And know that you are everything

Back in high school, music was a necessary and palpable force in my life. My friends and I lived and died by the bands we loved and blasted — ‘NSYNC, Hanson, Britney Spears, Dashboard Confessional — until we could sing their tunes in our sleep. Those songs are the soundtrack of my adolescence, permeating every scene and memory.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve scurried away from music. No longer spending hours each day walking around campus with my iPod and disinterested in playing anything at my desk, I don’t listen to much that’s new — or anything at all — these days. In my car I skip the radio and put in an audiobook. And I just don’t have many other listening opportunities beyond that.

So Spencer and I haven’t had “a song.” Some quintessential tune that makes me think of him with stars in my eyes, a ballad gives voice to our relationship. With R., my first boyfriend, there was “All My Life” (by K-Ci and JoJo — don’t hate). M. and I had Hoobastank’s “The Reason” (which is sort of a sad song, really, now that I’m thinking about it), and with P. it was “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. There were plenty of other tunes sprinkled in there, too, like The Fray’s “Look After You” — a song I can’t hear without thinking of J. and an ill-fated dance at his brother’s wedding.

But Spence and I? We don’t have any memories inextricably tied up in music. We both like Nicole Atkins, his favorite singer, but she doesn’t have a song that makes me feel swoony. Nothing else comes to mind. Our relationship has been without a theme song.

Until now.

I learned years ago that the Goo Goo Dolls were from Buffalo, N.Y., just north of my boyfriend’s hometown. I can’t say I’ve always been a huge fan, but tunes like “Slide” and “Iris” were definitely around during my formative years. It’s great they’re still playing music and making new stuff — like “All That You Are.”

It’s The One. Our Song.

Walking out of the mall recently, I was loaded down with bags and hurrying back to the office. It’s that time of year again — Christmas shopping season — and no one emerges from all this unscathed. I just wanted to throw my stuff in the car and get to work, where a thousand projects waited in my inbox.

That’s when I heard it.

In my limited radio-listening world, I must have heard “All That You Are” at some point — or maybe it was just that I instantly recognized Johnny Rzeznick’s trademark vocals. Whatever it was, the opening bars of the song had me literally pausing in the middle of a street. The song was still playing clear and strong outside a department store, flooding the parking lot with its haunting melody. I put my bags in the front seat and stood, listening. I was by myself but didn’t feel alone.

Because the band is from Spencer’s home state (and almost city); because I love the words and the sentiment; because I know we enter each relationship a little bit battered but hopeful that we’re going to find something real, something lasting, with another person —

And because I fell in love again —

And because I know what it’s like to be loved in return —

I formally nominate the Goo Goo Dolls’ “All That You Are” for the prized title of the Official Anthem of Megan and Spencer.

I really hope it gets approved.


Do you and your significant other have A Song? How did you choose it — or did it choose you?

I need you so much closer

death_cab_for_cutieI’ve had boyfriends introduce me to all sorts of music — artists I probably never would have listened to, or appreciated, had I not sat in their cars as songs blasted through our open windows or let the tunes lilt over us on lazy Sunday afternoons. To me, these artists are synonymous with the relationships — and when I think of a man I once loved, I invariably hear the opening chords of Death Cab For Cutie.

Yes — Death Cab is my Break-Up Band Du Jour.

First, their songs are just . . . sad. And melodic. The lyrics are haunting, and they have a tendency to bury themselves in my skin and reappear at strange, unexpected moments. And despite being years removed from the first time I fell in love, I can still close my eyes and let “A Lack Of Color” or “Title And Registration” basically incapacitate me. It’s easy to feel confused and heartbroken anew with the same soundtrack blaring in the background.

So, despite the fact that I want to bawl my eyes out every time their songs pop up on my iPod, why do I keep listening to them?

Well, I love them, first of all. Their music is complex but straight-forward — filled with simple tunes constructed in a unique way. The lyrics seem to pluck right at the heartstring I most don’t want plucked at a particular moment — and remind me why it is I fell in love with their songs — and one man — all over again.

Would I have become so attracted to their music if I hadn’t been introduced to them by someone else? Probably not. His presence in my life — and his absence since — has shaped me far more than I would typically admit. And the music he exposed me to has been my companion since he left.

Is that the rock-hard truth here — that I listen to his music to feel close to him?

This is the part where I’d probably curl up inside myself, shake my head furiously and deny it — probably spouting out a snarky comment or two, rolling my eyes and babbling self-righteously about how I’ve “moved on.”

But that’s dishonest.

