My parents would not let me have a walkman as a kid. Their argument was that by owning one, I would turn into a mindless zombie who walked down the street paying no attention to anything save the music thereby making myself vulnerable to muggers, rapists, and oncoming traffic. As a result, I was never really a walkman person. Sure I finally bought myself one, and later a discman, and later still an iPod, but I never got in the habit of wearing it around. Part of the problem has always been the earphones: the puppy ones of our youth fell off the top of my head, and the buds of today fall out of my ears, making me look like I have some kind of repetitive disorder as I shove them back into my aural canals while walking.
I know when to admit defeat. You win, commuter d-bags, and I lose. You do not seem to wilt beneath my death stare, and I am unwilling to fight each of you individually, so I have fished my half-broken really old (like 2005) iPod out of its grave and loaded it with a playlist I like to call Commute 1, to imply that there might be additional Commute playlists down the road.
But lest you think I am going down without a fight, let this be your fair warning. You see, I have stocked this playlist with a dizzing array of feel-good Yelena nostalgia tracks which means I know at least 95% of all lyrics. You'll never know if your particular inane cellphone conversation will be the one that pushes me over the edge and forces me to sing along with my iPod, but know it's coming. If you refuse to understand the difference between your office/living room and a commuter train, then I too must claim ignorance of the differences between my kitchen/bathroom (the locations of my fierce rock n roll concerts) and a commuter train. Where you babble on about what's for dinner, how nice it was to see your cousin, and how last weekend was, I shall serenade you with tales of love lost, social commentary, and the occasional instructional treatise on the proper ways to make with the intercourse. I like to think that, in the end, everyone wins. You continue to have your conversations with zero regard for the disinterest of those around you, and I get to have a sort of "Take Back The Night" approach to commuting.
So, I now give you an annotated version of playlist Commute 1 and, since it's Friday, I have attached links for your listening pleasure. Please feel free to turn up the volume really high if you are surrounded by people who annoy you like it's their job - I know I will! And please, additionally, feel free to mock this superwonderful list that is a pretty accurate sampling of the rest of the contents of my iPod - I am unashamed.
Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution - AC/DC - An important tract by a band whose radio airplay should not be limited to merely three songs. Pretty much every song by AC/DC makes me want to take my t-shirt off.
Janie's Got A Gun - Aerosmith - I can see how some might question this selection when I have, at my disposal, the entire Aerosmith catalog from which to choose, but this particular song made the cut due to the high note. You know the one Steven Tyler hits towards the end of, "they say when Janie was arrested they found him underneath a train" on the word "train?" Yeah, well I can hit that note. Not always well, and not all the time, but when I get it right, it can nearly break glass.
Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera - For all of you who claim I am not down with the kids today and their music, you are absolutely correct. Yet I may have a soft spot for Christina Aguilera, and this particular song calls to mind R&B from my teenage years, most notably the excellent collaboration between Salt N Pepa and En Vogue on "Whatta Man."
Love Shack - B-52s - Few other songs in creation have the potential to encourage other people to get up and dance. I argue that, given the right circumstances, one could turn one's train car into a mobile party simply through the application of this song. It is my hope to prove this hypothesis (or put together some bizarre performance art troupe that terrorizes commuters by assembling in train cars to dance to Love Shack).
Born To Be My Baby - Bon Jovi - I think this was the selected Bon Jovi track because too many American Idol contestants have murdered the a-list songs. Also this is catchy with no bizarre b-section.
Holding Out For A Hero - Bonnie Tyler - Please, like this even needs an explanation. No one ever wants to go to karaoke with me, but this is most certainly the song I would like to sing. I couldn't find a good version of the video, so I give you the scene from its inclusion in that most significant entry into the Pantheon of American Cinema, Footloose. You may fast-forward to about 1:45 if you have no soul and do not wish to watch the lead up.
