Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.

2009-02-08

Blossom Dearie, RIP

Oh, MAN. I'm so sorry to hear that one of my all-time favorite singers, Blossom Dearie, has died at the age of 82. I'll post more later, but here she is performing her classic "I'm Hip":

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2008-12-12

Friday Fun with Pancake Mountain

What could be better than a Pancake Mountain? How about a tv show, ostensibly and mostly for kids, featuring live performances by some kickass bands, an amblyopic host called Captain Perfect, with the nonexistent "board" of the show as his enemies? What if that show was called Pancake Mountain? Well, it is, and it beat the also-awesome Yo Gabba Gabba to the party for kids shows that don't suck by several years on public access TV in Washington DC.

The show was created by producer Scott Stuckey (yes, of those Stuckeys) and features Captain Perfect and a goat puppet named Rufus Leaking who attends band press briefings and music festivals, plus cartoons, music videos, and footage from several Pancake Mountain Dance Parties, which are basically concerts for kids where no "kid's music" is actually allowed. Pancake Mountain has featured acts like Thievery Corporation, Arcade Fire, Steel Pulse, M.I.A., The Melvins, and even legends like Billy Idol, Henry Rollins, The B-52s, and George Clinton. Rufus is a hilarious interviewer, rude without being crass, and the amount of awesome kids get exposed to in just one episode of Pancake Mountain handily offsets a Wiggles Marathon's worth of suck.

Pancake Mountain episodes are available on DVD and would be great in the youth video -- or the non-youth video --- collection, because the show only airs in a few cities and full episodes aren't around much online. Plus, these discs are a slam dunk for the emerging hipster parent demographic who has already torn through Here come the ABCs and Here come the 123s and have been given hope that children's tv doesn't have to stink all the time.

Because the show airs on cable access, you can also consider trying to get Pancake Mountain to be broadcast in your community, especially if you're colocated or affiliated with your cable access channel. At my library, we've been able to bring Pancake Mountain to the good children of Ann Arbor, Mondays at 6PM, and we hope to get Rufus out someday to stage a PM Dance Party of our own.

Check out Pancake Mountain, but realize that you may never look at kid's TV the same way again. In a good way!

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2008-11-11

And party every day

A few months ago, I was chatting with some co-workers and they started talking about music. Many of the people I work with are really into classical music and opera, and they were comparing favorites. Now, I enjoy classical music and opera as much as everyone else, but I also, as many of you know, really like rock. So I had to ask, "Am I the only person in this room who listens to Led Zeppelin?"

Because I was the only person in the room who listened to Led Zeppelin, I was recruited to put together a list for November's BCCLSVisor, a monthly reader's advisory feature that offers lists of books on every topic from autism to the modern-day vampire. The list is now available for your perusing/collection development/rock music debating pleasure: Rock and Roll all Night. It has albums that represent the sounds of the past five decades, plus books on musicians and the rock genre.

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2008-09-06

My Infinite Playlist

Welcome to new media: I'm posting a music widget that's in support of a movie based on a book, but using music that's inspired by a TV show.

In case you hadn't heard, a movie based on Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist will be in theaters in October. Checking out the official site, I saw that you can design a playlist widget, which I thought was a great idea to promote your movie. (Even though I picked music that's from Supernatural.)

Considering how much music matters in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, the book, this widget would also be a great way to advertise the book, not just the movie. Have you tried this yet in your library? If you're curious, head to the official Nick & Norah site to check it out. You'll need to sign up with imeem to participate.

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2008-08-29

Friday Fun: Fabulous Flash


My very favorite website has a wonderful tradition: Flash Friday. It's wonderful because it usually restricts the posting of productivity-obliterating flash games to the day of the week when you don't usually get anything done anyway. Flash games are a picocent per gross or something, most endlessly rehashing game mechanics from the 80's, but there are some truly amazing things out there too... like You Have To Burn The Rope. It's very short, very accessible, and very awesome... especially the end credits If you get stumped, try the 1-minute walkthrough. Hint: You have to burn the rope. Just ask this kid.

The Swedish student game developer who unleashed You Have To Burn The Rope upon the world was surely influenced by Still Alive, the incredibly perfect ending credits song from Portal, written by geek superstar Jonathon Coulton and sung by GLaDOS, the AI that guides and leads the player through the game. Coulton is huge with geeks, and his song Code Monkey is used as the opening theme for, well, Code Monkeys, the atari-look southpark-style comedy about 80's game developers.

