Category Archives: Past Experiences

“Mad World” — Gary Jules

“Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?”

I was dismayed the other day when the TV ate my VHS copy of Donnie Darko.  I’ll admit that I quoted the movie far more than was necessary in my college days.  I even found the above quote in a magazine and included it in my profile collage for arts and cultures.  I doubt, though, that I’d have made such a strong connection to the movie without its use of Gary Jules’s song “Mad World.”

“All around me are familiar faces, worn-out places, worn-out faces.

Bright and early for the daily races, going nowhere, going nowhere.

The tears are filling up their glasses, no expression, no expression.

Hide my head, I wanna drown my sorrow, no tomorrow, no tomorrow.”

The words evoke everyday-tragic images which fit neatly with the haunting melody.  Everyday-tragic, you may ask?  First, I’m an English teacher, so I’m allowed to make up words.  Shakespeare did it.  But also, what I mean is that these words are like the line from Black Guayaba’s “Ayer:” “Una lágrima suelto al suelo—un acto criminal” (a tear falls to the floor—a criminal act).  Small, meaningful, sorrowful occurrences lead to haunting images that reflect the tragedy that can be found in everyday life.  They’re smaller, more subtle tragic images . . . but they still resonate within you.  Tears coursing over expressionless, worn-out faces to fill empty glasses.  People racing about their daily routines, unaware that they accomplish very little.

In Donnie Darko, the montage of characters at night is an apt pairing for this tune.  Then, this summer, I saw the tune paired with another montage of  characters that seemed, if possible, even more perfect.  The cast of The Glee Project turned “Mad World” into a music video for their week on vulnerability.  Each of the aspiring stars had to walk through a mall with a signboard listing what made him or her most vulnerable—words like “fat,” “used,” “anorexic,” “numb,” and “gay.”  Even though the video was only a few minutes long, I wept when I watched it because it felt so real.

“And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad.

The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.

I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take.

When people run in circles, It’s a very, very mad world.”

I’ll admit to a certain fatalism when I listen to the line “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.”  I’ll also admit to listening to this song when those fatalistic thoughts run rampant; somehow, expressing them (because of course I have to sing) makes those thoughts easier to bear.

“Went to school and I was very nervous.

No one knew me, no one knew me.

Hello, teacher, tell me, what’s my lesson?

Look right through me, look right through me.”

For the most part, I was happy in school; even if I wasn’t super-popular, I had my group of friends.  Still, I felt at times like I was completely invisible.  To be honest, I still do.  This song allows me to explore those feelings of alienation and everyday tragedy but still come out unscathed at the end.

So, yes, I know it is a mad world, but in a strange way, this song reminds me that maybe I’m not alone.


Find more artists like Gary Jules at Myspace Music.

“Lie” — David Cook

[youtube:http://youtu.be/eJkJqT-FF5E%5D

I have a confession.

I watched seasons 2-9 of American Idol. I watch Glee, The Voice, The Sing-Off, and pretty much any other show about singing, singers, and/or performing songs. I can list a host of reasons with varying levels of acceptability—procrastination, dislike of watching sporting events, and boredom, among others—but what it boils down to is this: I miss it. I miss performing, and watching others do so helps me relive those incredible experiences.

That’s how I found David Cook, seventh-season winner of American Idol. As soon as his first post-Idol album was released, I bought it on iTunes, fully expecting to love it. I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ll save the raw, heartbreaking passion in “Permanent” for a later post, perhaps, because I’d like to focus on his song “Lie” from that self-titled album.

You whisper that you are getting tired
Got a look in your eye
Looks a lot like goodbye

I knew this would be the perfect break-up song. In an instant, this song still transports me to the exact moment I knew my ex would break up with me . . . or the moment, many years before that, when I broke up with my first high-school boyfriend. That *look* is timeless—and it’s captured perfectly in these simple words.

You’re hiding regret in your smile
There’s a storm in your eyes
I’ve seen coming for a while
Hang on to the past tense tonight
Don’t say a word
I’m okay with the quiet
The truth is gonna change everything

This part always reminds me of that deep-down, sinking, gut feeling I have when I know I’m about to hear bad news. I’ve often wondered if David Cook and the other songwriters could somehow hear my inner monologues. See, even when I know awful news, know it deep-down with a terrified certainty, I’ve always sought ways to postpone acknowledging it. I really am okay with the quiet . . . because in it, I am able to lie to myself.

