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There are two newsletters left in this year; one lighthearted and the other, probably somewhat more downcast. This is the chirpy one.
Music. 2020 is the first full year since I understood that I do not really care about music. I like music, especially when it’s performed live or as a reason to dance or ding with my family. I’m just not a fan, perse. In my tastes, I’ve typically followed other people’s lead. The only music I’ve ever like independently is flamenco.
My family Spotify’s annual review is as random as that of any account-sharing family. In between a lot of kids’ disco and Baby Shark, the brightest sparkle is Rosalía. I love Rosalía. After all, flamenco.
My musical ignorance notwithstanding, I’m enjoying Rob Harvilla’s 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s. I spent most of my teens in the ’90s, which coincided nicely with the decade that put teenage angst on a pedestal.
Most of the songs covered by Harvilla are songs I listened to intensely in the late ’90s and early ’00s. It is great to discover them anew and be reminded of some of the stories they were a backdrop for in my life.
Ear-opening was the episode on Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know, which apparently is more than a good song. I appreciated learning more about Mariah Carey’s suffering (and brilliant voice) than the annual ritual of suffering through endless repetitions of All I Want For Christmas. I had never heard of the Gin Blossoms or Hey Jealousy, but I’m sure it would have been on heavy rotation on my first iPod if I had.
Other songs hit closer to home. The episode on the Wu-Tang Clan, for example. I will never forget the mayhem when they closed a day at the notoriously mayhemish Dour Festival. After days of minimal techno and fast metalcore, suddenly, there were at least 50,000 fans of the Wu knee-deep in the mud of the Belgium countryside.
And of course, the episodes on the Smashing Pumpkins and Guns’ n Roses, both of which made me realize I was slightly too young to really be a kid of the ’90s. Instead of Siamese Dream and Appetite for Destruction, the albums that taught me about these bands were the similarly dysfunctional Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Use Your Illusion I and II. (The latter of which I even bought.)
But my favorite episode was about I Want It That Way. Indeed, the song by the Backstreet Boys. I’ve always had a weak spot for the Backstreet Boys. Tell you why? Ain’t nothing like a pet peeve, is there? I have so many great stories to tell about them; please ask when we meet in 2021. Thanks to Harvilla, I now know why I listened to them, even in the face of considerable scorn from friends.
After the ’90s, I went to university and abroad and took a deep dive into post-punk and indie rock—Death Cab For Cutie, Interpol, and the classics, Joy Division, New Order, etcetera. Our #1 song this year, according to Spotify, is The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights, my eldest son’s favorite. I kind of like that: it brings me back to so many bars in so many countries where I listened to identical songs.
I still have an old iPod Nano at home, the last I bought before the advent of the iPhone. All these songs are on it, frozen in time, as well as some flamenco. According to Google, I should still get it to work if I can find the right charger.
I recently decided to delete my last.fm, though. I felt it was time to leave the footprint of 15 years of music behind. It was liberating. Also, the connection with Spotify had been lost already, and it didn’t feel right not to have a single play of Rosalía mixed in.
Thanks for reading. There are many loose ends for this year, and I will wrap up some of them next week. Until then, have a wonderful time and hopefully some good last days to end the year. See you in a few days!