Then there's Puzzle Farter. Let 'er rip!

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2008-08-28

Best albums of the decade: What do you own?

My favorite New York radio station, 92.3 K-Rock, is holding an online battle for the best albums of the decade so far. Of course, a rock station is going to have a very different opinion on what the best albums of the decade are so far than a Top 40 or a country station would, but there's an important point here: These are albums that make up the hard rock/metal canon of 2000-2010 (with a little alternative thrown in), and the top vote-getters are probably good bets for libraries to buy if you don't already own them. As of the writing of this post there are 150 albums up for voting. If I could only buy five of them for my library, I'd pick:

Stadium Arcadium by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace by the Foo Fighters
American Idiot by Green Day
Hot Fuss by the Killers
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2

Are these my personal favorites from the list? No, save for Stadium Arcadium, but they are the ones with wide appeal, good reviews, Grammy nominations and wins, and the ones with the songs the average radio listener is likely to recognize and therefore request from the library. As rock fans look back on the 1990s and remember albums like Nevermind, Metallica, Automatic for the People, Ten, and The Downward Spiral, these are five albums that I think will be remembered a decade from now.

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2008-08-20

Music, Music Everywhere, But Not a Note to Plink

I'm on a constant need to discover new music. It doesn't take long for me to get bored with something. Mostly, that's because I play something so much when I'm into it that I make myself sick of it. (currently overdoing it on Katy Perry)

This started in High School. I listened to a lot of heavy metal. And I wasn't choosy about it. I listened to everything from Slayer to Poison. I read a few magazaines religiously (Circus, Hit Parada, Metal Maniacs), watched Headbanger's Ball on MTV (I'm sure our readers remember when MTV played music, right?), listened to the rock radio stations, and traded tapes and albums with friends.

When those resources weren't enough, I'd tune in WMSE (91.7) and listen to alternative radio (REAL alternative radio), watched 120 minutes on MTV (I was the only person I knew listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More in 1986), and found more obscure magazines (like Thrasher, the skateboard magazine that covered hardcore) that covered lesser known bands.

Then I hit college and it all exploded. I spent two years in the dorms re-configuring my head. Instead of being the kid that listened to all the unusual music, I met person after person who had entire collections of music that I had never heard of. There were amazing music stores like The Exclusive Company and B-side Records; and many used CD/vinyl stores where you could swap and trade like mad. We signed each other up for BMG and Capitol music services (BMG was better since you only have to buy one CD, and got two for every friend who signed you up) and increased our music collection exponentially.

Then I graduated. And I wasn't around a music scene. And I wasn't living in a place with a high concentration of young people looking for something new. And yet, I still wanted to learn about new bands.

For a long time, I subscribed to the CMJ music magazine and got a CD every month of 20 or so songs from new albums from established artists and tracks from new artists. It was great for a long time, and then in 1998 or so, what I got via CMJ didn't interest me anymore. What was I going to do?

We did have satellite television, which gave us satellite radio. That was cool. But whether it was Sirius or XM, there wasn't enough variety for me to find new stuff. We watch the Brit Awards, and that gives us new British music that isn't covered here in the States. iTunes gives me Internet radio, but in some ways it makes me feel overwhelemd with choices (current German pop? um, how much do I have to listen to before I can move onto one of the other 100 international stations?). We watch VH1's Top 20 countdown every week, and that at least keeps me on top of popular new music, but where do I find the edge stuff?

This isn't a unique problem; people often get stuck in the music they loved in High School or college. It's comfortable and familiar. It makes you feel young. It was one time in your life when you HAD time to follow music.

I'm too busy these days to scour magazines or chase around the internet for music. I tried to wrestle Marcus away from Sophie, but she won't give him up. Any suggestions as to how/where to find new music?
_____________________________
PS-Sorry for the long time away, folks. I was essentially out of town for a few weeks. There's a more detailed story here if you're interested.

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2008-04-30

Wednesday Night Lights: 1992's Influence on Music

This is quite long, I'm sorry for that. Once I got going, I couldn't stop. Also, I've linked primarily to Wikipedia articles for consistency of style.

It seems that I'm on a roll with music lately. The other day I was listening to Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks' new album, and there were some bits and pieces of it that reminded me of Nirvana. That got me thinking back to when I first heard Nirvana. Well, not first heard, but when I first bought Nevermind on casette. That's right, I bought Nevermind on casette.