So lie to me and tell me that it’s gonna be all right
So lie to me and tell me that we’ll make it through the night
I don’t mind if you wait before you tear me apart
Look me in the eye
And lie, lie, lie

Please.

I know that there’s no turning back
If we put too much light on this
We’ll see through all the cracks
Let’s stay in the dark one more night

This image is, in fact, a metaphor: their relationship is an item with a seemingly solid surface that reveals hidden flaws when illuminated. Again, he asks not to be forced to acknowledge these—he wants to stay in the dark. I can certainly appreciate that impulse.

Don’t want to believe in this ending
Let the cameras roll on
Keep pretending
Tomorrow’s all wrong
If you walk away
Just stay

To me, the significance of this song reaches far beyond the surface relationship implications. It lies instead in my own fear of the unknown. My past actions have proven that sometimes I’d rather stay with something known—even if I’m not happy—than try something new: a new city, a new job, a new apartment, a new way of life. The unknown feels “all wrong” to me . . . even when the known does, too.

So lie to me and tell me that we’re gonna be okay
So lie to me and tell me that we’ll make it through the day
I don’t mind if you wait before you tear me apart
To look me in the eye
And lie, lie, lie

Fittingly, I think, the music simply tapers off after this final plea. There’s no sweeping conclusion, no witty couplet that explains how the illusion can continue. The lies just can’t last forever; that’s the point. Sooner or later, the truth will look him (and me, and, in fact, all of us) in the eye. Despite the hauntingly beautiful pleas, it’s apparent that we all have to find a way to face that truth, live through the pain of it, and move on.


Find more artists like David Cook at Myspace Music.

“Rhythm Nation” “If” & “I Get Lonely” — Janet Jackson

I was quite moved by metaphoricalgretchasketch‘s discussion in her most recent post about experiencing music, in a rather profound way, via performing it. She was talking about singing which I certainly have no talent for – however, her post resonated with me as I began thinking about all the years I spent in dance classes as a young girl.

I think it’s safe to say that anyone who knows me would not be surprised to hear that I was not an all-star on the athletic field. I didn’t play a sport, per se. However, I don’t think many folks who’ve hung out with me (particularly in college) would be shocked to know that I took dance lessons for several years, because evidence of those lessons resurfaces from time to time when I allow my inner “woo girl” to come out and play. It is also possible that some of my former students might not be surprised by this either, since I may or may not be guilty of allowing them to teach me to crank that “Soulja Boy” or to “Walk it Out”. I plead the fifth.

Dance gets a bad rep sometimes, because you hear a lot about girls coming out of it with lots of body image issues and the like. I can’t say I completely escaped all of that, but in my case, I’d say my self-image problems were largely due to the pressures communicated by the mass mediaadvertising in particular. My dance teachers, on the other hand, were supportive and kind. They challenged us to become the best dancers we could be, but that didn’t mean we had to starve ourselves or whatever. I was fortunate to have had the chance to grow up in those studios under the care of women who were really about helping girls feel good about their accomplishments…even if those accomplishments weren’t going to take us to Broadway.

I was definitely not Broadway-bound, but by the end of my senior year I think I could *bring it* on stage. I’ve always been able to hold my own in a dance club and I could attract attention if I happened to want it (Don’t you judge me! I’m just being honest – and everyone knows that a lot of the time, going out dancing is all about getting attention!). More importantly, though, the experience of studying dance (ballet, jazz, modern, lyrical, hip-hop, and my favorite genre tap) played a huge role in my development as a young girl and onward to womanhood. And I have Janet Jackson to thank for inspiring my interest. It all began with “Rhythm Nation”.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAwaNWGLM0c%5D

I was nine years old when the video for “Rhythm Nation” was released. I was old enough to appreciate the positive message communicated by the lyrics, but I was more intrigued by the choreography of the video. Even at that early age, I loved thinking about how to interpret music though movement. I hadn’t started taking classes yet, but I knew I wanted to after I heard this song and saw the accompanying routine. Looking back at the video now, I am still taken aback by the brilliant choreography. The dance is militaristic in its movement and if you’ve never studied dance before, I’m not sure you can appreciate the intricacy of the steps or the virtual impossibility of people being able to move in synch with one another to this extent. The result is powerful and the music video is, rightfully so, an important icon of the 90s. For my nine-year-old self, it was a beacon that led to me asking my mom to enroll me in dance classes and it was certainly not the last time Janet Jackson would inspire me to keep dancing.

