The other day my brother and I were driving up to Philadelphia to see Spoon and The Walkmen in concert. On the way up, my brother was, as usual, playing me hundreds of bands I'd never heard of before. My friends always think I know a lot about obscure bands until they meet him. Anyway, he played me a song by Mika, which blew my mind, but left me feeling vaguely guilty.
I know I have a ridiculous sweet tooth, and that can manifest itself in my taste in music. Sometimes I know a song is vapid, stupid, unoriginal, and even terrible...but I love it anyway. That was the case with that Mika song, and it inspired me to put together a playlist of some (certainly not all) of the songs I'm embarassed to like. They're not all sweet, but they all make me smile (unless someone's looking).
For your reading pleasure, here's a little background on each one (this gets a little wordy, but a friend of mine requested "more stuff about why you picked the songs," so now all of you get to suffer):
- "Grace Kelly" by Mika from Life In Cartoon Motion
Like I said, I hadn't heard of this guy before my brother played him for me on our road trip. My brother's going through a rough patch right now, but when this song came on, he smiled, and that made me happy. It might also have been the psychotically catchy chorus and the Freddy Mercury-lite vocals. For what it's worth, Pitchfork gave this album a whopping 1.5; apparently they don't like the musical equivalent of eating too many Peeps.
- "Hey Nineteen" by Steely Dan from Gaucho
My aforementioned brother hates Steely Dan, so I find it hilarious that I love them, since I inherited the broad basis for my musical tastes from him. I have my friend Eduardo to thank for turning me on to the Dan, and this song in particular, and my friend Shawn to thank for turning me on to some albums beyond their greatest hits. [Editor's note: the alert reader will notice at this point that this song appears on my mixwit tape in a previous post. Congratulations, alert reader.] Of course my favorite part is the embarassing section in the middle where they put the song on hold for a minute to sing about how "the Cuervo Gold" and "the fine Colombian" "make tonight a wonderful thing." Aww, yeah.
- "Party Up (Up In Here)" by DMX from And Then There Was X
In college I lived with my friend Evan during my senior year. At the time, I was very into Phish, and Evan was very into hip hop. It took a while, but he finally wore me down and instilled in me a love of the stuff that continues to this day. Which is why it's embarassing that one of my favorite hip hop songs is this vulgar display of what happens when you add DMX on an off day + a Casio keyboard set to "loud." What can I say? I dig repetitive backgrounds. Who cares if the guy doesn't know who Barack Obama is?
- "Rhythm Bandits" by Junior Senior from D-D-Don't Don't Stop the Beat
My friend Abby introduced me to this Danish pop duo several years ago, and at the time I thought "this is the emptiest pop music I've ever heard...I love it." Well, time has passed, but my opinion hasn't changed. The only word I can use for these guys is "ridiculous," so I will use it now: this song is ridiculous. Don't be surprised if you start dancing to it.
- "Toy Soldiers" by Martika from Martika
I don't usually feel guilty about listening to 80s music, since some of it's pretty good. Not this one, though. I imagine Martika thought she was part of the solution with this anti-drug ballad, and I can just imagine some guy standing on the corner, about to buy that first hit of sweet lady H, when suddenly this song comes drifting out of the window of a passing car (driven by some teenybopper who got lost in the wrong part of town on her way to that new mall that totally has a Nobody Beats The Wiz) and he pauses, and thinks to himself, "I don't want to be a toy soldier! Fuck this! I'm outta here!" etc. I hope that really happened, because it's the only justification I can think of for liking this song, apart from the total awesomeness of the "step by step" part, which does in fact seriously rock.
- "Chunari Chunari" by Biwi No. 1 from Monsoon Wedding (OST)
My wife fell in love with this song a while back, and it started making its way onto every road trip mixtape we made for a while. This song is only embarassing to like because it's about a half hour long and I can't understand a single word of it, and I have a vague sense that I might be offending Indian people by blasting it while I drive. But it's catchy like a cold.
- "Pop" by *N SYNC from Celebrity
At some point in college my friend Dave played me this song, and I was so taken with it I spent the next hour and a half making him play it on repeat in the car. After that he got mad. The version on here is just one of the several thousand mixes of this song that are out there, and they're all great. Some people say there's nothing wrong with liking this band or Justin Timberlake solo. I am not one of those people.
- "Bitch, Please" by Snoop Dogg & Xzibit from Top Dogg
No one ever accused Snoop or Xzibit of being progressive, but sometimes (like all the time) I think Snoop just goes out of his way to be regressive. This song is a fine example of that - from the offensive title (even though I think it's directed at a dude, which is maybe slightly less offensive) to the "I'll be gentle/sentimental/shit, we fucked in the rental/Lincoln/Continental" line, which really sums up this song's raison d'etre. I have no idea why I like this song, but I do.
- "I'm The Man" by Anthrax from I'm The Man (EP)
When I was in junior high my friend Geoff introduced me to heavy metal, and my life changed forever. This is not really a heavy metal song, but I never would have heard it (nor would I have played it approximately 50 times a day in 8th grade) had I not taken a turn towards the land of long-haired men with loud guitars. I still go back there once in a while, but that's another blog post. Anyway, this song is stupid and it makes me laugh.
- "This Is How It Feels" by Inspiral Carpets from Life
I think my favorite thing about this song (apart from the awesome 3-note keyboard background propping the whole thing up) is that they sound so damn serious. I think to Inspiral Carpets, that really was how it felt to be lonely. Poor guys.
- "Pure" by The Lightning Seeds from Cloudcuckooland
Back when I went to summer camp, I struck up a correspondence during the year (that's snail mail for you kids out there) with one of the waitresses [Editor's note: is busgirl a word?] from my summer camp's cafeteria. We wrote long-ass letters back and forth about nothing, and then one day she sent me this tape. It was this weird English band that I'd never heard of and the album had some crazy name and I hated all the songs...except for this one, which I believe may have made me cry at the time because it was so beautiful. It's not, but sometimes when I listen to it I can still hear it the way I heard it back then, and...excuse me, I have something in my eye.
- "Bouncin' Round The Room" by Phish from A Live One
OK, liking Phish can be embarassing. While their music can be quite sophisticated technically and they do put on an amazing live show, they are also capable of producing mind-numbing pablum that even 4-year-olds wouldn't sit through. I apologize to all my friends that had to hear this song again and again and again and again until even I finally had enough of it. I can't even sit through it now.
PS Those AdaptiveBlue links on the album names are showing up because AdaptiveBlue kindly responded to my feedback and upgraded their SmartLinks plugin to recognize Amazon links built using the "quick linker" widget. Thanks, guys!