This was 1991/1992 so portable CD players existed, but they were iffy. You were better off with a portable casette player since the CDs tended to skip. A lot. So if I was trying something out, I'd get it on casette. Nevermind came out in September of 1991 (is that really 17 years ago!?) and I had heard/seen "Smell Like Teen Spirit" a bunch.

No one knew who they were; not me, not my friends. I already was listening to Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam. Without knowing it, I was already keying into the Seattle sound, aka "grunge."

I decided "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was a strong enough song that I would pick up the album. A friend was coming into town that weekend, and we swung by a record store on the way to my place. I picked up the casette, having no idea what lay in store for us.

To show how dorky I am, the weekend was spent listening to Nevermind (the casette didn't have the hidden track that's on the CD, so the auto-reverse would just flip the tape over and we'd get the other side) over and over and over and over again while we played Super Mario Bros. That was basically it.

The album was brilliant. I couldn't get enough of it. My roommates and my friend...? They had their fill. Thankfully for them, I could listen to it in my trusty Sony Walkman.

In early 1992 (see, I'm bringing the title of this post in) Nevermind hit #1. Music was changing. The grunge music was in full swing, causing a ton of Seattle-based bands to get signed to record deals so that labels had a grunge artist in their list. I bought a lot of that music, and I won't even try to list it all.

Even outside of Seattle, you had releases from bands like San Diego's Stone Temple Pilots, who had a definite Seattle or grunge quality to their music. I was in my third year of college, and music was hugely important to me. I was in bands, playing guitar, singing, doing all the things that I thought would make me a rock star (except actually working hard at it, of course).

On top of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, there was the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, and they both got me thinking about 1992 again. And I was curious what was released that year and what sort of influence it had. I came up with a short list of, in my opinion, hugely influential in music.

In addition to grunge, there was Rage Against the Machine (RATM) with their self-titled debut. This didn't sound like any of the Seattle music. This was quite different. And it had a lot of say. Even today, sixteen years later, I can listen to the first RATM machine and became angry due to the content of the lyrics. Highly politicized, RATM caused controversy wherever they went:
"At a 1993 Lollapalooza appearance in Philadelphia, the band stood onstage naked for 15 minutes with duct tape on their mouths and the letters PMRC painted on their chests in protest against censorship by the Parents Music Resource Center. Refusing to play, they stood in silence with the sound emitted being only audio feedback from Morello and Commerford's guitars."
Sca-core band The Mighty Mighty Bosstones released their first full-length album More Noise and Other Disturbances. I saw them for free at the student union, and can safely say that was the craziest show I've ever been to.

While I didn't come upon the album until much later, Gordon from the The Barenaked Ladies came out in 1992. And I'm not ashamed to admit that the Barenaked Ladies are my favorite band. I saw them on a whim in 2000, and metaphorically kicked myself for missing out on the band for so many years. Although to be honest, I probably would have hated them at the time.

It was all good, 1992 foisted a full Right Said Fred album on us, and Color Me Badd had a #2 single with "I Wanna Sex You Up" (sorry, no links...I can't bring myself to do it). This was the type of stuff that was burning up the charts prior to grunge. I, for one, was glad that grunge came along.

But what about the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy? Who the heck were they? Well, frontman Michael Franti has gone on to form Spearhead, and like RATM, use his music to bring awareness to political issues that are often overlooked in the United States. But there's more. The album Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury introduced us to the work of a young guitarist named Charlie Hunter.

Hunter is a jazz guitarist, and one of my favorite musicians. He plays an eight-string guitar (although now I see he's moved down to a seven-string) and performs both the guitar and bass lines on the same instrument simultaneously.

Here's where things get funky, Hunter's 2001 album Songs from the Analog Playground featured the vocals of a young songstress, Norah Jones, who of course went on to win a Grammy for Best New Arist with her 2002 alubm Come Way with Me. When I first heard "Don't Know Why," I couldn't figure out why her voice sounded familiar. Then I figured it out. I had heard it a year earlier.

If not for the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (who I found through the Alternative Tentacles album Virus 100, a compilation of Dead Kennedys cover songs) we might not have heard of Norah Jones. Considering the talent level of Hunter and Jones, it's likely we would have heard of them regardless, but the connection is there.

