it was raining with made the move even more somber but appropriate. Again, I don’t know if we deserved her.
A song that makes you want to fall in love: “I Decided” by Solange
I slept on Solange. That was a mistake. She is incredible. Her voice is stunning. Her style is on point. Her music is simply wonderful. This song reminds me of when my husband and I fell in love. I used to think love was something that just happened and it didn’t matter your circumstances. But you have to be ready for it. I don’t know if I would have been ready for my husband had I reconnected with him even a year earlier. But that’s what I love about “I Decided” it brings some agency back into love. I know Solange had her heart broken young. I think when you’ve been through heartbreak you are more guarded and thus the deciding part. I love the line “they were too cool to run my race/you kept the pace with a smile on your face” which is how I felt about my husband. I love him. When I hear this song I think of him and I can’t help but smile.
A song that breaks your heart: “Wait for It” from Hamilton
When Hamilton came out, it was the same year my father passed away suddenly. There is something about losing a parent that is so odd and terrifying to the base of your body. Because your family loves you more than anyone and they are stuck with you. Also, my Dad loved my sister, mom, and I so much. My best friend said “he breathed love for you guys.” When my sister worked at Monticello he would flip over nickels and say “my daughter works there.” I live to make my parents proud. It’s who I am. Losing that wonderful loving man suddenly is a loss I won’t recover fully from. It makes everything a little sadder. The fact my Dad won’t meet my son is something I can’t talk about without crying. Lots of people have lots of platitudes about loss. This song is just blunt and real. The first time I heard this song I had to cry for three hours. Leslie Odom, Jr. deserves all the awards. Lin-Manuel why do you write songs that make people ugly cry? My tough as nails bestie ugly cries at Moana. I don’t know what it is. It’s truly a gift and we are lucky to have his talent.
A song by an artist whose voice you love: “Trouble Man” by Marvin Gaye.
What can I say about Marvin Gaye that hasn’t been said? He had one of the most perfect voices ever. Did you know he had stage fright? He was terribly nervous. I love this song because it’s peak seventies but so eerie that it could work anywhere. I love the piano and then his vocals cutting in. It’s just a mood. Oh, Marvin. You could sing to me all day.
A song that reminds you of your childhood: “Miss Amanda Jones” by the March Violets
This song was on the Some Kind of Wonderful Soundtrack. I used to twirl around in leggings and skirts listening to this song in our ranch house in Tucson, AZ on an Air Force Base. There’s actually home video of it. I loved this song and I still get giddy listening to this song.
A song that reminds you of yourself: “Pageant Material” by Kacey Musgraves
Women in my family are stunning. It’s an objective fact. I remember the realization that I was the first woman in like three generations who had been dumped. I heard this song in the year when my father passed and I was over people and putting on any kind of face. I didn’t grow up in the south but I love puns and I am just who I am. I just am kind of sick of trying to be one way when I’m just who I am. “I’d rather lose for what I am/then win for what I ain’t.” How simple and true. Kind of my motto for my thirties.
There you have it
I hope you enjoyed this and I had a lot of fun writing it. It took me a while to write it. I’d be curious to see what you would choose and what you would write about. I’d love to see what other people write about.