“If” was released in 1993. I was thirteen years old and I had been in dance classes for a couple of years by this point. And, as pubescent kids are wont to do, I was becoming a little bored. It made me sad that I didn’t feel as excited about dance classes anymore. Luckily, “If” changed my mind.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-OXYotOguA%5D

I don’t think it is a coincidence that this video spoke to me at a time when I was just beginning to become aware of my own sexuality. I was starting to realize that I found boys attractive and I was starting to want their attention. And here was Janet Jackson, performing this incredibly provocative (though not too vulgar) dance with her crew and really owning her sexuality. She seemed to explode with confidence and power, and, as per usual, I thought the choreography in the video was amazing. When I had friends over to spend the night, I can remember us jumping up in front of the television set anytime the video was on so that we could try to learn the dance – eventually, I had to make a VHS recording and we wore out that tape within a few weeks. We managed to learn the dance, too, but we didn’t feel half as cool as Janet since we didn’t have any hot guys dancing along with us. Despite that, my love for dance was renewed and I continued with my lessons through the end of high school.

I mentioned earlier that I had some pretty amazing dance teachers. Jennifer, the teacher I had through high school, was the best of the best. I loved her and I loved that she allowed any dancer who was a senior in high school to perform a solo at the spring recital, regardless of her level of ability. I loved Jennifer even more for letting me choreograph mine.

I chose not to go the solo route. Instead, I choreographed a piece for two friends and myself to perform. In homage to the muse who kept inspiring me to go back to dance class, I chose her song “I Get Lonely” for my senior number. I was so proud of the result. The girls that danced along with me were amazing and they didn’t roll their eyes about me being the choreographer – I think that’s probably because they could tell that doing the choreography meant so much to me and because of the culture of mutual support and camaraderie among the students that Jennifer cultivated within her school. After the performance, I left the stage of the Springer Opera House with a full heart. I’m still extremely proud of that accomplishment, and full of gratitude for everyone who helped me achieve my goal of choreographing and performing that dance. It’s one of my most favorite memories from my youth and I count myself lucky for being able to transport myself back to that important night with the touch of a button on my iPod.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYK_pPJaWEg%5D

Have you ever been inspired by someone’s music or other artwork to pursue a personal goal?
Have you had a life-changing experience while creating or performing something that made you proud?

Tell me all about it in the comments, won’t you? Peace!


Find more artists like Janet Jackson at Myspace Music.

“Mean” — Taylor Swift

No matter how hard I try, I can’t shake my love of poppy country music. In that spirit, I present to you: Taylor Swift.

I love this tiny little blonde. She’s absolutely adorable and I could eat her up with a side of ranch enjoy her artistic integrity.

The first time I heard “Mean,” I could not stop the tears. Even with the upbeat tempo and her sparkly awesomeness, the lyrics really struck an old chord to which I suppose we all can relate… the pain inflicted by teenage bullies. Although I cannot speak from experience, I’m pretty sure even the most popular kids felt picked on during their teenage years.

But, who wants to talk about those people!? A little vanity never hurt anyone, so let’s talk about ME.

You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me
You have knocked me off my feet again got me feeling like I’m nothing
You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard, calling me out when I’m wounded
You, pickin’ on the weaker man

Well, you can take me down with just one single blow
But you don’t know what you don’t know

Someday I’ll be living in a big old city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean

Why you gotta be so mean?

Think back to elementary school… Do you remember that one fat kid everyone made fun of? The one that was the last to be picked in P.E.? The kid that came in last during the mile run and had to use an inhaler daily? The one that tried to fit in to every “group,” but ended up embarrassing themselves? The one that hadn’t figured out how to dress or fix their hair?

Surprise! That was me. As a chubby, freckle face ginger kid with no fashion sense or ability to tame my thick red hair, I was the antithesis of cool.

Did I mention I was VERY aware of it? Yeah, I was pretty miserable.

I did have some friends… and I loved them dearly, but even an army of friends cannot save you from bullies making jokes about you. And what’s worse than the jokes they make in front of you? The ones you’re never meant to hear… but you do.

