Mark vs Cancer

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Eclectic Playlists

I have a pretty eclectic taste in music.

By eclectic, I don't mean "cutting edge" or "unusual." Rather, I mean that my musical tastes cut a broad swath across most genres of popular music. Country, rock, folk, Motown, New Age, 80's, rap, classical, Christian, alternative, oldies: I like something (but not everything) from each of these groups.

To some, the very idea of music being popular stigmatizes it, rendering it unlistenable. Others pigeonhole themselves as liking only a certain type, quarantining themselves from all others.

But give me a good tune, some vocal talent, and some meaningful or clever lyrics, and I'll probably like the song. Throw in a good memory or two associated with it, and I might download it onto my iPod

I've put nearly 3,000 songs on my iPod in the last 6 months, mostly transferred from my own CD collection. I've got playlists ranging from John Mayer to John Denver, from Sting to Stevie Wonder, from Norah Jones to the Dixie Chicks. They all get about equal play.

I've recently started downloading a few songs from iTunes. The first fourteen will give you a good idea of how widely my taste ranges.

  • Just My Imagination by the Tempations
  • King's Highway by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  • I'll Be Your Baby Tonight by Bob Dylan
  • Islands In The Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
  • Karma Chalmeleon by Culture Club
  • Love Will Turn You Around by Kenny Rogers
  • Heaven Is A Place On Earth by Belinda Carlisle
  • Tunnel Of Love by Bruce Springsteen
  • The End Of The Innocence by Don Henley
  • Heads Carolina, Tails California by Jo De Messina
  • Hook by Blues Traveler
  • Love Will Come to You by Indigo Girls
  • Ghost by Indigo Girls
  • 1979 by Smashing Pumpkins
Maybe my musical tastes are not as sophisticated or selective as others are. Basically, the only important question I ask about a song is, "Do I like it?" I have no other pretentious qualifying conditions. To me, that freedom is liberating; I can't stand being limited by artificial boundaries, in music or anything else.

So if you see me lip-synching to Belinda Carlisle or Boy George on my iPod, know that I'm in my own little piece of, well, heaven on earth.


Matthew said...

Your post gives me a chance to illustrate our differing aesthetics regarding music, as well as to disparage and humiliate you for your hopelessly infantile tastes.

I'm joking of course. None of the following is meant in any way other than good fun. I know that everybody thinks I am hopelessly snobbish when it comes to music, but I disagree. I actually have a soft spot for John Denver (exactly how many is "forty-eleven"?). In the past few years, as I've gotten older, I've developed a great fondness for Frank Sinatra, lounge music and jazz of most eras. I worship at the twin altars of St. John and Sir Paul. One of my bands covered Fleetwood Mac's "Go Yr. Own Way"... brought the house down every time. Even the occasional cheesy pop song gets me going -- Wendi and I were in a restaurant the other day when "Macarena" came on the sound system. I began dancing it in my seat, only stopping because of her (credible) threats of physical violence. For my money, a song's popularity has no bearing on wheter it's good or not.

I have to say though... your list is so... safe. Radio hits to boot, every single one. Quite a bit of it I like, some of it is -- well cringe inducing. OK, "Karma Chameleon" is a guilty pleasure for me too, but Belinda Carlisle?!?! Hey man it's your world... but you actually paid money to download a Belinda Carlisle song.

I guess I still have not forgiven you for trading the They Might Be Giants CD I gave you all those years ago for some Air Supply. Some things simply can't be overlooked.

My attitude is similar to yours: I like what I like. I am a sucker for hooks and melody. But the difference can be illustrated thusly, with a list of songs recently played from shuffle on my iPod:

"Say No" -- Teenage Fanclub
"Experiment #6" -- Lemon Jelly
"Snowblind" -- Black Sabbath
"Sister Madly" -- Crowded House
"Whole World's Down On Me" -- Ken Boothe (vintage reggae from 1969)
"Morph The Cat" -- Donald Fagan
"Iggy & Angus" -- Sloan
"Somewhere" -- Soundgarden
"Something So Clear" -- Mudhoney
"Peace & Love" -- Fountains Of Wayne
"Splendid Isolation" -- Warren Zevon

None of these artists are particularly obscure. You can find every one of them by spending a minute on Google. Some of them have sold tens of millions of records, most of them fall in the middle range of popularity. You might even like a few of them. The one thing they have in common is that they are not well represented on commercial radio. They span a huge diversity of genres and all have geniuine musical merit... yes, even the popular ones!

I'm sorry for being so snobbish. The playlist above doesn't even touch on some of the more out-there genres in my collection... electronica to death metal, which Wendi won't let me listen to when she's at home (I have never lost my affection for evil music but can't blame her. Let's say it's an acquired taste).

Moreover, there is a place for danger, darkness and catharsis in music. The music that I like tends to challenge me in some way, tends to represent something I have felt or am feeling, whether I'm happy as a fuzzy kitten or angry and malevolent.

While I know that you have a genuine love for music, you seem to draw the line if it makes you uncomfortable or takes you into uncharted waters, which is precisely what I find intriguing. There is such a vast universe of music out there that limiting myself to what gets played on the radio (of which I hear a great deal!) is unacceptably limiting.

Not to say that you're wrong for liking Belinda Carlisle. Hey that's your thing man. But seriously... what's wrong with you?

Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyler said...

I know that my musical tastes are not as sophisticated as some, but I do have a disdain for alot of the crap that the music "industry" tries to shove down our throats. There are definitely some true artists with original ideas and sounds across all genres that deserve their fame. I like anything that has that "real" quality to it.

Unfortunately, the world is flooded with far too many cheap imitations of the real thing--musical wannabes with no real artistic quality to their music, only cliche lyrics on top of unoriginal music about how beautiful some girl is. And people eat it up!

These days everybody wants to be (and seriously thinks they can be) a rock star. Sorry, but to paraphrase a favorite demotivator: We don't all get to be astronauts when we grow up.

Basically, I groomed a few rules for musical selection from my old man that have served me well. They are as follows:

1. If I haven't heard it before somewhere, I don't want it. If I have heard it, I'll take it.

2. Pretty much anything by Juice Newton or Ace of Base is worth my time.