Jones' Come Away with Me hit #1 on the charts in 2002, ten years after Nevermind hit #1. Things had changed over those ten years, not least of all Kurt Cobain's tragic suicide. My own musical tastes had changed to allow in artists like the Barenaked Ladies and Norah Jones. What albums from 1992 resonated for you? From 2002? What musical connections do you know about that are kind of cool and funky (if not obscure)?

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2008-04-23

Wednesday Night Lights: Feels So Good

A few weeks ago, I claimed writer's block and wrote about places to find inspiration. I also claimed that I had half-formed thoughts on: "absinthe, Chuck Mangione, science fiction, baseball, and syrup." Some of that was true, some of that was grabbing disparate things in my mind and stringing together an absurd combination of things. OK, I threw in syrup at the end for no reason, but the other ones I had thoughts/post ideas about.

Growing up, we had a giant Magnavox record player cabinet sitting in our family room. Every Sunday, my father would load it up with four to six albums (linked for you young'ns) and sit and read the paper and work on the floor. The albums would fall one by one onto the turntable. Once they were done, we would fight over who got the chance to flip the stack over and play the other side of the records.

Of course today I look back at this fondly. It was a time when my father was around (as a partner in a large accounting firm, he was very busy) and we all loved that. But it wasn't like we could interact with him. He had work to do. And often when he was home, it was time to do chores around the house he wanted done. Nonetheless, there was something serene about lying on the family room floor and reading while my father worked.

The soundtrack of these Sundays was an eclectic mix. My father's listening tastes runs in streaks. We all remember the eras that made up the 1980s: Julio Englasias, Willie Nelson, and Kenny G. By the time he got to Leon Redbone, it was CDs and I was in college.

But the 1970s! Oh man, there's a whole bunch of music that I have an overly fond nostalgia for because of these Sundays: Peter Frampton, Chicago (there was a set of the first five albums), Jesus Christ Superstar, the Young-Holt Unlimited Trio, Supertramp, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, and Chuck Mangione.

Oh Chuck was the man. We heard him more than anyone else. I hear the opening fl├╝gelhorn notes of the song "Feels So Good," and I could be four years old again. I was more excited than I should have been when I got a copy of this for myself a few years ago. Sometimes when I'm working on things late at night, I use the album now to clear my mind and help me focus on the task at hand.

There are times when I'll hear a song from these Sundays, and I get transported back to those times. Last night American Idol did an Andrew Lloyd Webber night, and when I heard "Jesus Christ Superstar" I was four years old again in front of that big old Magnavox. Whenever I hear songs from Frampton Comes Alive, I know all the words, I know all the musical phrasing...but I couldn't tell you anyting about the album sitting here in my chair. I'd have to hear it, and then it would all be there.

For my wife, it's country music. She knows every (and I actually mean every) country song from the 1950s through the 1980s. It's eerie.

How about you? What music reminds you of your childhood?

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2008-03-27

Can fun guess lyrics these Thursday: you

We do love our song lyrics guessing games here at Pop, and since I was bad and missed posting on my Fun Friday last week, you get Fun Thursday With Song Lyrics.

Earlier this week, I saw the greatest song lyrics quiz ever invented: And Great Lyrics Quiz Rock Roll The. It's just your standard quiz: Guess the song these lyrics are from. Only all the lyrics are in alphabetical order. So far, I've solved 28 and there are three that I know I know but I can't put the words together just yet.

So I bring you Pop Goes the Library's "Guess Lyrics Song These," using songs that are not on the other quiz. If you guess these lyrics you get nothing but our eternal admiration and the pride of being able to unscramble song lyrics. Ours are easier than theirs, I promise. (Beware: repeated words only show once on the list, and not all of them are rock songs.)

1. a ago and be can chance could dance for had happy how I if knew long make maybe me my music people remember smile still that they'd those time to used while

2. enter exit eye hand gripping land light my never-never night off one open pillow sleep take tight to with your

3. always and away beg boy boys but can can't cash cause cold credit don't give hard hug I if is just kiss light me mister okay plead proper right see some that's the they they're think walk with

4. again and blow break can chain damn don't hear I if in lies listen love me never now rise run saying shadows still sun the to watch will wind would you your

5. ain't and another Bobby blues buddy but easy enough
feelin' free freedom's for good it's just left lose me nothin' sang that the to was when word worth

6. a and baffled but care chord composing David do don't fall fifth for fourth goes heard
it I've king lift like Lord major minor music now played pleased really sacred that the there this you was


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2008-02-22

Fun Friday Musical Tastes

Right after I finished my undergrad in 1994, I subscribed to CMJ: New Music Monthly. The magazine had a full CD of new music on it every month (I have no idea if that's how they do it now or not). Every month was a whole CD of music I loved. It was great. I often looked really cool by knowing about music well before anyone else did.