So I’ll just play “Transatlanticism” a little louder, burying the speakers deep inside my ears, and go on with the day.

Michael, we’ll be there

Since Michael Jackson’s unexpected and tragic death on June 25, shocked fans have been recalling their favorite Jackson songs and sharing memories online. For many, tunes like “Thriller,” “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and “Man In The Mirror” have a special place in their collective memories — the background music to an important chapter of our lives. Whether it was a birthday party, school dance, reunion or barbeque, everyone has a special Jackson song . . . and a special Jackson memory.

Mine? Oh, you know — I can easily recall shimmying around to “Billie Jean” at my grandmother’s house, dancing like a nut and laughing with my friend Melanie about the lyrics. At the age of seven, I was convinced Michael was singing, “But then, I am the one . . . but she is not my son.” We giggled maniacally about this, though I’m not really sure how I could have possibly misheard those lyrics. But, you know. I was seven.

free_willyNo, despite the fun of that memory, I can’t claim it as my favorite MJ recollection. Because of my little sister’s excitement over it, that award has to go that little “Free Willy” ditty, “Will You Be There.”

Hey, if you’re blinking furiously in confusion right now, allow me to grab your hand and drag you back, back in time . . . all the way to summer 1993. For my eighth birthday party — and my sister’s fifth — our family went to see the iconic film chronicling Willy the Orca Whale’s journey from cruel captivity to freedom with a little help from Jesse, the troubled runaway who befriends him. Sure, the movie was cute — and had a nice little story to it. But really got the attention of everyone in the movie theatre was “Will You Be There,” the gospel-inspired tune by Michael Jackson attached to the film.

Let me give you a little background information about my sister: she’s a movie music fiend. Katie is the one still sitting in the sticky seats as all the lights come up, placidly staring at the credits rolling on screen, little tears in her eyes. She has to hear the end of the music playing and get the “whole experience” of it. In fact, when we were little and watching — gasp! — movies on VHS, we’d have to let the tape completely finish and shut itself off or risk Kate’s wrath. You never knew if a song would, like, suddenly come on at the very end of the tape.

michael_jackson_be_thereSo five-year-old Kate saw “Free Willy” and immediately fell in love with Michael Jackson’s sweeping song. My parents bought us the soundtrack cassette (oh, yes — cassettes. Remember those?) and we played it nonstop that summer, and for years beyond. When the movie was released on VHS and featured the actual music video before the film even began playing, you know we were all watching Michael in that white shirt time and time again. Kate wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sixteen years have passed. We’ve grown up; I graduated from high school, then college, and Kate is finishing up her own degree. We’ve traveled, loved and lost, moved on and become obsessed with plenty of new songs, bands, boys and goals. But as we learned of Jackson’s passing that Thursday night with the rest of the world, my sister brought me back to 1993 again — to the magic of watching that film, of hearing that song, of just being a child.

After driving around with all the windows down last Friday night and cranking up some of Jackson’s better-known hits, Katie and I rummaged through the VHS tapes stowed away in a corner of the living room until we found the one we wanted. A few tears appeared in the corners of my eyes as the first few bars of the song began to play, and my hands curled into fists. We watched the entire movie — laughing and constantly shouting out, “Hey, remember that?” It’s funny the things that have such an affect on you, the moments you’re not paying attention to until they’ve passed.

As “Will You Be There” plays again at the end of the credits, we heard something new — spoken words, ringing out clearly in Michael’s delicate timbre. I don’t remember ever hearing them. Just about to stop the tape, Katie and I glanced at each other in confusion. And then a few tears started up again.

In our darkest hour
In my deepest despair
Will you still care
Will you be there
In my trials
And my tribulations
Through our doubts
And frustrations
In my violence
In my turbulence
Through my fear
And my confessions
In my anguish and my pain
Through my joy and my sorrow
In the promise of another tomorrow
I’ll never let you part
For you’re always in my heart

Rest in peace, Michael. Thanks for letting us be a part of the magic.

Meg’s top five ‘real’ love songs

pink_heartHappy Valentine’s Day! The illustrious — and infamous — day of love. However you’re celebrating (or uncelebrating) today, I’m sure some music is swirling around lovebirds everywhere. In honor of this festive occasion, I present: my favorite ‘real’ love songs of all time! Yes, another of my “lists.” I love lists.