You, with your switching sides and your walk-by lies and your humiliation
You, have pointed out my flaws again as if I don’t already see them
I’ll walk with my head down trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again

I’ll bet you got pushed around, somebody made you cold
But the cycle ends right now ’cause you can’t lead me down that road
And you don’t know what you don’t know

And then there was high school. Ahhhhh, high school. Oh, don’t worry. I lost a little weight and figured out how to use a flat iron, but in exchange I found something far worse. BAND. Mattus can back me up on this one! Not only was I a self-proclaimed “Bando,” I was a freaking drum major for two years. For those of you that have been living under a rock for 100+ years, band geeks are not exactly popular. If anything, we lived in that band room to hide from the harsh reality of those high school hallways. I loved our music and formed some wonderful friendships that I still cherish to this day. Even so, we were still the brunt of many jokes.

And FYI, This one time at band camp DID NOT HELP ONE BIT.

One of the most painful omfg-we’re-actually-that-lame memories came from my senior year. I’ll spare you the gritty details (that’s what I pay my therapist for), but here’s the short version. I was in the orchestra and we played for the senior class during an awards ceremony. After playing our little nerdy hearts out, to my great surprise we got a standing ovation! … or so I thought. I looked into the crowd and saw that a lot of people were just standing so they could stretch after sitting so long. Their claps were sarcastic and the were laughing at us. Laughing AT us. It stung.

At that particular moment, I wanted to either pull a Carrie or have the earth open up and swallow me whole. Neither one happened. I simply got to sit back and soak up the reality of our lameness.

And I can see you years from now in a bar, talking over a football game
With that same big loud opinion but nobody’s listening
Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things
Drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing

But all you are is mean
All you are is mean and a liar and pathetic and alone in life
And mean, and mean, and mean, and mean

But someday I’ll be living in a big old city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean, yeah
Someday, I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean

Why you gotta be so mean?

This song reminds us of some simple but important truths. High school (thankfully) does end. We do grow up. Bullies are (and probably always will be) assholes. You should ignore them as much as you can and save the rest for your therapist and/or blog (Voila!). Just keep your chin up because it does get better. A lot better.

I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite shows…

The funny thing about growing up is for years and years everyone is desperately afraid to be different in any way and then suddenly, almost overnight, everyone wants to be different… and that’s where we win.” (Mitchell, from Modern Family)


Find more artists like Taylor Swift at Myspace Music.

“Kyrie” from Lord Nelson Mass — Franz Joseph Haydn & “Daemon Irrepit Callidus” — György Orbán

“Kyrie” from Lord Nelson Mass — Franz Joseph Haydn

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSGa5oJDELE&feature=youtube_gdata_player%5D

“Daemon Irrepit Callidus” — György Orbán

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RNBf3CS9KU&feature=youtube_gdata_player%5D

For me, music attaches most strongly to memory when I perform it. I never learned to play an instrument, although I can strum a few chords on a guitar and pick out a melody on a keyboard. What I did was sing in various choirs throughout my school career. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not extraordinarily talented, nor should I audition for American Idol. Still, my experiences with music will always be colored by performance, by letting music flow not only into but also through my body.

I can clearly remember the dress rehearsal for my first high school concert. We were singing Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. At the time, I sang in the women’s choir, so I was only used to hearing the soprano and alto parts along with the piano accompaniment. At the rehearsal (and in the concert), the advanced choir—complete with tenor and bass—would join us, as would four professional soloists and my school’s orchestra, who had practiced the same piece for a joint concert.

If you haven’t heard it before, you should check out the first movement—“Kyrie”—from the Lord Nelson Mass. It’s not exactly a shy, retiring melody. Rather, it’s a wall of sound that hits the audience full-force from the beginning. On the afternoon of that dress rehearsal, I was stunned by the power added by the men’s voices and orchestral accompaniment. Overwhelmed by the beauty and strength of hundreds of voices and instruments combined, I literally forgot to sing . . . until my friend elbowed me, that is. It was the first time I really felt that potent sense of belonging that comes from being part of something much, much greater than oneself.

