Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Soundtrack

This is the time of year when many bloggers take a look back on the past twelve months and try to figure out what it all means. Even non-bloggers get in on the act with the annual family letter tucked into a Christmas card, letting all friends and extended relations know what's been going on in their lives: births, deaths, joys, and sorrows. It's a lovely tradition.

2009 is not going to go down as one of my better years, and I have told most of my stories here already. I've tried several times in the past couple of weeks to either compose a newsy Christmas letter to go in the same envelope as our holiday cards (this year, our cards show Ainsley happily snuggled into a Snuggie reading a book) or to write a comedic look back on the blog. But I have a hard time finding the right tone; it's easy to be bitter about a year that had more downs than ups and it doesn't feel appropriate to force a light-heartedness that I don't really feel as I look back at 2009.

I wouldn't bother with the year-end navel-gazing at all except that every time I revisit the major events of my life in 2009, I keep hearing music. Different parts of my life this year had their own theme song. Some are happy, some sad. But that's life, right?

So instead of a holiday letter or a soggy year-end retrospective, I offer you my life's mixtape from 2009. My soundtrack, if you will. A brief explanation of what each song represents is included, as well as a link to some way of hearing each song should you want to capture the mood. Enjoy!

The Dixie Chicks, "Sin Wagon"

Not a new song (not many of these are), but new to Rock Band last winter. Before RB, this was just a Dixie Chicks song that I kinda liked but didn't love. But now it makes me think of a January snow storm where I practiced the vocal with guitar in true Chicks-style during my snow days off and of our "band" performing this song on cold, dreary Saturday nights at the request of my number one fan, Ainsley. "Sing 'Sin Wagon'!" she still says anytime we get Rock Band out. I know I'm no Natalie Maines, but hearing this song makes me happy that my daughter thinks I am.

Kidz Bop, "Hey There Delilah"

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I bought Ainsley her first Kidz Bop CD from a school fundraiser. It was their Valentine CD, and among the gems was this cover from the Plain White T's. 99% of Kidz Bop songs are comically bad at best and grating at worst, but Ainsley loves them. And this one is, in my humble opinion, almost bearable. One of my favorite memories of 2009 is the day I heard Ainsley's little lyric singing voice rocking a probably-unintentional harmony to the chorus from the back seat. I don't know why, but it makes me tear up a little to this day. Possibly because the adult who sings with the kids is so bad.

Miley Cyrus, "The Climb" and "Butterfly Fly Away"

Yeah, I know. I'm not proud of it, either. But I actually like the Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack. Ainsley and I saw the movie on a freakishly warm Sunday in April when life was not so grand; it was becoming clear that Jason's mom wasn't going to bounce back like she had done so many times in the past. To get our mind off of it and to give Jason a day to do what he needed to do, we had a girls' movie day. And stopped at Tar-Jay to get the CD on the way home. And then I hid my tears when "Butterfly Fly Away" came on because it made me think of my little butterfly and her daddy. That is, by far, the best song Billy Ray has ever been a part of. (Is that really a compliment?)

The Beatles, "In My Life"

I am almost as ashamed to admit this as I am to admit I like Miley Cyrus sometimes: this song was barely a blip on my radar before May of this year. It's on one of the Beatles compilation CD sets I have, and it's one of those songs I never really listened to before. As we were saying goodbye to Jason's mom in May, Jason's brother chose this song to go on the memorial slideshow that played at the funeral home. As moments from Kathie's life flashed on the screen--her with her dear late husband, with her kids, her grandkids--I was struck by how perfect this song is for her. She was a huge Beatles fan and was the only person I've ever known who got to be one of the screaming girls you see in concert footage, one of those lucky people who got to see them in person. I'll never hear it again without thinking of her, not with the grief that marked that week in May, but with a smile for how much she loved life and for how many people loved her.

Dave Matthews Band, "Funny the Way It Is" and "You and Me"

I never really got the love for DMB until a rainy Tuesday night in June, my first week of summer vacation, when I finally got to see them in concert. It was almost a religious experience and was one of the best times of my life. Maybe I just needed a night out with my husband after all we'd just been through; maybe I've always been a bigger Dave fan than I liked to let on. But when the band broke into "Funny the Way It Is" from Big Whiskey, I felt transported. I'm pretty sure I had an out-of-body experience. It could have just been a contact high--who knows? "You and Me", another great track from the newest album, has become one of my all-time favorite love songs. It's the kind of song you wish someone had written for you--not cheesy and overly sentimental, but honest and affectionate.

Michael Franti, "Say Hey (I Love You)"

The first and second times I heard this song I was in the Caribbean, having a drink, soaking up the sun. The perfect song for that, no? After we got home from the cruise we kept hearing this song, and I haven't gotten tired of it. When it plays in the car, Ainsley and I sing along, loudly, and get jiggy with it. "This is that song we heard on the cruise!" Ainsley says. "I know!" I say, and we get lost together in memories of Half Moon Cay and the ship's water slide.

Phineas and Ferb, "Gitchi Gitchi Goo"

Phineas and Ferb became a phenomenon in the Cranky house this summer and as school started. It's a rare kids' show that gets Jason and I to stop what we're doing and watch new episodes (or old favorites) with Ainsley. Part of the appeal of this show is the music; most episodes feature at least one original song that pokes fun at or cleverly imitates a musical genre. There are many songs that I would count as awesome from the show's soundtrack CD, but this one (which gets stuck to your brain like wallpaper) from the episode where they attempt to create the quintessential pop hit and become one-hit wonders is the best of the bunch.

The Cast of Glee, "Don't Stop Believing"

I know the pilot aired last spring and this is old news by now, but good Lord, does this song make me all upbeat and cheerful and totally unlike myself. It doesn't hurt that there's at least one musical number every episode that has the same exact effect on me. This song will also always remind me of the first "adult" show that Ainsley fell in love with. Darn you, American Idol, for putting the rest of the Glee season on hold until April.

Mercedes from Glee, "Bust Your Windows"

From the moment details about the Tiger Woods "car wreck" began to emerge, I started thinking about this song. Now any time I see a news story about the continuing scandal and the fallout, this song plays in my head. And sometimes I sing it out loud, just to remind Jason that should he ever stray, I just might bust the windows out his Prius.

Michael Jackson, "Will You Be There"

I took Michael Jackson's death pretty hard, in a way that was fairly irrational since I had never personally met the man and certainly was not a friend. And yet it sure felt that way. After he died as I dragged out the few CDs of his that I own, and started sharing videos with Ainsley to show her who this person was everyone was getting so upset about, and began talking with our friends, I remembered this song. I didn't have it on CD and couldn't immediately remember the title. Jason and I just wanted to hear "the Free Willy" song. Pretty soon we were hearing it everywhere--Jennifer Hudson's from-the-gut rendition at MJ's memorial, an over-the-top performance at a flashy cruise-ship show, a dance at a friend's August wedding reception. It went from that song that I could barely remember to the one that kinda became the theme song of our summer.

The Who, "Won't Get Fooled Again"

It used to be, we hated it when Rock Band dealt us this song during a random set list. But after Jason got promoted this year and became a member of middle management, I wanted to play it. You know, for the new boss. Who I hear is the same as the old boss. (And let's just skip the link to this one in honor of it being 10 minutes long, mmkay? And just have me link to the David Caruso CSI Miami one-liners with the "Won't Get Fooled Again" rock-scream after each one? You're welcome.)

That's my 2009 soundtrack. What songs are on yours? Please link so I can listen as I read your comments.

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