I had a subscription for a couple years, and then when we moved out east in 1997, we let it lapse. Every now and then I would think about the magazine and say to myself that I should resubscribe.

So one day I bought an issue without looking at its contents. It was not pretty. Here I was a few year's out of college and there was ZERO music that I liked on the disc. Had music changed that much?

I hadn't thought much about the magazine until I found a mix CD I had burned of all the songs I really liked from the monthly CDs I had accumulated. It's a mixed bag. While I still like songs from The Stone Roses, Rake's Progress, Citizen King, and Portable, there's a lot I don't care for as much anymore. Like who? Like Jill Sobule, Hagfish, Dangerman, and Throwing Muses.

And who's heard of any of these bands these days? People think today's bands have weird names, but what about Jimmie's Chicken Shack or Fun Loving' Criminals or Ben Folds Five? The disc is a strange testament to my former music tastes. Now, Ben Folds Five is not on the mix CD since I bought their entire album, and their subsequent album, but they were a band I discovered through CMJ.

So how do you discover new music these days? Where can you point your patrons to find the hot songs of today that will be in the 'cutout bin' of tomorrow?

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2007-08-28

Next Big Thing: Kate Nash

Once again, my husband calls it: Kate Nash is The Next Big Thing among fans of musicians like Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, and The Pipettes. How does Marcus know these things? Because he is always following Michael Stephens' third trend/rule: Scan The Horizon. He listens to the BBC's digital radio station, 6 Music, and finds great stuff. In the last year alone, he's introduced me to the four artists previously mentioned, plus Peter Bjorn & John, The Fratellis, Kaiser Chiefs, Mark Ronson, and Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip. Whew! I have then gone on to order music by most of these artists for my library system, where they are -- surprise! -- quite popular. These are artists who get very, very little airplay on American radio stations, and yet their CDs are circulating like mad. How do you Scan The Horizon? I have Marcus Slade (that'd be my husband. Call for rates if you desire his consulting services.), WXPN, NME, Pitchfork, and the surprisingly forward-thinking musical guest choices on shows like Conan & Jimmy Kimmel.

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2007-07-19

A British Invasion?

I've been spending some time on Facebook lately. This was after spending a few days on LinkedIn, seeing if I could find some old acquaintances. I was frustrated by the LinkedIn interface, but was able to find a few college buddies I hadn't talked to in a long time. Then I read an article about how LinkedIn was no longer cool and everyone was on Facebook these days (OK, the article is about why the article writer was switching to Facebook).

So I thought I would check out Facebook. It was so easy to use. And I could interface my address book and Facebook looked for people with accounts. Through Facebook I was able to reconnect with a women I worked with eight years ago and hadn't talked to since then. Cool. And I found our fearless leader Sophie. And one of my old college roommates (and one of my big inspirations to become a librarian) was there, too.

Which brings me to this post. In addition to getting a 'coffee' from Sophie on Facebook, we also shared a 'CD Rack' (a virtual collection of music). I added a bunch of things of the top of my head; mostly things that are on my mp3 player (ripped from CDs I own, thank you very much!) When Sophie noticed that I had added Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, she said I should check out The Pipettes.

All three of these musical acts are British. They are all female acts (two solo, one group). You would never confuse them for each other, but there is a nice thread that runs through their musical stylings. All three artists have very irreverent lyrics that are placed against non-irreverent music.

For example, Amy Winehouse's music would be more at home on an old skool Motown record than on a new cd. However, Winehouse's lyrical content can be quite shocking at times. This is quite clear with her current single "Rehab" which starts with the line "They want to make me go to rehab/I say no, no, no." Lily Allen's first single "Smile" is a bright, poppy sounding song, but the chorus says "When I hear you cry/It makes me smile." Neither of these sentiments is likely to be on a Hallmark card.