That sense of belonging took a slightly eerie turn with György Orbán’s “Daemon Irrepit Callidus,” a quick, devilish Latin number used for the All-State tryouts my junior year. I hadn’t tried out before, so I didn’t know what to expect. We met at the high school early one Saturday morning and drove to another school for the auditions. I remember receiving a tryout number and then walking toward the school’s auditorium with my nervous gaggle of classmates. The imposingly thick, heavy wooden doors—you know the type—transmitted only muffled sound. Once heaved open, that sound expanded into the unbearably strong yet irritatingly tinny noise that can only come from accompaniment on cassette tape played too loudly (and on a continuous loop) through the auditorium’s sound system.

The only way I know to describe how it felt is to say I felt like I had entered Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, or any other well-made, religious-themed horror film.

Hundreds of high school students, glassy-eyed with lack of sleep and practically shimmering with nervous energy, perched on the upholstered auditorium seats. They all faced the empty stage with its closed, blood-red curtains. Sheet music in hand, they sang along with the tape, practicing the tryout section over and over again while waiting for their numbers to be called. It was far too loud for conversation, so my friends and I wandered, trance-like, to the first free row of seats, sat down, pulled out our music, and began to sing along, as glassy-eyed and nervous as the others.

There, the sense of belonging was tinged with the strange, cult-like feeling I get whenever I hear (and participate in) groups of people reciting the same thing all at once. It was intense, magical, and somehow just a little bit off—exactly like the music itself.

Don’t get me wrong. I love performing. Whether I’m belting in the shower, mumbling my way through half-understood Spanish-language lyrics in my car, or singing onstage, the act helps me connect to a piece of music in a deeper way. The experience is admittedly hard to define. However, both of these intense experiences epitomize what it is, to me, to be not just a listener but, in fact, part of a song.


Find more artists like Franz Joseph Haydn and György Orbán at Myspace Music.

How Drum and Bass Ruined/Saved My Life

[youtube:http://youtu.be/cwI0gbGEyuI%5D

I walked into the dark, sweaty, smoky backroom in Loretta’s where Hazeus towered behind the decks bouncing a tangled mess of dreads to the roll of the ragga drums. It was love at first bass drop! (Insert every Hollywood movie cliché.) My heart skipped a beat, I had goose bumps, time froze…I was head over heels. Up until that moment I was very much into the rave scene but I loved the culture more than anything. House DJs were basically interchangeable to me and like most anything else to a 19-year-old boy, it was only a matter of time before I grew tired of it and moved on to the next “greatest thing ever.”

Drum and Bass was a completely different animal. While trance and house concentrated on simple, repetitive drums used to drive inspirational synth patterns and elevate the crowd into a sense of faux-euphoria, DnB took another approach to move the crowd.  It almost completely threw out all the pretty melodies, sped everything up nearly double time and turned its focus to… drums and bass. (duh!)  It was deep, moody, heavy and inspirational in its own way, and it was exactly what I needed in my life.

I felt empowered, important and privileged to be a part of this movement, as nearly every college kid feels about whatever it is that they are passionate about. Drum and bass quickly engulfed every aspect of my life. Nearly every CD in my car was a DJ mix, nearly every outfit in my closet was completely out-of-place anywhere but a nightclub, and every waking moment was spent thinking about the next party. Within a year the music was everything. “How can I go to class?  Tech Itch is playing tonight.” “Dom and Roland is playing Saturday. I never liked that job anyway.” “Family?  My family is at the party already.” Before I knew it I was a college dropout, unemployed and essentially homeless. I floated through life for half a decade like this and I had never been happier.

All great highs are followed by devastating lows and mine hit like a ton a bricks. I woke up one day to realize that somehow I had enlisted in the military, gotten married and become a father. What? When did I become so utterly normal? Wasn’t I special? I should’ve been someone by now. Why was I not a famous producer/DJ or at least running a record label? That was my path in life, right? I mean, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a rock star as far back as I could remember. While most boys were dreaming about being fighter pilots or firefighters, all I could picture was a stage in my future. But there I was in my mid 20s…aging early, overweight and nursing what had to be an undiagnosed case of clinical depression. I gave Drum and Bass my heart and she gave me nothing in return.

I look back now at that angry, ungrateful “man” with overwhelming embarrassment. If anything I am lucky to be alive, let alone a father to two beautiful children and a husband to a wonderful wife who stuck with me for better or WORSE. I can’t pinpoint the turning point when maturity knocked at my door. I’m just glad that it finally joined the party. It brought with it a peacefulness that I had never felt and a realization that I am anything but normal. I have seen half the world and I am nowhere near the end of my travels. I have never tucked a Hawaiian-style shirt into a pair of bermuda shorts. I have never owned sandals with Velcro straps and most importantly, I do not listen to Nickelback. I can’t be angry at DnB. In fact, I thank her for shaping me into who I am today. I really like this guy.

