So, fun fact: life is hard. Over the course of almost three-decades on this earth, I’ve found different ways to cope with whatever angst or ennui I’m facing. I’m not necessarily talking about self-care here, because some of the ways I’ve managed stress over the years have been less than advisable. (Exhibit A: me, circa my late adolescence/early 20s).
In the first paragraph of the actual narrative of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (i.e., after the weird etymology and “extracts” bullshit), Ishmael says, “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth…and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
For the record, I actually hate Moby Dick (as if that weren’t already obvious), but I like this first (run-on) sentence. Unlike Ishmael, though, when I start to grow grim around the mouth, I don’t go to sea. I dance it the fuck out.
(Another fun first line of a novel to contextualize my week: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.)
So, this edition of My Week In Music highlights some songs that help me dance this mess around.
David Bowie, “Queen Bitch” from Hunky Dory (1971)
David Bowie is one of the few celebrity deaths I shed actual tears over. He was the first “cool” musician I ever listened to. I remember somehow getting “Space Oddity” to be the ringtone on my Motorola Razr when I was 16 or so. (Sigh, I used to be so edgy.) My burgeoning teenage love of David Bowie coincided with the release of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic of Steve Zizzou (2004), much of the soundtrack to which consists of Brazilian singer-songwriter Seu Jorge’s acoustic covers of Bowie’s music. There are several other Bowie songs I often dance it out to, but this one is my favorite. If (and this is a Big Fucking “If”) I ever get married, I am 93% sure I want to walk down the aisle to “Queen Bitch.” Because I am abso-fucking-lutely swishy in my satin and tat. Also, if it’s not “Queen Bitch,” it will be David Bowie and Queen singing “Under Pressure.” (Totes appropriate, right?)
The Rolling Stones, “19th Nervous Breakdown” (1966)
I don’t think this is one of the most popular Rolling Stones songs, but it might just be my favorite. I first heard it in high school (sidebar: I basically listen to the same music I listened to a decade ago) and was like “OMG THAT’S SO ME.” At the time, I definitely over-identified with Jagger’s assertion that it seems to me that you have seen too much in too few years, but the damage was done (and subsequently processed throughout years of therapy). But I still love the hell out of this one. #sorrynotsorry
Scissor Sisters, “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin'” from Ta-Dah (2006)
This song is actually ironic unlike others that claim to be (looking at you, Alanis Morissette–just kidding, love you to pieces) because I physically cannot hear this song without wanting to dance. This is sometimes unfortunate when I’m in public. Other times, I just say “fuck it” and do a bit of dancing while riding the subway or walking down the street or whatevs. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, “Can You Picture That?” from The Muppet Movie (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1979)
Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem may legit be one of my…top twenty-five favorite bands. Yeah, I fucking know they’re muppets. And I really don’t care. This song is just…how can you listen to it and not be instantly happier? Fact is there’s nothing out there you can’t do, yeah, even Santa Claus believes in you. Those lyrics are just…an aural muffin basket full of rainbows. I will fight you on this. But before I do, I will listen to “Can You Picture That?” and calm the fuck down. Then, I’ll probably just give you a high-five.
Here are a few others that I usually put into the rotation but don’t feel like explaining.
The Beatles, “I’m Looking Through You” from Rubber Soul (1965)
Harvey Danger, “Flagpole Sitta” from Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone? (1997)
Melissa Etheridge, “Nervous” from Fearless Love (2010)
Ben Folds Five, “Kate” from Whatever and Ever Amen (2001) (You can probably figure this one out.)
Joan Jett, “Bad Reputation” from Bad Reputation (1980)
Blondie, “Dreaming” from Eat to the Beat (1979)
Elvis Presley, “Burning Love” from Burning Love and Hits from His Movies, Volume 2 (1972)