So then I go to hear the Pipettes. The three ladies look like something straight out of the first quarter of Dreamgirls, but they have songs like "Sex" and "Your Kisses Do Nothing For Me." Again, bright and happy music counter-balanced with snarky, funny lyrics. It's interesting that all three groups are doing--at the most basic levels--similar things with music and lyrics that don't seem to go together and they're all British. It makes me wonder what other female artists are out there that are doing similar things.

And what about the library John? Well, does your library has a Facebook account? Someone at your library? Perhaps you can do a little collection development through their book/cd/dvd applications. I've already found out about a group whose album I need to buy (hee hee, you said 'album'), I'm sure I'll find out more the longer I do this.

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2007-06-28

My Avril affection: It makes things so complicated

In the same way I'm not supposed to watch The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll or admire Courtney Love or admit that I would rather read Meg Cabot than Moby Dick, I'm not supposed to like Avril Lavigne as much as I do.

When I first moved to New Jersey I was staying temporarily with some relatives of my husband, a couple I shall refer to as Mr. and Mrs. Awesome. Mr. Awesome and I were shopping at Best Buy one afternoon, where I picked up some CDs by bands I've liked for years, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Rolling Stones. Mr. Awesome bought Let Go and said, "You have to listen to this. I think Avril Lavigne is really talented."

"Really?" I asked. I'd heard a few of Avril's songs on the radio and thought they were certainly listenable, but most of my music lust was reserved for bands that had at least one dead member. I like Top 40 music when I'm in the mood to dance or generally need something uplifting, but the percentage of Top 40 artists I'd consider talented is, erm, not a majority. (Some top 40 artists I DO think are talented: Eminem, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Amy Winehouse, Gwen Stefani, Bon Jovi.) At the time Mr. Awesome gave me Let Go, I knew I wasn't supposed to like Avril because educated adults and cynical teens, both of which I am depending on the hour, thought she was "a poser." Whatever that was supposed to mean. Aren't we all posers in one way or the other? The deity of your choice knows that I certainly pose as a responsible adult every day. I think the Avril detractors meant something along the lines of her "posing" as some kind of punk. Okay, so maybe she's not Joey Ramone, but you know what? I don't care.

"Really," Mr. Awesome said. "Take a listen."

So I did.

Mr. Awesome did not fail me. When I listened to Let Go, I heard a girl who could sing (and hit a lot of notes that I struggle with), play the guitar, and who sang about something else OTHER than how much she wanted to get into the pants of the guy standing next to her. Opening the liner notes, I saw black-and-white pictures of a girl with straight dishwater blonde hair, who sometimes wore glasses, who didn't feel the need to wear the trendiest, most low-cut thing. The songs appealed to my inner alternagirl, were fun to sing along to, and didn't try to be anything by Britney Spears.

She was a great musician, and I was a girl. Could I make it any more obvious?

I kept Let Go in my regular CD rotation for a year or so until Under My Skin came out. UMS was, to me, sort of a less polished version of LG. (If you're into mashups, btw, try putting the lyrics of "Sugar, We're Goin' Down Swinging" by Fall Out Boy over the instrumentals of "Freak Out." Fun times.) I liked it, but not as much as LG. Still, I admired Avril for her actual-girl-power, as opposed to girl-power-comes-from-wearing-really-low-rise-jeans lyrics and her writing her own music and lyrics. I didn't make an effort to go see her in concert, but I didn't change the radio station if one of her songs came on, either.

Recently, Del Rey Manga came out with Avril Lavigne's Make 5 Wishes, which I have not yet had the chance to read beyond the previews on Del Rey's site, and its companion site, Make 5 Wishes. The gist of the series is that a lonely girl named Hana, who idolizes Avril, is granted 5 wishes either by visiting a website or by a Stitch-esque magical being granting them to her. The first book in the series was reviewed favorably in Publishers Weekly, although no one in my library system has it yet. Previews and videos are available on the Del Rey and Make 5 Wishes sites. The manga looks to be appealing, with color pictures and Japanese-style characters, and not entirely fluffy. The problem that follows the manga, though, is the same problem that follows Avril's music: Loyal fans will clamor for it and those opposed to her image/music/being married to Deryck Whibley will reject it without so much as picking it up. But such is the right of any reader.

After Make 5 Wishes, there was The Best Damn Thing, which unfortunately isn't.

