Perhaps I'm simply a child of my generations, having gone through my tween and adolescent formation in the mid to late 1970s to mid 1980s. I'm not jazzed about today's songs, mostly by female artists, with all the riffs and excessive vocal acrobatics. This, of course, is purely subjective - strictly my opinion - but I'm also not fond of the sameness with the boy band love ballads with their over-layered whispering voices. Whenever I hear one I feel like I'm eavesdropping on a friend who's trying to convince a girl, using less than sincere but flattering words, to go out or sleep with him when she's clearly not (that) interested. It's almost like watching someone begging.
Whatever my musical preferences can be attributed to, there are some timeless songs and artists I recently rediscovered. Once Upon A Time, You Don't Know Me, My Way and Somewhere Down The Road recently crept up on my musical radar again and resurrecting a playlist in my iPod I listened to these songs and allowed the feelings and memories - some happy, some not so - to wash over me.
Once Upon A Time made me think of a couple of things. It reminded me of a trip I took to Manila in 2003. On one of my first nights there, my parents, brother and I went to a piano bar in Intramuros. It's a place my dad knew from many years ago, where journalists frequent and have a brandy or a beer and join the pianist in impromptu live music karaoke. It was a cool (not in terms of temperature) night. When my dad sang, I got a glimpse of him as a young man and, with my own journalistic and writerly aspirations, I could imagine living that life - banging on typewriter keys all day and chilling with the same people night after night and forming meaningful bonds.
You Don't Know Me, a song from the same generation, brought me back to the late 1990s when I'd just watched the movie Two Girls and a Guy, starring Robert Downey, Jr and Heather Graham. The song is, obviously, used in the movie. I loved the feel of the movie. It was like a craftily written play and I was also at a time of my life when things were looking up. I was fit and going to taking film and writing courses in New York City.
My Way, well, My Way is My Way. Need I say more? Well, actually, I'd heard renditions of this song growing up. Frank Sinatra's version, of course, is a classic but I do like Paul Anka's, which is interesting comparing the two because Anka wrote it but Sinatra made it the timeless hit it is. This song came in my consciousness, in a big way, in 1982 when my family was on a whirlwind summer holiday that began in San Francisco, moved to Los Angeles, jumped to New York and culminated in Europe (London, Paris, Munich, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome). Being my first trip outside of Asia, even though I was only thirteen, I felt that My Way was going to have some distinct meaning in terms of this trip and in my own life. Of course, we can all claim some connection to the song because, by definition, whatever we've done we've all done it our own ways.
Somewhere Down The Road, Barry Manilow's song of love, loss and hope, was introduced to me on the same 1982 vacation. And, again, it seemed to be telling the story of how I was feeling during the trip. The thing was, I didn't have a girlfriend at the time nor did I have any particular crush. It just seems to help define my vacation; that, perhaps, my path will lead me back to one of those cities or experiences I had that summer and it would be a reunion of major significance.
I think - I know - a lot of my musical preference has to do with my parents. As far back as I can remember, every Sunday, I'd wake up to the unique sound of an LP playing in the living room. Without fail, it would be some kind of Broadway musical entering my ears - Oklahoma, Carousel, Guys and Dolls, The King and I, Gypsy, you name it. From that, I started to enjoy the classic sounds of Hammerstein, Rodgers, Porter, Gershwin and, as a tween, I started listening to my sister's Little River Band albums, The Beatles, Linda Ronstadt.
Whatever music you enjoy, the music and the words and the voices elicit lots of different and mixed feelings. They can excite you, warm you, make you cry, inspire you, inform your moods and thoughts. Whatever music does to you, don't forget to look - and listen - back. Now, crank up that gramophone and be careful with that stylus. You don't want to scratch that vinyl.