I’m picking based on certain very unscientific data: what I feel! And a “real” love song, to me, isn’t something that sings about birds chirping or the sun shining in your eyes or . . . well, anything that sappy. I have felt that cheesy before, sure, but most of the time love is about a lot more than chocolate-covered kisses and close embraces and all-encompassing passion. Those things are super, I agree, but they do not a tried-and-true love make. So my top five “real” love songs, in random order:

The Beatles, “I Want To Hold Your Hand”

However you feel about it, I think Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist got it right: Love is all about wanting to hold hands. It’s about the small and quiet moments, the simple gestures, the desire to be close — without any need for anything more, or anything less. It’s about just being together.

“And when I touch you, I feel happy inside . . . it’s such a feeling that my love, I can’t hide, I can’t hide . . . Yeah, you got that something, I think you’ll understand. When I feel that something — I wanna hold your hand . . .”

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The Fray found me

The Fray's new albumAfter a false start or two with my iTunes (which was quickly resolved by Terry, a kind-hearted and professional Apple support team member!), I finally have The Fray’s new album! I went through the whole “to download or not to download” quandry for a day, then decided that it’s 2009, I usually throw jewel cases out anyway and I really, really wanted the album right now — I’m big on instant gratification! So I paid my $9.99 and let that puppy magically appear on my laptop.

This morning I bounced around in my car on my way to work, excited and happy and exhilirated! I love the Fray. I’ve seen them in concert twice, and each time was a borderline religious experience for me! Music can do that, and be that for people. It’s like that for me.

I’ve only quickly skimmed through all the tracks to get a “lay of the land,” if you will, but so far my favorite is still their single, “You Found Me.” It’s haunting and catchy, if that’s possible, and proves to me all over again how genius they are! I read a review on iTunes saying that this sophomore album is basically “How To Save a Life, Part II,” but I’m more than all right with that — and the reviewer was, too. They have a sound, a following, a message and have had success with all of that — I wouldn’t want to mess up a good thing, either!

“You Found Me”
The Fray

I found God
On the corner of First and Amistad
Where the west
Was all but won
All alone
Smoking his last cigarette
I said, “Where you been?”
He said, “Ask anything.”

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Booking Through Thursday: Sing a song

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday! It’s not about books, but it is about words . . . so we’ll go with that!

“If you’re anything like me, there are songs that you love because of their lyrics; writers you admire because their songs have depth, meaning, or just a sheer playfulness that has nothing to do with the tunes.

So, today’s question?

• What songs … either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer … have words that you love? Why?
• And … do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?”

Wow! I frequently blog about my favorite lyrics, great artists, sad and happy songs and just artists I love in general. I can’t think of a song in which I like the lyrics but don’t really like the tune. What’s so great about music is that deft combination of the two. Even now, typing out the lyrics to the songs I love just isn’t going to do any of them justice. You have to hear them! Otherwise, they’re a little like scrambled poetry. All of these songs “speak” to me in some way, usually because they deal with growing up, making decisions, falling in and out of love and basically becoming an adult. Many of them were songs I listened to in high school and college, so they remind me of a very specific time in my life. It’s fun to let music take you back.

Jumping in, my usual response to questions like this features me rambling on about the awesomeness that is John Mayer, my favorite musician of all time. He’s incredibly talented songwriter, guitarist and performer, and I’m usually in some ceaseless amazement of his . . . hotness. Yeah, I think the man is gorgeous.

Some of my favorite JM lyrics?

“Stop This Train”

So scared of getting older, I’m only good at being young; So I play the numbers game to find a way to say my life has just begun; Had a talk with my old man, said ‘Help me understand’; He said, ‘Turn 68, you’ll renegotiate’; Don’t stop this train; Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in . . . And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand; I tried my hand; John, honestly, you’ll never stop this train . . .

“New Deep”

I’m so alive; I’m so enlightened, I can barely survive a night in my mind; I’ve got a plan — I’m gonna find out just how boring I am, and have a good time; ‘Cause ever since I tried, trying not to find every little meaning in my life; It’s been fine; I’ve been cool with my new golden rule . . . Numb is the new deep; Down with the old me . . . I’m done with the analyzing tonight; Stop trying to figure it out; It will only bring you down . . .

“Why Georgia”

I am driving up 85 in the kind of morning that lasts all afternoon; Just stuck inside the gloom; For more exits to my apartment, but I am tempted to keep the car in drive; And leave it all behind . . . ‘Cause I wonder about the outcome . . . Am I living it right? Am I living it right? Am I living it right . . . Why, Georgia, why? . . . I rent a room and I fill the spaces with whirling places to make it feel like home, but all I feel is alone; It might be a quarter-life crisis, or just the stirring in my soul; Either way, I wonder sometimes about the outcome . . . So what, so I’ve got a smile on. Well, it’s hiding the quiet superstitions in my head . . . Don’t believe me, don’t believe me when I say I’ve got it down.

