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|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Monday, 12 March 2012 00:00|
I'm often asked to recommend music (though it boggles my mind as to why since Rocking the Mike has been continuously published for nearly two and a half years -- read that for recommendations!), but occasionally I get a request for theme based music. A few years ago I made this epic break-up/get over you mix for a friend of a friend, and that was one of my most enjoyable musical experiences (and cathartic as that mix would get me through a break-up of my own shortly after that).
When thinking of the theme for this month's issue, I thought at first of release as a joyous thing, but, as I started to write a first draft for an article that has since been scrapped, I came to realize that release touched every part of the emotional spectrum, as well as every experience; it was joyous, it was angry, it was melancholy. Music is one of many tapestries that illustrates our existence. It was along with this realization that I clued into the fact that I have certain go-to songs for certain events/experience/emotions in my own life. Here are four, just as a sampling, and take these as "recommendations," if you will.
Ani DiFranco's "Gravel" -- The "Eff You, I'm Better Off Without You" Release
This is perhaps one of my most favorite songs of all time. Ani DiFranco has a frankness about her in her lyrics that I find so few are able to match. "Gravel" tells the tale of a former lover who comes back, and the mixed feelings that comes with it; we were with that person once upon a time for a reason, but there's an equally good reason why we're no longer with them. We've all been there; it's a horrible life lesson that everyone has to go through at least once in their life.
Despite the requirement that we all go through something like this, there's a magic moment in this song where DiFranco seemingly finds her nerve and, in a moment of pure defiance, not only gets the final say but also the last laugh: "And maybe you can keep me from ever being happy, but you're not going to stop me from having fun." It's that line that just perfectly encapsulates that "eff you" mentality and in a way that only DiFranco could truly achieve.
Florence + The Machine's "Shake It Out" -- The "Get Over It" Release
When asked who or what is my favorite new musical artist of the last two to three years is, I automatically point to Florence + The Machine. Their debut Lungs was, simply put, brilliant, and they have gone two for two with the release of their sophomore album, Ceremonials, late last year. It's the lead single from that album, "Shake It Out," that deserves special mention.
Originally written as a song about substance abuse (the music video suggests that it's alcohol), it actually transcends that notion. With the line, "And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him out," it becomes more than just that; it's about shrugging off the old, whether it be habits, regrets, or a person. This song was one of those that grabbed me from the first listen for just that ambiguity and would not let go.
Dixie Chicks' "I'm Not Ready to Make Nice" -- The "I'm Sticking to My Guns" Release
I'm not a fan of country music as a general rule, but the Dixie Chicks are a notable exception, and this song is one of their best and most infamous. Written in response to the backlash they received for their anti-Bush sentiments on tour (well, more Natalie Maines than Martie Maguire or Emily Robinson). In interviews the women have said that the song was also intended to have more of a universal message to it.
It's that duality within the song that makes it so fantastic. On the one hand, the song is about the Dixie Chicks and their own experiences, but it is also a call to those to stick to their guns and be true to their convictions. That universality enables to the Dixie Chicks' catharsis, while encouraging those in a similar situation (or any situation where one should stand by what they believe) to not back down just because there's a narrow-minded individual that doesn't agree with you.
Kylie Minogue's "Love at First Sight" -- The "Joyous" Release
This is the song that, no matter how bad my mood is, can put a smile on my face. It is the song that an ex-partner once put on in the middle of an argument (that they were losing) in an attempt to calm me down. It's the song that I will dance spastically to, and the song that ten years after its initial release still reigns supreme as my favorite Kylie Minogue song.
So why do I recommend it as the "Joyous" Release? It's the simplicity of the song, both lyrics and melody, the production values that give it a Daft Punk-lite feel and an overall sense that this is not only a happy song but so much more than that; it's a celebratory song of music, love, and life. It really does not get much better than that.
There you have it, four songs for four different emotions/experiences in my life. The experiences may evolve as I get older, and some of the songs may even change (though not likely "Love at First Sight"), but the constant will always be how I turn to music to express those experiences.
An Ottawa native, Mike is a public servant by day, and a self-professed music and comic book junkie the rest of the time. He also contributes to the Local Tourist Ottawa and his random music, comic book and culture musings can be read on /scribbles.
Tags: ani difranco, dance spasitcally, dixie chicks, eff you, florence and the machine, get over it, gravel, im not ready to make nice, i’m better off without you, joyous, kylie minogue, love at first sight, music, release, shake it out, sticking to my guns