Drum and Bass, and more recently its offspring Dubstep, is still a huge part of who I am. I exercise to it, I dream to it, I drink to it. It is the soundtrack to a heaving handful of meaningful memories. It’s where I fell in love with the mother of my children and my partner in life. It’s playing as I write this. It will forever be a part of who I am. About a year ago I saw Dieselboy in San Diego and it was nothing short of amazing! After the show, out of nowhere, I actually shed a tear. The next morning it became clear to me that for the first time in a decade, I felt the magic again. I caught the dragon I had spent the last third of my life chasing. The music never left me out to dry and it certainly didn’t owe me anything. It has always been there — growing and evolving with me.


Find more artists like Roni Size at Myspace Music.

“The Only Exception” — Paramore

This past spring, I had the painstaking task of picking ONE song for my soon-to-be-husband and me to use as our first dance at our wedding reception. Do not underestimate the gravity of this task. For a bride, this is huge. I struggled. Between his interest in indie and my love for good ol’ pop, it was proving to be more than difficult. It felt impossible.

And then I found Paramore‘s “The Only Exception”.

Okay… Soooooooooo, maybe I didn’t find Paramore… It was more like I was watching Glee. Yes. That’s what I said. GLEE.

Hi, my name is Kim. (Hi, Kim.) I’m a grown adult and I freaking.love.Glee.

Don’t hate. That show is awesome and we might as well put on our boxing gloves right now because I have sworn allegiance to Mr. Schuester and all things Glee. Sacrifice the body! VIVA LA GLEE!! 

Where was I… Oh yes, Paramore. This song stole my heart from the first few lines…

When I was younger I saw my daddy cry
and curse at the wind.
He broke his own heart and I watched
as he tried to reassemble it.

And my momma swore
that she would never let herself forget.
And that was the day that I promised
I’d never sing of love if it does not exist.

But darling,
You are the only exception.

My now husband and I both come from divorced families. Some say broken homes, we say *modern American families*. Although we have come to terms with (and truly love) our step parents and step/half siblings, there has been some residual damage to our faith in traditional love and marriage. We dated for five years before we decided to get engaged. We lived together for four for those years. Leading up to the engagement, we struggled with the *need* for marriage… what does it *mean* to be married… can we do it better than our own parents or are we doomed the same divorced fate… is it worth even trying… do we want to risk putting our future hypothetical offspring through a possible divorce…?

Maybe I know somewhere
deep in my soul
that love never lasts.
And we’ve got to find other ways
to make it alone.
Or keep a straight face.
And I’ve always lived like this
keeping a comfortable distance.
And up until now I’ve sworn to myself
that I’m content with loneliness.

Because none of it was ever worth the risk.

Well you are the only exception.

Well, we did get married and are happy little newlyweds. Due to years of therapy on both sides we are probably more prepared for the reality of marriage than our parents ever were. The goal is to learn from our parents’ mistakes… And in the unfortunate event we do decide to split, we’ll handle ourselves in a way that causes minimal damage to our little ones. Besides, having us as parents will give them PLENTY to tell their therapists without having to witness a nasty divorce.

I’ve got a tight grip on reality,
but I can’t let go of what’s in front of me here.
I know you’re leaving in the morning
when you wake up.
Leave me with some kind of proof it’s not a dream.

You are the only exception.

And I’m on my way to believing.
Oh, and I’m on my way to believing.

Of course, our parents didn’t go into their wedding saying, “He’ll be a great first husband.” It’s all unicorns and rainbows to start… So who knows? All we can do is take it one day at a time and keep the friendship aspect strong through the ups and downs. Today, like most newlyweds, our future is full of sunshine, babies, building our dream home outside of the city, family trips around the world, and watching each other wrinkle up and go grey.

We shall see…

Either way this song was perfect for our first dance. It’s honest in its immediate declaration of the effect our parents’ divorces had on our faith in love. It expresses the hesitation we both have to trust in the institute of marriage. But, most importantly, it sings a song for two jaded people who are deeply in love that are giving it a valiant effort.