And now I’ll go ahead and branch out — I’ll hit you with a little Sara Bareilles!


I’m not scared of you, no, or so I say; There’s no reason to run, although I may; Not as sure as I seem, this much I know; What does it mean when you leave, and I follow? Well, I try to forget what you do, when I let you get through to me; But then you do it over again; Like a rage, like a fire . . . Keep my distance, I try; No use, no; No matter the miles, I’m back to you . . .

And some of The Killers?

“All These Things That I’ve Done”

If you can hold on, hold on . . . I want to stand up, I want to let go — you know, you know — no, you don’t, you don’t . . . Another head aches, another heart breaks; I’m so much older than I can take; And my affection, well it comes and goes; I need direction to perfection . . . You know you gotta help me out, oh, don’t you put me on the back burner — you know you gotta help me out; And when there’s nowhere else to run, is there room for one more son? These changes ain’t changin’ me — the gold-hearted boy I used to be . . .

And, for good measure, Ben Folds, another of my favorite artists!

“Still Fighting It”

Good morning, son; I am a bird; Wearing a brown polyester shirt; Do you want a Coke? Maybe some fries? The roast beef combo’s only 9.95; It’s okay — you don’t have to pay; I’ve got all the change . . . Everybody knows it hurts to grow up; And everybody does; So weird to be back here; Let me tell you what: The years go on, and we’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it . . . And you’re so much like me. I’m sorry . . . Good morning son, twenty years from now, maybe we’ll both sit down and have a few beers. And I can tell you ’bout today, and how I picked you up and everything changed . . . There was pain, sunny days and rain, I knew you’d feel the same things . . . You’ll try, and you’ll try, and one day you’ll fly away from me . . . Good morning, son; Good morning, son . . .

The songs I love — and the songs I actually listen to

img_4821In another of her thoughtful schemes, Kelly asked me for a list of my top 12 favorite songs “of all time” the other day. What she’s doing with said list, pictured at right, I’m not sure . . . but it was fun thinking of my answers! She wanted my “desert island” songs — the songs I could listen to for the rest of my life and never stop liking.

Like most people, I’m a huge fan of music — mostly in general. You’ll have a hard time finding me without iPod in hand, flipping through my little crafted playlists and searching for good working music, or writing music, or running music . . . or whatever music. So I thought, Hey, since I listen to so much music during the day, all of my favorite songs should be found pretty easily. The greatness that is the iPod creates a special playlist for you: Top 25 Most Played.

But I was shocked. Of all the songs in this “top 25” list, I wouldn’t necessarily consider many of them to be my favorites. I like them, obviously, but they’re not my all-time, can’t-breathe-without-this-song classics. Most of them are tunes I’ve recently discovered, or great songs by artists relatively new to me.

So, I will now present the two lists — and I’ll limit my “top 25 most played” to just 12 songs. In the interest of uniformity!

Megan’s Top 12 Favorite Songs of All Time! (in random order)

• “Stop This Train,” John Mayer
• “A Movie Script Ending,” Death Cab for Cutie
• “Bruised,” Jack’s Mannequin
• “Such Great Heights,” Iron & Wine
• “Look After You,” The Fray
• “Penny and Me,” Hanson
• “A Lack of Color,” Death Cab for Cutie
• “The Hat,” Ingrid Michaelson
• “In Your Atmosphere,” John Mayer
• “Hey Jude,” The Beatles
• “Still,” Ben Folds
• “All These Things That I’ve Done,” The Killers

Megan’s Top 12 Most Played Songs (in order)

• “Warning Sign,” Coldplay
• “This Time,” Jonathan Rhys Meyers
• “This,” Brian Eno
• “Keep Breathing,” Ingrid Michaelson
• “The Letter,” James Morrison
• “Love Me Like The World Is Ending,” Ben Lee
• “Who Knew,” Pink
• “Nothing Lasts Forever,” Maroon 5
• “Bruised,” Jack’s Mannequin
• “We Can Work It Out,” The Beatles
• “A Movie Script Ending,” Death Cab for Cutie
• “The Last Goodbye,” James Morrison

Jack’s Mannequin and Death Cab made it on both lists; so did Ingrid Michaelson, though not for the same song. John Mayer, my FAVORITE musician ever, is not in my top 25 most played list! How is this possible?

So there you have it — my “desert island” songs. And, apparently, all the other tunes I actually . . . listen to.

And now it’s your turn! What are a few of your “desert island” songs? Do we have any in common?