A few days ago, on a typically thrilling Friday night, I sat at my computer perusing iTunes for inspiration about what to listen to next. I like looking at the songs and albums that are in the Top 10 to make sure I’m not missing anything good that everyone knows about but me. Yet again, I was struck by how many artists whose albums were in the Top 10 I was unfamiliar with (*sigh*). However, I tried to turn my discouragement into a positive: I would buy the most popular song from each album and test drive those. While I was starting at the computer waiting for the songs to download, my oldest daughter, who will be a high school senior in a week, walked in and offhandedly commented that I was squandering her college money by buying songs I didn’t need or even know if I’d like. This made me feel a little guilty, but I recovered quickly by rationalizing that the cost of the songs was commensurate with a couple lattes from Starbucks (never mind that I might be squandering her college money at Starbucks).
Once I started looking at the songs I was buying, I was startled by the diversity of the genres contained: alternative, pop, opera (oops, just spelled that as Oprah by mistake), country (2) and teen (I don’t really know what genre Camp Rock is and was very tempted to skip that album but was determined not to compromise the integrity of the experiment). I’ve been trying to save my “new” listens for my long weekend runs as part of the marathon training program. After a careful study of the humidity and temperatures on both Saturday and Sunday, I decided to do my long run on Sunday. This was disappointing because my husband and I were supposed to go to a party Saturday night and there is no bigger drag at a party than someone who has to run a great distance the following morning. Several times on Saturday during the day I was tempted to do a preview of my new tunes, but I used a small bit of self control and off I went Sunday morning (footnote: I actually studied the hour-by-hour humidity on weather.com on Sunday morning and was inclined to delay my run until afternoon, but my running daughters pointed out that I was being ridiculous, plus the anticipation of the run would have ruined most of my day). Here are the results of my highly scientific study.
· Florence + The Machine: Lungs (song: Dog Days are Over) – I feel like I’ve heard this song on the radio. It has a teeny bit of an alternative sound to it, but it’s actually pretty mainstream. The lead singer (Florence?) has a very pretty voice. This was probably my second favorite song of the group.
· Jackie Evancho: Prelude to a Dream (song: O Mio Babbino Caro) – This is the opera song and I cannot possibly evaluate whether it’s good compared to other songs of its type. I’m not really a fan of this genre, but it’s impossible to not be impressed by some of the high notes. Truth be told, it had kind of a nice calm sound to it amongst all the other songs, but honestly those high notes are a bit much for me. Update: my sister informed me that Jackie is actually 10 years old and was on America's Got Talent. I have a whole new appreciation for the song now!
· Blake Shelton: All About Tonight (song: All About Tonight) – Blake, it turns out, is a country artist. You know how when you aren’t really familiar with a certain type of music all the songs kind of sound the same? Yeah, that’s this. Basically, the setting is a bar (saloon?) and we are not to worry about tomorrow, it’s all about tonight; hence, the title. I’m pretty sure that is a fairly common theme amongst country songs, also.
· Eminem: Recovery (song: Love the Way You Lie, feat. Rhianna) – Impressively, Eminem has the same album in the Top 10 twice, one regular and one deluxe edition. I’m not sure what you get for the deluxe edition, more flowery profanity maybe? I actually like the other popular song from Recovery, Not Afraid, better than this one. Somehow I find it disturbing to hear Eminem sing about fighting with a girl and ultimately tying her to a bed and setting it on fire and Rhianna singing about how she likes the way it hurts when she burns. Seriously??? I’m not a prude, but I’m feeling a little Tipper Gore with this one.
· Joe Jonas & Demi Lovato: Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam (song: Wouldn’t Change a Thing) – This song was no more and no less than I expected: perfectly pleasant and perfectly forgettable. The singing wasn’t horrible but wasn’t great, the lyrics were not stupid but not clever either. It very appropriate for the age it’s geared toward, which is very definitely no one over the age of approximately 16 or so.
· Mike Posner: 31 Minutes to Takeoff (song: Bow Chicka Wow Wow) – I actually like his other popular song, Cooler Than Me, better this one. This song has more of a “bedroom” vibe to it. It’s fine but not super memorable for me.
· Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More (song: Little Lion Man) – This was definitely my favorite song of the group and you may have heard it played on the radio (WXRT is playing it for sure). I initially thought this group was Irish and I was visualizing them in a little pub playing this song; the energy from the song kicked my arse along the Prairie Path during my run. I subsequently found out that they’re from London, so I had to change my visual image from an Irish to an English pub (no difference), but you get the idea. Great song! Warning: a central line in the song is “I really f***ed it up this time” and they sing that with conviction, so if you find that offensive you might want to buy the “clean” version. Since the industry I work in is predominantly male and has been compared to both a locker room and a fraternity, I am actually appreciative of a variation of the word in a meaningful context rather than just as an adjective, but that’s probably not a good thing.
· Zac Brown Band: As She’s Walking Away (song: As She’s Walking Away, feat. Alan Jackson) – It’s an impressive feat to have an album in the Top 10 before it’s even been released, but this album accomplished that. The title song was the only one available when I was buying. The lyrics to the first part of the album/song title are “Don’t be falling in love (while she’s walking away)”, which seems like practical advice. As with opera/Oprah, I have a hard time evaluating country music since it’s not really what I gravitate to. This song seemed fine but I’m guessing was very eagerly anticipated if sales were so brisk even before the album was released.
· Arcade Fire: The Suburbs – I reviewed this album last week and liked it a lot. I would still recommend the title track for a newbie.
That’s it. My standout faves were the Mumford & Sons song and the one by Florence + The Machines. Incidentally, only four days after I began this project, I looked at the Top 10 albums on iTunes and only two of the ten I’d seen on Friday were the same (one of the Eminem albums and Arcade Fire), so I’m not sure how frequently that is tabulated- daily? Anyway, for me it’s always fun to listen to something I know nothing about and find that I really like it. Try something new for yourself!