Gonna Make You Sweat - C&C Music Factory - I'm at a dance, I think it might be someone's Bar Mitzvah. This song is certainly playing and, given that you probably haven't heard it in at least a decade, it is well worth remembering just how good of a dance track this is. Not so good for my singing along since, well, there aren't really a lot of words, but I'm sure I can come up with something equally annoying.
Lovefool - The Cardigans - This is an experimental entry. Yes, I really like the song, but I don't know if it has the same power the others do. Perhaps it's more suited to a morning than an evening. I will keep you posted.
Crossroads - Cream - Lest you assume I can only enjoy the music of my youth, I give you the music of other people's youth. I briefly sang with some guys (albeit only in the rehearsal studio) after college, and they wanted me to sing this. As Paula Abdul would say, I made it my own and, to this day have a soft spot for it.
Jolene - Dolly Parton - It's not just that I'd like people to think I have diverse and interesting tastes, it's that, sometimes, I do. Say what you will about country music, and I have said my fair share of unflattering things, Dolly Parton friggin' rocks. This song, completely misunderstood by the two American Idol contestants (yeah, I watch the show religiously even as it never fails to piss me off) who could not even approach the proper level of anguish necessary to pull it off, is unfarkingcredible. Also, I am seriously considering tracking down this lilac pantsuit and wearing it every day. EVERY DAY.
Blem Blem - Edesio - This one needs an explanation, but it has a sister track later on, and the explanation for them both belongs with her.
Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley - Again, icons need no defense. Everyone loves Elvis and I'm sure everyone will love hearing me sing along with him.
More Than Words - Extreme - Much like I think the HBO series "Rome" was created with me in mind, I believe that Monster Ballads was compiled for my enjoyment. To not acknowledge that would be to spit upon the grand gesture. I think a lot of people who didn't come of age as 80s became 90s might not understand the true greatness of this ballad. So think of me as an ExtremeEvangelist. Also, you gotta love that they both have way better hair than I do.
Praise You - Fatboy Slim - Trippy, jumpy, feel-goody, but, with repetition, highly annoying. This might be one of the list that needs to be back-to-back-to-back played before is achieves the desired results.
Sweet Little Lies - Fleetwood Mac - I am going to try to ignore that, while looking for this video, I had to wade through many a video of a remake by a teenybopper I've never heard of, because it is important to acknowledge the crazy awesomeness and awesome craziness of Stevie Nicks. Even thinking about her makes me want to wear spiderweb tights and a peasant skirt.
Jesus He Knows Me - Genesis - I don't want to start sounding like Patrick Bateman, but I think Phil Collins needs a lot more credit. This song is unbelievable. It is so due for a good remake (but I can't think of any group capable of this level of intelligence). Twinned with Land of Confusion and I think history might look back at the work of Genesis as the seminal socio-political commentary of the 1980s. I know there's been a lot of joking on this list, but I might try to claim that Genesis was our generation's Bob Dylan. Also this song is really catchy and saying Jesus repeatedly in a confined space is always comedic.
Can't Help Falling In Love - Lick The Tins - Been in my head all week so I had to add it. Fortunately for you, after watching the end of Some Kind of Wonderful to find out when the song came in, I almost lost my breakfast and decided I would not inflict that on anyone else. Let it not be claimed that my nostalgia is not discerning. For those keeping score: Extreme - still awesome; Some Kind of Wonderful - horrifying to behold.
Cherish - Madonna - Arguably, Madonna's sexiest video. I yearn for that hairdo. YEARN! To the point where I'm considering calling my hairdresser right now and asking for it. Seriously. Do you think there's a product on the market that makes your hair look wet like that all day? Cause I'm guessing it doesn't look good at all when dry. Yeah, Madonna was super sexy in this. It was during the Like A Prayer years when she still could sport a bit of muffin top (albeit, thin person's muffin top, but now I don't think you could get her skin to move like that over pants), before the crazy set in. It's my favorite Madonna. I have to stop watching the video - every frame gets me closer to a personal hair don't.