The media has been pretty harsh on Avril since the release of TBDT and her updated punk-cheerleader image. Gone are her melodic lyrics about an unstable life and being the dishwater blonde in black in a world of platinum blondes wearing pink. Instead, much of TBDT sounds like a tribute to Toni Basil and features a platinum-blonde Avril with pink streaks in her hair on the cover. Most of the lyrics are either about guys that completely suck or guys that are totally great, sung over pep band drums and hand claps.

But you know what? I still like it. I still think Avril is a great singer and sings about things that girls really feel, albeit it a small range of those real feelings. She's taken a lot of criticism, some of it a little silly, for TBDT, including:

"She's married now, so how does she know about wanting to break up or breaking up with a guy, or other teenage feelings?"

(Um, she hasn't been married all her life! By this logic, no one of the age of 19 should write a YA novel.)

"She's sold out!"

(Someday I'm going to figure out where the line gets crossed between making music people want to listen to and buy, thus sustaining your living, and selling out. This from someone who thought the Black Album was the best thing Metallica ever did.)

"She's become a Heather!"

(Technically I know it's wrong to want to be a Heather, but I always looked good in red and I envied them. Oh the humanity.)

In general, my response to all of this is: So what? So what if Avril's blonde now, and favors pink t-shirts with skulls and hearts printed on them? So what if she likes her shout choruses and has abandoned her angst? So what if she hates the girl her ex is with now? She's still a talented musician. She's still doing what she wants and if she wants to wear pink while doing it, that's her prerogative. And her management's. I don't follow Avril's career closely enough to know how much of this morph from sk8er grrl to pep rally leader is her idea versus how much of it is her record label's, but I'd be interested to know. Is it a case where the record label is selling an older, more mature act to the same audience it was selling to when LG came out? Or maybe Avril said, "Hey, I missed some of the fun silly stuff that teenagers do and say, so I'll try to make an album about that?" Either way, she (and her record company) knows what she's doing, because her songs continue to be smash hits and TBDT spent some time at #1 on the Billboard charts. And frankly, I don't know anyone who hasn't wanted to say at least once in their lives, in any capacity, "Hey, you, I don't like your girlfriend."

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2007-04-27

Playlist: The 1970s

Every once and a while it is fun to revisit the pop culture of another decade via books and music. This week I picked the 1970s. Now, the books and music don't necessarily need to be written or produced in the 1970s but they must pay tribute to that time. For my trip back to the '70s I picked the book We Were The Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates. While reading this family tragedy my imagination skipped to the thought, "What 1970s pop songs might the characters have been listening to on their car radios?" To answer that question I turned to the new Donny Osmond Love Songs of the '70s. I really like this album and so does the U.K. since it has gone gold over the pond. The other album on my playlist is Mika's Life in Cartoon Motion. Although none of the songs are from the 1970s when listening to Mika I am reminded of the happy pop music of the '70s and on some tracks, such as Grace Kelly, of Freddie Mercury and Queen. So, what's on your playlist this week?

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2007-02-07

Haven't I Seen That Song Before?

One of my favorite events is when a song I like is used in a TV commercial or on a TV show. It's especially great when it's not a common song, or when I discover a new musician thanks to the exposure. In my opinion, one of the best things The O.C., and the shows that has followed in its wake, has done is drawn attention to the importance of music. Now, any indie artist knows there's a shot at getting lots of exposure for their music via television.

There's a lot of sites that help you figure out the songs used in commercials, like
What's That Called and Songtitle.Info. There's even a site for UK commercials, Commercial Breaks and Beats. But in my admittedly-not-exhaustive search, I only came across one website that talked about music on TV shows: Tunefind.

Do you know of sites that help identify music on TV? I'd love to know about them! I hope these sites help with patrons who are curious about the music on their TV.

And in case you were wondering: five of my favorite 'featured on TV' songs.

1. "Such Great Heights" performed by Iron & Wine, featured in M&Ms commercial Kaleidoscope.
2. "Ashes" performed by Embrace, featured in Veronica Mars episode 2x01, Normal is the Watchword. (YouTube link)
3. "Stay" performed by Michelle Featherstone, featured in Alias episode 2x04, Dead Drop. (YouTube link) [Michelle, on her website, talks about how TV was so critical to her music career]
4. "Catch My Disease" performed by Ben Lee, featured in a Dell commercial.
5. "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story, featured in Nike Woman commercial I Feel Pretty.

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