During the last few months, I’d recently returned to reading the work of one of my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult. I recently finished her book Sing You Home, which I found particularly interesting because it came with a soundtrack. When you got to different points in the book, you were supposed to listen to each track on the accompanying album. About a quarter of the way through the book, the main character, a music therapist, talks about the question she used to use to test romantic compatibility with someone: “What songs would be on a mix tape that describes you?” She asks that question of one of her friends, and falls in love with her once she realizes that their lists are almost identical. When I read that passage, I decided that it would be a good topic for a blog post. So, for all you interested ladies out there, here’s my list. 😉
In the book, when the main character’s friend makes her list, she lists artists rather than songs because she found it impossible to pick a few songs to put on her list. I’m going to take the same approach here. This isn’t necessarily a comprehensive list of all my favorite artists (thought the artists here are all among my favorites). Rather, it’s a list of artists whose music often strikes a personal chord (no pun intended) with me, and whose songs I can identify with.
Anyone who has known me for five seconds knows that these guys would be first on the list. Alter Bridge is the playlist equivalent of a friend that I’ve known for so long that I can’t imagine my life without him /her. I’ve been a loyal fan ever since their formation from the ashes of Creed in 2004, and their music has made good times better and helped me through some of the toughest times in my life. Once in particular was during the last days of my student teaching placement. Student teaching was a very difficult experience for me, but near the end of the experience, I had just purchased Alter Bridge’s third album, AB III. One of the more uplifting songs on the album was “Life Must Go On,” and on my last day of student teaching, I repeated the lyrics of the chorus to myself as a sort of mantra, to keep me focused and positive during a time when I was under immense pressure. I think it really helped, and I told Myles Kennedy as much when I met the band after their show in Norfolk, VA a month or so later.
Another pick which should surprise no one, as my love of Lindsey is well-documented on this blog. Lindsey’s music indulges my nerdier side, as she has done covers of video game and Broadway soundtracks in the past. I also played the violin for 12 years myself, for most of elementary, middle, and high school, so I admire someone like her who can think outside the box with a classic instrument that has played a huge role in the development of music both classic and modern. I’m especially excited because after donating to her campaign on PledgeMusic, I will be meeting her backstage after her Atlanta show on July 1 :). I’m going to try not to be too much of a fanboy…
Metroid Metal combines two of my favorite things: my favorite video game series and my favorite genre of music. Despite the name, I more think of Metroid Metal as hard rock than actual metal. Metroid has been my favorite game series since I was around six years old and constantly renting Super Metroid from the video store and playing through the first few areas of the game. One of the things that always struck me about that game was its music, and later I discovered that the entire series had an amazing soundtrack. Many of Metroid Metal’s renditions are so well done that they stand on their own as great pieces of art, not just video game soundtracks, such as this adaptation of the opening theme of Metroid II: Return of Samus.
Upon seeing Vertical Horizon on this list, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “…but their music’s so depressing.” In many cases it is, but I find it to be more wistful and contemplative than anything else, and Matt Scannell’s lyrical stylings have always made me identify strongly with their songs. For instance, their song “Middle Ground,” off their album Burning the Days, almost exactly describes a girl I knew in college, who would always keep me on that “middle ground” between a friendship and relationship, and how awful that was.
Here’s another artist that people have preconceived notions about in their head. Many people think of Alanis as the “angry white female,” because of her hit song, “You Oughta Know” from the early 90s. But those who listen to the music she’s made since then will realize that there’s much more to her than that. Since she’s grown older and more mature, her music has followed suit. Many of her songs these days are about the same hopes and fears that many of us hold inside ourselves, like her song “That I Would Be Good,” which resonates with my own fear of not being good enough at important things in my life, such as my job, friendships, relationships, etc. She also is very open and honest in interviews about what inspired her to write each song, which I admire.
Dave Matthews Band
I consider myself something of a renaissance man, with a lot of different and varied interests and passions. DMB reflects that aspect of my personality, as they have some of the most varied instrumentation and song styles of any band out there. They incorporate a lot of my favorite genres… mainstream rock, roots rock, jam bands, jazz, pop, and many others. I also like that they incorporate a violin (sensing a pattern here?), as well as such instruments like the sax, piano, and string bass that are not normally found in popular songs. But they’ve been very successful, and many of their live recordings are just as good, if not better, than their studio offerings.
Some adaptation of Pachelbel’s Canon
I’ve waxed poetic about this piece before, and I feel no mix tape of mine would be complete without at least one rendition of Canon in D. I’d probably pick the one that’s become my favorite in recent years, the rock version made popular by Japanese guitarist JerryC. It combines the chord progression that made the original piece great and ramps up the intensity and energy with an infusion of rock guitar. Other great covers of this include Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas version. Fun fact: I actually wrote one of my college essays about the Canon, and how its varied nature and versatility reflected aspects of my personality.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Of course, I’d want to pull one artist from my classical and jazz collection. It was a close call between Bach, Vivaldi, and Beethoven, who are all sort of collectively tied for the title of my favorite classic composers based on their bodies of work. Beethoven has a slight edge, because he composed arguably my second-favorite classical piece behind the Canon. His music also runs the gamut of human emotions, from rage (the classic Fifth Symphony), to poignant love (the aforementioned Pathetique), overcoming obstacles (Eroica), and friendship (Fur Elise). This in no way diminishes the other two composers, but I think Beethoven’s achievements really set the stage for musical eras to come, and I think I would pick some of his pieces to be included on my mix tape.
You know that moment when you hear a song, listen to the lyrics, and think to yourself, “Are we sure I didn’t write this song?” The first three tracks of Yellowcard’s 2010 album When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes did that for me. They remind me very distinctly of people I’ve known in my life. I’d always liked their music before then, but I grew to love it upon listening to their later albums, which reflected a more mature view of the world while still bringing the energy. I saw them in concert a year or so back, and they are just as lively on stage as on their albums, probably more so. Their song “Southern Air,” from the album of the same title, also encapsulates how I feel when I return back to my home state of Virginia after being away for awhile. Oh, and they have a violinist 😛
So that’s that. What are your favorite artists? What songs would be on your “biographical mix tape?” Let me know in the comments!