Beds Are Burning - Midnight Oil - This is another song where it is inexplicable to me that a remake hasn't been done. How easy would it be to make this the new anthem for environmentalism? Anyway, the song rocks. Even if you have no idea what they're saying when they talk all Australian and stuff. Come to think of it, I'm pleased our criminal neighbors to the extreme south are represented twice on this list. It shows my aversion to their ridiculous accents does not prejudice me against their creative endeavors.
Vamos A La Playa - Miranda - After college, devoted partner and I spent 10 weeks in Europe. And this song was on in every country EVERY DAY. By the time we got to Italy (about week 3-4), I had to own it. I found it in some non-major town (possibly Urbino) in the discount rack on a compilation called Paradiso Beach. On it was Blem Blem which also got a lot or airtime that summer. The entire album is filled with the kind of amazingly bad dance music you hate to love. I love it. I had never seen the video before this morning, but for anyone who has traveled in Europe (or for my European friends) this is an excellent example of how poorly our southern European friends dance. I do not dance, but I dance better than this.
Push It - Salt N Pepa - Fast-forward to :30. Ooh baby baby, this song has a high nostalgia rating and is also offensive. Because it is about having sex. Non procreative sex. Get up on this! It also allows me to rap. And I leave it to your imaginations how successful that can be.
A Girl Like You - Tom Jones
Lift Me Up - Tom Jones
Sexbomb - Tom Jones - Tom Jones gets three entries because Tom Jones deserves anything Tom Jones wants. I convinced my college roommate Eric that we should call our wildly popular radio show Tom Jones's Sock and we started every broadcast with a Tom Jones song. I am very very upset that I couldn't find the full version of Lift Me Up - which is an incredible song - so consider tracking down that album. Viva Tom Jones! P.S. I am not joking about this. I love Tom Jones.
Leather - Tori Amos - Nothing says dangerously unstable better than a pissed off girl in a handmade knitted sweater coat singing Tori Amos to herself in the seat next to you. While it is true, I don't give off the specific Tori Amos whiff of crazy, I can do a pretty good version of her on this song. And it's a creepy song. The refrain ends with the line, "hand me my leather."
Scenario - A Tribe Called Quest - When you think of vintage rap, think Yelena. I am almost as good on this one as I am on Mama Says Knock You Out. Fear my skillz.
Pride - U2 - I know U2 was gunning for voice of a generation and I up and gave it to Genesis, but this is to show there are no hard feelings. Also the high note in the chorus won't break glass, but it's in my sweet spot so it will definitely be loud! As a side note, I fear my hair looks way more like Bono's in this video than it does the Extreme guys.
Add It Up - Violent Femmes - I will never forgive Ethan Hawke and the Reality Bites people for their cover of this song. Ethan Hawke is a mama's boy wimp no matter how much grungy facial hair you give him and was wholly unbelievable as a tortured Generation X-er. Please see Dead Poets Society and Swing Kids if you have doubts (OKAY - it's been brought to my attention that it's the other mama's boy who is in Swing Kids; please replace Swing Kids with Before Sunrise, Ethan Hawke is still a pussy). The song however, is perfect for scaring commuters. It uses the f-word and talks about guns. And I've known all the words to this one since I was way too young to understand them.
Ces Soirees La - Yannick - Ok, this video is proof positive that we live in a post-racial society. This song comes to us from yet another vacation that saw us hearing the same thing on French radio once per hour. This song is so cringe worthy, I have learned all the words. In French. Don't believe me? I DARE YOU to call me on the phone and ask for it by name. But here's the thing. I never saw the album nor this video, so only hearing the rap, I assumed it was done by a white French guy. Because it sounds about as authentic vis a vis American rap tradition as Vanilla Ice (whose work was considered for inclusion briefly). But I love this song. And it is super annoying. And I know all the words. Which I think makes this a total winner because not only am I rapping, I'm rapping in a foreign language.
Bust A Move - Young MC - And let's end on a high note. Only the most cynical of squares could not want to dance to this. It is toe-tapping at its best. In fact, turn it up, dance at your desk - it's Friday!
5 days ago