Monday, March 17, 2008
For a big chunk of my teenage years - say, from '99 to '03 or so - I listened to the radio. A lot. I'm talking morning, noon, night, whenever I got the chance. Hell, it listened to it in my sleep, to the point where I had trouble sleeping if the radio WASN'T on (a quirk that I still have yet to shake). Before long, I knew every song that played front-to-back, every lyric and every note. Backstreet Boys, Enrique Iglesias, the Offspring, fuckin' Vertical Horizon - you name it.
Did I like all the songs I listened to? No, not really. But that didn't matter. To me, whatever music was playing on the radio (New Haven's KC101, to be exact) was THE music, and that was it. I rarely bought CDs or downloaded music as a kid - it was all the radio. So even if I didn't love every song that played, I KNEW every song pretty damn well. Not that I admitted this to anybody at the time, of course. My pop music obsession was confined to me and my basement. If people knew that I had the lyrics to "Backstreet's Back" down to a science, I would not be viewed well by middle school society.
Anyway, not too long ago I decided to compile as many of these old songs together - as many as I could remember - and keep them in a super-special iTunes playlist. Since my tastes in music have become infinitely more snobbish in the years that have passed, I obviously view these songs in a totally different light (by that I mean, I feel like I am above them. You know, 'cause I'm cool and I like Pavement and shit).
But some of these songs still really get a rise out of me. Even if it's just a reminder of times passed, it's something, and I find myself listening to them a lot more than I expect.
So HEY - why not put my playlist on random and talk about a few of these songs? Who wants some cheap nostalgia?? I know I do.
Song 1: "Steal My Sunshine" by LEN
You know, this is still a fun song! It's real summery, man. Very upbeat, cutesy vocals, very sweet and lightweight. I'm especially fond of it because it came out during the summer of '99, which might have been my favorite summer ever even though I barely remember it. But I was 12 and dumb, so it must have been great.
It's a cotton-candy song. Sweet and delicious. The main singer guy has this kinda raspy voice, but then there's this girl with this very high-pitched cute voice. There's lyrics about making sticky buns. The cute-girl-voice sings "If you steal my sunshine!" for every verse. Like, it's very very happy. But it's such a sweet relic of the late 90's that I can't help but love it. Apparently LEN was a rap group, but shit, you could never tell from this song. Maybe that's why they fizzled out so quickly - people bought their album expecting sunshiney-pop like this, and they got sub-Beastie Boys rhymes. Hmm.
Jesus, this song came out the same year that "Nookie" did. I can't even believe that.
Song 2: "Angel of Mine" - Monica
This isn't much of a song - your basic 90's RnB ballad, nothing to write home about. But I have kind of a funny story about it so let me divulge.
When I was in middle school, we had lots of dances. Like, every month, all us 6th-graders would huddle into our gym, dim the lights down low, and engage in a few hours of awkward awkward dancing while "Rockefeller Skank" played over and over. The closest thing any of us came to any kind of intimacy was when a couple started hugging during a slow song. That was pretty much it.
Naturally, being the chicken-shit little nerd I was, I avoided this "dancing" business like the plague. I would always find some excuse - I'd leave the gym, I'd hold on to a glass of punch, I'd sit alone and keep my head down, you name it. Hell, I even chatted up some of the teachers chaperoning. In a word, I was pathetic, but I didn't care. I was scared to death of physical contact with a female. Occasionally my good friend Rob Schwartz - ever the ladies man - would attempt to break me out of my shell and hook me up with a girl (sometimes forcefully). But I never yielded.
Except for once, of course. This one time I was executing my never-fail "sit down and bury head in arms" technique when a random girl tapped me on the shoulder. Looking up, I saw that she was tall, kinda lanky, but not remarkably unattractive. She took charge immediately.
"You wanna dance?"
"Uhh, yeah, I guess so."
So we danced. My arms were on her shoulders the whole time, and we never made eye contact. I was too busy looking over at Rob, clearly awestruck; frantically he mouthed "WHAT ARE YOU DOING??" at me and I mouthed "I HAVE NO IDEA" back. It was a surreal moment.
And, umm, "Angel of Mine" by Monica was playing.
After the dance was over it turned out that it was a pity dance. You know, she saw a little kid cowering in the corner and figured that I was upset that I had nobody to dance with. The truth was so much more pathetic than that.
That was the only time I ever danced in middle school. I forget the girl's name, but I think he got married in high school or something.
So that's my "Angel of Mine" story. I hope you enjoyed it. Moving on!
Song 3: "I've Seen Better Days" by Citizen King
Oh jeez, another song from '99? I'm noticing a trend here.
This is another song from that summer. It's not a bad one, but a somewhat generic one. I see this song on a lot on P2P programs listed as a Sublime song, and it's not surprising - it's pretty much a total Sublime ripoff, as many bands were at the time. You know, it's got that vaguely white-boy hip-hoppish vibe. But it's kind of a catchy song.
Why I'll never forget this song, though, is because it was used in that great scene in the pilot of "Malcolm in the Middle", where Stevie tricks a bully into punching him, causing all of Malcolm's class to go after the bully for hurting a crippled kid. That's how Malcolm and Stevie became friends. It's just endearing, isn't it?
Man I loved that show. Didn't it kinda suck in its later seasons? I stopped watching around sophomore year of high school.
Song 4: "Adam's Song" by Blink-182
OK, I don't hate Blink-182. I could, because in the scheme of things they are kind of a lame band. But they've still got some songs that strike a chord with me, or at least did at the time. That's not surprising, since they were a band tailor-made for middle-schoolers. And I sure was in middle school!
"Adam's Song" was a song I could relate to when I was 13. "I can't wait till I get home / to pass the time in my room alone." I was a loner, see, and I lived in my basement, so I took those lyrics to heart. In retrospect, this song does go down the cheap sentimentality route - it's about suicide, isn't it? "Please tell mom this is not her fault?" "Give all my things to all my friends, you'll never step foot in my room again?" Eh. I still like the chorus, though. Kind of over-the-top, but catchy.
Again, I don't hate this song, and I don't hate Blink-182. All I'm saying is that I probably should. How can a cool guy like me like a teenybopper pop-punk band like this? I listen to Richard Hell for Petesake!!
Also, I'm glad Mark Hoppus sang this song. We've all heard Tom Delonge try to sing emotionally, and it should never be heard by human ears (The Adventure, anybody?).
Song 5: "There She Goes" by Sixpence None The Richer
So it's a cover of that great La's song, by the guys who did "Kiss Me." If you don't recognize "There She Goes" by the title, trust me, you will when you hear it - it's practically become part of the cultural lexicon. "There she goes / there she goes again!" Yeah, that song.
But it's a good version! It's in a different key from the La's version, and the drama's ramped up a little bit (there are strings thrown in there once in a while), but other than that it's a faithful cover of a jangle-pop gem. Oh, and it's sung by a dame. A dame with a very sweet voice instead of the Liverpudlian drawl of the original. So it doesn't have as much personality, but meh. It's still a sweet song.
And it's a simple song too, you know? There aren't even verses - just a chorus over and over again, and a very brief middle-eight. But it's not annoying! How many songs can pull that off nowadays?? Not "Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt," I can tell you that.
So that's all I'll do for now. This probably won't be the last time - I've got about 130 songs on this playlist, and I'm sure I'll be adding more as more and more crappy old songs seep into my subconscious. Also, anything that keeps me from writing long papers about Michael Herr's "Dispatches" is fine by me.