Find more artists like Paramore at Myspace Music.

“Never My Love” — The 5th Dimension

The first CD my mother ever gave me was The 5th Dimension’s Greatest Hits on Earth.  She gifted me with the album in seventh grade, circa 1992.  At the time, my nose was huge, skin was pizza-esque, ego was super fragile.  Feel-good music, though, helped me cope because I could listen in the comfort of my own home.  No one else had to know that I was more interested in oldies than the latest from Guns N’ Roses.

Mom knew my taste so well.  How could I not love this music? First off, they were totally right naming it the best on the planet and I love people who are confident.  They own their superiority and deserve it.  No auto-tune magic required.

More importantly, though, I’m a musician and wanna-be singer and The 5th Dimension produced music that is so creative, so chock full of harmony that you can’t help but sing along at the top of your lungs.  In the car. In the shower. On the streets.  Sure, you’ll get looks from the jealous passersby but it’ll be from admiration of those beautiful lyrics and envy of your singing.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself in the mirror every morning.

Currently, my favorite song on this album (which I still own in its original, scratched up form) is Never My Love.  Marilyn McCoo sings her heart out and if you’re not a little weepy by the end of it, I wonder if you were really listening.

The theme is simple: If you have doubts about my love, toss ’em out because I’m not leaving.

You ask me if there’ll come a time

When I grow tired of you

Never my love

Never my love

But it’s not just that I won’t get bored. It’s that I *need* you.

What makes you think love will end

When you know that my whole life depends

On you

As cheesy as it sounds, this is true love to me.  And listening to such glorious poetry allowed me to escape from a rather tough time in my personal life. Now the 5th Dimension helps me escape the drudgery of housework and also provides a great way to embarrass my children who rarely allow me to sing.


Find more artists like The 5th Dimension at Myspace Music.

“At Seventeen” — Janis Ian

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMUz2TNMvL0%5D

I don’t remember why I bought the soundtrack to Teaching Mrs. Tingle; I certainly hadn’t yet seen the movie. The disc was probably on sale at Hastings and as I knew of the movie as something daring, risqué and above all, popular, I decided to purchase it. In it, I found my home.

“At Seventeen” was originally performed by Janis Ian, but the soundtrack featured a cover by Tara MacLean. I prefer the original but both women sing with a haunting, ethereal elegance. It’s the lyrics, though, that held—and still hold—me under their spell.

I learned the truth at seventeen

That love was meant for beauty queens

And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles

Who married young and then retired”

This became my anthem. I can still see myself, literally at seventeen, ripped from the relative comfort of my hometown (where, if not exactly universally loved by the boys in my class, I was at least universally known as “that smart girl”) and placed into an overcrowded dorm hall teeming with the impossibly beautiful. To me, they seemed unapproachably perfect, leaders of lives I could only dream. It’s no accident that my Meyers-Briggs score shifted from extrovert to introvert during that first year of college. Faced with other women who appeared so much more confident, happy and special than I, I retreated into my shell. While my roommate partied, I hunched over textbooks and listened to this song on repeat.

“The valentines I never knew

The Friday-night charades of youth

Were spent on one more beautiful

At seventeen I learned the truth”

The rhetorician in me appreciates the antimetabole in lines 1 and 8. It’s a subtler form of repetition than I encounter in current songs (Justin Bieber’s sixty-four—yes, I counted, and you would too if you had to listen to it twice while chaperoning an eighth-grade dance—repetitions of the word “baby” come to mind).

“And those of us with ravaged faces

Lacking in the social graces

Desperately remained at home

Inventing lovers on the phone

Who called to say come dance with me

And murmured vague obscenities

It isn’t all it seems

At seventeen”

It’s easy to look back with nostalgia, isn’t it? Sometimes I long for those days, at seventeen, when the world was wide open, its realities undiscovered, a place where “vague obscenities” were all I knew to imagine because my reality was wholly innocent. This song reminds me that time has dulled the edges of my teenage angst as it has swept away the all-too-real pain, leaving only fond memories behind.

