I got my first iPod in college. I know, I know: late bloomer. I was really holding off on the whole "digital" thing. I also got my first digital camera in college. Whatever, I liked physically developing photos and working with film. I liked tangible things. The point is, I got my first iPod in college, purchasing it from the student bookstore at a discounted rate the night before a big final exam and a flight to Hawaii. I promptly spent the rest of the afternoon loading all of my CDs into my computer and then onto said iPod (instead of studying) so I could create the perfect playlist for the plane ride to Hawaii, as well as for lounging on the beach(es) once I got there. Completely unironically, I named a separate playlist "The Soundtrack to My Life" and loaded on songs that were meaningful to me at the time but also a few that had long-standing meaning. I present them to you now, in their entirely embarrassing glory, for your mocking.
"Part of Your World" (Jodi Benson/The Little Mermaid Soundtrack) - In elementary school I had a friend whose name was also Danielle who was such a talented singer she was often asked to stand on our lunchroom tables and serenade our entire second or third grade class. She was also selected as the soloist in some weird play about Mother Earth and the Ozone. I wanted a talent like hers, but I was pretty much tone-deaf. So I would listen to this one song every afternoon, rewinding my old cassette over and over, learning the notes, the pitch, the cadence, and the pauses. I was nothing but a mimic, but it worked. I managed to nail this one song. It took quite a few days of shutting myself in my parents' bedroom where the boombox was, screeching at the top of my lungs, but I got it. And then I realized how hard it was to accomplish and that it could take forever or not even happen with other, harder, songs, and I decided to let the other Danielle have that talent all to herself.
"Return to Innocence" (Enigma) - My father will probably take credit for this one. He has always loved Native American flutes, and he used to chant around our apartment in what I took to be kind of racist babble. But the music really is beautiful when done correctly. In truth, this song made it onto the playlist solely because it was used in Jonathan Taylor Thomas' classic film Man of the House. See? Everything in my life revolves on pop culture! And every time I am interviewing Chevy Chase, I am thisclose to asking him about that movie, but at this stage in his career I fear he won't even remember that he did that movie, and that would completely crush me. So I don't ask. And I keep my DVD copy at home.
"Do You Remember" (Kittyhawk) - A girl named Christine showed up to a Jensen Ackles/Josh Taylor fan event in New Jersey in 1999 and brought a musician friend with her. The woman wasn't a fan, too, but she had written a song that this girl Christine wanted to co-sing to Jensen. That was this song. I loved it so much (and I so enjoyed Jensen getting misty-eyed over the music) that I had bought a CD from Christine. The other tracks were good, too, but this one had the most meaning for me.
"Against All Odds" (The Mariah Carey version) - When I was in high school I was deeply, profoundly affected by a breakup. It was not my own; it was not my parents'; it was someone I barely knew. Looking back, I can say I was far too invested to begin with, but I was invested, and I was using their relationship-- one that, behind closed doors I really didn't know anything about-- as a model of what relationships should be. I built it up so much, it was probably doomed to fail. And when it did, I spectacularly melted down and listened to this song daily, creating a music video in my head using the narrative of this couple's relationship. At one point I think I even drew out storyboards for said music video. It was a weird and not-so wonderful time.
"How Do I Deal" (Jennifer Love Hewitt) - Nothing says left-over teen angst like..."Love?" I honestly don't even know what to say about this one. I haven't heard it in years, and yet, if you put it on right now I bet I could still sing it word for word, tone for tone, as I learned I could still do with the theme songs to Cybill and Veronica's Closet recently.
"Girl on the Verge" (Sarah Hudson) - Teen angst? Honestly, I don't even remember where I first heard this song.
"What's Going On (Neptunes "This One's For You" Remix)" - In the late nineties or early 2000s, an all-star group of performers, including Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Eve, Jennifer Lopez, P!nk, the Backstreet Boys, etc, got together to remake the Marvin Gaye classic and raise money for AIDs research. This particular remix was done by Pharrell and the Neptunes and was aimed at inner city kids. It reached out past AIDs to talk about violence and drugs and war and even a nod to 9/11. Its rhymes were extremely sophomoric, but it's chorus was hauntingly beautiful, and I found myself listening to it over and over as I rode the bus through Brooklyn, knowing they could have been singing about a part of my own city just a few blocks down.
"Changes" (Tupac) - Hands down one of my favorite Tupac songs ever. He was a poet, and he had real things to say and real issues to talk about, but he didn't always utilize his platform to do so. I listened to his "Greatest Hits" pretty much on a loop for the first two years of high school, and it inspired me to write, but also to always be aware of the world around me.
"Miss California" (Dante Thomas) - I know I added this song specifically for that Hawaii trip. I had been living in California for just over a year and really wanted to embody the spirit of a west coast girl. I used this as a model for an anthem but was pretty much a big fraud.
"Who Knew" (Eminem) - The first Eminem album I ever heard was "The Marshall Mathers LP." My father didn't like me listening to rap music, and the "radio friendly" (read: poppy) singles I heard from Eminem prior didn't really speak to me. But the summer I was a junior counselor at a day camp, one of the girls in my group asked me to hold her Discman while she went swimming because she had borrowed it from her older sister and didn't want it to get ruined or stolen. Inside was "The Marshall Mathers LP" and I asked her if she liked it. She was 10-- I was 16-- but I was curious. She said she did; I wasn't sure she understood most of it anyway. I ended up listening to half during the swim lesson and the other half during free swim later that day and then I went and bought a copy for myself on the way home. There were so many lyrically smart songs on this album, but this one grabbed me for the slightly taunting way he spoke about innocence. Plus the lyric "I make fight music for high school kids" seemed to so perfectly sum up his aesthetic, even if he was being tongue-in-cheek.
There you have it, the most ridiculously eclectic grouping for music...perhaps ever. In truth, there are a few more on this playlist, but I have vowed to keep all lists I post this month short, with ten items being the max. Otherwise I could just be here all day, and no one will want to read that. I didn't edit out the most inane ones here (obviously), I just selected the first ten. I don't know what I was thinking, but I'm sure some kind of weird mental state chronology was in mind.