I don’t make playlists for my books. I always see people writing posts about the songs that inspired various scenes and characters, and I always wish I could do that. But the truth is, I write better in silence, or to the ambient noise of whatever coffee shop I’m in. I’m just way too distractable to write my own words while someone else’s words are flying around in my head.
I still feel left out, though. I want in on the playlist posts. So today, I present you with The Playlist of My Life. Please note that these are not necessarily songs I LIKE. Instead, they’re the songs I find most emotionally resonant for one reason or another. Whenever I hear one of them, it takes me back to such a specific time or place that it’s almost overwhelming. There are songs on this list that I can’t even listen to.
Here you have it, friends: THE PLAYLIST, in chronological order of when in my life each song takes me back to;
ETUDE IN E MAJOR, CHOPIN: My mom used to play the piano when I was little, and I remember being carried downstairs to say goodnight to her while she was practicing this piece. It feels like a lullaby to me, and hearing it still calm me down.
WORD UP, CAMEO: I went to a visual and performing arts day camp when I was eight (and nine, and ten, and eleven,) and it remains one of the most fun experiences of my life. My group danced to this song in my very first arts camp show.
WINTER, TORI AMOS: This is the first song I loved so much that I made my mom buy me the CD. I’m kind of surprised she did, actually—I was only in fourth grade, that that album is… kind of inappropriate.
THE WORLD I KNOW, COLLECTIVE SOUL: This one takes me back to middle school, sitting on the couch with my two best friends and watching music videos. I swear I only saw this video once, and it was at least eighteen years ago, but I was so affected by it that I can still tell you exactly what happens in it.
TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS, THE BEATLES: I had a spectacular science teacher in middle school, and he was a big hippie. On John Lennon’s birthday, we didn’t have regular class—we had “Peace Day,” which involved getting up on the lab tables and dancing to this song.
ETERNAL FLAME, THE BANGLES: This song will always remind me of feeling gawky and awkward and not good enough. There was this really cool girl at my overnight camp, Christy, and she used to perform this song all the time for adoring groups of campers and counselors. Everyone thought she was AWESOME. I remember listening to her sing and thinking, “I will never, ever be that cool.” I think it would provide me with all kinds of closure to sing this song at karaoke.
LOVE FOOL, THE CARDIGANS: It literally only takes two notes of this song to make me feel like I’m fourteen again, at my friend’s birthday party, wondering how things are going to change now that I’m in high school.
BROKEN WINGS, MR. MISTER: A boy tried to kiss me for the first time while this song was playing. I didn’t let him. A week later, I did. He turned out to be my first love.
TRULY MADLY DEEPLY, SAVAGE GARDEN: This is one of those songs I can’t listen to anymore, due to a traumatic high school experience. Which is actually fine, because it’s a truly terrible song.
THE LONGEST TIME, BILLY JOEL: This one takes me back to a very intense friendship I had in high school with a boy whom I staunchly claimed I was NOT ATTRACTED TO AT ALL. (Right, fifteen-year-old Alison. Whatever you say.)
THE WAY, FASTBALL: Three seconds of this one and I’m back at my high school boyfriend’s junior prom.
LADY, STYX: The boy I took to MY senior prom used to sing this to me all the time, claiming it reminded him of me. He called me Lady Alison. When I first saw the episode of “Freaks and Geeks: where Jason Segel sings this to Linda Cardellini, I nearly fell off the couch laughing. My boy sang it much better.
COWBOY, TAKE ME AWAY, THE DIXIE CHICKS: This one’s for the two girls I was best friends with in high school. We were always waiting for our hot cowboys to come sweep us off our feet. (I have no idea why we decided we wanted cowboys. But we used to talk about it all the time.)
DROPS OF JUPITER, TRAIN: The period of time this song was popular was probably the worst time in my life. I can’t listen to it without feeling physically ill. I’ve been known to leave stores when it comes on.
LIKE A PRAYER, MADONNA: For some reason, this song was played at every single college dance I attended. My roommate and I even had special choreography to it. I will forever associate this with leaping around wildly while wearing formalwear.
FIRE AND RAIN, JAMES TAYLOR: This one was played at the funeral of someone I loved very dearly. I can’t listen to it anymore.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS, RJD2: My first four years out of college, I worked as a lighting designer for theater. This song was in a production of Macbeth that I did with five actors, and it was the last show I ever did that I was really, really proud of. The director got my vision, I got his, all the design elements worked together, and the actors were awesome. After that, I did another year and a half’s worth of shows that were, for the most part, atrocious. Then I switched careers. But this song still makes my heart swell a little.
THE BENDS, RADIOHEAD: This song makes me think of that period between about 2007 and 2009 when I had no idea what I was doing or what (or where, or who) I wanted to be. It always conjures up the image of riding a Greyhound bus, for some reason, which is strange, because I didn’t do a lot of that between 2007 and 2009.
MISCREANT MEN, WE’RE ABOUT 9: I can literally use this song as a gauge of my mental health. If I’m in a bad place, it makes me SOB. If not, it makes me laugh. I just listened to it as a test, and I laughed. High five, self.
MY LIFE WOULD SUCK WITHOUT YOU, KELLY CLARKSON: And this is the song I use for wild, solo dance parties when I get great book-related news. Don’t judge me. You know you have a song like that. (Actually, I’m curious what yours is. Leave it in comments.) 🙂