“To those of us who knew the pain

Of valentines that never came

And those whose names were never called

When choosing sides for basketball

It was long ago and far away

The world was younger than today

And dreams were all they gave for free

To ugly-duckling girls like me”

No one in my generation had to experience the first pain. After all, we were required to bring valentines to every member of the class. Remember trying to choose the non-sappy pre-printed messages for the people you simply didn’t know? I do. Besides, I’d have been absolutely grateful if my name hadn’t been called during a basketball game. Still, “The world was younger than today” because I was younger, unacquainted with the paralyzing complexities of life.

“We all play the game

When we dare

To cheat ourselves at solitaire

Inventing lovers on the phone

Repenting other lives unknown

They call and say

Come dance with me

And murmur vague obscenities

At ugly girls like me

At seventeen

At seventeen”

Isn’t that a powerful image? Cheating oneself at a game of solitaire. How utterly fruitless. You still lose, don’t you? But it’s the line “Repenting other lives unknown” that speaks to me now. Countless times, I’ve frantically reviewed every event in my life to try to pinpoint that one moment, that one decision that would have changed everything. Maybe, if I’d done it differently, I’d have become a completely different person—thinner, perhaps; happier; deserving of (and possessing) love . . .

In a little over four months, I’ll be twenty-seven. And ten years later, I’ll admit that this song still speaks to me. After all, I am single, and not exactly by choice. I miss myself at seventeen—the innocence, the earnest desire to help others, the hunger for new experiences. To me, this song is about embracing that time in my life . . . and, perhaps, leaving it behind.


Find more artists like Janis Ian at Myspace Music.

“Spider Fingers” – Bruce Hornsby

So nice to be here
With all you good people
Is anybody listening
To what we’re doing tonight
Could you give us a chance
While you hit the sauce
Might try a little flash up here
Just to get ourselves across

So sings Bruce Hornsby in the opening track of his 1995 album Hot House. The singer and his colleagues have found themselves in a situation dreaded by all entertainers — performing for a bored and disinterested audience.

I first heard this tune in high school. At the time I had only participated in performances where each of the audiences was mostly interested in what we had to share — symphonic band and jazz band concerts for the parents, siblings and friends of my fellow musically inclined students. I won’t pretend that every audience member attending these concerts was just dying to be there but they were courteous enough to listen to what was going on. So while I enjoyed listening to “Spider Fingers” — both for its narrative and its musical quality — I was unable to relate to the story shared by the singer.

That changed in the summer of 2001. Not more than a week after being graduated from Columbus High, my high school band director invited me to play bass as part of a jazz quartet for a wedding reception in Winder, Georgia. I don’t recall my reaction but I suspect that I was both excited and a little nervous. On one hand, the opportunity to play for money and to gain some performance experience in an ”uncontrolled” environment was one I am certain I would have relished at the time. On the other, I suspect I was anxious about playing for an audience that wouldn’t have told me the performance was great even if it were lousy.

Well we better do something
Before they tell us to get lost
Sometimes you’ve just got to repeat yourself
Just to get your point across

We started playing before the majority of the audience arrived — this turned out to be fortuitous because we wouldn’t have played much at all if we had waited. After the last of the guests floated in, we managed to finish our renditions of “Maiden Voyage” and “Song For My Father” before it was clear that we may as well have engaged in Tuvan throat singing for all the attention we were paid. While it’s not clear if the singer in Hornsby’s tune managed eventually to engage the audience (a la Sussudio), our jazz quartet failed abjectly to generate so much as a spark of interest. Oddly enough, I recall not minding so much that the gig terminated rather earlier than expected — in part because I still got paid the full amount promised and in part because it meant I was able to return to Columbus at a more reasonable hour than originally anticipated.


“Spider Fingers” is a song that never leaves my otherwise dynamic “Top Five Favourite Songs List.” It’s a nickname I earned in an online Star Trek group for my quick reflexes at what we called Scrambler (where the goal was to be the fastest to decipher, for example, RMTTTAEIAN TTNMNNOECIA as ANTIMATTER CONTAINMENT). It’s a tune I heard in Safeway in 2009 (much to the consternation of my fellow shoppers when they realized someone in the store was gleefully singing the lyrics to a tune they had probably never heard). It’s a reminder that I will always be on what is generally perceived as the “wrong side” of public opinion regarding what constitutes good music.

That’s just a list of its significances to me. To Hornsby:

It’s just a little hand trick
A little prestidigitation
Better get out your Hanon
Practice and repetition


Find more artists like Bruce Hornsby at Myspace Music.