I’m a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to my favourite music.
My philosophy on music – as with life, in general – is that it’s worth trying anything at least once.
A quick look at my Spotify playlists shows it runs the gamut from The Beatles to the Backstreet Boys, Diana Ross to Death Cab for Cutie, Nancy Sinatra to The National, Wilson Phillips to Weezer, Pare Ko to Part of Your World. I love them all.
(Side rant: one of my pet peeves is people who dismiss whole genres or artists just because it’s “mainstream” or “pop” or from Nickelback or whatever. What does that even mean, anyway?
Music is a deeply personal experience. Just because a person’s musical taste doesn’t conform to our particular idea of what’s “cool” is no reason to dismiss her/him or the music altogether. We’ve all stopped being anxious high schoolers long ago – by now, if you’re still judging people by whether they’re a Belieber or not then you’re the a-hole. Everyone is unique. If we all listened to the same songs the world would be a much more boring place. Ok, rant over.)
I recently came across an old NY Times article written by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz called “The Songs That Bind.” By crunching Spotify data on how frequently every song is listened to by men and women of each particular age, Seth came to a fascinating conclusion: the majority of us, when we are grown men and women, predictably stick with the music that captured us in the earliest phase of our adolescence.
That’s right – the songs we were listening to as our voices cracked and our hair grew in strange places are most likely still going to be our favourites when we’re in our 30s or 50s. More specifically, these are the songs we liked at the ages of 11 to 14 (for women) and the ages of 13 to 16 (for men).
In my case, this seems to be true. I have a soft spot for a lot of ‘90s era pop and alternative music. I can still belt out, word for word, the lines to nearly all the songs from the Disney Renaissance movies. The lyrics from the tracks on the early Now That’s What I Call Music! albums are forever etched on my subconscious, it seems.
Interestingly, I also realised I still listen to a lot of the songs I was exposed to at that age – not necessarily from the ‘90s. I’m talking about the music my parents listened to. They controlled the car radio and what played on our home stereo on lazy weekends – which meant a diet of Billy Joel, The Jackson 5, Jose Mari Chan, and ABBA. The Manhattan Transfer, Simon & Garfunkel, Phil Collins, and Air Supply were staples. The Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack was a family favourite (“Give me a kiss to build a dream on and my imagination will thrive upon that kiss…”).
One of my continuing favourites from my parents’ playlist is the Carpenters.
They had a song for almost every occasion. Slow start to the week? Rainy Days and Mondays. Your boy ghosted you? Please Mr. Postman. Imminent alien invasion? Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.
I remember dedicating – privately, in my diary haha – the Carpenters’ ‘Goodbye to Love’ to an unrequited crush (opo, ma-drama na po ako since nineteen kopong-kopong). Karen Carpenter’s smooth vocals and the sweet innocence in some of their ballads contrasted with the tragedy of her early death, and lent some of the songs a haunting quality.
Suffice it to say, I was already a bit of a Carpenters fan. I was pleasantly surprised then, to come across the 1994 tribute album If I Were a Carpenter on Spotify.
I was already familiar with Sonic Youth’s emotionally charged version of ‘Superstar’ from the movie Juno (another awesome film soundtrack btw). I dug around and found it actually came from If I Were a Carpenter, a whole album of ‘90s alternative rock bands covering the Carpenters’ hits.
Apart from Superstar, my favourites include Dishwalla’s cover of ‘It’s Going to Take Some Time’ (it put me in a very ’90s mood), Shonen Knife’s ‘Top Of The World’ (had a joyful Ramones sound to it which I liked), and The Cranberries’ rendition of ‘(They Long To Be) Close To You’ (mainly because I like Dolores O’Riordan’s voice haha).
It’s especially tricky for tribute albums to get the formula right (*ehem* a certain Eraserheads tribute). They can’t just sing the song as is, otherwise it’s no different to a ho-hum karaoke version (at best) or a poor copy of the original (at worst). They can’t render it too unrecognisable either, because they’ll leave the original band’s fans disappointed.
I felt that If I Were a Carpenter hit all the right buttons – it was a fresh take on songs I loved, with the distinct vibe of the era I grew up in. What a trip down memory lane. The feeling is best captured in the Carpenters’ own words:
All my best memories come back clearly to me
Some can even make me cry, just like before
It’s yesterday once more
How about you, what’s your favourite music? Has it changed since you were younger? Let me know in the comments!
Think critically dear readers,