Remember LiveJournal? I'm guessing that if you were a (pre)teen in the burgeoning internet age (late nineties, early aughts), the answer is yes, even if you won't admit it. Well, for those either actually unaware or in repressive denial, a LiveJournal was somewhat like a Blog, but even more like a technological sieve that made sure only the most ridiculous, overemotional, this-will-read-badly-in-print aspects of your personality were broadcast into the universe (or, more likely, a small circle of LiveJournaling friends). However, there was one feature that I liked: at the top of every post, right below the drop-down list that let you characterize your mood with an adjective & corresponding smiley face, there was a "What Song I'm Listening to Now" box. That was something I took to like a spastic, speed-crazed duck to water; I would write entire entries just so I could post a song title. (Actual example of a full post: "I took my toe ring off.") Why I didn't catch on & just write about music, we will never know. (Give me some credit—I was 14.)
Anyhow, I've decided to resurrect this feature in the Blogosphere, only now it'll go at the end of the entry (or on its own, as needed; the addition of this whole explanation bit proved too much for my lengthy forthcoming diatribe). See, I don't think I have the savvy / time / disposition / wherewithall to write a "music blog," but since a sickening amount of my time is taken up with the wearing-out of CDs & mp3s & endless pairs of headphones, I figure music merits at least a bi-weekly-or-so written tribute on my part. That said, the latest track gracing my speakers is:
I know—I know. It's unlike me—& therefore a potentially weird choice to kick off this series—because it's a prime example of that annoying kind of song people mention when trying to pretend they have better taste in music than they actually do. (Read: I got it on a free download from SPIN magazine, "SPIN Presents AUSTIN POWER: Best SXSW Bands 2010!") But try not to judge; really give it a listen. Or, if the blipping, fading, dream-techno thing isn't your favorite, here's an acoustic (piano) cover by Sky Ferreira. For my part, I prefer the original. But I also like the cover. & here's why:
The reason this song has catapulted above the rest, why it seeps through the crack under my door at 3 AM despite my best-suppressed strums (E, A, C#m on a loop, for my fellow amateur guitarists), besides the fact that it's wonderfully catchy, is because its chorus is one of those sets of simple words, strung together, that are somehow more right than anything else. Previous examples include: "Look at this tangle of thorns"; "Let's dress up & be stars tomorrow"; "Poets are damned but they are not blind, they see with the eyes of angels"; & now,
I change shapes just to hide in this place,but I'm still, I'm still an animal.Nobody knows it but me when I slip.Yeah, I slip: I'm still an animal.
Because, in my mind, this is a descalingly human notion: I'm the admissions mistake at my big, fancy college; I'm the lame, ignorant one in my group of friends; I'm the anomaly, the broken-brained, the dirtier—& when will they all find out? You might recognize it as the favorite trot-out of every middle school guidance counselor: "All of those popular kids, they're just as insecure!" No one really knows what they're doing; everyone thinks themselves wrong sometimes. & I really do believe, having caroused with (& been) people on both sides of most lines, that this is true: "Everyone has their cross to bear," as Mama used to say.
So, when Sky Ferreira—who is gorgeous & über-cool in that kind of cocaine-chic, ripped-up, polaroid camera way—sings this song, it's easy to think, "Well, yes, in the context of those without a running tab at American Apparel, you might be out of place"—but more than that, you wonder if this beautiful little slip of a girl feels like the odd one out in fast-spinning L.A., like a projection of what she thinks we want, somehow not quite right.
This is why I like the "mainstream" version even more: I imagine all the beefcake jockboys bopping & fist-pumping in the clubs, the spraytanned, bleach-brained fembots gyrating—all singing along, secretly thinking, "Yes, it's me, I'm the wrong one here. I'm the one that doesn't make sense—I slip—I'm still an animal."
For the debut of a feature sprung from my adolescence, here's a song that brings out the adolescent hiding in all of us. Bon apétit.