dear taylor swift,

I love you. You read my teenage diary and you get it. Your entire Fearless album is my jam. Love it love it. You might be crazy, you might date people just for publicity and then complain that nobody loves you, and you might be sometimes overrated, but you’re also a genius, and I respect that. (Let’s forget that Speak Now happened, because we all do hugely awful things from time to time and we just need to get over them.)

But why, oh why, can you not keep your pronouns straight?

You have problems in tons of your songs, but let’s take your latest and most egregious, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and break it down: Continue reading

quien ama la música ama la vida

I miss music. My stint in the Simmons a cappella group didn’t last long, and I really miss choir from college. But strangely, what I miss most is piano. It was my first instrument, but once I discovered that I could sing and that I loved it, I started thinking of it as secondary. And given that I’ve always had a problem with accompanying myself and singing at the same time (I have relative perfect pitch; rhythm is something I’m not awful at but have to actually actively apply my cognition to), I’ve sadly never been able to realize my dreams of being a YouTube-discovered indie piano pop superstar à la Ingrid Michaelson. (By the way, taking suggestions for activities to improve that cognitive skill, or for books that explain how it works and how I can get better.)

Missing music is kind of a crutch and a cop-out, though, because between crit/scholarly stuff, creative writing, and music, they’re always at odds with each other for position as my NUMBERONEFAVORITETHINGFOREVERANDEVERAMEN, and generally I am always required to be working on one, desiring to be working on another, and then missing the third and thinking that my life would be perfect if only I could be doing that instead. I have to do school, and the write-a-thon (plus my new writing stint that I will be starting soon at Paper Droids and some guest posts at other blogs coming up) says that I should be writing (as should my jealousy of how many friends of mine are getting published before I am), so of course I want music. And there’s absolutely no possibility for balance between the three right now, because my life just doesn’t have that kind of leeway in it. Continue reading

performing art

I have said that I don’t like Lady Gaga, and that’s true. “Bad Romance” and “Telephone” are the only songs that I can stomach, and her videos freak me out. I also don’t think she’s all that innovative, and every time people say that she’s doing something no one has ever done before, I ask them if they were asleep when Madonna and David Bowie were big. I also don’t think it’s a really legitimate thing to say that the point of being a crazy performance artist with no rhyme or reason is to trick people into paying attention, or to make some kind of statement that art is arbitrary, because all of that is just silly. To be clear, I’m also not a big fan of most electronica, because I think you can’t define things as “music” unless they have melodies and include at least one instrument or voice that comes from a physical being or object. But I do reserve a few electric-y tracks for when I work out or clean my apartment.

But it just struck me that my argument somewhat falls apart when I consider that I very much like listening to (and watching videos of) Marina and the Diamonds. I’m going to try to explain the difference between her and artists like Gaga, and also explain why I like her. She’s definitely in the “tradition” of current pop, which is like stylized, commercialized performance art. But it’s still way different from shitty installations in contemporary art galleries and pop stars who go for shock-factor-cum-esoteric-ness. I totally admit that it could just be that I have followed Marina & the Diamonds a long time, so I’ve read her blogs and listened to her demos, and also that I just happen to find her music more aesthetically pleasing than Gaga’s, but I think it’s more than that. Continue reading

pop&b

Like any girl who grew up in America, and like any girl who has an older sister she worships, my musical taste has changed, refined, and solidified as I’ve grown older. I had my middle school phase where I listened to anything that was on Top 40 radio, and there are still some things from the 1997-2003 time period that I will always love, defend, and unabashedly listen to, even if I know it’s absolutely terrible. And there are other things that are actually kind of underrated, like the fact that those manufactured pop groups like N Sync and Eden’s Crush were actually very well trained singers, just stuck in the bodies of fakely attractive people and forced to sing really terrible songs.

Anyway. My main genres when I was young were Motown, show tunes, jazz-pop standards, and pop-inflecting R&B. I could count on my sister getting me the latest Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, or Alicia Keys CD for each birthday and Chrismukkah. I listened to them extensively, and to this day, even in the age of iPods and playlists and listening to single songs and not albums, if I hear a song off of one of these ladies’ albums I know exactly which song should come next in the track listing.

But then I transferred from the very urban middle school I went to to private school, and then I discovered lots of other music, both that satisfied my ear and that spoke to the major angst I had. Also, it helped that liking music that my classmates liked helped me to fit in, since so much of the way I acted seemed not to do that for me. Continue reading

it’s best not to be in love unless it’s complicated

I’ve clocked a lot of iPod time lately instead of reading time. My new job (!) is usually just me hanging out at the computer doing computer stuff, so music is necessary for my sanity. I’ve been downloading a lot of good stuff lately, thanks to deals from Amazon and this lovely new thing called Freegal that is cropping up at libraries here and there. So I’ve added some Neko Case, Vanessa Carlton, Ingrid Michaelson, and more to my library. But no matter how much music I accumulate, I tend to glom onto certain albums and listen to them excessively, until I am sure of which songs are my favorites and until I imagine myself inside the album and live and swim in it and just love it unconditionally and forever.

I do this mostly with albums that are by bands or duos where two people are pretty much equally the lead singer. It’s especially my favorite when it’s a male and female voice because it feels really intimate, which I admit is rather heteronormative and not actually very fair, but hey, I grew up in America. Also, the Pierces go onto my list of duos I can listen to forever, and they’re sisters.

Anyway. Bands/albums I listen to way too much because I love the dual quality of the lead vocal: Jenny and Johnny’s I Am Having Fun Now, anything by the Pierces, a lot of Rilo Kiley’s Under the Blacklight (okay, I also have a Jenny Lewis fetish), most stuff by Stars, same with She & Him, and the latest album I’ve added to that list is the Civil Wars’ Barton Hollow. Continue reading